Annals, chronicles and histories
The sources of Merovingian history

Gregory of Tours

Historiarum Libri Decem
(Ten Books of Histories)

Date of writing: c. 575-594.

Period covered: Creation-591.

Original text: MGH SRM 1.1

Translation: O M Dalton, Gregory of Tours, The history of the Franks, 2 vols (Oxford 1927); L Thorpe, Gregory of Tours, The history of the Franks (Harmondsworth 1974).

On the web: MGH, Latin text, Another Latin text (Corbie manuscript) in an 1886 French edition (with introduction) and concordance, Partial translation.

For background, see the Wikipedia page on Gregory of Tours.

Beside his Histories, Gregory wrote a variety of hagiographic and theological works, which are described on this website in the section on saints' Lives. Gregory lists his writings at the end of the Histories. All have survived except for a commentary on the Psalms.

For a long time, Gregory's work was known as 'the history of the Franks'. However, historians have more recently begun to call it again by the name Gregory gave it. While histories of national and ethnic groups became a popular genre later in the middles ages, Gregory's work does not fit into this category. He touches on the Franks' origins, but they are by no means Gregory's concern as such. He is only interested in them because the Gaul of his day was politically dominated by Franks, and he is equally interested in the history of the church. Nevertheless, from not long after his death, a six-book version of his work circulated, cutting out much of the church history and focusing on the Franks and secular politics.

On first reading Gregory, one is struck by his descriptions of the brutal and arbitrary behaviour of the Merovingian kings and their nobles, and by his faithful reporting of a whole range of miraculous events. Nineteenth century historians judged Gregory as a credulous exemplar of his benighted age, who recorded pell-mell everything that came to his ears.

The last few decades have seen a re-appraisal of Gregory as an author, drawing attention to the artifice and sophistication evident in his work. Some have presented him as a kind of magical-realist, using vivid imagery and juxtaposition to make deeper points. Others have drawn attention to his political agendas--arguing for the authority of bishops, promoting the prestige of his family, and defending his own position. Gregory's work promotes the cult of St Martin of Tours (c. 316-397), which brought prestige, influence and revenue to his church. One also needs to appreciate Gregory's fine sense of irony--he has probably been taken too seriously in the past--and the fact that it might have been dangerous for him to express himself directly when he was criticising powerful political figures. 

Gregory's accounts of cures being effected by saints' relics and of holy oil jars refilling themselves may at first make him seem naive, but today's newspapers also carry such stories, and Gregory expresses himself cautiously, saying only that this is what he has heard and acknowledging some might find such stories hard to believe. In his time, there was a real sense that the world might be coming to an end, and Gregory notes these portents in the hope of persuading both believers and non-believers to get their affairs in order, as Christ is about to return.

One of Gregory's purposes in writing was to perform a calculation of the age of the world. It was believed the Second Coming might occur exactly six thousand years after the Creation. Several of the books end with such a calculation or 'computus'. Unfortunately, scribal errors have mangled Gregory's figures so we cannot be sure what conclusion he reached. The calculation at the end of the Histories adds to 6063 years, though the text says the total is 5792. Gregory's original working may have shown the end of the world to be only a few years or decades away.

 His vivid writing makes Gregory accessible and seductive. The writing is packed with memorable anecdotes that bring his characters to life. Typical is the famous story of the 'vase of Soissons'. Clovis is dividing booty with his followers after a raid on Soissons, and asks to be given a church vase he has promised to return to the bishop. All agree except for one hot-headed warrior who splits the vase with his axe, saying Clovis will get no more than his fair share. Clovis keeps quiet, but when he is inspecting the army at the start of the next campaign season, he grabs that man's weapons, claiming they are dirty, and throws them on the ground. As the man bends to pick them up, Clovis splits his head with an axe, saying, "That's what you did to my vase." In another episode, Queen Fredegund quarrels with her daughter and slams the lid of a treasure-chest down on her neck.

 We are tempted to take Gregory's point of view, yet it would be dangerous to accept anything he says as straightforward fact. Gregory claims the Ostrogothic queen, Amalasuntha, poisoned her mother and took a slave as a lover, but this clashes with everything else we know about Amalasuntha. Fredegund, whom Gregory presents as vicious and scheming, was a personal enemy, and he was tried, though acquitted, for slandering her. Even basic details are suspect. Adriaan Breukelaar observes that three time-units (days, months, years) seems to be Gregory's idea of a 'normal' length of time; if he wants to imply something has been cut short, he says it lasted two time-units, while if he says it lasted four time-units it means it was overdue.

 The problem is that Gregory is often our main or only source for most of the things he writes about concerning the Merovingians. It is said our idea of sixth century Gaul is almost exclusively 'the world of Gregory of Tours'. Historians have to work with what Gregory has left, but this does not mean his picture would necessarily have been recognisable to contemporaries.

The ten books deal with periods of different lengths. The first four books cover the time from the beginning of the world up to 575, which was just after Gregory became bishop (573), aged about 35. They are based on Gregory's secondary sources, legendary and anecdotal material, stories he has picked up, and his own fading memories. The last six books are much more detailed, covering a few years each, and the later ones at least seem to have been written from Gregory's personal experience while the events were still fresh. The last book ends in 591, three years before Gregory's death. Gregory does not mention the death of King Guntram, which occurred before his own, in 592. It has been suggested he wanted to end his work on an optimistic note, with the baptism of the young Chlothar II.

Book I covers from the Creation to the death of St Martin in AD 397. It has an Introduction, in which Gregory sets out his theological views and establishes his orthodoxy--the struggle against heresy, and the evil nature of heretics, form a recurrent theme of the Histories. The first part of this book is a potted version of the Bible. The rest is a review of early church history, quickly focusing on the bringing of the gospel to Gaul.

Book II covers from 397 to the death of Clovis in 511.  It begins with an introduction in which Gregory explains he has followed his predecessors in mingling the wars of kings with the holy deeds of the martyrs. The subsequent text contains some general late Roman history, including the defeat of Attila the Hun at the Battle of Châlons (451). A famous chapter (c. 9) discusses early evidence for the Franks, with Gregory quoting some now lost Roman historians and evaluating what they have to say. There is quite a lot on the Gallic church, and Gregory pays special attention to Sidonius Apollinaris, who was not only bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, Gregory's home town, but had an important secular career and left writings that remain an important source for the fifth century. The last third of the book recounts the career of Clovis, in an apparently admiring way.

Book III covers from 511 to the death of Theudebert I in 548. In the introduction, Gregory ruminates on the way heretics have suffered disaster while orthodox believers have met only good fortune. The rest of the book is largely a secular history of the sons of Clovis, and of his grandson Theudebert, recounting their wars, alliances and marriages.

