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Merovingian Origins

Presented to the Baronial Order of the Magna Charta and the Military Order of the Crusades, Corinthian Yacht Club,Essington, PA
21 October 2006

by: COL Charles C. Lucas, Jr. MD

 

Scythia
This was an area of Eurasia that included the Caucasians including Azerbaijan, the central Asia steppes including Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan, the valley of the Indus or that area between India and Pakistan, and the southern Ukraine with the lower Danube and Bulgaria.

Scholars regard the Scythians as an Iranian nomadic people speaking several languages but mostly Iranian (or Parsi which later became Farsi).

Scythians have left important ethnological markers such as tamgas (brand marks) and kurgans (permanent cemeteries). A 2500 year old mummy was recently found in the snow capped mountains of Mongolia with blond hair, tattoos, and weaponry. The mummy was preserved by ice and was found at 2600 meters. This find extended the range of the territory further east of the Scythians than had been previously thought.

It should be pointed out that the last ice age ended about 9,000 to 10,000 years ago, or about the 8 th millennium BC. Carbon 14 dating has allowed archaeologists to trace the emergence of the Scythians to the Sayan-Altay mountains from 3000BC to about 500BC. These mountains are where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan come together. They are also known as the homeland of the Turks. The mean elevation in the central area is about 4500 meters. About 900 BC the Scythians began a western migration.

They were nomadic warriors who rode horses bareback and who used archers, and the women fought along side the men. Women dressed like men. They were described by Homer and Herodotus. Herodotus, the Greek historian wrote about them in his Histories of the 5th Century. They became slave traders, merchants, and shippers. They were described as long haired warriors who were ferocious. Edmund Spenser wrote that the primary nation that settled Ireland were the Scythians , and that they also settled Scotland. It has been shown that the Scythians landed in Cornwall. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1, he writes of the barbarous Scythian.

It is thought that tribes of the Scythians settled Greece, and also moved into eastern Europe.

Haplotypes from current Y Chromosome DNA studies show that Central Asia was a mixing pot of several population groups. Haplotype R1a and R1b is found in eastern and western Asia as well as Europe and the United States.

Greece
Ancient Greece was formed in the third millennium BC when people known as Greeks migrated south to the Balkans in waves, the last being the Dorian invasion about 2300 BC. 1600-1100 BC is described as Mycenaean Greece known for the Wars against Troy as narrated by Homer. Ancient Greece ended with the end of the reign of Alexander the Great in 323 BC.

Herodotus, 484-425BC, was a Dorian Greek historian who is regarded as the father of history, and who was the author of The Histories- a 6 volume series.

Cimmerians

Herodotus described the Cimmerians of the north Black Sea coast as a distinctly autonomous tribe expelled by the Scythians. The Cimmerians in 714 BC were in the region of Azerbaijan, and in the 7 and 8th century BC were in southern Russia and Ukraine. Their language was Iranian.

There were many off shoots of the Cimmerians. Numerous Celtic and Germanic peoples descended from the Cimmerians. The etymology of Wales is said to descend from the Cimmerians. The Celts in France were known as Gauls. The Celts spread into present day Italy where remnants in the town of Doccia, in the province of Emilia-Romagna, showcase Celtic houses in very good condition dating from the 4th century BC.

Sicambri The west Germanic tribe of the Sicambri descended from the Cimmerians. The Sicambri were located along the right bank of the Rhine and appear about 55 BC. They fought several wars with Rome, namely one led by
Gaius Julius Caesar. In 16 BC they defeated the Roman army under Marcus Lollius. About 11 BC they were forced to move to the left side of the Rhine by Nero Claudius Drusus.

 

Merovingians The Merovingians claimed their descent from the Sicambri, who they believed were originally a Scythian or Cimmerian tribe once inhabiting the river Danube that changed their name to the Franks in 11 BC under the leadership of a chieftain called “Frankus”. The Franks first appear in historical writing in the 3rd century. The Merovinginans traced their Sicambrian origins from Marcomir I-died 412 BC and ultimately to the Kings of Troy. Marcomir I lived around 400 BC and preceded the Merovingian dynasty.

