The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Edward Gibbon

Part 13 out of 14

not his situation, O king! it is thine which deserves pity and
lamentation." The reproaches of a guilty conscience were
alleviated, however, by his liberal donations to the monastery of
Agaunum, or St. Maurice, in Vallais; which he himself had founded
in honor of the imaginary martyrs of the Thebaean legion. ^44 A
full chorus of perpetual psalmody was instituted by the pious
king; he assiduously practised the austere devotion of the monks;
and it was his humble prayer, that Heaven would inflict in this
world the punishment of his sins. His prayer was heard: the
avengers were at hand: and the provinces of Burgundy were
overwhelmed by an army of victorious Franks. After the event of
an unsuccessful battle, Sigismond, who wished to protract his
life that he might prolong his penance, concealed himself in the
desert in a religious habit, till he was discovered and betrayed
by his subjects, who solicited the favor of their new masters.
The captive monarch, with his wife and two children, was
transported to Orleans, and buried alive in a deep well, by the
stern command of the sons of Clovis; whose cruelty might derive
some excuse from the maxims and examples of their barbarous age.
Their ambition, which urged them to achieve the conquest of
Burgundy, was inflamed, or disguised, by filial piety: and
Clotilda, whose sanctity did not consist in the forgiveness of
injuries, pressed them to revenge her father's death on the
family of his assassin. The rebellious Burgundians (for they
attempted to break their chains) were still permitted to enjoy
their national laws under the obligation of tribute and military
service; and the Merovingian princes peaceably reigned over a
kingdom, whose glory and greatness had been first overthrown by
the arms of Clovis. ^45
[Footnote 43: See his life or legend, (in tom. iii. p. 402.) A
martyr! how strangely has that word been distorted from its
original sense of a common witness. St. Sigismond was remarkable
for the cure of fevers]
[Footnote 44: Before the end of the fifth century, the church of
St. Maurice, and his Thebaean legion, had rendered Agaunum a
place of devout pilgrimage. A promiscuous community of both
sexes had introduced some deeds of darkness, which were abolished
(A.D. 515) by the regular monastery of Sigismond. Within fifty
years, his angels of light made a nocturnal sally to murder their
bishop, and his clergy. See in the Bibliotheque Raisonnee (tom.
xxxvi. p. 435 - 438) the curious remarks of a learned librarian
of Geneva.]
[Footnote 45: Marius, bishop of Avenche, (Chron. in tom. ii. p.
15,) has marked the authentic dates, and Gregory of Tours (l.
iii. c. 5, 6, in tom. ii. p. 188, 189) has expressed the
principal facts, of the life of Sigismond, and the conquest of
Burgundy. Procopius (in tom. ii. p. 34) and Agathias (in tom.
ii. p. 49) show their remote and imperfect knowledge.]

The first victory of Clovis had insulted the honor of the
Goths. They viewed his rapid progress with jealousy and terror;
and the youthful fame of Alaric was oppressed by the more potent
genius of his rival. Some disputes inevitably arose on the edge
of their contiguous dominions; and after the delays of fruitless
negotiation, a personal interview of the two kings was proposed
and accepted. The conference of Clovis and Alaric was held in a
small island of the Loire, near Amboise. They embraced,
familiarly conversed, and feasted together; and separated with
the warmest professions of peace and brotherly love. But their
apparent confidence concealed a dark suspicion of hostile and
treacherous designs; and their mutual complaints solicited,
eluded, and disclaimed, a final arbitration. At Paris, which he
already considered as his royal seat, Clovis declared to an
assembly of the princes and warriors, the pretence, and the
motive, of a Gothic war. "It grieves me to see that the Arians
still possess the fairest portion of Gaul. Let us march against
them with the aid of God; and, having vanquished the heretics, we
will possess and divide their fertile provinces." ^46 The Franks,
who were inspired by hereditary valor and recent zeal, applauded
the generous design of their monarch; expressed their resolution
to conquer or die, since death and conquest would be equally
profitable; and solemnly protested that they would never shave
their beards till victory should absolve them from that
inconvenient vow. The enterprise was promoted by the public or
private exhortations of Clotilda. She reminded her husband how
effectually some pious foundation would propitiate the Deity, and
his servants: and the Christian hero, darting his battle-axe with
a skilful and nervous band, "There, (said he,) on that spot where
my Francisca, ^47 shall fall, will I erect a church in honor of
the holy apostles." This ostentatious piety confirmed and
justified the attachment of the Catholics, with whom he secretly
corresponded; and their devout wishes were gradually ripened into
a formidable conspiracy. The people of Aquitain were alarmed by
the indiscreet reproaches of their Gothic tyrants, who justly
accused them of preferring the dominion of the Franks: and their
zealous adherent Quintianus, bishop of Rodez, ^48 preached more
forcibly in his exile than in his diocese. To resist these
foreign and domestic enemies, who were fortified by the alliance
of the Burgundians, Alaric collected his troops, far more
numerous than the military powers of Clovis. The Visigoths
resumed the exercise of arms, which they had neglected in a long
and luxurious peace; ^49 a select band of valiant and robust
slaves attended their masters to the field; ^50 and the cities of
Gaul were compelled to furnish their doubtful and reluctant aid.
Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, who reigned in Italy, had
labored to maintain the tranquillity of Gaul; and he assumed, or
affected, for that purpose, the impartial character of a
mediator. But the sagacious monarch dreaded the rising empire of
Clovis, and he was firmly engaged to support the national and
religious cause of the Goths.
[Footnote 46: Gregory of Tours (l. ii. c. 37, in tom. ii. p. 181)
inserts the short but persuasive speech of Clovis. Valde moleste
fero, quod hi Ariani partem teneant Galliarum, (the author of the
Gesta Francorum, in tom. ii. p. 553, adds the precious epithet of
optimam,) camus cum Dei adjutorio, et, superatis eis, redigamus
terram in ditionem nostram.]

