Ammianus Marcellinus

Rerum Gestarum Libri XXXI

 

Roman history, with various references to the Franks. The first thirteen books are lost.

Date of writing: c. 390.

Period covered: 354-378.

Original text: Ammianus Marcellinus ed. and tr. J C Rolfe in the Loeb Classical Library (1940) 3 vols

Translation: As above (dual text). Excerpts in Murray (XV.5; XVII.2, 8; XX.4).

On the web: Latin text

For background, see the Wikipedia page for Ammianus and the Ammianus Marcellinus online project.

 Ammianus's work is a history of the Roman empire, with various references to the Franks. The first thirteen books are lost.

 In XV.5 (Book 15, Section 5), Ammianus tells us the story of Silvanus, who is described in the Section heading as "Silvanus the Frank, commander of the infantry in Gaul" (Silvanus Francus, magister peditum per Gallias). The emperor Constantius sent Silvanus to restore order to Gaul, which was suffering pillage and plundering by barbarians (barbaris). The victim of a conspiracy to discredit him, Silvanus declared himself emperor at Cologne, only to be assassinated on the 28th day of his reign (AD 355). We are told that Franks at that time were numerous and influential at the Byzantine court. Some mentioned by name are Bonitus, father of Silvanus, along with Malaric(hus) and Mallobaud(es), respectively commander of the foreign part of the imperial household troops and tribune of the heavy-armed guard.

In XVII.2, Ammianus is describing the Gallic campaign of Julian (the Apostate) before he became emperor. Julian besieges 600 Frankish raiders who had taken advantage of Julian's campaign against the Alamanni to seize two forts on the banks of the Meuse. The Franks surrender and are sent to the imperial court, while their compatriots, who had set out to rescue them, give up and return to their own strongholds (AD 357-8).

In XVII.8, Julian takes the surrender of the "Franks, customarily called Salians" (Francos...quos consuetudo Salios appellavit), who are living in Toxiandria in modern Flanders. The Chamavi, living in the same area, also surrender (AD 358).

In XX.4, Ammianus refers to a promise that Julian had given to barbarian troops recruited from across the Rhine that they would not have to serve in regions beyond the Alps, and his fear that if the promise were broken it would become more difficult to recruit such troops. When the emperor Constantius ignores this promise, the troops mutiny and proclaim Julian emperor (AD 360).

In XX.10, Julian mounts a surprise attack across the Rhine on "the Franks known as Atthuarii" (Francorum, quos Atthuarios vocant) who are overrunning the frontiers of Gaul, killing many and taking their surrender (AD 360).

In XXX.3.7, the land of the Franks is referred to as "Francia".

Malaric is mentioned (XXV.8.11) as being appointed commander of the cavalry in Gaul and sent the insignia of that rank by Julian, but (XXV.10.6) declining the position (AD 363).

Mallobaudes is described as "commander of the household troops and king of the Franks" (domesticorum comitem, regemque Francorum)  in XXXI.10.6 (AD 378). He is also mentioned as king in XXX.3.7, and earlier in his career as tribune of the heavy armed guard (tribunus armaturae) in XIV.11.21 and XV.5.6 (AD 354-5).

Anonymi Valesiani pars posterior

Date of writing: c. 550.

Period covered: 474-526.

Original text: In Ammianus Marcellinus ed. and tr. J C Rolfe in the Loeb Classical Library (1940) vol. 3 pp. 506-569

Translation: As above (dual text).

On the web: Latin text and English translation

The Excerpta Valesiana, named after Henricus Valesianus who first published them in 1636 from a single manuscript, are in two parts. The first part (pars prior) is a biography of Constantine the Great. The second part (pars posterior) is mainly a history of Theodoric the Great.

C. 63 tells us that Theodoric married "a Frankish woman named Augoflada" (uxore de Francis nomine Augofladam). The date is c. 500. Gregory of Tours (III.31) tells us that Theodoric's wife "Audofleda" was the sister of Clovis.

Aurelius Victor

De Caesaribus

Date of writing: c. 361.

Period covered: 27 BC-AD 360.

Original text: F R Pichlmayr and R Gruendel, Sexti Aurelii Victoris Liber de Caesaribus (Leipzig 1966)

Translation: Excerpt in Murray

On the web: Latin text

For background, see the Wikipedia page on Aurelius Victor.

Aurelius Victor is known for 'the earliest mention of the Franks', in his account of the emperor Gallienus (260-7, caesar from 253), where he speaks of the gentes Francorum plundering Gaul and invading Spain. However, since Aurelius was writing a hundred years after the events, it cannot be reliably deduced that the term "Franks" was actually in use as early as Gallienus's day.

 

Latin Panegyrics

Date of writing: c. 289, 291, 297 (the relevant ones).

Period covered: As above

Original text: R.A.B. Mynors, XII Panegyrici Latini, Oxford 1964; C.E.V. Nixon / Barbara Rodgers: In Praise of Later Roman Emperors, Berkeley 1994 (English translation and commentary with the Latin text of Mynors, also without Pliny)

Translation: Nixon/Rodgers, as above; Murray (partial); Panegyriques Latins ed E Galletier (Paris, 1949) [French]

On the web: Translated excerpts (English)

This is a collection of 12 panegyrics, one to the emperor Trajan (98-117) by Pliny the Younger, and the others to various emperors reigning between 289 and 389. See here.

Panegyric 10 (c. 289) to Maximian (286-305) refers to a barbarian king, Gennobaudes, who was restored to his kingdom by Maximian and is presumed to have been a Frank. This identification is influenced by Panegyric 11 (291, delivered at Trier), also to Maximian, which contains references to Franks and their kings being subdued by the Roman empire and coming to Maximian with gifts. The episodes referred to took place in 285-6.  These are the earliest contemporary mentions of Franks (cf. Aurelius Victor). 

Panegyric 8 to Constantius Chlorus (293-306) celebrated the restoration of Britain to the empire and was probably delivered at Trier in 297. It mentions Constantius campaigning against Franks in the area of the Scheldt, in modern Belgium, and speaks of them being settled on deserted land to cultivate it. Other barbarian captives are said to languish in the cities, while, again, Chamavi and Frisians are said to have been settled on the land, where their productive efforts are lowering the price of food. The panegyric also recalls an incident from c. 280, in which Frankish captives seized some ships and became pirates, plundering their way along the coasts of Greece and north Africa, capturing Syracuse, and eventually reaching the Atlantic. Areas where Franks and 'laeti' (the first mention of this term, describing barbarians settled in the empire en bloc) have been set to cultivate land are enumerated as Armorica (modern Brittany), Amiens, Beauvais, Troyes and Langres. Autun is said to have benefited from an influx of artisans, apparently captives brought over from the defeat of rebels in Britain.