St. Gregory, Bishop of Tours was installed in 573 and was made
Master of Tours by Sigibert I, King of Austrasia (561-576). St. Gregory of Tours, who was the leading historian wrote that the Frankish leader Clovis on the occasion of his baptism into the Catholic faith in 496 was referred to as Sicambrian by the officiating Bishop of Rheims.

Troy

Troy was a legendary city established about 3000 BC and was the center of the Trojan Wars, which occurred about 1200 BC. These wars were described in the Iliad by Homer, who was a blind Greek historian. Today Troy is an archaeological site in northwest Turkey. Troy was founded by Dardanus, son of the Trojan Royal Family of Electra and Zeus. One generation before the Trojan War, Heracles captured Troy and killed Leomedon, but spared his son Priam who became King of Troy. During his reign, the Mycenaean Greeks invaded and captured Troy in the Trojan War 1193-1183 BC.

It is from Priam, King of Troy that Roderick Stuart in Royalty for Commoners shows descent from the Cimmerians to the Sicambri to the Merovingians.

 

Rome

Rome was founded 21 April 753 BC from settlements around a fjord on the River Tiber by Romulus and Remus, sons of the Trojan prince Aenas. Romulus killed Remus and became the first of the seven kings of Rome. The Roman Republic was established around 509 BC. By 200 BC Rome had become the dominant Mediterranean power. About 55 BC Gaius Julius Caesar was in power, and by 31 BC Augustus had consolidated his power. The Roman Empire is said to have ended as such in 476 AD when Odoacer, the Barbarian Germanic General deposed Romulus Agustulus. (Ian Woods states that Odoacer deposing Agustulus is speculation).

Barbarian Kings The Roman Empire was replaced with a number of states ruled by barbarian kings. In the 6th century Italy was controlled by the Ostragoths, France by the Franks, and Burgundians, and Spain by the Visigoths. A century later, the Lombards controlled northern Italy, and the Franks were unchallenged in France, and the Anglos and Saxons were in Britannia.

Franks
It was the kingdom of the Franks which was to exercise the most influence for the longest time. For the first three centuries of its existence until 751 it was ruled by a single family, that of the Merovingians.

There were two groups of Franks-the Salian Franks and the Ripuarian Franks.

The Salian Franks (sea dwelling) lived North and East of Limes in the Dutch coastal area and in the 5th century migrated throughout Belgium and into northern France. By the 4th and 5th centuries, the Belgium city of Tournai had become the center of activity.

The Ripuarian Franks (river dwelling) lived along the Rhine river, and were perhaps called Ripuarian by the Romans.

By the 9th century any differences between these two groups had disappeared.

They were involved with the Romans as military recruits in the 5th century. Gregory of Tours, the historian, placed the emergence of the Merovingians at the conclusion of the Frankish migration. The Liber Historiae Francorum went further, connecting them with the Trojan migration.

Gregory of Tours wrote that the Franks had created long haired kings in Thuringia (Belgium). Gregory of Tours was troubled that there was no clear passage of royalty to the Franks from a line of Kings, but other scholars were not troubled since historical records were lacking.

As indicated the line of Frankish Kings began with Frankus
who died 11 BC. The line continues from Frankus to Chlodio.

Chlodio

The history of Chlodio comes from Gregory of Tours and

Sidonius Apollinarius.

Chlodio, was a semi legendary King of the Salian Franks. He lived in Dispargum which was a castle. Around 431 he invaded the territory of Artois but was defeated near Hesdin by Aetius, Commander of the Roman Army in Gaul. He regrouped and captured Cambrai (Cameracum) and occupied territory as far as the Somme River. He made Tournai the capital of all Salian Franks. He died 447-449.