[Footnote 47: Tunc rex projecit a se in directum Bipennem suam
quod est Francisca, &c. (Gesta Franc. in tom. ii. p. 554.) The
form and use of this weapon are clearly described by Procopius,
(in tom. ii. p. 37.) Examples of its national appellation in
Latin and French may be found in the Glossary of Ducange, and the
large Dictionnaire de Trevoux.]

[Footnote 48: It is singular enough that some important and
authentic facts should be found in a Life of Quintianus, composed
in rhyme in the old Patois of Rouergue, (Dubos, Hist. Critique,
&c., tom. ii. p. 179.)]
[Footnote 49: Quamvis fortitudini vestrae confidentiam tribuat
parentum ves trorum innumerabilis multitudo; quamvis Attilam
potentem reminiscamini Visigotharum viribus inclinatum; tamen
quia populorum ferocia corda longa pace mollescunt, cavete subito
in alean aleam mittere, quos constat tantis temporibus exercitia
non habere. Such was the salutary, but fruitless, advice of
peace of reason, and of Theodoric, (Cassiodor. l. iii. ep. 2.)]
[Footnote 50: Montesquieu (Esprit des Loix, l. xv. c. 14)
mentions and approves the law of the Visigoths, (l. ix. tit. 2,
in tom. iv. p. 425,) which obliged all masters to arm, and send,
or lead, into the field a tenth of their slaves.]