Panegyric 6 to Constantius's son, Constantine (306-337) delivered at Trier c. 310 speaks of him executing some kings of Francia, named as Ascaric and Merogaisus, for raising a rebellion against him at the beginning of his reign. The Franks are said to have learnt a lesson from this, and remain beyond the Rhine, some distance from it, so that the Rhineland forts are now merely decorative and farmers on the river bank are left in peace. Constantine is also said to have launched a savage, surprise attack on the Bructeri, in their territory of forests and marshes. Finally, he is said to have put a bridge over the Rhine at Cologne, while the Rhine itself is patrolled by armed ships.

Panegyric 12, also to Constantine, was delivered at Trier probably in 313. It speaks of Constantine inflicting a heavy defeat on barbarians who crossed the Rhine (after being lured into a trap), and having many captives thrown to the beasts in celebratory games. It praises Constantine for defeating the 'grim Frank'  in Italy as well as on the borders of the barbarians' own lands.

Further reading: Bibliography.

See: The relationship between Frankish gens and regnum: a proposal based on the archaeological evidence - Michael Schmauder.

 

Prosper of Aquitaine

Chronicle

Date of writing: 433-455, appearing in several editions over this period.

Period covered: 378-455 (original part).

Original text: MGH AA 9.

Translation: Stephen Muhlberger, The Fifth-Century Chroniclers: Prosper, Hydatius, and the Gallic Chronicler of 452 (Leeds 1990). Murray (partial 378-408; complete thereafter).

On the web: MGH, Patrologia Latina.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

Prosper (in some manuscripts, Prosper Tiro) was a native of Gaul who lived in Rome. He was a prolific writer. His chronicle is a continuation of that of Jerome, and is in the form of annals (a year-by-year account of events). Each entry is dated by the consuls for that year, and by the number of years since the crucifixion, though not every entry has historical information attached. Under 433, he gives a computus, reckoning the age of the world as 5634 years.

Prosper's only reference to Franks is in 428, when Aëtius recovers territory they have seized near the Rhine.

In the fourth century, Prosper mentions, among other things, Martin of Tours, the usurpers Gratian and Maximus, and some apparent barbarians and masters of the soldiers who may have had Frankish connections, namely Merobaudes and Arbogast.

In the fifth century, Prosper attests the famous irruption into Gaul of the Vandals, Alans and Sueves, from across the Rhine, on 31 December 406. There is much late west Roman history, with the comings and goings of barbarians (Goths, Vandals), usurpers (Constantine, Jovinus), emperors, and famous churchmen (Augustine, Pelagius, Jerome, Nestorius). He records the grant of Aquitaine to the Visigothic king, Wallia, in 419, an unsuccessful attack by the Goths on Arles in 425, further attacks on Narbonne (which did not fall) and elsewhere in 436, and the use of Huns against the Goths in 437. He covers the career of Aëtius, beginning in 424 with the pardon he received for turning back the Huns after bringing them in to support the usurper John, and ending in 454 with two versions of his assassination. He mentions a Count Sigisvald who led the campaign against Boniface, renegade governor of North Africa, and became consul in 437. He attests the visit of Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, to Britain, to overturn the Pelagian heresy, and the dispatch of Palladius as first bishop to the Scots (inhabitants of Ireland). In 435, Aëtius is said to have crushed the Burgundians but allowed them to live in peace, only for them to be destroyed utterly by the Huns. In 437 and 438, there are mentions of pirates drawn from barbarian deserters plundering many places, especially Sicily. Prosper attests the Vandal capture of Carthage on 19 October 439. In 451, he describes Attila's attack on Gaul, which was announced as an attack on the Goths in support of Rome but involved such savagery that Goths and Romans agreed to combine to repel him, which they did. He does not mention Theoderid the Visigoth's death in the battle, but he does describe (in 453) struggles amongst Theoderid's sons over the Visigothic throne. The chronicle ends with the Vandals capturing and plundering Rome in 455.

 

Gallic Chronicle of 452

Date of writing: 452 or shortly after.

Period covered: 379-452 (original part).

Original text: MGH AA 9; R W Burgess, 'The Gallic Chronicle of 452 : 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. 52 ff.

Translation: Stephen Muhlberger, The Fifth-Century Chroniclers: Prosper, Hydatius, and the Gallic Chronicler of 452 (Leeds 1990). Murray.

On the web: MGH.

For background, see here and this Wikipedia page.

 This was a continuation of the chronicle of Jerome. The chronicle is dated by the emperors' regnal years, but the years assigned to the emperors up to 424 are incorrect (e.g. the chronicle says Gratian reigned 6 years, when he actually reigned 379-384), causing inaccuracies in the placement of events. After 424, the durations of reigns are correct, but the assignment of dates may not always be. The last few years of the chronicle, from 447, do seem to be dated properly.

Much of the chronicle is concerned with political and religious life throughout the empire. The author is vehemently orthodox and anti-Arian. It is important for events in Britain, since it mentions a Saxon invasion (something it is now fashionable to deny ever happened) in 408, and the subjection of Britain to Saxon authority in 441-2. Events in Gaul are mentioned but do not dominate. The Franks and Merovingians are never referred to.

Martin of Tours is described as outstanding against the year 379, his death is reported in 397, and the composition of his life by Severus is reported around 403-4. The destruction of 'Manichees' by Maximus at Trier is reported in 383, and the killing of Valentinian II by Arbogast at Vienne is reported in 392. In 408, Gaul is being ravaged by various peoples, with the Vandals and Alans mentioned specifically, and the Sueves taking over part of Spain. In 411, Gaul is looted by the Visigoths, and the Visigothic king, Athaulf is described as a usurper, whose alliance with the usurper Jovinus was prevented by the vigorous Dardanus. The Goths storm Valence, where Jovinus has taken refuge, and Gaul experiences a great famine. The Goths receive Aquitaine. C. 416, four men, Honoratus, Minervius, Castor and Jovian, are mentioned as the heads of flourishing monasteries in Gaul.

In 424, a certain Sigisvult went to Africa to confront the renegade Boniface; his name recalls that of the Sigivalds who, a hundred years later, were kinsmen of the Merovingian Theuderic I (see XLH 3.13, 16, 23).

In 427, Aëtius frees Arles from the Visigoths.

The renown of Germanus bishop of Auxerre is mentioned in 433. Germanus is famous for making two journeys to Britain, here in its darkest period, according to his Life to combat heresy but, judging by passing references, also perhaps to help organise resistance to the marauding Picts (inhabitants of Scotland). The chronicle does not mention these visits.

