Frankish Empire: An empire of Germanic barbarians?

Mar 2018
44
Greece
#21
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.
but, weren't most of their centers in Germanic speaking territories of modern Germany and Benelux, rather than in Romance speaking territories?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,265
Dispargum
#22
but, weren't most of their centers in Germanic speaking territories of modern Germany and Benelux, rather than in Romance speaking territories?
You are describing the situation as it existed in the fifth and sixth centuries. This map below describes the situation circa 850. The Kingdoms of Louis and Lothair (at least in the north) were Germanic, but the Kingdom of Charles was very much Frankish but was also Romance speaking. The problem is with your time window. It's too big. There was too much change between the fifth and tenth centuries for the entire period to be described in simple, monolithic terms like Germanic and Romantic. In the following centuries the Kingdom of Lothair would disappear and the Kingdom of Louis would devolve into decentralized feudal chaos. The Kingdom of Charles would become France, the most powerful country in Europe for most of the Middle Ages and even down into the 19th century. You can't dismiss the Romantic portion of the Frankish realm just because it's not Germanic. The West Franks had the strongest institutions, the stronger Church, whatever other legacies remained of the Roman Empire, all of which the Franks absorbed into their own culture and civilization and then built upon it.

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Likes: pikeshot1600
Jul 2009
9,944
#23
but, weren't most of their centers in Germanic speaking territories of modern Germany and Benelux, rather than in Romance speaking territories?
Prior to the barbarian "invasions," I do not know what colloquial languages were common among the Gallo-Romans. Maybe someone on here does.

The written language of correspondence, the law, the tax rolls, the business of the Church and the agricultural records were in Latin. It is sometimes assumed that there were such hordes of barbarians that the Gallo-Romans were greatly outnumbered. That was not the case, and as mentioned the Gallo-Romans were not just bishops, but remained as landowners along with the newer barbarians, as civitates and as agricultural labor. The economic interests of the Gallo-Romans were very often similar to the Franks, and there were reasons for them to participate in the military activities of the Frankish kingdom(s).

One of the things I have come to realize in recent years - based on newer archaeological research - is the degree to which burials show the transition from a Gallo-Roman culture to one that became Frankish in the 6th and earlier 7th centuries. Identifying with the new elite had social and political advantages, and of course Franks becoming more and more Catholic further integrated the two major population groupings. That was a gradual development, and probably by the mid 7th century there were few distinctions left between the old "Romans" and the Franks.

In some ways, it went the other way, as an historian, Yitzhak Hen (can't remember the title), maintains that because of economic necessity and the demands of agriculture, the Franks adapted quite rapidly to many Roman methods and patterns of living. Virtually all the barbarian peoples who settled within the western part of the old empire codified their existing tribal laws in Latin during the 6th century.

EDIT: I am in agreement with Chlodio's post above.
 
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Likes: Peter Graham

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,884
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#25
If the "Frankish empire" refers to all the lands of Charlemagne's empire, then a lot of those lands were part of the classical Roman empire for centuries and the people of those lands were mostly descended from Roman subjects and citizens, with a small percentage being descended from Germanic peoples. People of mixed ancestry probably had more "Roman" than "barbarian" ancestry since the "Romans" far outnumbered the "barbarians".

Therefore the culture of those formerly Roman lands would be a mix of the original pre Roman cultures, plus the Romanised culture of aristocrats & city dwellers from the time of the Classical Roman empire - to the degree that it had not faded away - plus a slight mixture of Germanic customs which had often been replaced with more or less Romanised customs. The culture of areas beyond the former borders of the Roman Empire was a mix of old "barbarian" culture and "higher" culture diffusing from Romanised regions and often imposed along with Christianity by conquering Frankish overlords.
 
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Aug 2018
470
london
#26
If everytime I mentioned the Greeks I said 'the Homosexual Greeks' instead of just 'the Greeks', wouldn't that seem a bit weird after a while?
 
Mar 2018
44
Greece
#27
You are describing the situation as it existed in the fifth and sixth centuries. This map below describes the situation circa 850. The Kingdoms of Louis and Lothair (at least in the north) were Germanic, but the Kingdom of Charles was very much Frankish but was also Romance speaking. The problem is with your time window. It's too big. There was too much change between the fifth and tenth centuries for the entire period to be described in simple, monolithic terms like Germanic and Romantic. In the following centuries the Kingdom of Lothair would disappear and the Kingdom of Louis would devolve into decentralized feudal chaos. The Kingdom of Charles would become France, the most powerful country in Europe for most of the Middle Ages and even down into the 19th century. You can't dismiss the Romantic portion of the Frankish realm just because it's not Germanic. The West Franks had the strongest institutions, the stronger Church, whatever other legacies remained of the Roman Empire, all of which the Franks absorbed into their own culture and civilization and then built upon it.

View attachment 20834
Ok i get your point, and kingdom of Charles certainly was a predominantly Gallo-Romance kingdom even though all known Charles ancestry from both sides was Germanic:D
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,884
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#28
Ok i get your point, and kingdom of Charles certainly was a predominantly Gallo-Romance kingdom even though all known Charles ancestry from both sides was Germanic:D
Actually there was an improbable legend that on his mother's side Charlemagne (742-814) was descended from Emperor Justinian II (668-711) who was born 74 years earlier. And it is considered to be fairly probable that Charlemagne was descended through female lines from Flavius Afranius Syagrius (fl 345-382) a Gallo-Roman noble who was consul in 382.
 
Nov 2010
7,666
Cornwall
#29
If the "Frankish empire" refers to all the lands of Charlemagne's empire, then a lot of those lands were part of the classical Roman empire for centuries and the people of those lands were mostly descended from Roman subjects and citizens, with a small percentage being descended from Germanic peoples. People of mixed ancestry probably had more "Roman" than "barbarian" ancestry since the "Romans" far outnumbered the "barbarians".

Therefore the culture of those formerly Roman lands would be a mix of the original pre Roman cultures, plus the Romanised culture of aristocrats & city dwellers from the time of the Classical Roman empire - to the degree that it had not faded away - plus a slight mixture of Germanic customs which had often been replaced with more or less Romanised customs. The culture of areas beyond the former borders of the Roman Empire was a mix of old "barbarian" culture and "higher" culture diffusing from Romanised regions and often imposed along with Christianity by conquering Frankish overlords.
In the Frankish-Visigothic Vouille campaign both had Gallo-Romans in their armies, corresponding to who lived in their geographical areas. I'm not a great student of the Franks but would it be right to say that in the fiollowing 200 years their lands became more homogenised as a people- evenyually leading to the Carolingian Empire? Whereas the Visigoths in their part of France and Hispania maintained a haughty and aloof approach - if not entirely to the aristocrats most certainly to everybody else - eventually a factor in their virtual disintegration
 
Jul 2019
4
Universe
#30
Germanic Franks were anything but barbarians, were majestic kings and emperors such as Charles the Great, Karl the manner, kings of Merovingian family barbarians ? the Franks were out of all Germanic tribes most successful ones and not only they introduced Christianity to Pagan Europeans of East they also Defended it from the Islamic invasion from south. Franks are the reason Europe is Christian today, their contribution to Western European History is second to none in my opinion as a humble follower of Christ.
 

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