Book IV covers from 548 to the assassination of Sigibert I in 575. It begins with the death of Clovis's widow, Queen Clothild. The politics of Clermont-Ferrand, where Gregory was living in this period, are an important theme. He describes a disputed election for the bishopric there and the conflict between Chlothar I and his son Chramn, who lived in Clermont-Ferrand for a while and ruled part of Gaul. Not quite half-way through the book, Chlothar I, the last of Clovis's sons, dies, and Gregory says that the kingdom was divided among his four heirs. He goes on to describe chronic civil war between the brothers, interspersed with some tales of church figures and some international events, including in Spain, Byzantium, and the Lombard invasion of Italy.

Book V covers from 575 to Gregory's trial for slandering the queen in 580. In the Introduction, Gregory laments the Merovingians' civil wars and contrasts the weakness of Clovis's grandsons with the strength of their mighty forebear. A major sub-plot concerns the careers of Chilperic I's sons, Merovech and Clovis, who were supposedly provoked into rebelling by their jealous stepmother Fredegund, and were eventually murdered. There are also several mentions of Brittany, and of Gregory's difficulties with Chilperic and his appointee, Leudast, count of Tours.

Book VI covers from 581 to Chilperic's assassination in 584. It describes how a pro-Chilperic faction took charge in the kingdom of his nephew Childebert II and forged an alliance with Chilperic. This was awkward for Gregory whose bishopric belonged to Childebert's kingdom and who did not get on well with Chilperic. The book also describes the beginnings of the 'Gundovald affair', in which a Merovingian pretender, claiming to be a son of Chlothar I, was brought back from Constantinople to form a kingdom in southern Gaul against the wishes of his putative brothers. There are more tales of various bishops and abbots, and reports of ominous happenings such as epidemics, plagues of locusts and strange lights in the sky.

Book VII covers from 584 to 585, ending with the story of a bloody feud between two factions in Tours. The Gundovald affair is the major theme, with various sub-plots around it. There is a rapprochement between Guntram and Childebert, while Fredegund separately tries to have both Guntram and Brunhild assassinated.

Book VIII covers from 585 to the death of the Visigothic king Leovigild in 587. There is no particularly strong theme, more a series of miscellaneous events. However, some of these resolve or develop earlier episodes, for example with details of what happened to the bodies of Chilperic's sons, Merovech and Clovis, and with the murder of Bishop Praetextatus of Rouen, who had been tried and deposed for encouraging Merovech to rebel and reinstated after Chilperic's death. An important issue concerns doubts about the parentage of Chlothar II, which are resolved when 3 bishops and 300 noblemen swear to Guntram that he is Chilperic's son. Until this point, Gregory refers to Chlothar as 'the boy said to be Chilperic's son', but hereafter he concedes the child's identity. Gregory also describes conflict with the Visigoths, and various signs and prodigies.

Book IX covers from 587 to the suppression of the revolt in the Convent of the Holy Cross in 589. The earlier part of the book describes a changing of the guard in Childebert's kingdom, associated with his coming of age. The pro-Chilperic nobles and others who had abused Childebert's minority to throw their weight about are killed, and a more pro-Guntram party comes to power. Chapter 20 contains the full text of the Treaty of Andelot (587), in which Guntram, with no male issue of his own, recognised Childebert as his heir. Nevertheless, Childebert and Guntram are shown as disagreeing over relations with the Visigoths, as Childebert is pro and Guntram anti. The book's later chapters are much concerned with the revolt among the nuns of the Holy Cross, stirred up by two Merovingian women who had been consigned to the convent and felt themselves mistreated by the abbess.

Book X covers from 590 to the baptism of Chlothar II in 591. After the baptism, the last three chapters are an account of the life of St Aredius, Abbot of Limoges, who died in 591, a description of the year's weather, and a listing of the bishops of Tours. Gregory then exhorts his successor as bishop to make sure his writings are kept together as a whole--not just the Histories, but his other works, too--a request that was to be ignored. He ends with a final calculation of the annus mundi (the age of the world, or the number of years since the Creation). Before this, there is more on the revolt in the nunnery and other matters. It has been suggested the book's first chapter, containing news from Rome brought by Gregory's deacon Agiulf, may have been written by Agiulf and added after Gregory's death.


Further reading: G de Nie Views from a many-windowed tower: studies of imagination in the works of Gregory of Tours (Amsterdam 1987). J Verdon Grégoire de Tours (Le Côteau 1989). A Breukelaar Historiography and episcopal authority in sixth-century Gaul: the Histories of Gregory of Tours interpreted in their historical context (Göttingen 1994). M Heinzelmann Gregory of Tours (Cambridge 2001). I Wood Gregory of Tours (Bangor 1994). K Mitchell and I Wood eds. The world of Gregory of Tours (Leiden 2002).


History of the Wars

Date of writing: c. 540-554.

Period covered: c. 530-554.

Original text: Procopius, History of the Wars ed. and tr. H B Dewing in the Loeb Classical Library (1914-28) 5 vols

Translation: As above (dual text).

On the web: The Loeb translation is available here and here. You can also find translations of the Secret History and Buildings here, and the History of the Wars is promised.

For background, see the Wikipedia page on Procopius, and this page on the context of 6th century Byzantium.

Procopius was based in Constantinople and wrote in Greek. He was an eyewitness to the events he described, having served with the Byzantine general Belisarius as his secretary and legal adviser in the Persian, Vandal and Gothic wars. He was in Persia from 527 to 531, in North Africa (Vandal war) from 533 to 535, and in Italy (against the Ostrogoths) from 535 to c. 541. In describing these events, he makes various remarks about the Franks, who interacted with their fellow barbarian regimes and were sought by the Byzantines as an ally.

There is probably a tendency to overestimate Procopius's reliability. Although he can come across as sober and objective, his description of the Vandal kingdom seems coloured by anti-Vandal propaganda (emanating from North African emigrés agitating for Byzantine intervention), and he is not immune to presenting fantastical material as fact. He tells how the western Roman emperor Honorius (395-423), based in Ravenna, kept a cockerel called 'Rome'. When a servant came to announce that Rome had been destroyed (following the city's sack by Alaric the Visigoth, in 411), Honorius exclaimed 'But only just now I was feeding him from my own hand'. The servant explained that it was the imperial city he was talking about, to which Honorius replied, 'Thank heavens. For a moment I thought you meant my pet bird had died'. This is a fifth-century joke meant to satirise Honorius's neglect of the empire, but Procopius uses it in a straight-faced manner. His artifice is shown by his Secret History, a scurrilous, scandalous, and salacious account of Justinian I (527-65) and his empress Theodora. It contrasts with Procopius's respectful treatment of the imperial court in other writings.

The History of the Wars is divided into 8 books, as follows.




Loeb Volume


The Persian War



The Persian War



The Vandalic War



The Vandalic War



The Gothic War



The Gothic War



The Gothic War



The Gothic War



 (In the following descriptions, numbers refer to book, chapter and, if appropriate, paragraph.)