A Bacaudic revolt in 'farther Gaul', under a certain Tibatto, is described as occurring between 435 and 437. The exact nature and objectives of the Bacaudae are somewhat mysterious to modern scholars, but the chronicle describes them as seceding from Roman society. In 436, Aëtius is said to have defeated and almost wiped out the Burgundians. By 440, Gaul is once more pacified, and Aëtius returns to Italy. Abandoned estates near Valence are handed over to the Alans, while in farther Gaul they are invited by Aëtius to divide the land with the locals, but seize the lot by the force of arms. 'Farther Gaul' perhaps means Brittany and nearby territories, as in northern Gaul the Franks are conventionally supposed to have been gaining ground at this time.

In 443, the Burgundians are given Sapaudia (Savoy) to divide with the inhabitants.

 Another Bacaudae revolt is mentioned in 448, and its alleged ringleader Eudoxius, a doctor, flees to the Huns because of the suspicion against him.

The deaths of Hilary of Arles and Eucherius of Lyons are mentioned in 449.

In 451, the chronicler notes that the Roman state was in disarray, with barbarian settlers in every province and Arianism rife. Attila is mentioned as entering Gaul as if it were naturally his (in the chronicler's words 'as if he had the right to ask for a wife that was owed to him'). His famous defeat and withdrawal are also mentioned but the chronicler does not give the location of the battle (the Mauriac plain or Catalaunian fields, near modern Châlons-en-Champagne).

The chronicle ends with Attila's attack on Italy.

 

Hydatius

Chronicle

Date of writing: c. 470.

Period covered: 379-468 (original part).

Original text: MGH AA 11; R W Burgess, The Chronicle of Hydatius and the Consularia Constantinopolitana (Oxford 1993) [dual Latin-English text].

Translation: Burgess, as above. Murray.

On the web: MGH.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

Hydatius was a bishop of somewhere in Spain, believed to be Chaves in modern Portugal. As such, his concern is primarily with Spanish affairs, for which he is the main source from c. 417 (the end of Orosius's Histories) to when his chronicle ends in 470. He led an embassy to Aëtius in 431, and accompanied Aëtius's envoy back to the Sueves. In 445, he denounced certain 'Manichees' to the bishop of Mérida. In 460 he was taken prisoner by the Sueves, apparently on suspicion of supporting the Visigoths who were then attacking the Sueves, but after 3 months captivity returned to Aquae Flaviae (tentatively identified with Chaves, and assumed to be Hydatius's seat).

The chronicle was another continuation of the chronicle of Jerome. It has survived mostly in summaries by other authors, but there is one near complete version dating from the ninth century. Its chronology is problematic. Hydatius uses the emperors' regnal years, but the years he assigns to the emperors are incorrect (e.g. the chronicle says Avitus reigned 3 years, when he actually reigned July 455-October 456). The chronicle becomes increasingly detailed as it moves closer to the time that Hydatius was writing, and is fullest from 455 onwards.

From a parochially Merovingian perspective, Hydatius has little information to impart.

He mentions the Gallic-based usurpers, Constantius and the brothers, Jovinus and Sebastian (411-13). He spends much time on the Visigoths, since they became increasingly involved in Spain over the course of the fifth century, and pays some attention to their activities in Gaul. In 430, some Visigoths led by one Anaolsus are wiped out near Arles by Aëtius (cf. Chronicle of 452 for a. 427). Aëtius is still campaigning in Gaul the next year, then in 432 the Franks are said to have been defeated and pacified, while in 436-7 Aëtius defeats the Burgundians and slaughter 20,000 of them. Also in 436-7, the Visigoths besiege Narbonne but the siege is lifted. In 438, Aëtius slaughters 8,000 Visigoths. In 439, the Roman Count Litorius, with Hun auxiliaries, attacks the Visigothic King Theodered at Toulouse and is defeated, captured and killed; the Romans and Visigoths make peace.

For the year 443, Hydatius speaks highly of Merobaudes, a poet and warrior, who had statues erected in his honour and fought against the bacaudae, but whose career was stymied by jealous rivals. The name (Merobaud, Mero-vald?) recalls Frankish ones and indeed the name of Merovech, Clovis's grandfather, after whom the Merovingian dynasty is supposed to have been named. (Another Merobaudes is attested in the fourth century as a Frank and Roman general and consul; he accompanied the body of the emperor Julian to its burial.)

 In 448, Hydatius tells us that King Rechila of the Sueves died a pagan, but the son who succeeded him, Rechiarius, was a Catholic. This means that Clovis was not the first barbarian king to be a Catholic rather than an Arian Christian. In 449, Rechiarius marries the daughter of the Visigothic king, Theodered.

Hydatius reports the Hun invasion of Gaul in 451, Attila's subsequent defeat, and the death of King Theodered in the battle. The contemporary importance of these events is indicated by the way Hydatius says it was prefigured by omens seen in the sky (sounding to modern ears rather like the aurora borealis though appearing exceptionally far south).

Hydatius recounts some of the career of Aegidius, Roman general and friend of the emperor Majorian, who commanded the Franks for a while after they had rejected Clovis's father Childeric (later accepting him back), and whose son Syagrius was later defeated by Clovis and driven out of Soissons. In 462, Aegidius is described as 'distinguished', as it is noted that Count Agrippinus, a rival of Aegidius, handed Narbonne over to the Visigoths in order to gain their support. In 463, Frederic, brother of the Visigothic king, Theoderic, rises up against Aegidius--described as enjoying an excellent reputation--and is defeated and killed. In May 464 or 465, Aegidius is said to have sent envoys via the Atlantic to the Vandals in North Africa, and these envoys returned in September. Aegidius was then assassinated and the Visigoths took over the regions he had been holding in the name of the Roman Empire.

Hydatius reports the accession of Euric to the Visigothic kingship in 466 after he assassinated his brother Theoderic. In 467, portents are seen in Gaul, with the Visigoths' swords changing colour and blood spurting from the ground near Toulouse. What these portents foreshadowed is not clear as the chronicle ends soon after, though Hydatius does mention that a large army is being sent against the Vandals (in the event, this army failed to recover North Africa, which would have to wait till the campaign of Count Belisarius in 533-4).

 

Julian (the apostate; emperor)

Letter to the Athenians

Date of writing: 360.

Period covered: 356-8.

Original text: Epistula ad SPQ Atheniarum, in Julian, ed. and trans. Wilmer Cave Wright, 3 vols (London 1923) [Loeb edition].

Translation: Loeb edition of Julian, as above. Murray (excerpt).

On the web: Not found.

For the emperor Julian, see this page from De Imperatoribus Romanis.

