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Old July 12th, 2018, 01:32 PM   #1
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The Franks-Heirs of Rome?


I am interested in how Romanized the Franks were during the Late Antiquity/Early Medieval period. Didn't they see themselves as the heirs of the Romans to a certain degree? How did they carry on the Roman legacy? For example, would Charles Martel and the Franks around the time of the Battle of Tours have viewed the Muslims (as well as Saxons, Frisians, and other enemies) as barbarians or just another group?
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Old July 12th, 2018, 02:52 PM   #2
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Good question. The Franks were among the earliest barbarians to migrate into the Empire, with some groups settling in Gaul in the late third century. Other groups did not leave Germany until the fifth century. So some fifth century Franks were highly Romanized while others were still very barbaric. There were at least three Franks circa 380 who were consuls - one of them was consul twice. The wife of Eastern Emperor Arcadius was a Frank. She was the mother of Theodosius II (born 401). In the 390s there was a Frank named Arbogast who was the power behind the Western throne during the reigns of Valentinian II and Eugenius. These Romanized Franks may have had only tenuous ties to their fellow tribesmen, preferring the life of Roman aristocrats instead. The Franks who would eventually become Charles Martel and the like were probably less Romanized, at least initially.

A good place to start is the fifth century Frankish King Clovis. He converted to Nicene Christianity at a time when most other tribes practiced the Arian heresy. He, like all of the other continental barbarians, spoke Latin. Latin rapidly declined in Britain as the Romano-British learned Anglo-Saxon - English, but most other barbarians, including the Franks, were eager to Romanize. Clovis did take over the old Roman administrative mechanisms, at least those that survived. There are sixth century references to the old Roman taxation surviving intact. Frankish oral and customary law had previously existed, but Clovis saw the advantage to having a Roman-style written law code. There was a Frankish origin myth written down in the seventh century that claimed the Franks came from ancient Troy. This is clearly an attempt to copy the Roman origin myth of the Aeneid which also claimed a Trojan origin.

So yes there was a lot of effort to Romanize starting with Clovis and continuing down to Charlemagne. Other tribes were also trying to Romanize like the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Lombards. Along with the Franks they may have all considered themselves and each other to be Roman. Other tribes you mentioned like the Frisians, Saxons, and Muslims would have been seen as non-Romans. A major factor would be geography. How could people who had never lived inside of the Empire's borders be Romans? They did not have Roman roads, Roman buildings, Roman education, etc.
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Old July 13th, 2018, 01:14 AM   #3

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The Visigoths were fairly romanised and thought they were inheriting their part of the Empire. They just ran things a little differently and it was probably ultra-Catholicism that eventually led to some bizarre and extreme laws and conduct as centuries went on. Possible to speculate they may have worked out better staying with Arianism!!
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Old July 13th, 2018, 03:57 AM   #4

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The Franks in Gaul were romanized but those outside were heavily under the influence of Rome while retaining their "barbarian" customs. If one studies the great Barbarian migration, it will become obvious that Northern Gaul was the last to fall. There is a reason for. The Franks shielded them from invasion; that until the Franks realized they could conquer Gaul for themselves instead. Conquering Northern Gaul was easy as up to 20% of the population in some area were already Franks or Gallo-Frank. The Franks for example had laws protecting vineyards, indicating a heavy Roman influence. The population rallied behind the Franks but feared other barbarians.
If you have to study one European barbarian group, the Frankish tribe is a must. Amazing constantly evolving tribe.

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Old July 13th, 2018, 05:35 AM   #5

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This is one of the big questions about this period. If you're interested in reading more, start with Henri Pirenne's Mohammed and Charlemagne and follow up with the fairly extensive literature on this subject. You might want also to read Gregory of Tours History of the Franks. Although I'm a big fan of Pirenne, I think what Gregory has to say shows the extent to which the Franks were still "barbarians"--there's a murder or other outrage on just about every page. I realize Gregory, as a Gallo Roman, is prejudiced, but haven't seen anything that proves his statements of fact are generally wrong. Of course, you might say this shows the Franks were true heirs of at least some of the early Roman emperors.

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Old July 13th, 2018, 06:11 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Vagamundo View Post
...I think what Gregory has to say shows the extent to which the Franks were still "barbarians"--there's a murder or other outrage on just about every page. I realize Gregory, as a Gallo Roman, is prejudiced, but haven't seen anything that proves his statements of fact are generally wrong. Of course, you might say this shows the Franks were true heirs of at least some of the early Roman emperors.

In the first half of Gregory's work, where he's writing about events before he was born, Gregory is not so reliable. In the second half, when he's writing of his own times, he gets much more reliable. Gregory, like every other Gallo-Roman aristocrat would have said the Franks were far short of Roman achievement. The Franks themselves aspired to become Romans but they never fully completed that process before they realized the Roman world was gone and the post-Roman world was remaking itself into something new.
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Old July 13th, 2018, 06:50 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chlodio View Post
In the first half of Gregory's work, where he's writing about events before he was born, Gregory is not so reliable. In the second half, when he's writing of his own times, he gets much more reliable. Gregory, like every other Gallo-Roman aristocrat would have said the Franks were far short of Roman achievement. The Franks themselves aspired to become Romans but they never fully completed that process before they realized the Roman world was gone and the post-Roman world was remaking itself into something new.
Right. The Merovingian Franks themselves bore some of the responsibility for the end of the Roman world by dividing up the kingship of Gaul among so many descendants, leading to the anarchy Gregory describes and the rise of feudalism to cope with it.
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