C. E. Who will rule Gaul?

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The Franks (Teacher Notes)
Salian Franks

Established in 358 C.E., Toxandria, original acquired homeland of the Salian Franks, within the Western Roman Empire, labeled "Franks“

Modern day countries: Belgium and the Netherlands
Gaul and the Franks

As the Romans moved east into the Byzantine Empire, numerous Barbarian tribes competed over the previous Roman landholdings that were now vacant.

Gaul → territory north of Italy inhabited by numerous Barbarian tribes.

The Franks → Barbarian tribe that would conquer Gaul and establish their kingdom in the late 5th Century

Fall of Rome

476 C.E. Who will rule Gaul?

Clovis I
King of Salic Franks:
481 – 511 AD

Who was Clovis?

Clovis (c. 466–511 AD) was the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the leadership from a group of royal chieftains, to rule by kings, ensuring that the kingship was held by his heirs.

While he was not the first Frankish king, he was the kingdom’s political and religious founder.

Clovis was not only a Frankish king, he was also a Roman official.

Clovis' biggest contribution outside of conquest to the Franks was his own conversion to Christianity.

Clovis would convert during a battle after he believed his prayers were answered leading to his victory.

Clovis would then engage in Christianizing the Franks and the Frankish Kingdom

The traditional date of the conversion of Clovis to Roman Catholicism is 496.

His conversion won him papal support and opened the way to wide conquests from the heretic (i.e., Arian) German peoples.

Burgundy was conquered (after 500); the Visigoths defeated at Vouillé (507); and their whole kingdom north of the Pyrenees (except Septimania and Provence) was soon subjugated.

Clovis founded the Church of the Holy Apostles (Ste. Geneviève) at Paris, and shortly moved his "capital" from Soissons to Paris. 

Salic Law

Under Clovis, the first codification of the Salian Franks' law took place.

Salic law provided written codification of both civil law, such as the statutes governing inheritance, and criminal law, such as the punishment for murder.

The Salic Law was written with the assistance of Gallo-Romans and the laws reflect the Roman Legal tradition and supported Christianity while at the same time containing much from the Salic traditions.

Clovis’ legacy

Clovis committed three important actions:

The Unification of the Frankish nation; assured the influence of his people beyond the borders of Gaul, something no regional king could accomplish.

The Conquest of Gaul; he laid the foundations of a later nation-state, France.

His conversion to Christianity; he made himself the ally of the papacy and its protector as well as that of the people, who were mostly Catholics.
Division of Clovis’ Kingdom

Theuderic ~ King of Metz, Rheims, Austrasia

Chlodomer ~ King of Orleans

Childebert ~ King of Paris

Clotaire ~ King of Soissons
After Clovis

The Merovingians were commonly known as “do nothing” kings after the reign of Clovis.

Merovingian kings would usually leave all the affairs of government to the mayors of the palace → officials who took on all the business of government in place of the king.
Carolingian Dynasty

Charles Martel

Charles Martel, a mayor of the palace, would be responsible for one the biggest victories in Western European history.

Muslims advanced from Spain and attempted to invade the Frankish Kingdom.

Martel would meet the Muslims in the Battle of Tours in 732 → battle would be a victory over the Muslims and prevented Islam from moving into Central Europe
Pepin the Short

Martel would pass on his position as mayor of the palace to his son, Pepin.

Pepin would not be satisfied with just being mayor of the palace and sought to become king of the Franks.

Pepin would ask the pope to crown him king → pope would ask for help against the Lombards in exchange.

Lombards → Barbarian tribe that attempted to conquer Italy from the 5th Century to the 12th Century

As a result of defeating the Lombards, Pepin was crowned king of the Franks by the pope.

Pepin in turn, would also cede to the popes, the Papal States.

Papal States → territories in Italy under the control of the popes until the 1870's.

Charlemagne a.k.a. Charles the Great a.k.a. Carolus Magnus

Upon Pepin's death in 768, his son Charles would take up the throne.

Charlemagne would engage in numerous campaigns to extend the Frankish kingdom.

He would defeat the Saxons and Bavarians to acquire portions of Spain and Eastern Europe.

With these victories he was able to unify the territories of Gaul and Eastern Europe for the first time since the Romans had vacated the territory in 476

Charlemagne and the Pope

Charlemagne would Christianize many of the tribes he conquered → usually did this through what was known as 'baptism by the sword'.

Charlemagne would maintain the relationship that his father held with the pope.

After defeating the Lombards, the pope would crown him Holy Roman Emperor → ruler of all of the territories previously held by the Romans.
Consequences of the Crowning

Charlemagne being crowned emperor was an achievement but also had consequences:

Gave the pope a measure of papal supremacy → power over secular rulers.

Made the Roman Catholic Church a government institution since one now had to ask the pope to be crowned emperor.

Made Charlemagne the protector of not only the Franks but also of Christendom.

Created a rift between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church since emperors were now being crowned in former Roman lands.

Innovations by Charlemagne

Charlemagne now governed over a vast territory and decided to split it into smaller territories with provincial rulers → these breakdowns would be known as counties.

Those who ruled over counties were known as counts.

Charlemagne did not trust his counts, hence he sent his missi dominici (royal agents who served as spies) to watch over them.

Innovations in Education and the Arts

Charlemagne sought to improve the literacy rate in his kingdom to help speed up Christianization; he would be responsible for the construction of the first curriculum → plan for learning.

The improvement in learning led to a growth in monasticism → monks began to find ways to improve the copying of books

Would create Carolingian miniscule → writing system in which spacing between letters and words is reduced and the size of the letters are reduced as well.

The End of Charlemagne and theTreaty of Verdun

Upon the death of Charlemagne, his grandchildren would not follow in his footsteps.

The three grandchildren would divide the territory through the Treaty of Verdun in 843.

Treaty of Verdun → split the Frankish Kingdom into three separate parts


The dissolution of the Frankish kingdom ended any hopes of a unified Europe for now.

The Franks would slowly lose more and more power over time as the empire was weak and could not repel foreign invasion.

The title of Holy Roman Emperor would filter over to the Germanic kings and would not return until the 990's.

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