Frankish Empire: An empire of Germanic barbarians?

Mar 2018
44
Greece
#11
I think that my first post has kinda been misunderstood:
By 800 there were no longer two distinct cultures west of the Rhine, only one - Frankish culture which was a hybrid of the earlier Roman and barbarians cultures.
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this is all i discuss, and the part i disagree and what i support (from what i have read): By 800 Frankish culture was just Germanic, with some Roman influences, not a hybrid of Barbarian and Roman
 
Apr 2018
951
Upland, Sweden
#12
I keep the bold text, as the other 3 paragraphs are either completely irrelevant to the issue (3rd paragraph refers to things that happened 500-1000 years after Franks and some of them have nothing to do with even the descendants of Franks either) or, regarding development, development in the ancient world surely isn't something measurable but anyone without asperger syndrom can understand that colloseum is a sign of development compare to, let's say, nordic longhouse.

So back to the bold part, didn't ancient germanics have stone buildings? Or writing (runes)? Because i think in both questions the answer is yes
You think the other 3 paragraphs are irrelevant, I don't. Partially I chose to add them because I detected a slight hint of a triumphatory tone in your post which annoyed me, and I felt like bursting that bubble. Mainly however it was because I find the notion of development to be more complicated than you seem to assume - and yes the Colosseum is obviously more developed than a Longhouse... but is it better? Is the culture as a whole superior? As I said, the Romans were "obviously" more undeveloped than the Greeks for a very long time, and yet they conquered the entire Meditteranean. Why is "development" interesting to focus on, if you only look at it at one particular fixed point in time?

So: what does my other 3 paragraphs have to do with the Franks? To begin with I mention European Feudalism, something that many agree arose in the Carolingian Empire - i.e. among the Franks, 2-300 years after Clovis. Of course the roots of something as wide as "Feudalism" are difficult to pin down, but to me anyway it seems very clear that they have more to do with Germanic customs than they do with Roman law or Christianity, even if there are no doubt such influences as well. Did the Germanic Pagans live under a Feudal structure? No, even though their tribal structure and the whole hird system probably had a considerable influence on later feudalism.

As for whether the ancient Germanic peoples had stone buildings... myeh. Never say never, and I'm sure mixed wooden/stone buildings were not totally unknown. I don't know of any stone ruins from the pre-Christian era in Scandinavia though - I don't know about Germany, but outside of the Roman parts I'd wager it's pretty similar to Scandinavia. Tacitus writes that the Germanic people lacked cities, and liked to live in cottages or small aglommerations of freestanding houses - made of wood, I'm guessing. I think he might even write that explicitly but don't take my word for it.

As for runes, yes they had them but they didn't really use them for much. Most of our sources for old runes are in the form of runestones, not very practical to use if you want to conduct trade/ administration. I have no doubt that some Germanic person at some point in history wrote down a bunch of runes on vellum or bark, or perhaps even parchment - question is how common it was (we have only very few surviving examples, I think). If you compare it with the Franks, especially after Charlemagne, it is like night and day.

Why do I talk about the other Germanic peoples? To begin with "Franks" was a term used by the Arabs to talk about Crusaders, and I think the Byzantines (but you probaby have a better idea about this than I do) had a similar usage. Also "Franks" was used inside of Europe just generally to refer to certain cultural commonalities/ characteristics among all Western Europeans in some contexts even hundreds of years after what modern historians and Wikipedia call "Francia" (i.e. after 843), particularily when relating to Feudalism and military matters. (if you are interested in this, read Robert Bartlett's The Making of Europe).

If you say the Franks were just Germanic barbarians, I say the Germanic barbarians were not just Germanic barbarians, and that much of the unique developments in Western Europe from the middle ages onwards seem to be precisely because of this barbaric Germanic heritage, that all of the Germanic peoples (including the Franks) had in common... then I find that interesting. If you want to consider that "irrelevant", go ahead...
 