After being appointed caesar by his cousin Constantius, Julian went to Gaul in 356 to campaign against barbarian raiders, and had much success. In 360, he was acclaimed emperor at Paris, after the troops in Gaul took exception to an order by Constantius for them to move east and help drive back a Persian attack. Julian then wrote letters to various major cities, explaining himself and seeking their support, his letter to the Athenians being the only one that survives. The letter is famous for the first reference to the Salian Franks, the group, living around the mouth of the Rhine, from which Clovis and the Merovingians are thought to have derived.

Julian explains that when he came to Gaul, the barbarians controlled a strip, as much as 35 miles wide, on the Roman side of the Rhine from its source to its mouth. They had occupied various towns, and the inhabitants of Gaul had withdrawn as much as 100 miles from the Rhine, in search of safety. In 356, Julian re-took Cologne and Strasbourg, capturing Chnodomar, the king of the Alamans, whom he sent to Constantius. In 357 and 358, the barbarians were thoroughly expelled from Gaul, with the help of ships from Britain deployed in the Rhine. Julian boasts that he drove out the barbarians, when Constantius and the praetorian prefect, Florentius, were only too happy to appease them with payments of tribute. He says he took the surrender of the Salian people and drove out the Chamavi [another group considered to have been amalgamated into the Frankish identity]. Summarising, Julian says that he crossed the Rhine three times in four years, and rescued a thousand captives while himself capturing ten thousand barbarian men of fighting age, while by 360, the time of writing, he had recovered all the towns that had fallen to the enemy.

  

Libanius of Antioch

Funeral oration for Julian

Date of writing: 363.

Period covered: 357-8 (parts concerning Franks).

Original text: Libanius: Selected works, ed. and trans. A F Norman (Cambridge, Mass. 1969), vol. 1, Oration 18.

Translation: Norman, as above. Murray (excerpt).

On the web: English translation.

For the emperor Julian, see this page from De Imperatoribus Romanis. For Libanius, see this Wikipedia page.

In his funeral oration, Libanius, naturally enough, praises Julian, which includes recalling his successful exploits in Gaul in 357-8, before becoming full emperor.

Libanius depicts the Franks and other barbarians as raiders and plunderers, with the Franks in particular being equally troublesome whether it was winter or summer. In one incident, Julian took a thousand Franks prisoner, this being remarkable, according to Libanius, because the Franks usually fought to the death. Julian's reputation was such that the Roman army was inspired to defeat barbarians just from hearing he was on his way, while other barbarians begged to become imperial subjects. After harrying them to abject defeat, Julian caused the barbarians to release the Romans they had enslaved, rebuild the towns they had damaged, and make amends to their Gallic inhabitants.

 

Eunapius of Sardis

Date of writing: c. 390-404.

Period covered: 270-404; 357-8 (parts concerning Franks).

Original text: R C Blockley ed. and trans., The fragmentary classicising historians of the later Roman empire: Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus (Liverpool 1983).

Translation: Blockley, as above. Murray (excerpt).

On the web: Not found.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

Eunapius is one of those ancient historians whose work survives only in the form of miscellaneous excerpts quoted by later medieval writers.

In Fragment 18.6 (Blockley numbering), Eunapius describes Julian's campaign against the Chamavi, one of the peoples considered to have become absorbed into the wider nation/concept of 'Franks'. We are told that, without the co-operation of the Chamavi, grain supplies could not be brought from Britain for the Roman garrisons in Gaul. Julian enters Chamavi territory, having already defeated them in battle and taken prisoners. The Chamavi readily subject themselves to him. To ensure their continued compliance, Julian demands hostages, in particular the chief's son, whom the Chamavi believe to have been killed but who is actually among Julian's prisoners. The chief groans that he cannot comply and only wishes his son were still alive, whereupon Julian produces the young man, causing wonderment among the gullible Chamavi. Julian lectures them on the power of the Romans and warns them not to break the peace. He demands the mother of a certain Nebisgastes, perhaps the chief or his son, to become a hostage alongside the chief's son and other prisoners already in his possession, then departs. Eunapius, seemingly erroneously says that by now it was late autumn turning to early winter.

 

Orosius

Seven Books of History Against the Pagans

Date of writing: c. 418.

Period covered: Creation to AD 417.

Original text: Orosius, ed. and trans. Marie-Pierre Arnaud-Lindet, Histoires contre les païens (Paris 1990-1); Historia Adversos Paganos, ed. C Zangemelster, CSEL 5 (Vienna, 1882)

Translation: Arnaud-Lindet, as above (French). Roy J. Deferrari, ed. and trans., The Seven Books of History against the Pagans, The fathers of the Church vol. 50 (Washington, DC 1964). Murray (excerpts).

On the web: Latin text. Latin text.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

In the winter of 406-7, Vandals, Alans and Sueves crossed the Rhine and proceeded to rampage through Gaul, arriving in Spain three years later. In 410, Alaric the Visigoth sacked Rome for three days. Some anti-Christian opinion-formers argued that these onslaughts were a divine punishment, due to the rise of Christianity and the turning away of the Roman citizenry from the traditional gods. At this point, Paulus Orosius, a Spanish priest, stepped up to the plate to defend Christianity by arguing that the existing troubles were no worse than those Rome had faced in its earlier, pagan history. He took inspiration from St Augustine of Hippo, who had recently argued in his City of God that the Christian church was bigger and more enduring than the Roman empire, and not to be identified with it.

 In Book 7.32, we hear of the emperor Valentinian I (364-75) crushing Saxons in the territory of the Franks, and around the same time Burgundians being settled in Gaul on the banks of the Rhine, where they remained up to Orosius's day, having accepted Orthodox Christianity. 

7.34. The usurper Magnus Maximus successfully taxed the Germanic tribes because of their fear of him.

7.35. Arbogast murdered his master, Valentinian II, and tried to set up the usurper Eugenius, but was defeated and killed by the eastern emperor Theodosius I, whom he had once helped overcome Magnus Maximus. Arbogast enjoyed the support of Gauls and Franks. (He was uncle of Theudemer, king of the Franks, and his son, Aredius, and descendants monopolised the countship of Trier till the end of the sixth century.)

7.38. Stilicho stirred up trouble among the barbarians along the Rhine, in hopes of discrediting his master, the western emperor Honorius (395-423), so he could put his own son on the imperial throne. He and his son were killed when the conspiracy came to light (408).

7.40. The Vandals, Alans and Sueves, stirred up by Stilicho, overcame the Franks, and marauded their way through Gaul. The usurper Constantine was raised in Britain, crossed into Gaul, and was repeatedly tricked by the barbarians after they offered to ally with him, something that harmed the state. He put barbarian troops in charge of the passes over the Pyrenees, but these abandoned their posts and allowed the Vandals, Alans and Sueves to cross into Spain, where they remained to Orosius's day.