The accidental, or artificial, prodigies which adorned the
expedition of Clovis, were accepted by a superstitious age, as
the manifest declaration of the divine favor. He marched from
Paris; and as he proceeded with decent reverence through the holy
diocese of Tours, his anxiety tempted him to consult the shrine
of St. Martin, the sanctuary and the oracle of Gaul. His
messengers were instructed to remark the words of the Psalm which
should happen to be chanted at the precise moment when they
entered the church. Those words most fortunately expressed the
valor and victory of the champions of Heaven, and the application
was easily transferred to the new Joshua, the new Gideon, who
went forth to battle against the enemies of the Lord. ^51 Orleans
secured to the Franks a bridge on the Loire; but, at the distance
of forty miles from Poitiers, their progress was intercepted by
an extraordinary swell of the River Vigenna or Vienne; and the
opposite banks were covered by the encampment of the Visigoths.
Delay must be always dangerous to Barbarians, who consume the
country through which they march; and had Clovis possessed
leisure and materials, it might have been impracticable to
construct a bridge, or to force a passage, in the face of a
superior enemy. But the affectionate peasants who were impatient
to welcome their deliverer, could easily betray some unknown or
unguarded ford: the merit of the discovery was enhanced by the
useful interposition of fraud or fiction; and a white hart, of
singular size and beauty, appeared to guide and animate the march
of the Catholic army. The counsels of the Visigoths were
irresolute and distracted. A crowd of impatient warriors,
presumptuous in their strength, and disdaining to fly before the
robbers of Germany, excited Alaric to assert in arms the name and
blood of the conquerors of Rome. The advice of the graver
chieftains pressed him to elude the first ardor of the Franks;
and to expect, in the southern provinces of Gaul, the veteran and
victorious Ostrogoths, whom the king of Italy had already sent to
his assistance. The decisive moments were wasted in idle
deliberation the Goths too hastily abandoned, perhaps, an
advantageous post; and the opportunity of a secure retreat was
lost by their slow and disorderly motions. After Clovis had
passed the ford, as it is still named, of the Hart, he advanced
with bold and hasty steps to prevent the escape of the enemy.
His nocturnal march was directed by a flaming meteor, suspended
in the air above the cathedral of Poitiers; and this signal,
which might be previously concerted with the orthodox successor
of St. Hilary, was compared to the column of fire that guided the
Israelites in the desert. At the third hour of the day, about
ten miles beyond Poitiers, Clovis overtook, and instantly
attacked, the Gothic army; whose defeat was already prepared by
terror and confusion. Yet they rallied in their extreme distress,
and the martial youths, who had clamorously demanded the battle,
refused to survive the ignominy of flight. The two kings
encountered each other in single combat. Alaric fell by the hand
of his rival; and the victorious Frank was saved by the goodness
of his cuirass, and the vigor of his horse, from the spears of
two desperate Goths, who furiously rode against him to revenge
the death of their sovereign. The vague expression of a mountain
of the slain, serves to indicate a cruel though indefinite
slaughter; but Gregory has carefully observed, that his valiant
countryman Apollinaris, the son of Sidonius, lost his life at the
head of the nobles of Auvergne. Perhaps these suspected
Catholics had been maliciously exposed to the blind assault of
the enemy; and perhaps the influence of religion was superseded
by personal attachment or military honor. ^52

[Footnote 51: This mode of divination, by accepting as an omen
the first sacred words, which in particular circumstances should
be presented to the eye or ear, was derived from the Pagans; and
the Psalter, or Bible, was substituted to the poems of Homer and
Virgil. From the fourth to the fourteenth century, these sortes
sanctorum, as they are styled, were repeatedly condemned by the
decrees of councils, and repeatedly practised by kings, bishops,
and saints. See a curious dissertation of the Abbe du Resnel, in
the Memoires de l'Academie, tom. xix. p. 287 - 310]

[Footnote 52: After correcting the text, or excusing the mistake,
of Procopius, who places the defeat of Alaric near Carcassone, we
may conclude, from the evidence of Gregory, Fortunatus, and the
author of the Gesta Francorum, that the battle was fought in
campo Vocladensi, on the banks of the Clain, about ten miles to
the south of Poitiers. Clovis overtook and attacked the
Visigoths near Vivonne, and the victory was decided near a
village still named Champagne St. Hilaire. See the Dissertations
of the Abbe le Boeuf, tom. i. p. 304 - 331.]

Such is the empire of Fortune, (if we may still disguise our
ignorance under that popular name,) that it is almost equally
difficult to foresee the events of war, or to explain their
various consequences. A bloody and complete victory has
sometimes yielded no more than the possession of the field and
the loss of ten thousand men has sometimes been sufficient to
destroy, in a single day, the work of ages. The decisive battle
of Poitiers was followed by the conquest of Aquitain. Alaric had
left behind him an infant son, a bastard competitor, factious
nobles, and a disloyal people; and the remaining forces of the
Goths were oppressed by the general consternation, or opposed to
each other in civil discord. The victorious king of the Franks
proceeded without delay to the siege of Angouleme. At the sound
of his trumpets the walls of the city imitated the example of
Jericho, and instantly fell to the ground; a splendid miracle,
which may be reduced to the supposition, that some clerical
engineers had secretly undermined the foundations of the rampart.
^53 At Bordeaux, which had submitted without resistance, Clovis
established his winter quarters; and his prudent economy
transported from Thoulouse the royal treasures, which were
deposited in the capital of the monarchy. The conqueror
penetrated as far as the confines of Spain; ^54 restored the
honors of the Catholic church; fixed in Aquitain a colony of
Franks; ^55 and delegated to his lieutenants the easy task of
subduing, or extirpating, the nation of the Visigoths. But the
Visigoths were protected by the wise and powerful monarch of
Italy. While the balance was still equal, Theodoric had perhaps
delayed the march of the Ostrogoths; but their strenuous efforts
successfully resisted the ambition of Clovis; and the army of the
Franks, and their Burgundian allies, was compelled to raise the
siege of Arles, with the loss, as it is said, of thirty thousand
men. These vicissitudes inclined the fierce spirit of Clovis to
acquiesce in an advantageous treaty of peace. The Visigoths were
suffered to retain the possession of Septimania, a narrow tract
of sea-coast, from the Rhone to the Pyrenees; but the ample
province of Aquitain, from those mountains to the Loire, was
indissolubly united to the kingdom of France. ^56
[Footnote 53: Angouleme is in the road from Poitiers to Bordeaux;
and although Gregory delays the siege, I can more readily believe
that he confounded the order of history, than that Clovis
neglected the rules of war.]
[Footnote 54: Pyrenaeos montes usque Perpinianum subjecit, is the
expression of Rorico, which betrays his recent date; since
Perpignan did not exist before the tenth century, (Marca
Hispanica, p. 458.) This florid and fabulous writer (perhaps a
monk of Amiens - see the Abbe le Boeuf, Mem. de l'Academie, tom.
xvii. p. 228-245) relates, in the allegorical character of a
shepherd, the general history of his countrymen the Franks; but
his narrative ends with the death of Clovis.]