3.3.1, 5.11.29, 5.12.8. The Germans are now called the Franks (Φράγγοι).

5.5.8-10. Justinian wrote to the leaders of the Franks for support in the coming Gothic war, appealing to their shared orthodox faith and enmity towards the Ostrogoths, adding a gift of money and promising more in return for their active co-operation. The Franks readily agreed.

5.11.17,18,28. Vittigis, leader of the Ostrogoths, urged his followers to make peace with the Franks. For fear of them, he was unable to withdraw garrison troops from Gaul for the war against Belisarius.

5.12. Geography of western Europe. How Franks and other barbarians came to be in Gaul (roughly coovering the fourth and fifth centuries). The Franks at first tried to conquer the Arborychi (=Armorici?), who had subjected themselves to Rome, but being unable to do so became their allies, both peoples being Christian. Roman troops on the Rhine frontier joined themselves to this federation and preserve their legionary standards, dress and identities. They all apparently had a common enemy in the Visigoths, now settled in Spain and southern Gaul. Odoacer's seizure of power in Italy allowed the Visigoths to expand eastwards in Gaul. Fearing the growing strength of the Franks/Germans, the Visigoths and Thuringians sealed an alliance with Theoderic of the Ostrogoths via some dynastic marriages. The Franks fought the Burgundians. They subsequently agreed with Theoderic to attack the Burgundians jointly, but Theoderic tricked them by holding back to see how things would turn out, then stepping in to claim his share of the spoils when the Franks proved victorious. Later, the Franks were strong enough not to fear Theoderic and moved against the Visigoths. The Franks were camped at Carcassonne, and Alaric II, the Visigothic king, was pushed by his troops into attacking them before Ostrogothic reinforcements arrived. The Franks won the battle, killing Alaric and besieging Carcassonne, which they understood to contain the Visigoths' royal treasure, plundered from Rome and including Solomon's treasure taken by the Romans from Jerusalem. An Ostrogothic force arrived and relieved the siege, taking the treasure back to Ravenna, but the Franks remained in possession of the former Visigothic territories except for a part of southern Gaul. [Procopius's account is muddled in that, although the Franks fought the Burgundians c. 500 and 524, they did not finally defeat them until 534 -- as we know from Marius of Avenches -- whereas the battle in which Alaric II died was in 507 -- as we know say from the Gallic Chronicle of 511 -- and, according to Gregory of Tours, took place 10 miles from Poitiers.] Theoderic appointed one of his men, Theudis, to rule the Visigoths; Theudis threw off his master's authority in all but name, but Theoderic avoided conflict with him in case it might be exploited by the Franks.

5.13. After Theoderic's death (524) the Franks defeated the Thuringians and then the remaining Burgundians, taking over the whole of Burgundian territory. The new Visigothic king, Amalaric, being fearful of the Franks, married the sister of Theudebert, their ruler. Amalaric, an Arian, tried to stop his wife from following her orthodox faith.  Coming to the rescue of his sister, Theudebert defeated and killed Amalaric, taking much of the Visigoths' remaining territory in Gaul. Meanwhile, threatened by the Byzantines invading southern Italy under Belisarius, the Ostrogoths sought a peace with the Franks, so they would not have to fight on two fronts. They granted the Franks more of the Visigothic territory bordering theirs and a large payment of gold. In return, the Franks supplied troops to the Ostrogoths, though not Franks -- since they had agreed with the Byzantines to fight against the Ostrogoths -- but soldiers from their subject nations. The rulers of the Franks were Childebert (Ildibertus), Theudebert and Chlothar (Cloadarius), and they divided the received land according to their respective territories.

5.25.25,29. The Sueves are subjects of the Franks, who rule the nations beyond Langovilla, with the Gauls to the west of them.

6.12.38. Theudebert, leader of the Franks, sent ten thousand Burgundians to Wittigis, leader of the Ostrogoths, to aid in the siege of Milan (538), pretending that the Burgundians had acted of their own accord and outside his authority.

 6.18.21. Belisarius, addressing his commanders, noted the report that the Franks have joined with the Ostrogoths in Liguria.

6.21.6. Milan as an outpost against the Germans/Franks, protecting the rest of the empire.

6.22.10. Seeking barbarian support against Belisarius, the Ostrogoths avoided the Franks, whom they distrust.

6.25. Knowing the Goths and Romans were weakened by fighting, and treacherously spurning the treaties they had made with both parties, the Franks marched on Italy as a force of one hundred thousand under Theudebert. The army comprised a small body of cavalry round Theudebert, armed with spears, and the remainder infantry, with sword, shield and throwing axe. The Franks crossed the Alps and, pretending they had come to the Goths' assistance, secured safe passage across the Po at Ticinum. Thereupon they began killing Goth women and children, and throwing their bodies into the river in a kind of pagan war sacrifice -- a practice they adhered to despite having become Christians. The Franks attacked the Goth army, driving them through the Roman camp and into flight towards Ravenna. The Romans thought Belisarius must have arrived, but found themselves being attacked too, and fled to safety in Tuscany. The Franks plundered the Roman and Goth camps, but were soon running out of food, while succumbing to dysentery and diarrhoea. It was said a third of the Frankish army died. Belisarius wrote to Theudebert, saying it was not seemly for anyone, least of all a ruler, to lie and break written oaths, and urging him to reconsider his behaviour. With this letter and at the urging of his troops, he returned the Franks to Gaul.

6.26.8-12. Receiving a letter from the Goths under siege in Auximus, Vittigis wrote back to say that the Frankish invasion had caused problems, but now Theudebert was gone he would come soon to relieve them.

6.27.30. Belisarius was concerned the Franks might return to assist the Goths.

6.28.7-23. With the Goths under siege in Ravenna, the leaders of the Franks sent an embassy offering to help Vittigis with a force of 500,000, in return for joint rule of Italy. Belisarius sent a counter-embassy to remind Vittigis of the Franks' past treachery. Vittigis ignored the Frankish offer.

7.33.4-7. Lamenting the Gothic war as a technical victory but practical failure, Procopius notes that Justinian had not only been unable to prevent the Franks taking control of the Gothic areas of Gaul but welcomed it as a way of keeping the Franks happy and no danger to the Roman forces. He makes the famous observation that 'the Franks never considered that their possession of Gaul was secure except when the emperor had put his seal of approval on their title'. The Franks occupied Marseilles, Phocaea and the towns of the southern Gaulish coast, taking control of the adjoining sea. They watched horse racing at Arles and broke with accepted practice, going even beyond the Persians, in placing their own likenesses on gold coins. The Franks took control of most of Venetia, the Romans being powerless to resist.

7.34.37. Appealing for Justinian's favour, a Gepid embassy observed that he had already bestowed countless cities and lands on the Franks, Herules and Lombards.