7.42. Constantius besieged Constantine at Arles and killed him. Constantine's son, Constans, was killed by Gerontius at Vienne. Gerontius raised Maximus as emperor, but was then killed by his own soldiers. The troops of Gaul were withdrawn to Africa then Italy, abandoning Maximus, who became a private citizen in Spain. The usurper Jovinus, a Gallic aristocrat, was then raised in Gaul, but was soon deposed and killed, as was his brother Sebastian, who also attempted a usurpation.

7.43. In 414, Constantius drove the Visigoths under Athaulf (Alaric I's successor) from Narbonne into Spain. Athaulf was loyal to the emperor Honorius, whose sister Placidia he married (she had been captured during Alaric's sack of Rome), and fought for the empire. In Bethlehem, Orosius once met a native of Narbonne, who told him that Athaulf had originally aspired to replace the Roman empire with a Gothic empire, but became disillusioned by the Goths' lawlessness, and decided instead to seek glory by restoring the might of the empire with Gothic arms. Athaulf was killed at Barcelona by his own men, and replaced very briefly by Segeric, then by Wallia (415-18). At this time, the Vandals, Alans and Sueves in Spain were fighting among themselves, while Wallia was trying to re-establish peace.

 

Ausonius of Bordeaux

Poems

Date of writing: c. 360-90.

Period covered: c. 360-90.

Original text: Ausonius, ed. and trans. Hugh G Evelyn-White (London 1919-21)

Translation: Evelyn-White, as above. Murray (The Ranking of Famous Cities, excerpts for Bissula, epigrams and Nuptial Cento). Penguin classics: H Isbell, The Last Poets of Imperial Rome (Harmondsworth 1971) (Bissula, The Moselle, The Crucifixion of Cupid, On Freshly Blooming Roses);

On the web: Loeb edition (Evelyn-White): Volume 1, Volume 2.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

 Decimus Magnus Ausonius, a lawyer and teacher from Bordeaux, was appointed tutor to Gratian, son of Valentinian I (364-75), in the 360s. When Gratian became sole emperor on his father's death, Ausonius exerted influence on his policies and choice of advisers. This came to an end when Gratian was overthrown and killed by the usurper Magnus Maximus in 383. Ausonius survived this and died some time after 393.

Ausonius left a substantial collection of poems, which are not now rated for their literary quality, but shed light on Gallic society and geography in the fourth century. As far as Merovingian history is concerned, they give us some feel for the quotidian realities of the world in which Frankish power took shape, though of course they refer to a century earlier. It is difficult to date many of the poems precisely.

 The Ranking of Famous Cities describes seventeen cities in order of importance (from Ausonius's somewhat parochial perspective), beginning with Rome and ending with Bordeaux. The Gallic cities listed are: Trier, peaceful, and an entrepôt, receiving goods from afar while feeding and equipping the imperial army; Arles, another entrepôt, connecting the Mediterranean to the Rhone; Toulouse, populous and surrounded by a vast brick wall; Narbonne, described as 'Martian', once the capital of Rome's Gallic Province and a centre for merchandise from Spain, Sicily, Africa and elsewhere; Bordeaux, famed for 'wine, rivers, illustrious men, virtuous and intelligent inhabitants, and a senate', with a temperate climate, tidal rivers, high towers on its walls, broad streets, and an abundant marble fountain supplying its water needs. Vienne is also mentioned as a neighbour to Arles, populated by 'Alpine peasants'. The poem mentions (and applauds) the downfall of Magnus Maximus, which occurred in 388, and so must have been written after that date.

The Moselle describes the sights and sounds to be encountered along that river. It is a masterpiece of what literary theorists call objective correlative, using concrete objects and situations to evoke an abstract idea or emotion. In this case, Ausonius evokes the atmosphere of the river by, among other things, describing the fish that live in it. Each species is named and commented on from the perspective of its appearance, habits or culinary value. The vivid results were praised by the Roman senator Q. Aurelius Symmachus in a letter to Ausonius (Symm. ep. 1.32 = Aus. ep. 2), imitated by Alexander Pope in Windsor Forest, and most recently used by Hans Hummer in the introductory chapter to Politics and Power in Early Medieval Europe. Ausonius praises the Moselle for its steady flow, and describes boys fishing, farmers singing in the fields and bargemen 'running from bow to stern, like children playing their summer games'. The Moselle runs through what was the Roman province of Belgica Prima, an area of barbarian settlement, later part of the Frankish sub-kingdom of Austrasia. (The Merovingian heartland was in the adjoining region of Belgica Secunda.) Ausonius speaks of journeying past the inferior farmlands allotted to former barbarian captives (he calls them Sarmatians), which echoes the Latin Panegyrics where they speak of Constantius Chlorus settling defeated Franks, Frisians and Chamavi on deserted land in imperial territory (Panegyric 8). Ausonius also speaks of the river taking him past many old estates and magnificent houses, some near the river-bank, others perched high on the surrounding hills. This was evidently a wealthy region, thanks in part, no doubt, to its wine, mentioned by Ausonius and famous to this day. The Moselle, before joining the Rhine at Koblenz, passes through Trier, which was an imperial residence for most of the fourth century. Ausonius would have got to know the river while he was at Trier with Gratian, in the early 370s. He mentions the six spans of the second-century bridge over the Moselle at Trier, which is still in use (see below). The overall impression of the poem is of a peaceful and self-confident world, and it provides an important corrective to the stories told by Ammianus Marcellinus or the Latin Panegyrics of barbarian raids. Whereas those sources concentrate on drama and crisis, Ausonius gives us a glimpse of ordinary life which was much more the normal condition.

 


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Bissula is a set of verses on one of Ausonius's servants, perhaps a concubine, a former slave, whom Ausonius apparently freed. He says that her crude, barbarian name belies her attractive looks and her facility with the Latin language. She was a Suebian, from the upper Danube, perhaps captured in 368 when Ausonius's young charge, Gratian, joined his father Valentinian on campaign against the Germans. Ausonius lost his wife c. 343 and had not remarried. This poem can perhaps be said to show a small vignette of one way in which barbarians came to enter the Roman empire, and of Roman attitudes towards them. Most of it does not survive. 

Rutilius Claudius Namatianus

His Voyage Home

Date of writing: c. 417.

Period covered: 417.