Last edited:
Mar 2018
44
Greece
#13
You think the other 3 paragraphs are irrelevant, I don't. Partially I chose to add them because I detected a slight hint of a triumphatory tone in your post which annoyed me, and I felt like bursting that bubble. Mainly however it was because I find the notion of development to be more complicated than you seem to assume - and yes the Colosseum is obviously more developed than a Longhouse... but is it better? Is the culture as a whole superior? As I said, the Romans were "obviously" more undeveloped than the Greeks for a very long time, and yet they conquered the entire Meditteranean.

So: what does my other 3 paragraphs have to do with the Franks? To begin with I mention European Feudalism, something that many agree arose in the Carolingian Empire - i.e. the Franks, 2-300 years after Clovis. Of course the roots of something as wide as "Feudalism" are difficult to pin down, but to me anyway it seems very clear that they have more to do with Germanic customs than they do with Roman law or Christianity, even if there are no doubt such influences as well. Did the Germanic Pagans live under a Feudal structure? No, even though their tribal structure and the whole hird system probably had a considerable influence on later feudalism.

As for whether the ancient Germanic peoples had stone buildings... myeh. Never say never, and I'm sure mixed wooden/stone buildings were not totally unknown. I don't know of any stone ruins from the pre-Christian era in Scandinavia though - I don't know about Germany, but outside of the Roman parts I'd wager it's pretty similar to Scandinavia that Germania was mainly wooden it seems logical to assume that wood was the preferred building material. Tacitus writes that the Germanic people lacked cities, and liked to live in cottages or small aglommerations of freestanding houses - made of wood, I'm guessing. I think he might even write that explicitly but don't take my word for it.

As for runes, yes they had them but they didn't really use them for much. Most of our sources for old runes are in the form of runestones, not very practical to use if you want to conduct trade/ administration. I have no doubt that some Germanic person at some point in history wrote down a bunch of runes on vellum or bark, or perhaps even parchment - question is how common it was (we have only very few surviving examples, I think). If you compare it with the Franks, especially after Charlemagne, it is like night and day.

Why do I talk about the other Germanic peoples? To begin with "Franks" was a term used by the Arabs to talk about Crusaders, and I think the Byzantines (but you probaby have a better idea about this than I do), and also that "Franks" was used inside of Europe just generally to refer to certain cultural commonalities/ characteristics among all Western Europeans in some contexts even hundreds of years after what modern historians and Wikipedia call "Francia". (if you are interested in this, read Robert Bartlett's The Making of Europe).

If you say the Franks were just Germanic barbarians, I say the Germanic barbarians were not just Germanic barbarians, and that much of the unique developments in Western Europe from the middle ages onwards seem to be precisely because of this barbaric Germanic heritage, that all of the Germanic peoples (including the Franks) had in common... then I find that interesting. If you want to consider that "irrelevant", go ahead...
regardless from what you personally think, they were all irrelevant, there was no "triumphatory tone" in my post and no bubble was bursted. If you have something more to tell regarding the specific issue that is questioned like you correctly did in the bold part then we are here to read. I didn't even use the word "superior" or any relevant word to imply superiority, and if you perceived words like "barbarians" as a sign of inferiority then that's an issue of you, as I never implied any inferiority by using the specific word, so anything else is stuff for psychoanalysis (no offense :))

Why do I talk about the other Germanic peoples? To begin with "Franks" was a term used by the Arabs to talk about Crusaders, and I think the Byzantines (but you probaby have a better idea about this than I do), and also that "Franks" was used inside of Europe just generally to refer to certain cultural commonalities/ characteristics among all Western Europeans in some contexts even hundreds of years after what modern historians and Wikipedia call "Francia". (if you are interested in this, read Robert Bartlett's The Making of Europe).
As far as i know yes, Arabs and some Europeans used the term Franks to imply all people of Roman catholic faith, but what is discussed here is not what "the rest" perceived as Franks, but the actual Franks who built the specific empire in the period from 481 to 987 and how Germanic these Franks were/how relevant they were to ancient Germanics, which I think the answer is like: 100%
 
Apr 2018
951
Upland, Sweden
#14
regardless from what you personally think, they were all irrelevant, there was no "triumphatory tone" in my post and no bubble was bursted. If you have something more to tell regarding the specific issue that is questioned like you correctly did in the bold part then we are here to read. I didn't even use the word "superior" or any relevant word to imply superiority, and if you perceived words like "barbarians" as a sign of inferiority then that's an issue of you, as I never implied any inferiority by using the specific word, so anything else is stuff for psychoanalysis (no offense :) )
I am fine with calling them barbarians. My entire point is that barbarism can sometimes result in greater development later on... But nevermind.