 7.37.1-2. The Frankish ruler spurned a request by Totila, Gothic king, for his daughter's hand in marriage, on the grounds that the Totila had no hope of asserting his authority over Italy.

8.20. The Rhine separates the Franks from the Varni. Angles, Frisians and Britons migrate every year from the island of Brittia to the land of the Franks, where they are settled in the more deserted parts. In consequence, the Franks claim overlordship of Brittia, and the Frankish king included some Angles in an embassy he sent to Justinian, to establish this claim. (Note: Is 'Brittia' Britain, Denmark or somewhere else? Procopius's geographical and historical information is hard to reconcile with reality. He distinguishes Brittia from 'Brittania', but the latter sounds more like Ireland. The supposed migration recalls that which brought the Britons to Brittany.) Hermegisclus, ruler of the the Varni, married the sister of Theudebert I. He was intending to marry his son, Radigis, by a previous marriage to the sister of the king of the Angles, but, after a premonition of his imminent death, decided that a marriage alliance with the closer and more powerful Franks would be better than one with the people of Brittia. Hermegisclus got his nobles to agree that Radigis should marry his widow, Theudebert's sister, as duly happened. The spurned Angle princess led a military expedition to Varni territory and captured Radigis, whereon he agreed to abandon Theudebert's sister and marry her after all. The people of Brittia are unfamiliar with horses and have to be lifted into the saddle when they are expected to ride while visiting the Franks or Romans. Fishermen living on the Atlantic coast opposite the island of Brittia are exempt of Frankish taxes because of the (supernatural) service they provide in conveying souls of the dead across the sea to this island.

8.24. The Goths were demoralised and in a poor situation. Totila sent repeated embassies to Justinian, pointing out that the Franks had occupied much of Italy while the rest was deserted because of the war, and offering to make peace on favourable terms, but his overtures were rejected. Theudebert had recently died of disease, having occupied parts of Liguria, the Cottian Alps and most of Venetia. The Goths and Franks had agreed not to fight each other while the war continued, and to discuss their allocations of lands in the event of Totila's victory. The Romans sent the senator Leontius to Theudebert's son and successor, Theudebald. Leontius complained that the Franks had broken their original agreement with the Romans, for which they had been well paid, to fight the Goths, and Theudebert had trespassed on territory that belonged to the emperor. He urged Theudebald to right his father's wrongs. Theudebald declined, saying that the Franks were the Goths' allies, and, if they abandoned their allies, to what extent could they be trusted by the Romans? He pointed to his lack of wealth as evidence that his father was not given to plunder. He said the territory occupied by Theudebert had been given to him by Totila, but if it were proved any had been stolen from the Romans it would be returned, and he promised to send envoys to Constantinople to discuss this. The Frank, Leudard, and three others were then sent.

 8.26.18-20. The Franks refused Narses free passage through Venetia, saying it was because he had their bitter enemies the Lombards with him, rather than admitting it was in their interest and their alliance with the Goths. His advisers told Narses that approaching the Goths via Venetia was not strategically advisable anyway.

8.33.5-7. The Franks in Venetia prevented the Goths of Verona surrendering to the Roman commander, Valerian, by laying claim to the territory for themselves. Teïas, new ruler of the Goths, wanted to make an alliance with the Franks.

8.34.9,17-21. Teïas invited Theudebald to an alliance, offering a large sum. However, the Franks did not wish to die for Goths or Romans but would only fight to secure Italy for themselves. Teïas gave up on them.



Date of writing: c. 660.

Period covered: Creation to 642, with mention of events of 659. Original part, 582-642/59.

Original text: MGH SRM 2

Translation: (Original part and continuations) J M Wallace-Hadrill, The fourth book of the chronicle of Fredegar (London 1960).

On the web: MGH, (Original part and continuations) Latin text.

For background, see the Wikipedia page on Fredegar.

Nothing is known about Fredegar as a person. Even the name is uncertain. It was only attached to the work in the sixteenth century, and is probably incorrect. In the nineteenth century, some scholars spoke of 'Pseudo-Fredegar', but this has gone out of fashion as a piece of pedantry.

Various theories have been put forward based on the work's internal evidence. Some have argued 'Fredegar' is actually several authors, but most believe it is the work of one hand. Fredegar was probably a secular figure, given his lack of attention (in comparison with Gregory of Tours) to theology and church politics. 'He' might have been a woman, though there is no special reason to think so.  It is generally believed Fredegar's perspective is of one living in Burgundy. He records minor events from that region (e.g. 4.13, the death of a duke of the Transjura), retails details from the chronicle of Marius of Avenches (e.g. 3.68, a Lombard incursion into Burgundy, cf. Marius a.  574), and in 2.40 notes the little-known Germanic alias Wibili (Wifflisburg) for the city of Avenches. The kings whose reigns he uses for dating events are also those who ruled Burgundy. On the other hand, in 4.53, he refers to the southern possessions of Chlothar II as being 'on this side of the Loire', which would seem to place him in Aquitaine.

On the basis of the final chapter, which supplies a detailed anecdote about a relatively minor incident concerning how 'Berthar, a Frank from the Transjuran district' was saved by his son on the battlefield, it has been suggested 'Fredegar' was either Berthar or the son.

Fredegar's work is partly a compilation of previous works and partly original. He explains in the prologue to the original part that he collected five earlier chronicles and added his own continuation, making six chronicles in all. The earlier chronicles are:

  1. The chronicle of Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus)
  2. The chronicle of Hydatius
  3. The Liber generationis of Hippolytus of Porto
  4. The chronicle of Isidore of Seville
  5. The histories of Gregory of Tours (in a six-book epitome, ending with the death of Chilperic I, not the full ten book version)

This material has come down to us organised in four books, so Fredegar's original contribution is known as either the sixth chronicle or the fourth book (usually the latter).

Fredegar did not simply copy the earlier chronicles he used, but excerpted from them, rearranging, compressing and sometimes adding new material. These supplements are especially prevalent, and especially interesting, in the case of Gregory of Tours.

Fredegar's chronicle was extended by later writers, in three successive continuations. A preface between the Second and Third Continuations explains that the first two continuations were made under the patronage of Count Childebrand, Pippin's uncle, and the Third Continuation was made under Childebrand's son, Count Nibelung.

Book I consists of 26 chapters. It is based on the Liber generationis, a computus by Jerome, and the chronicle of Isidore of Seville. It covers much biblical history then proceeds to Alexander the Great, along with lists of Hebrew kings, Roman emperors and popes. The last pope mentioned is Theodore (642-9), so that this part of the chronicle was composed during his day. Since the death of the Roman emperor Heraclius (Oct 610-Feb 641) is mentioned but there is no information about his successor, it was probably very early in Theodore's reign. However, Jerome's computus is extended only to the first year of the reign of Sigibert II, i.e. 613 (Sigibert reigned less than one year). This lack of coherence in the material constitutes some of the evidence for multiple authorship.