[Footnote 55: The author of the Gesta Francorum positively
affirms, that Clovis fixed a body of Franks in the Saintonge and
Bourdelois: and he is not injudiciously followed by Rorico,
electos milites, atque fortissimos, cum parvulis, atque
mulieribus. Yet it should seem that they soon mingled with the
Romans of Aquitain, till Charlemagne introduced a more numerous
and powerful colony, (Dubos, Hist. Critique, tom. ii. p. 215.)]
[Footnote 56: In the composition of the Gothic war, I have used
the following materials, with due regard to their unequal value.
Four epistles from Theodoric, king of Italy, (Cassiodor l. iii.
epist. 1 - 4. in tom. iv p. 3 - 5;) Procopius, (de Bell. Goth. l.
i. c 12, in tom. ii. p. 32, 33;) Gregory of Tours, (l. ii. c. 35,
36, 37, in tom. ii. p. 181 - 183;) Jornandes, (de Reb. Geticis,
c. 58, in tom. ii. p. 28;) Fortunatas, (in Vit. St. Hilarii, in
tom. iii. p. 380;) Isidore, (in Chron. Goth. in tom. ii. p. 702;)
the Epitome of Gregory of Tours, (in tom. ii. p. 401;) the author
of the Gesta Francorum, (in tom. ii. p. 553 - 555;) the Fragments
of Fredegarius, (in tom. ii. p. 463;) Aimoin, (l. i. c. 20, in
tom. iii. p. 41, 42,) and Rorico, (l. iv. in tom. iii. p. 14 -

After the success of the Gothic war, Clovis accepted the
honors of the Roman consulship. The emperor Anastasius
ambitiously bestowed on the most powerful rival of Theodoric the
title and ensigns of that eminent dignity; yet, from some unknown
cause, the name of Clovis has not been inscribed in the Fasti
either of the East or West. ^57 On the solemn day, the monarch of
Gaul, placing a diadem on his head, was invested, in the church
of St. Martin, with a purple tunic and mantle. From thence he
proceeded on horseback to the cathedral of Tours; and, as he
passed through the streets, profusely scattered, with his own
hand, a donative of gold and silver to the joyful multitude, who
incessantly repeated their acclamations of Consul and Augustus.
The actual or legal authority of Clovis could not receive any new
accessions from the consular dignity. It was a name, a shadow,
an empty pageant; and if the conqueror had been instructed to
claim the ancient prerogatives of that high office, they must
have expired with the period of its annual duration. But the
Romans were disposed to revere, in the person of their master,
that antique title which the emperors condescended to assume: the
Barbarian himself seemed to contract a sacred obligation to
respect the majesty of the republic; and the successors of
Theodosius, by soliciting his friendship, tacitly forgave, and
almost ratified, the usurpation of Gaul.

[Footnote 57: The Fasti of Italy would naturally reject a consul,
the enemy of their sovereign; but any ingenious hypothesis that
might explain the silence of Constantinople and Egypt, (the
Chronicle of Marcellinus, and the Paschal,) is overturned by the
similar silence of Marius, bishop of Avenche, who composed his
Fasti in the kingdom of Burgundy. If the evidence of Gregory of
Tours were less weighty and positive, (l. ii. c. 38, in tom. ii.
p. 183,) I could believe that Clovis, like Odoacer, received the
lasting title and honors of Patrician, (Pagi Critica, tom. ii. p.
474, 492.)]