Original text: Loeb edition:- J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff, ed. and trans., Minor Latin Poets, vol. 2 (London, 1982); De Reditu suo sive Iter Gallicum, ed. Ernst Doblhoffer, 2 vols (Heidelberg 1972-7)

Translation: Loeb edition (as above). Murray (excerpts). Penguin classics: H Isbell, The Last Poets of Imperial Rome (Harmondsworth 1971).

On the web: Latin and English at Lacus Curtius.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

 Rutilius Claudius Namatianus was a native of Gaul (believed Toulouse), whose poem describes his voyage home after a high-flying political career at Rome. Most of it has been lost.

He begins with lengthy praise for Rome. These are troubled times. Rome was sacked by the Goths seven years earlier, and Rutilius Namatianus indicates that their continuing movements make the roads north from Rome dangerous, while many bridges are down. For this reason, he is travelling by sea. Nevertheless, he argues that ups and downs are natural, and Rome has overcome adversity before, so he looks forward to the recovery of its greatness.

Rutilius was master of the imperial household in 412 and Rome's urban prefect in 414. His father, Lachanius,  had also been urban prefect. His cousin, Palladius, was studying law at Rome, while his uncle, Exuperantius, was governor of Armorica (Brittany and adjacent area). Rutilius speaks of Exuperantius restoring peace and preventing the inhabitants become the slaves of their own servants -- a reference, no doubt, to the troublesome bacaudae.

Rutilius waited for a fortnight on the coast near Rome, until the weather was favourable. He explains that cargo vessels, with huge sails, can travel about in summer, but his own vessel travelled in autumn, when winds are less, and hugged the coast. He took the opportunity to make sightseeing trips when the ship was in various ports. A strong south wind caused them to put into harbour at Centumcellae (Civitavecchia). Here he visited some famous springs, three miles from the city. At Portus Herculis (Porto Ercole), he walked among the traces of a camp of the first-century BC general, Lepidus. When there were no settlements near the ship's anchorage, they camped, using the oars as tent poles. Passing by Elba, he reflects that it is a source of high-grade iron ore, better even that of Bourges, in his native Gaul.

At Faleria (Falese), Rutilius and his travelling companions found board and lodging with a Jew, a Basil Fawlty of his time, who charged them for damaging his bushes and moaned about the amount of water they had used. Rutilius goes on to disparage Jews in general for their religious practices.

Between Corsica and the mainland, Rutilius's ship passed an island inhabited by monks. He disparages their dreary philosophy, which, as he sees it, means living a miserable life in the name of seeking a better one. He says the same when passing another island, where a youth from a wealthy Roman family had taken up the ascetic life. Apparently, Rutilius looked down on Christians and did not consider himself one.

At one country estate, he observed salt flats that were the source of its wealth. Here he met a friend whose property in Toulouse had been seized by the Goths, and who was once governor over the wild (unploughed) parts of Roman Britain.

Rutilius berates Stilicho for teaching the barbarians to penetrate Italy's northern mountains, and accuses him of burning the books of the Sybils, which brought divine aid and protection (perhaps a reference to Stilicho's Christianity). He says Stilicho deserves even more than Nero a harsh punishment in the after-life.

 

Paulinus of Pella

Thanksgiving

Date of writing: c. 459/60.

Period covered: c. 376-459/60.

Original text: Ausonius, ed. and trans. Hugh G Evelyn-White (London 1919-21), vol 2 (note: this is correct, Paulinus's work is included with that of Ausonius). Poetae christiani minores, ed. Wilhelm Brandes, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 16 (Vienna 1888). Paulin de Pella, Poème d’action de grâces et prière, ed. and trans. Claude Moussy, Sources Chrétiennes 209 (Paris 1974)

Translation: Loeb edition (Evely-White, as above). Murray (excerpts). Penguin classics: H Isbell, The Last Poets of Imperial Rome (Harmondsworth 1971).

On the web: Latin and English at Lacus Curtius.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

Paulinus was a grandson of Ausonius of Bordeaux. He was born in Pella, Macedonia, where his father was serving in the imperial administration, but by the age of three was back in Gaul, where he spent the rest of his life.

 His poem, 'Thanksiving' or Eucharisticos, is his autobiography, written at the age of eighty-three. It is a tale of woe, but Paulinus is not downhearted, for he recognises that God was with him and, despite many setbacks, he always survived and found a way through. Starting from a very privileged background, he steadily lost his family estates to the invading Visigoths. An oft-quoted episode occurred in his later years, when, out of the blue, a Goth paid him for his one remaining property, in Marseilles, which he had already had to re-mortgage. The sum was less than the property was worth, but it allowed Paulinus to live a little easier.

The historical value of the poem is in shedding light on the experiences of the Gallic aristocracy under the Visigoths in the first half of the fifth century. Nevertheless, it is questionable how far we should extrapolate from Paulinus to his peers. He admits that he was habitually idle, and he lost his main estate because, unlike others, he had not thought to pay a Goth to defend it. While he depicts himself as living in increasingly straitened circumstances, his idea of what was straitened could have been quite comfortable in broader perspective. Things may not have been quite as bad as Paulinus makes it sound, and more astute aristocrats may have been able to hold on to much of their property and status.

 

Salvian of Marseilles

On the Governance of God

Date of writing: 440s

Period covered: 440s

Original text: Salvian, De Gubernatione Dei, ed. F Pauly, CSEL 8 (Vienna 1883)

Translation: Jeremiah F O'Sullivan, The Writings of Salvian the Presbyter (New York 1947). Murray (excerpts).

On the web: Latin text, English text.

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

Salvian was a Christian priest and author of a small number of religious tracts. In On the Governance of God, he deals with the old chestnut of how a caring God could permit bad things to happen to good people. Specifically, he addresses the question of how God could permit the civilised and Christian Romans to be humiliated and subjugated by their pagan and heretical barbarian invaders. His answer is that his fellow Roman aristocrats deserve everything they get because they are licentious, pleasure-seeking and oppressive towards the poor. Although their behaviour in these respects may not be noticeably worse than that of the barbarians, or indeed of their own slaves, whom they look down on as coarse and mischievous, nevertheless, they are more culpable because they have had every advantage and ought to know better. God punishes the Romans more than the barbarians because the Romans are wicked, the barbarians only misguided.

In Salvian's world-view, the barbarians are definitely invaders, and their impact is definitely adverse, while Roman civilisation is in its death throes. The cities of Spain, Africa and Rome are laid waste. 'The Roman state, if not already dead or at least drawing its last breath where it still has a semblance of life, is dying, strangled by the chains of taxation' (Bk IV, Murray's translation). This contrasts somewhat with recent interpretations, which cast the period as one of 'transformation' and downplay notions of disruption and displacement. For sure, Salvian had an agenda, of castigating the morals of his fellow-Romans, but he seems to be explaining away widely acknowledged troubles rather than exaggerating them.