Book II consists of 62 chapters. It begins with the kings of Assyria and the birth of Abraham, recounts much biblical history, then goes on to the story of Alexander the Great and after that the Roman republic and empire. The introduction states 'here are the chapters excerpted from Jerome', although only the first 48 chapters are from Jerome. Chapters 49-55 are from Hydatius, while chapters 56-59 are thought to derive from a lost work known as the Gesta Theoderici (Deeds of Theoderic the Great). Chapters 60 and 62 seem mostly original while 61 derives from Gregory of Tours with some additions. An important interpolation into Jerome's chronicle is Fredegar's legendary account of the Franks as refugees from the fall of Troy (chapters 4-6). There is also a long interpolation in c. 46, concerning the arrival of the Burgundians in Gaul, as well as briefer interpolations to Jerome in other places. Chapter 58 includes a quote from Gregory of Tours about Clovis's victory at Vouillé. C. 60 is on Chroc, king of the Vandals (Alemans, according to Gregory), and c. 62, on Justinian and Belisarius, includes a long quotation from I Corinthians.

Book III is the abridgement of Gregory of Tours and consists of 93 chapters. It reproduces Gregory's preface, then states 'here begins the fourth book'. Actually it is the third book but, after Isidore, Jerome and Hydatius, the fourth chronicle; again this presents the material as less of a coherent whole and more an unreconciled assemblage that may or may not have been the work of one author. In chapters 1 and 2, there are references to 'what Hydatius wrote above' and 'what Jerome wrote above', though the passages in question are actually interpolations; this confusion has also been considered evidence for multiple authorship.  The book begins with the defeat of the Huns by Aëtius in 451 and ends with the assassination of Chilperic I in 584 'in the villa Cala' (an interpolation). There are interpolations in the vast majority of the chapters, though usually only a few words. There are notable additions to Gregory regarding the early Franks: how a senator Lucius encouraged the Frankish sack of Trier because the emperor Avitus had seduced his wife (3.7); how Clovis's grandfather Merovech was conceived after his mother, wife of Chlodio, had an encounter with a sea monster (3.9); how Childeric I was rescued from the Huns by his faithful Wiomad (3.11); and how Childeric's wife saw a Daniel-like vision of the decline of the Merovingian kings (3.12). In c. 16, we are told that Bishop Remigius of Rheims owned the famous vase of Soissons, and in chapters 18-21, there is much additional material on Clovis's queen, Chlothild. C. 21 includes an original anecdote about Clovis, after being converted to Christianity and told the story of the crucifixion, saying 'if I had been there with my Franks, we would have avenged Him'. C. 24 mentions Clovis's generosity to St Hilary (not just St Martin, as Gregory has it). C. 56 provides a different reason for the dismissal of King Guntram's wife Marcatrud, making more sense than Gregory's version. Fredegar's own account in Book IV displays an antipathy for Queen Brunhild, and this is anticipated in chapters 57-59 of Book III, where we are told 'much evil and effusion of blood occurred in Francia on Brunhild's account'. This contrasts with Gregory, who seems mostly sympathetic towards Brunhild. In chapters 71-2, regarding the last days of Sigibert I, he tells us a few extra details not mentioned by Gregory: Sigibert teamed with Chilperic to attack Guntram, but peace was then concluded; Sigibert's army wanted a fight and encouraged him to attack Chilperic; Sigibert's assassins were killed; his son, Childebert II was rescued by being passed through a window to be whisked away and raised as king. In c. 78, Fredegar notes that the accusations against the bishop Praetextatus (encouraging a rebellion by Chilperic's son Merovech) were true, whereas Gregory tries to claim (unconvincingly) that Praetextatus was wrongly accused. In c. 88, he tells us how a great treasure was discovered by people digging a tomb. Finally, Fredegar seems obsessed with the death of the Visigothic prince/king, Hermenegild, mentioning it in three places (chapters 83, 87 and 92).

Book IV is the original part and consists of 90 chapters. In the preface, Fredegar says he has summarised earlier chronicles, speaks of the world growing old, refers to his rustic style, and says that he intends to go on from Gregory 'who fell silent with the death of Chilperic' (showing he had no knowledge of Gregory's later four books). He begins with praise for Guntram and the conclusion of the Gundovald affair in 584, then goes over events covered by Gregory of Tours up to 591, but with more material on the Byzantines and Persians, including the latter's conversion to Christianity and the discovery of the tunic of Jesus Christ. With the death of Guntram, Fredegar moves into uncharted territory, telling of the wars of Childebert II, his death and the passage of the kingdom to his sons Theuderic II and Theudebert II (Fredgar does not mention Theudebert's association during Childebert's lifetime, which Gregory reports). He describes fighting between the royal brothers and their deaths, the  misbehaviour and downfall of Brunhild, and, in 613, the subjection of the whole Merovingian realm to Chlothar II (584-629). He praises Chlothar and says his reign was peaceful, although his leudes (followers/bodyguard) disliked the prominence given to women in his counsel. He reports a certain Aletheus attempting to seduce Chlothar's wife and take the throne, and later the death of Chlothar's beloved wife Berthetrud.  Otherwise, he tells us very little about the king, and spends far more time on the Lombards, Huns and a Frank called Samo, who became king of the Slavic Wends. His statement that Samo became king in 623 and reigned 35 years is one of the clues that the chronicle was written c. 660, long after the events with which it ends. The story continues with the association of Dagobert I in 622, as king of Austrasia, the decision of the Burgundians to do without a mayor of the palace and deal with Chlothar directly, then Chlothar's death and Dagobert's taking over the whole kingdom. Here Fredegar reports the three-year reign of Dagobert's half-brother, Charibert II, which came to a mysterious end and which is not mentioned in the LHF. We are told Dagobert moved to Paris where he soon went downhill, giving himself over to pleasure and the company of women. He associated his son Sigibert III in Austrasia in 633. Fredegar continues to have relatively little to say about Frankish affairs and gives at least as much space to Lombards, Wends, Saracens, Byzantines and Visigoths. He does speak of Dagobert successfully asserting his authority over the Gascons (Basques) and Bretons, and of drawing up a succession treaty, giving the Neustro-Burgundian kingdom to his second and apparently favourite son, Clovis II, while Sigibert would retain Austrasia. After telling us briefly about Clovis's regents--Aega, mayor of the palace, and Nantechild, queen mother--Fredegar again launches into Byzantine and Visigothic affairs. There is then material on political struggles among the Frankish nobility, a flashback to negotiations over the division of Dagobert's inheritance between his sons, and an account of the revolt of Radulf, duke of the Thuringians and his victory over Sigibert (though he never explicitly rejected Sigibert's authority despite calling himself king). Fredegar's account ends with the Burgundian mayor Flaochad determining to kill Willebad, his enemy and fellow noble, which he does. This includes the story of Berthar, the Frank from the Transjura, that some have taken to be a clue to Fredegar's identity.  Thus, in one clash, a Burgundian Manaulf was fighting for Willebad, while Berthar was on the other side. The two men had once been friends and Manaulf offered to take Berthar under his shield. However, it was a trick and he dealt Berthar a severe wound. Berthar's son, Aubedo, saved his life, racing to his help and killing all those who had surrounded him. An Aubedo is also mentioned earlier (c. 71) as an envoy sent by Clovis II to Rothari, king of the Lombards. If this is the same Aubedo and he was the author of this part of the chronicle, it might explain the interest that 'Fredegar' shows in foreign affairs.  