MEROVINGIAN KINGS MEROVEE (MEROVECH) According to the Chronicles of Fredegar, Merovee (Merovech) the first of the Merovingian Kings was conceived by Chlodio’s wife when she went swimming and was encountered by a Quinotaur, a sea monster. The royal dynasty was thus given a supernatural origin. The actual parentage of Merovee is subject to conjecture, but he was clearly a Frank. Stuart in Royalty for Commoners states he was either a son or a son in law of Chlodio.

Merovee, the first Merovingian King, fought along side Flavius Aetius the Roman ruler when Attila the Hun was defeated in 451. Merovee was proclaimed King of the Franks in 448 and reigned for 10 years.

Under Merovee and his successors, the kingdom of the Franks flourished. It was not the crude barbaric culture often imagined. It warrants comparision with the high culture of the Byzantines. Secular literacy was encouraged.
They built lavish Roman styled amphitheaters in Paris and Soissons. The Franks were brutal but not like the Goths and the Huns. They accumulated immense wealth. They were active in farming, commerce, and maritime trade. Their gold coins that were minted bore an equal arm cross.

Childeric I The son of Merovee was Childeric I, who fought Odoacer at Angiers. Childeric was expelled from the Franks for sexual profligacy. Childeric returned to power and married the wife of the King of Thurigia. Childeric’s grave was found in 1653 in Tournai and was filled with weapons, gold, jewelry, Byzantine coins, and gold cicadas or bees. This is one of the most important medieval treasures ever found.

Clovis
The Bishop of Rheims wrote a letter to Clovis, son of Childeric I which has been preserved. With Clovis, we have the beginnings of a substantial documented history. Gregory of Tours could at last chronicle a Barbarian King.

Clovis reigned from 481-511 and was the major Merovingian King as was Charlemagne the major Carolingian King.

Gregory of Tours writes that Clovis defeated Syagrius; he then married Clothilda, daughter of a Burgundian King, who attempted to convert him to Christianity but failed. Clothilda was later named a Saint.

Beginning as early as 496 there were secret meetings between Clovis and Saint Remy, confessor of the wife of Clovis. Soon thereafter an agreement of cooperation was signed between Clovis and the Roman Church. Such an agreement was important because it transformed the less than unified Roman Church to one of supreme power in the West. Clovis became the sword of the Church.

During a battle against the Alamans, he vowed to become a Christian if he was victorious. He won and was baptized by the Bishop of Rheims in 496. On his return he received consular office from the eastern emperor (the Western Roman Empire had ceased to exist) and he established Paris as his capital. He was named Novus Constantinus-the new Constantine. At his baptism, Saint Remy said

“Sicambrian revere what thou hast burned and burn what thou hast revered.”

There was now a powerful religion, and a powerful Church being administered by a Merovingian bloodline.

Clovis allied with Godegisel against the Burgundian King Gundobad, but the latter survived. Clovis then attacked the Visigoths because they were heretics.

His last years were spent eliminating rival Frankish leaders. The sister of Clovis, Audofleda married the Ostrogothic King Theodoric and there were further marriages between the Visigoths, Thuringians, Herules and Burgundians, further consolidating the empire of the Franks.

The conversion of Clovis to Catholicism made him more acceptable to the Gallo Romans. In 511 he convened an ecclesiastical council in Orleans to discuss matters of newly acquired Aquitaine. When Clovis died in 511, the Frankish kingdom was the most powerful in Gaul.

After Clovis died, his kingdom was divided into 4 parts-one for each of his 4 sons. For more than a century thereafter, the Merovingian Dynasty presided over a number of disparate and warring kingdoms.

Clothair II Clothair II reigned 584-629 and reunited the Kingdom of the Franks. He signed the Perpetual Constitution which was an early Magna Charta.

As the Merovingian Kings were concerned with ritual, pomp, and circumstance, the actual administration of the empire was left to the Mayors of the Palaces.