Twenty-five years after the death of Clovis this important
concession was more formally declared, in a treaty between his
sons and the emperor Justinian. The Ostrogoths of Italy, unable
to defend their distant acquisitions, had resigned to the Franks
the cities of Arles and Marseilles; of Arles, still adorned with
the seat of a Praetorian praefect, and of Marseilles, enriched by
the advantages of trade and navigation. ^58 This transaction was
confirmed by the Imperial authority; and Justinian, generously
yielding to the Franks the sovereignty of the countries beyond
the Alps, which they already possessed, absolved the provincials
from their allegiance; and established on a more lawful, though
not more solid, foundation, the throne of the Merovingians. ^59
From that era they enjoyed the right of celebrating at Arles the
games of the circus; and by a singular privilege, which was
denied even to the Persian monarch, the gold coin, impressed with
their name and image, obtained a legal currency in the empire.
^60 A Greek historian of that age has praised the private and
public virtues of the Franks, with a partial enthusiasm, which
cannot be sufficiently justified by their domestic annals. ^61 He
celebrates their politeness and urbanity, their regular
government, and orthodox religion; and boldly asserts, that these
Barbarians could be distinguished only by their dress and
language from the subjects of Rome. Perhaps the Franks already
displayed the social disposition, and lively graces, which, in
every age, have disguised their vices, and sometimes concealed
their intrinsic merit. Perhaps Agathias, and the Greeks, were
dazzled by the rapid progress of their arms, and the splendor of
their empire. Since the conquest of Burgundy, Gaul, except the
Gothic province of Septimania, was subject, in its whole extent,
to the sons of Clovis. They had extinguished the German kingdom
of Thuringia, and their vague dominion penetrated beyond the
Rhine, into the heart of their native forests. The Alemanni, and
Bavarians, who had occupied the Roman provinces of Rhaetia and
Noricum, to the south of the Danube, confessed themselves the
humble vassals of the Franks; and the feeble barrier of the Alps
was incapable of resisting their ambition. When the last
survivor of the sons of Clovis united the inheritance and
conquests of the Merovingians, his kingdom extended far beyond
the limits of modern France. Yet modern France, such has been
the progress of arts and policy, far surpasses, in wealth,
populousness, and power, the spacious but savage realms of
Clotaire or Dagobert. ^62

[Footnote 58: Under the Merovingian kings, Marseilles still
imported from the East paper, wine, oil, linen, silk, precious
stones, spices, &c. The Gauls, or Franks, traded to Syria, and
the Syrians were established in Gaul. See M. de Guignes, Mem. de
l'Academie, tom. xxxvii. p. 471 - 475.]
[Footnote 59: This strong declaration of Procopius (de Bell.
Gothic. l. iii. cap. 33, in tom. ii. p. 41) would almost suffice
to justify the Abbe Dubos.]
[Footnote 60: The Franks, who probably used the mints of Treves,
Lyons, and Arles, imitated the coinage of the Roman emperors of
seventy-two solidi, or pieces, to the pound of gold. But as the
Franks established only a decuple proportion of gold and silver,
ten shillings will be a sufficient valuation of their solidus of
gold. It was the common standard of the Barbaric fines, and
contained forty denarii, or silver three pences. Twelve of these
denarii made a solidus, or shilling, the twentieth part of the
ponderal and numeral livre, or pound of silver, which has been so
strangely reduced in modern France. See La Blanc, Traite
Historique des Monnoyes de France, p. 36 - 43, &c.]
[Footnote 61: Agathias, in tom. ii. p. 47. Gregory of Tours
exhibits a very different picture. Perhaps it would not be easy,
within the same historical space, to find more vice and less
virtue. We are continually shocked by the union of savage and
corrupt manners.]

[Footnote 62: M. de Foncemagne has traced, in a correct and
elegant dissertation, (Mem. de l'Academie, tom. viii. p.
505-528,) the extent and limits of the French monarchy.]