The First Continuation of Fredegar takes the story from 642 up to 735. Its first eleven chapters, up to the death of Chilperic II (721) are derived from an Austrasian version of the LHF (itself a Neustrian product).

The Second Continuation goes on from 735 to 751. The division into First and Second Continuations reflects the existence of a natural break, involving a computus of the annus mundi plus an afterthought.

The Third Continuation goes on from 751 to 768 and the death of Pippin I, the first Carolingian king.

Marius of Avenches


Date of writing: c. 585.

Period covered: 455-581.

Original text: MGH AA 11; J Favrod ed. and tr. La chronique de Marius d'Avenches (455-581).

Translation: Murray, Favrod (see above, French).

On the web: MGH.

For background, there is a French Wikipedia page, or this article in the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

The chronicle of Marius is known from a single manuscript that came to light in the 17th century. The author is identified as bishop Marius, and the only known bishop Marius of the relevant era was the bishop of Avenches, in modern Switzerland, which in Merovingian times was part of the kingdom of Burgundy. This fits with the perspective of the text, which focuses on Burgundy, the Valais, southern France, Italy and the east Roman empire.

Marius seems to have been born c. 530 and to have been bishop from 573 to his death in 593. He signed the proceedings of the council of Mâcon of 585. He was thus alive for over a decade after the point at which his chronicle ends. Perhaps it was deliberately or accidentally truncated in transmission.

Unlike, say, the Histories of Marius's contemporary Gregory of Tours, the chronicle is strictly dated, being a year-by-year list of Roman consuls, with events recorded under the year in which they happened. By no means all the years have such notices attached, and those that do appear tend to be only a few sentences at most. Since the last consulship was that of Basil(ius) in 541, subsequent years are dated firstly as so many years of the post-consulship of Basil and then, from 566, in terms of the eastern emperor's reign (called a consulship, the office having been assimilated to that of the emperor). Unfortunately, Marius got out of sync when transferring from the post-Basilian consulship to the imperial consulship, so his later datings seem up to a year out.

The first entry presents the chronicle as following on from that of Prosper.

 Although a Merovingian subject, Marius shows a striking lack of interest in the Merovingian kings. His account of the fifth century focuses on the Visigoths and Roman emperors. His first mention of the Franks is in 500, when he reports their intervention in the uprising of the Burgundian Godegisel against his brother Gundobad, Burgundian king and former Roman master of the soldiers. Even so, Marius does not mention Clovis, whom Gregory presents as the crucial figure of this era. The first Merovingian to be named in Marius's chronicle is Chlodomer, in connection with his death in battle against the Burgundians at Vézeronce in 524. Next come Childebert, Chlothar and Theudebert, when they finally conquer the Burgundian kingdom in 534. Theudebert's ill-fated expedition to Italy is recorded in 539, and on his death in 548, Theudebert is described as 'great king of the Franks'. From here, the Merovingians appear more frequently, with the disruptions of Chlothar's son Chramn being described at some length under the years 555, 556 and 558. Nevertheless, while Marius reports Chlothar's death in 561 and the partition of the kingdom among his sons, Charibert, Guntram, Chilperic and Sigibert, he does not speak of any of these again until the assassination of Sigibert in 576 (as he has it, conventional date 575). In the intervening period he is concerned with Byzantine affairs, primarily in Italy, including first the eradication of the Ostrogoth kingdom and then the invasion of the Lombards. He also speaks variously of the deaths, achievements and appointments of some Frankish dukes: Magnachar, Buccelin, Vaefarius and Theudefred. He returns to the Merovingians after Sigibert's death, which he attributes to Chilperic's men, and records over the ensuing years: the deaths of two of Guntram's sons; the killing of Chilperic's son Merovech; the misbehaviour and removal from office of the bishops Salonius and Sagittarius (at a council Marius may have attended--its proceedings are lost); the killing of the doctors who failed to prevent the death of Guntram's queen, Austrechild; and the flight of the patrician Mummolus. With this, his chronicle ends.

Marius is important for a number of facts, including the death of the Visigothic king Frideric, and the dates of (Clovis's) Burgundian war of 500 and the death of Chlothar in 561. Upon the latter, hinges much of the Merovingian chronology of the sixth century, since, given Gregory of Tours's information about regnal years, it allows us to fix the death of Chlothar's father, Clovis, and the dates of his sons. To some extent the resulting chronology can be corroborated by dates given in charters and council proceedings.

Marius is also useful as an antidote to Gregory of Tours. He apparently saw them as much less significant to history than does Gregory.

Favrod makes the following points. Marius seems to have taken two sources, an Italian one and a Franco-Burgundian one, and merged them, using the established format of consular annals. He reproduced the perspectives of these sources, and did not impose his own biases or viewpoint. For example, he reports Buccelin's expedition to Italy twice, in 555 and 556, firstly emphasising its final defeat (Italian perspective) and secondly its initial successes (Frankish perspective). He was a compiler rather than an author. When it comes to the kings of Burgundy, he treats them with extreme respect: Gundobad rules happily, Theudebert is great, Chlothar is victorious against the Saxons (though Gregory of Tours reports a defeat), the sons of Guntram are distinguished. What seems to have happened is that he decided to reproduce a set of annals from Italy but supplementing it with information about his own region (which always comes first in the years where it is mentioned).


Liber Historiae Francorum

(Book of the History of the Franks)

Date of writing: post-727.

Period covered: Trojan war-727.

Original text: MGH SRM 2.

Translation: Bernard Bachrach, Murray (chapters 1-5, 11-14, 17, 31, 35-40, 41, 42-53).

On the web: MGH. Russian translation here.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

The LHF (as it is universally known) is in fifty three chapters, each of a page more or less.

The LHF is written from the perspective of the Neustrian kingdom, and seems happily to use 'Franks' to mean the Neustrian nobility, albeit recognising that the Austrasians are also Franks. It has been suggested it was composed in Soissons, at the monastery of St Medard or nunnery of Notre Dame. From a chronological perspective, its information is vague and unreliable. It says Dagobert I ruled 44 years, though he is normally credited with 10 years, and this seems to result from its muddling the figure with that for his father who is (more conventionally) also said to have reigned 44 years. Similarly, it says Chlothar III reigned four years, when king lists suggest he reigned sixteen years.