As far as i know yes, Arabs and some Europeans used the term Franks to imply all people of Roman catholic faith, but what is discussed here is not what "the rest" perceived as Franks, but the actual Franks who built the specific empire in the period from 481 to 987 and how Germanic these Franks were/how relevant they were to ancient Germanics, which I think the answer is like: 100%
Okay, and my point is that those "actual Franks" didn't just wake up in 843 or 987 and become French or whatever. In the french context much of the aristocracy was probably considerably more Germanic in their ethnic heritage than the bulk of the population.

When you say they were "like 100% Germanic" what do you mean? Sure, the Franks were probably more primitive in 481, yes - but it seems quite obvious to me that once you reach the 700s att least calling the state of Western Europe "tribal" seems a very bad designation. The Carolingian Empire deserves the title I think, even if they didn't use forks...
 
Likes: Futurist
Jun 2017
2,806
Connecticut
#15
Who are we talking about here? A Germanic inhabitant of a fishing village along the Rhine estuary? A Frankish nobleman with a fief along the Seine? A Romance quasi-serf along the Loire? A native bishop of Provence? The answer will change with each. The Frankish realm often wasn't even unified in a nominal sense, let alone as a nation-state with citizens and a broadly shared culture. In the context of the 5th-8th centuries, some of its inhabitants were recently-converted Germanics living in pit-houses, some were rich, educated descendants of the Gallo-Roman aristocracy, others were Romance peasants living the same (not so sophisticated) way they had for centuries, and still others were semi- or quasi-Romanized nobles with increasingly civilized pretensions. Some of these were "barbaric" by Roman standards and others "civilized", but they can't, particularly in the early centuries, be painted together with the same brush.

In any case, the bulk of the Frankish realm was, by the 9th century, capable of producing most of what we (and the Romans) associate with high "civilization", such as monumental stone/brick buildings and major literary works, and had settled into a stable mode of sociopolitical and economic organization, based on layered feudal ties and obligations, which would endure in some form (in France itself) for almost 1000 years -- I wouldn't discount all that for a lack of forks. It might still be called less developed than the contemporary Mediterranean, perhaps quite markedly so, but it had undoubtedly moved far beyond the Germanic tribes of antiquity. Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel, Aachen, c. 800~ AD (mosaics redone in the 19th century):




The Plan of Saint Gall, an architectural plan for a monastery (though one never actually built) made 820-30 AD:

They were closer to recapturing classical civilization than any other period in the Middle Ages. But truth was absent the schooling system(there is quite frighteningly little separating it from modern day public school though this didn't last long, you don't really need to be advanced to have a basic school system though) where the church actually spread their knowledge to kids, and the splendor of Aechnean the Carolingian's ran a backwards agrarian state, they just ran a large agrarian backwards state and had more resources to do more things. Charles Martel was the one who started the feudal system that became the stereotype for life in the Dark Ages just on a smaller scale answering to smaller rulers. It wasn't as backwards as when the Germanics were just uncivilized tribes but it also clearly wasn't a restoration of Roman society. The main thing the Carolingian's brought back was the control of a large scale centralized empire(which I guess over time would have changed things), but the main difference between that and when it fell apart was the politics and how this land was all divided up. .
 
Jun 2017
2,806
Connecticut
#16
I am fine with calling them barbarians. My entire point is that barbarism can sometimes result in greater development later on... But nevermind.



Okay, and my point is that those "actual Franks" didn't just wake up in 843 or 987 and become French or whatever. In the french context much of the aristocracy was probably considerably more Germanic in their ethnic heritage than the bulk of the population.