 Salvian calls the Franks at one point treacherous, at another ignorant of the crime of injustice, at a third liars, but hospitable. He lists them among the pagan barbarians, along with the Saxons, Gepids and Huns, in contrast to the Vandals and Goths, who are Christians, though heretical. This is all he has to say about the Franks per se. However, he talks of Cologne, Mainz and Trier being attacked and invaded by barbarians, which sources such as the Latin Panegyrics might suggest included Franks. He dwells particularly on Trier, saying it was raided four times, and he is disgusted that, despite such divine chastisement, the people of Trier continued in their immoral ways, even asking the emperor to provide circuses to comfort them for their tribulations. His other writings suggest Salvian was born in Cologne and brought up in Trier.

He is an important source for the bacaudae. They seem to be Roman citizens who have somehow rejected or rebelled against the empire, according to Salvian because of the oppressive treatment and rapacious demands of the imperial tax-gathering apparatus. The injustices and burdens of taxation are a constant theme with him. He says that, for such reasons, many Gallo-Romans prefer to subject themselves to barbarian rule and have no desire to return to the imperial fold. He seems to be talking about the Goths, but his remarks recall the statement of Gregory of Tours that later, in the days of Clovis, many inhabitants of Gaul wanted to be ruled by the Franks (XLH 2.35).

  

Priscus of Panium

Date of writing: c. 475

Period covered: mostly 447-50 (surviving parts).

Original text: R C Blockley ed. and trans., The fragmentary classicising historians of the later Roman empire: Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus (Liverpool 1983).

Translation: Blockley, as above. C.D. Gordon, The Age of Attila: Fifth-century Byzantium and the Barbarians (Ann Arbor, 1960). Murray (excerpts).

On the web: Attila's court (English translation, frag. 8 in Blockley).

For background, see this Wikipedia page.

Priscus was an official based in Constantinople, who joined an important embassy to Attila the Hun in 449 and wrote a history of his times. This was in Greek. Only parts of the work have survived, in the form of extracts quoted by later compilers and historians.

Priscus is an important source for Attila and the Huns, telling us about Attila's character and appearance, describing a banquet at Attila's court, and relaying the circumstances of Attila's death. He also recounts a Byzantine plot to have Attila assassinated, which was betrayed by the Hun commissioned to do the deed.

Priscus is relevant to Merovingian history because he gives the reasons for Attila's invasion of Gaul in 451, when Attila was defeated in the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields by a Romano-Visigothic coalition under Aëtius.

Fragment 17 (Blockley) = John of Antioch fragment 199(2) (Gordon, pp. 104-5): Honoria, sister of the western emperor Valentinian, offered herself in marriage to Attila because she was dissatisfied with the man she was supposed to be marrying.

Fragment 20.1 (Blockley) = fragment 15 (Gordon, pp. 105-6): Attila, having been refused Honoria's hand, decided to invade the western empire. One reason was to seize her along with a suitable dowry; fragment 20.3 (see below) informs us that the dowry Attila demanded was half the western empire. The other reason was to attack the Visigoths for the benefit of the Vandal king Gaiseric. As explained by Jordanes in his Getica c. 184, the daughter of Theodered, the Visigothic king, had been betrothed to Gaiseric's son, but the Vandals had mutilated her and sent her home, so they feared Visigothic revenge. In attacking the west, Attila would also be attacking the Franks.

Fragment 20.3 (Blockley) = fragment 16 (Gordon, p. 106): Attila was hostile to the Franks because their king had recently died and the older son was seeking Attila's backing to claim his father's throne, while the younger was backed by Aëtius. Priscus had seen this younger son when he was on an embassy to Rome. The Frankish prince was a beardless youth with shoulder-length fair hair, whom Aëtius adopted as his son and showered with gifts. The identity of the Frankish king and princes in this fragment is unknown. Some have assumed the young Frank was Childeric, Clovis's father, so the late king must have been his father Merovech. Gibbon, however, suggested that Merovech was the young Frank and the late king was his father Chlodio. However, the identity of Chlodio as Merovech's father is only given in late sources like Fredegar and the LHF; Gregory of Tours says only that 'some said' Chlodio and Merovech were related. The argument for Gibbon's view is that an eleventh-century interpolation in the LHF says Merovech fled before the Hunnish advance in 451, i.e. he was still alive and could not have been the king whose death led to the succession crisis. On the other hand, suppose Merovech was the younger son (since Attila was defeated, presumably it was the younger son who came to the throne). If he was still beardless (15 years old, say?) around 450, then it is only just about possible for him to have been the grandfather of Clovis, who was supposedly 15 when he came to the throne in 481. Nevertheless, we do not know exactly when Priscus was in Rome and saw the Frankish prince. Perhaps it was long before Attila's invasion. Alternatively, it could be that neither the king nor his sons in this incident were direct Merovingian ancestors. 

 

Sulpicius Alexander

Date of writing: c. 400

Period covered: 388-93 (surviving parts).

Original text: In Gregory of Tours, Histories (q.v.), Book 2 Chapter 9.

Translation: See Gregory of Tours, Histories, Book 2 Chapter 9. Also in Murray.

On the web: In the Google Books version of Thorpe's translation of Gregory.

On Sulpicius, see F. Paschoud, 'Note sur les relations de trois historiens des IVe et Ve siecles: Sulpicius Alexander, Renatus Profutus Frigerius, et Olympiodore' Antiquité Tardive 6 (1998), pp. 313-316. His work only survives in a quotation by Gregory of Tours. This is from Book 4 of his history, which seems to have covered 388-93. By extrapolation, Book 1 probably began about 375-6, following on from Ammianus Marcellinus.

We learn of Frankish raiding across the Rhine in 388, including an attack on Cologne. The Frankish leaders are called Genobaud, Marcomer and Sunno. A Roman counterattack cuts down many Franks and drives the rest back into Germany, but a subsequent punitive expedition beyond the Rhine ends in disaster for the Romans.

 After further raiding, Arbogast, a Frank by birth but a Roman officer and one of Theodosius's generals, urges seeking of retribution from the Franks. Talks are held with Sunno and Marcomer, hostages are received, and Arbogast makes his winter quarters at Trier.

The emperor Valentinian II is marginalised and the management of the western empire is in the hands of Arbogast and his Frankish followers. Arbogast regards Sunno and Marcomer as personal rivals and conducts a winter campaign against them beyond the Rhine, though little fighting takes place. The usurper Eugenius takes a large army to the Rhine frontier to renew treaties with the Franks and Alamanni and remind them of Roman might.