The first five chapters contain a fantastical account of the origin of Franks that dovetails to Gregory of Tours' information (Histories 2.9) about the putative Merovingian ancestors, Chlodio and Merovech. This account begins with Priam and Antenor fleeing from Troy after its capture by the Greeks. We are then told of the emperor Valentinian using Priam and his ex-Trojans against the Alans, and giving them their name (Franks, meaning 'fierce' in the Greek tongue), before falling out with them over unpaid taxes. After being slaughtered by the Romans, the Franks fled to the Rhine, being led by Priam's son, Marchomir, Marchomir's son, Faramund, Faramund's son, Chlodio, and Chlodio's descendant, Merovech, who is first encountered in Gregory as the grandfather of Clovis. This account is quite ahistorical. The Trojan war is an event of the bronze age and traditionally dated to c. 1190 BC. The emperor is Valentinian III (r. 425-55), as is apparent from Gregory of Tours' mention of Valentinian and the Alans alongside other figures who fix the date in the fifth century. This story of Trojan origins, which is also found in Fredegar though with somewhat vaguer timescales, served to equate the Franks with the Romans, who claimed to be descended from another Trojan refugee, Aeneas.

The next chapters, up to 42, cover the ground known from Gregory of Tours and Fredegar, with various interpolations, mostly of a legendary or fairy-tale-like character. A version of chapter 5 first appearing in an 11th century manuscript tells of Merovech's involvement in the defeat of Attila in 451, which improves on Gregory who seems to know nothing about Merovech other than his name. The LHF's treatment of Clovis is quite extensive, occupying some 10 of its 53 chapters. This contains otherwise unattested details about Clovis' wooing of the Burgundian princess Chlothild (chs. 11-13) and additional minor anecdotes. E.g. Clovis gave a favourite horse to the church of St Martin at Tours, as an offering before his attack on the Visigoths; after returning victorious he tried to obtain the horse back for money, but the horse would not budge until Clovis doubled his initial bid, whereupon Clovis said 'Truly, St Martin is generous with assistance but dear in business'. There are colourful tales about Fredegund and Brunhild, partly anticipated by Fredegar but here with differences of detail and perspective. According to the LHF (ch. 35), Fredegund had her husband Chilperic I murdered because he discovered she was having sexual relations with Landeric, the mayor of the palace, whereas Fredegar blames the assassination on Brunhild (and Gregory of Tours mentions only 'a man'). Nevertheless, Brunhild does not have a much better press in the LHF than she has in Fredegar. She stirs up warfare between her grandsons Theuderic and Theudebert. When Theudebert has been defeated and killed, she orders the death of his sons. She then poisons Theuderic and has his sons killed as well. Finally she is killed in the manner familiar from Fredegar (and reminiscent of the Biblical Jezebel), by being torn apart by wild horses (chs. 37-40). The other Merovingian line, of Chlothar II and Dagobert I, is spoken of with adulation. We are told of a war, not mentioned by Fredegar, against the Saxons beyond the Rhine (ch. 41), in which the victorious Chlothar had killed everyone taller than the height of his sword. The account of Dagobert's reign (ch. 42) is brief but corresponds with what we know from Fredegar. The only difference is that there is no mention of Aega and Dagobert is said to have appointed Erchinoald as his mayor, whereas in Fredegar, Erchinoald succeeded Aega in the third year after Dagobert's death.

With ch. 43 of the LHF we are into uncharted territory. This tells us of the death of Dagobert and accession of Clovis II, and Clovis's marriage to Balthild who is praised as intelligent and capable. It also tells us how Grimoald, mayor of the palace in Austrasia, raised his own son to the throne after the death of Clovis's older half-brother Sigibert III. This is one of the main sources for the 'Grimoald coup' (others being the Life of Wilfrid and a Carolingian king-list referring to 'Childebert the adopted', plus the 12th century history of Sigibert of Gembloux).

Ch. 44 describes the baleful behaviour of Clovis and his mysterious death, followed by the accession of his oldest son Chlothar III (657-73) ruling alongside the queen mother, Balthild. Ch. 45 describes the complex events after Chlothar's death, though it has the sequence of events wrong (as reconstructed from other sources, including king lists, charters and the Life of Balthild). Chlothar's brothers, Theuderic III (673-675) and Childeric II (662-75, i.e. actually king before Chlothar's death) are raised to the kingship in Neustria-Burgundy and Austrasia, respectively. Erchinoald's successor Ebroin is mayor for Theuderic but behaves oppressively. Ebroin and Theuderic are overthrown and confined to monasteries, and Childeric, accompanied by his mayor Wulfoald, becomes king of all Francia. However, Childeric also behaves oppressively and is assassinated, at which Wulfoald flees and Erchinoald's son Leudesius becomes Neustr0-Burgundian mayor in alliance with Leudegar, bishop of Autun. Ebroin, though, escapes and recovers control of the kingdom alongside Theuderic, as Leudesius and Leudegar are killed.

In ch. 46, the Austrasians Pippin II (of Heristal) and Martin rise against Ebroin but are defeated at Bois-du-Fay (Lucofao); Martin is invited to a parley where he is treacherously killed. In ch. 47, Ebroin is assassinated by one Ermenfred, who finds sanctuary with Pippin. Waratto succeeds Ebroin and makes peace with Pippin. Audoin, bishop of Rouen, is praised. In ch. 48, Waratto dies and is succeeded by the less diplomatic Berchar. Pippin attacks and defeats Berchar and Theuderic at the battle of Tertry (687); when Berchar is subsequently assassinated, Pippin becomes the chief force in the kingdom, appointing his follower Nordebert to govern under Theuderic in Neustria-Burgundy, while he returns to Austrasia.

Ch. 49 opens with Theuderic's death, the brief reign of his son Clovis III (691-c. 694), and the accession of his other son, Childebert III (694-711). On Nordebert's death, Pippin's son Grimoald becomes mayor in Neustria-Burgundy, while Pippin campaigns against various peoples, seemingly east of the Rhine. We are told of the existence of Pippin's son by a concubine, Charles Martel.

Ch. 50 covers the death of Childebert, who is praised, and elevation of his son Dagobert III (711-15). Grimoald, also praised, is assassinated, leaving a minor son, Theudoald, who is appointed mayor under the tutelage of Pippin, his grandfather. In ch. 51, Pippin dies of a fever; he is described as having occupied a 'princeship' (principatus) under the Merovingians, seemingly an early pointer to the Pippinids/Carolingians' ascent towards royal status. Theudoald is now under the tutelage of Pippin's wife Plectrude, but in due course he is forced to flee. He is replaced by Ragamfred who conducts some reprisals against territory between the Ardennes and Meuse, and forges an alliance with Radbod, duke of the Frisians. Charles Martel escapes from captivity, where he has been put by Plectrude.