When you say they were "like 100% Germanic" what do you mean? Sure, the Franks were probably more primitive in 481, yes - but it seems quite obvious to me that once you reach the 700s att least calling the state of Western Europe "tribal" seems a very bad designation. The Carolingian Empire deserves the title I think, even if they didn't use forks...
How different Germans were from French differed by what part of Germany. Semantics is quite heavy so bear with me. The Bavarians and Saxons were conquered by Charlemagne, the rest were just Franks who ended up on the East Francian side(hence Franconia) when the realm was divided up and have been ever since. Unsure about Swabia. Anyway they were just East Francians. The confusion comes from two definitions of Germans.

First, Germany meant Germania all the land and in classical times, Germania was all the land beyond the Rhine and the title German earlier on had applied to all peoples crossing the Rhine Westward, Goths, Saxons, Franks all of them. So by the old definition all Europeans are German. However when East Francia split from West Francia in the 10th century it became the Kingdom of Germany cause well that's where it was located. So you got two different definitions being applied which causes confusion. First type of German, basically all Europeans are second kind is defined by living east of the Rhine not coming from East of the Rhine is a much more general group. And of course most European Kings are of the second German group too because the hyper decentralization of the HRE meant they were so many Kings, dukes children of kings all getting married. It's hard to find a royal family that isn't ethnically German just because hyper decentralization meant most aristocrats were German and multiplying at a much faster rate both in terms of the share of blood in a given royal or just how many there were.

So for example Franks, they are the first time of German, not the second. And most Europeans that aren't the second type of German are the first type cause they came from East of the Rhine and to the classical mind that's basically the edge of the map and the intracacies have been lost.

But there's exceptions, Europeans who came from later waves of migration aren't any sort of German. Hungarians are Magyars for example, Scandinavians are Scandinavians, Bulgars are Bulgars, those groups had distinct later migrations west and settled elsewhere well east of the Rhine. Bohemians came west later but are the second definition because they became part of the HRE rather early so they are the opposite, second type not the first. And then you have the Greeks and Italians of course and the remains of the old Celtic population which is either confined to Ireland and Scotland or lost by assimilation with the Germanics(know there's a distinct exception for a region in France I'm forgetting).

Best way I make a distinction is calling the first type Germanics and the second type Germans.
 
Aug 2018
376
london
#19
I recently read that even using fork to eat was introduced in Frankish empire by the Eastern Roman empress Theofano as late as in 973, and taking that as a "sample", I was wondering, was the lifestyle of Frankish citizens from 5th to 10th century AD really different and significantly more developed than that of ancient Germanic Barbarian paganists of Roman times, like Goths etc?

The point of the title: There is a tendency of de-Germanization of Frankish empire and an attempt to be presented as a "new Rome" or something "multicultural" and somewhat developed like the Roman empire, but i think that it has nothing to do with reality, which (reality) is that Frankish empire was just a confederation of kinda primitive Germanic tribes with hardy any other difference from their ancestors than religion
The fact that you're basing your notion of history on the absence of an item that was only invented in the early middle ages kinda demonstrates that you haven't put much effort into researching the topic.
 
Jul 2009
9,770
#20
Sorry but i missed your answer

My point is that these were the only and real Franks till the end of the empire, the gallo-romance were just vassals or occupied people, not actual franks
By the time of the Carolingians, the Gallo-Romans and the Franks had long become indistinguishable. In the early decades, and perhaps the first century after 481 AD, the Barbarians had to rely on the Gallo-Romans to maintain the tax rolls for annonae and the capitatio. They also relied on Gallo-Romans to manage agricultural estates and to understand land entitlements - the difference between allodial title and precarial tenure which was already in use in the late fifth century. All those resources were in Latin and the Gallo-Romans better understood the law.

The relatively few Franks in the earlier years of the Frankish kingdom required the participation of Gallo-Romans in the military aspects of that kingdom (B. Bachrach, Merovingian Military Organization, 481-751, and Guy Halsall, Barbarian Migration and the Roman West, 376-568, as well as L. Sarty, Perceiving War and the Military in Early Christian Gaul, 400-700 AD.)

Whether land owners or bishops, or merely landless hired men who were available for campaigns of the Frankish kings, very many of these persons were a generation or two (or three) from being recognizable as Gallo-Romans. They took Frankish names, were interred in Frankish burials, and identified themselves as Franks.
 

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