 

Claudian

On the Consulship of Stilicho

Date of writing: c. 400

Period covered: 396 (relevant part)

Original text: Claudian, trans. Maurice Platnauer (Cambridge, MA, 1923) I: 379-83.

Translation: As above (Loeb dual text edition). Also in Murray (excerpt).

On the web: Lacus Curtius: English translation, original Latin.

Claudian was a Greek-speaking Egyptian who made a career writing praise poems for various patrons in the western imperial court.

His poem on the first consulship of Stilicho describes an expedition Stilicho undertook along the Rhine in 396, from its source to its marshy outlet into the North Sea. Stilicho imposed peace supposedly by simply overawing the Germanic tribes of the Rhineland.

 Claudian describes the Franks as being overthrown without warfare, referring to 'flaxen-haired warrior-kings', and speaking of Salians and Sigambrians farming rather than fighting. He also speaks of Belgians pasturing their flocks as far as the Elbe, unmolested by the Chauci (another Frankish tribe). The Alamanni sought to become Roman mercenaries, but were denied. The people of Francia would hardly dream of rejecting the kings Stilicho has imposed on them. Of the two rebellious Franks, Marcomer and Sunno, Marcomer has been exiled in Etruria, while Sunno was assassinated by his own soldiers when he tried to avenge his colleague.

 

 

Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus

Date of writing: c. 440

Period covered: c. 405-35 (surviving parts).

Original text: In Gregory of Tours, Histories (q.v.), Book 2 Chapter 9.

Translation: See Gregory of Tours, Histories, Book 2 Chapter 9. Also in Murray.

On the web: In the Google Books version of Thorpe's translation of Gregory.

On Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus, see F. Paschoud, 'Note sur les relations de trois historiens des IVe et Ve siecles: Sulpicius Alexander, Renatus Profutus Frigerius, et Olympiodore' Antiquité Tardive 6 (1998), pp. 313-316. His work only survives in a quotation by Gregory of Tours. 

We learn of the Franks getting the better of it in a war with the Vandals, who have to be rescued by the Alans. Franks are said to be present among the troops of both the usurper Constantine and his rival the usurper Jovinus. Trier is plundered and burned by the Franks, a second time. Around 420, an expedition is mounted against the Franks in Gaul.  

 

Honorius (emperor)

Letter establishing the Council of the Seven Provinces

Date of writing: 418

Period covered: 418

Original text: W Grundlach ed. MGH Epistolae 3: Epistolae Merowingici et Karolini Aevi (1892) pp. 13-17.

Translation: Murray.

On the web: MGH.

The emperor Honorius wrote to Agricola, the pretorian prefect of the Gauls, to ordain the establishment of a Council of the Seven Provinces. The Seven Provinces were Gaul's southernmost provinces: Novempopuli, Aquitanica I and II, Narbonnensis I and II, Viennensis and Alpes Maritimae. Judges, dignitaries and landlords of these provinces were to meet in Arles every year, between the ides (13th) of August and ides (13th) of  September, to discuss government and public business, with fines for tardiness. In the letter Honorius speaks of the vigorous commercial life of Arles, receiving products from every corner of the Roman empire. 

 

Querolus (or Aulularia)

Date of writing: c. 420

Period covered: c. 420

Original text: Catherine Jacquemard-Le Saos, Querolus (Aulularia) (Paris: CUF) 1994.

Translation: As above (French). G.E. Duckworth, The Complete Roman Drama (New York: Random House) 1952, vol. II, pp. 891-952. Murray (excerpt).

On the web: Latin and translation by student group.

This is a play by an anonymous author. See the Wikipedia page. It is a comedy, dealing with the question of why the good suffer and the wicked prosper. It is dedicated to a certain Rutilius.  The 420 date is based on the identification of this Rutilius with the author of 'His voyage home'. That may not be correct, but the play is nevertheless 5th century.

Scene 2 contains a famous reference to conditions on the Loire, where people 'live by the law of nations' and 'capital sentences are issued from an oak' while 'peasants conduct the pleadings'. This is thought to be a reference to the rule of bacaudae (peasant brigands/revolutionaries?) in an area where Roman civil society had temporarily broken down.

 

Theodosian Code

Date of writing: 438

Period covered: 311-437

Original text: Theodosiani libri XVI, ed. T Mommsen and P.M. Meyer, 3rd edn. (Berlin, 1962).

Translation: The Theodosian Code and Novels and the Sirmondian Constitutions, tr. Clyde Pharr in collaboration with Theresa Sherrer Davidson and Mary Brown Pharr (Princeton: Univ. Press, 1952). Patrick Geary, Readings in Medieval History (Peterborough Ontario: Broadview Press, 1995) pp. 1-29 (excerpts). Murray (excerpt).

On the web: Latin text. Another Latin text. A translated excerpt is here.

For background, see here or Wikipedia

The Code is a compilation of imperial edicts, sanitised (i.e. with incidental details removed) and reorganised in a more general manner. It is of interest for shedding light, through its various concerns, on social conditions in the early fifth century empire. For instance, a decree against the Donatist heresy lists the different social classes of Roman society--from proconsul, vicar or count of the first rank, down to slaves and coloni--in the course of allocating suitable fines to each category of person.

A condensed version of the code, adapted to conditions under barbarian rule, was issued by the Visigothic king Alaric II in 506. Known as the Breviary of Alaric, this circulated widely into the later middle ages.

 

Constantius of Lyons

Life of St Germanus

Date of writing: c. 480

Period covered: 378-448

Original text: MGH SRM 7, pp. 247-83.

Translation: F.R. Hoare, The Western Fathers (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), pp. 283-320. Murray (excerpt).

On the web: MGH.

For Germanus see Wikipedia or the Catholic Encyclopedia

The Life of St Germanus is important to students of the early Anglo-Saxon period in England, since Germanus made two visits to Britain, to counter the Pelagian heresy and help the Romano-Britons organise some defence against those invading their territory.

In the mid-430s, Germanus travelled to Arles to ask the pretorian prefect, Auxiliaris, for tax relief for the inhabitants of Auxerre. He was successful.

Around the same time, Aëtius had sent Alan mercenaries, under their king, Goar, to put down the rebellion of the bacaudae in Armorica (modern Brittany and surrounding areas). [See e.g. Querolus.] At the request of a delegation from the region, Germanus persuaded Goar to leave the Armoricans in peace. Goar agreed, so long as this was approved by Aëtius or the emperor. To that end, Germanus went to Ravenna. Though he was successful in his quest, a further rebellion under the bacaudae leader Tibatto caused the Armoricans' luck to run out and even Germanus could not prevent the subsequent reprisals.