 

Dagobert II In 651 Dagobert II came to power and was a worthy successor to Clovis. He amassed power and authority and great wealth which has been reported to have been located at Rennes le Chateau. He also seemed to lose interest in protecting the Roman Church and expanding it. Dagobert II married a Visigoth princess, and further expanded the empire to Languedoc. In doing so he created enemies-both secular and ecclesiastic. His Mayor of the Palace, Pepin the Fat aligned himself with enemies of Dagobert II.
Dagobert II had a major capital at Stenay which included a huge forest. On 23 December 679, while resting during a hunt in the forest, a servant under the direction of Pepin the Fat killed him. He was buried at Stenay, the royal chapel of Saint Remy. In 872, he was made a Saint. For all practical purposes, this ended the real power of the Merovingian Kings. The Mayors of the Palaces developed more and more power.

 

Charles Martel The most important Mayor of the Palace and an extremely important historical figure was Charles Martel, or Charles the Hammer who was born 686 and died 741. He expanded his rule over all three Frankish kingdoms: Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy. He was the illegitimate son of Pippin the Middle and his concubine Alpaida. He won the Battle of Tours in 732 which saved Europe from Muslim expansionism. He was a brilliant general and is considered the father of western heavy cavalry. He was the founder of the Carolingian Empire which was named after him.

In 737 King Theuderic died and Martel titled himself Major Domus and Princeps et dux Francorum and did not appoint a new King. The throne was vacant until the death of Martel. He was buried at Saint Denis Basilica. Before his death he divided his properties among his sons.

German and French historians have treated Charles Martel with great acclaim and believe that he saved Europe from Islam. He was called the hero of the age and it was said he delivered Christiandom.

Usurpation by the Carolingians First Carolingian King
Ten years after the death of Charles Martel, his son Pippin III or Pippin the Younger, or Pippin the Short, Mayor of the Palace to King Childeric III enlisted the support of the Pope in overthrowing the Merovingians.

Pippin’s ambassadors to Pope Zachary asked: “who should be King, the man who actually holds power or he though he is King has no power at all?”

The Pope then ordered that by apostolic authority Pippin III, or Pippin the Younger, or Pippin the Short, be created King of all the Franks, thus betraying the pact which had been made with Clovis. Pippin deposed Childeric III, and had his head shaved, and confined him to a monastery.

In 754 Pippin III was anointed at Ponthion. He died in 768 and is buried at St. Denis. In 740 he married Bertrada of Laon. Bertrada descended from the Merovingian Kings.

Charlemagne
Charlemagne was the son of Pippin and Bertrada.

Summary
Accomplishments of the Merovingians

When Childeric III was deposed, the Merovingians were the longest ruling dynasty in western Europe.

Clovis I, Clovis II, Childeric II, and Dagobert II were very strong rulers.

Childebert III operated successively with the aristocracy.

The people east of the Rhine were also subject to the Merovingians.

Merovingian history provides a focus for understanding the political history of western Europe in the two and half centuries following the deposition of Romulus Augustulus.

The Merovingian kingdom had a significant role to play in the transmission of culture from the late Roman period to the Carolingian period.

The Rhone valley was a storehouse of manuscripts, without which Benedict Biscop could never have equipped the great monastery of Monkwearmouth/Jarrow in England.

The Merovingian Church had a distinguished tradition in ecclesiastical legislation in the 6th and 7th centuries; it witnessed a flowering of monastic tradition. It was an institution heavily involved in politics. Boniface’s death at Dokkum can be seen as the last chapter in the Merovingian Church.

Some authors such as Fredegar and the author of
Annales Mettenses Priores perhaps down played the achievements of the Merovingians, yet to accept such readings is to oversimplify Merovingian history.

The Merovingian kingdom boasted no counterpart to Gregory the Great, Isidore, Bede, or Boniface; nevertheless no other state equaled the overall achievement of the Franks in the sixth, seventh, and eight centuries.

References:
Royalty for Commoners by Roderick W. Stuart
Merovingian Kingdoms 450-751 by Ian Wood

Articles from Wikipedia Encyclopedia with References

Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh, Lincoln
Catholic Encyclopedia

 

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