Ch. 52 opens with Dagobert's death and the accession of Chilperic II (715-21), formerly a monk called Daniel; the LHF does not say Chilperic was of Merovingian blood, but a charter (Urkunden D171) identifies him as son of the murdered Childeric II. Charles Martel defeats the Frisians. Chilperic and Ragamfred attack Austrasia and obtain a large treasure from Plectrude, but are then defeated by Charles at Amblève.

Finally, in ch. 53, Charles decisively defeats Chilperic and Ragamfred at Vinchy (21 March 717). He overthrows Plectrude and seizes his father's inheritance, setting up Chlothar IV (717-19) as king in Austrasia. Chilperic and Ragamfred gain the support of Eudo, duke of Aquitaine, to attack Charles, but Eudo retreats before giving battle. Chlothar dies and Charles allies with Eudo, persuading him to hand over Chilperic. Chilperic himself soon dies and is replaced by Theuderic IV (721-737), son of Dagobert III. The LHF concludes with the statement that Theuderic is in the fourth year of his reign. 



History of the reign of Justinian

Date of writing: c. 565-575 (to be checked).

Period covered: 552-558 (to be checked).

Original text: Agathias ed. Averil Cameron, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970.

Translation: Averil Cameron, 'Agathias on the early Merovingians', Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di. Pisa; classe di lettere e filosofia ser. 2, 37 (1968), pp. 95–140, for the sections relating to the Merovingians.

On the web: Russian translation here.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

Agathias was a poet and philosopher. In his history he saw himself as a continuator of Procopius, whose style he imitates. The work is divided into five books and concerns Justinian's struggles against the Persians, Goths and Franks. It is the earliest source for two characteristic features of the Merovingians, which we otherwise first encounter in Gregory of Tours: their predilection for long hair and the tendency of royal brothers to divide the kingdom and rule in parallel. Agathias betrays a high opinion of the Franks.

1.2. The Franks, the same people as were called Germans in earlier times, control Gaul as far as Marseilles. Unlike other barbarians they are settled and civilised, follow Roman practices, and are orthodox Christians. Their kingdom is usually partitioned, among three or more rulers, but they avoid civil wars; although they sometimes draw themselves up to fight, the soldiery urges the kings to resolve their differences by negotiation. Admirable and law-abiding, they have enjoyed growing prosperity.

1.3. The Franks rule over neighbouring peoples and observe a dynastic succession. After Clovis's death, the kingdom was partitioned among his four sons, Childebert, Chlothar, Theuderic and Chlodomer. Chlodomer was killed while fighting the Burgundians. The Frankish kings never cut their hair; they part it in the middle and let it hang down, combing it and dressing it with oil. Commoners are not allowed long hair. After Chlodomer's death, his troops withdrew in despair. Chlodomer had no sons and his kingdom was divided between his brothers (cf. Gregory of Tours Histories 3.18; Chlothar and Childebert deprived Chlodomer's of their inheritance, killing two). Theuderic died next, and his kingdom passed to his son Theudebert.

1.4. Theudebert, an energetic and danger-loving king, conquered the Alamans and other neighbouring peoples. With the Byzantines embroiled in the war against the Ostrogoths, he resolved to march on Byzantium, inviting Gepids, Lombards and some others to join him. He resented the Byzantine emperor describing himself as ruler of the Franks and others. His plan was unlikely to have succeeded, but it reveals him as dangerous and arrogant. In the event, he died while hunting, after a pursued buffalo hit a tree and caused a branch to fall on his head. His kingdom passed to his son Theudebald, still a minor.

1.5. After the death of their leader Teias, the Ostrogoths beyond the Po requested help from Theudebald, ignoring Chlothar and Childebert, who lived too far away. They argued that it was in Theudebald's interest to help since, if the Byzantines could overcome the Ostrogoths, they might soon turn their attention to the Franks. They noted that the Byzantines would justify hostilities by saying the Marii, Camilli and emperors had long ago subdued the territory beyond the Rhine, which therefore belonged to them. They asked Theudebald to send an army led by an experienced general and promised him rich rewards, both from plundering the Byzantines and as gifts from the grateful Ostrogoths.

1.6. Theudebald, an unwarlike invalid, was not minded to help. However, two brothers, Alamans with high positions among the Franks and rulers of their own people under Frankish tutelage, undertook the commission. The Alamans had originally been tributary to the Ostrogoths, but the Ostrogoths reassigned them to Theudebert's Franks to concentrate on the war with the Byzantines. The Alamans are similar to the Franks but remain pagan.

1.19. Franks dislike hot weather.

2.4. The Franks are lightly equipped, with little protection, going topless and mostly without helmets. They have few horsemen. Their weapons are mainly axes and middle-sized spears. The spears are barbed, sticking in the flesh or the shields of their victims, making them vulnerable and highly likely to be killed.

2.14. Theudebald, ruler of the Franks who bordered on Italy, died painfully of his disease. Childebert and Chlothar clashed over the inheritance of his kingdom. Childebert, old, ill and heirless, was persuaded to forgo his share in favour of the fitter Chlothar who had four lusty sons. Childebert soon died and Chlothar became sole Frankish ruler.

Gallic Chronicle of 511

Date of writing: c. 511.

Period covered: 379-511.

Original text: MGH AA 9; R W Burgess, 'The Gallic Chronicle of 511 : A New Critical Edition with a Brief Introduction' in Ralph W Mathisen and Danuta Schanzer (eds.), Society and Culture in Late Antique Gaul. Revisiting the Sources (Aldershot, 2001), pp. 85-100.

Translation: Burgess, as above (dual Latin-English text); Murray (460-511).

On the web: MGH.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

This is another continuation of Jerome's chronicle, which also drew on Hydatius and the Chronicle of 452. It uses imperial reigns but its datings are not always accurate.

The chronicle, which is sparse, does not mention Clovis, even though he is seen today as perhaps the most important figure in Gaul c. 481-511. This suggests that our view of Clovis is shaped by later generations and that he was not so visible to contemporaries.

In 461, Frederic, brother of the Visigothic king, Theuderic, is said to have been killed on the Loire fighting the Franks. Cf. Hydatius, who says ( a. 463) Frederic died in battle against Aegidius, and Gregory of Tours, who says (XLH 2.12) the Franks put themselves under Aegidius's authority.

 In 472, the Visigothic king Euric takes Arles, where he dies in 484 and is succeeded by his son Alaric.

In 507, Alaric is killed by the Franks. This corresponds to what Gregory reports as the Battle of Vouillé, Clovis's crucial victory that made him master of Gaul. However, the chronicle does not mention Clovis or Vouillé. It does go on to report Toulouse being burned by the Franks and Burgundians, and the Burgundian king, Gundobad, capturing Barcelona.

The chronicle reports no events after 507, and ends in 511.