The Franks, or French, are the only people of Europe who can
deduce a perpetual succession from the conquerors of the Western
empire. But their conquest of Gaul was followed by ten centuries
of anarchy and ignorance. On the revival of learning, the
students, who had been formed in the schools of Athens and Rome,
disdained their Barbarian ancestors; and a long period elapsed
before patient labor could provide the requisite materials to
satisfy, or rather to excite, the curiosity of more enlightened
times. ^63 At length the eye of criticism and philosophy was
directed to the antiquities of France; but even philosophers have
been tainted by the contagion of prejudice and passion. The most
extreme and exclusive systems, of the personal servitude of the
Gauls, or of their voluntary and equal alliance with the Franks,
have been rashly conceived, and obstinately defended; and the
intemperate disputants have accused each other of conspiring
against the prerogative of the crown, the dignity of the nobles,
or the freedom of the people. Yet the sharp conflict has
usefully exercised the adverse powers of learning and genius; and
each antagonist, alternately vanquished and victorious has
extirpated some ancient errors, and established some interesting
truths. An impartial stranger, instructed by their discoveries,
their disputes, and even their faults, may describe, from the
same original materials, the state of the Roman provincials,
after Gaul had submitted to the arms and laws of the Merovingian
kings. ^64

[Footnote 63: The Abbe Dubos (Histoire Critique, tom. i. p. 29 -
36) has truly and agreeably represented the slow progress of
these studies; and he observes, that Gregory of Tours was only
once printed before the year 1560. According to the complaint of
Heineccius, (Opera, tom. iii. Sylloge, iii. p. 248, &c.,) Germany
received with indifference and contempt the codes of Barbaric
laws, which were published by Heroldus, Lindenbrogius, &c. At
present those laws, (as far as they relate to Gaul,) the history
of Gregory of Tours, and all the monuments of the Merovingian
race, appear in a pure and perfect state, in the first four
volumes of the Historians of France.]

[Footnote 64: In the space of [about] thirty years (1728-1765)
this interesting subject has been agitated by the free spirit of
the count de Boulainvilliers, (Memoires Historiques sur l'Etat de
la France, particularly tom. i. p. 15 - 49;) the learned
ingenuity of the Abbe Dubos, (Histoire Critique de
l'Etablissement de la Monarchie Francoise dans les Gaules, 2
vols. in 4to;) the comprehensive genius of the president de
Montesquieu, (Esprit des Loix, particularly l. xxviii. xxx.
xxxi.;) and the good sense and diligence of the Abbe de Mably,
(Observations sur l'Histoire de France, 2 vols. 12mo.)]
The rudest, or the most servile, condition of human society,
is regulated, however, by some fixed and general rules. When
Tacitus surveyed the primitive simplicity of the Germans, he
discovered some permanent maxims, or customs, of public and
private life, which were preserved by faithful tradition till the
introduction of the art of writing, and of the Latin tongue. ^65
Before the election of the Merovingian kings, the most powerful
tribe, or nation, of the Franks, appointed four venerable
chieftains to compose the Salic laws; ^66 and their labors were
examined and approved in three successive assemblies of the
people. After the baptism of Clovis, he reformed several
articles that appeared incompatible with Christianity: the Salic
law was again amended by his sons; and at length, under the reign
of Dagobert, the code was revised and promulgated in its actual
form, one hundred years after the establishment of the French
monarchy. Within the same period, the customs of the Ripuarians
were transcribed and published; and Charlemagne himself, the
legislator of his age and country, had accurately studied the two
national laws, which still prevailed among the Franks. ^67 The
same care was extended to their vassals; and the rude
institutions of the Alemanni and Bavarians were diligently
compiled and ratified by the supreme authority of the Merovingian
kings. The Visigoths and Burgundians, whose conquests in Gaul
preceded those of the Franks, showed less impatience to attain
one of the principal benefits of civilized society. Euric was
the first of the Gothic princes who expressed, in writing, the
manners and customs of his people; and the composition of the
Burgundian laws was a measure of policy rather than of justice;
to alleviate the yoke, and regain the affections, of their Gallic
subjects. ^68 Thus, by a singular coincidence, the Germans framed
their artless institutions, at a time when the elaborate system
of Roman jurisprudence was finally consummated. In the Salic
laws, and the Pandects of Justinian, we may compare the first
rudiments, and the full maturity, of civil wisdom; and whatever
prejudices may be suggested in favor of Barbarism, our calmer
reflections will ascribe to the Romans the superior advantages,
not only of science and reason, but of humanity and justice. Yet
the laws ^* of the Barbarians were adapted to their wants and
desires, their occupations and their capacity; and they all
contributed to preserve the peace, and promote the improvement,
of the society for whose use they were originally established.
The Merovingians, instead of imposing a uniform rule of conduct
on their various subjects, permitted each people, and each
family, of their empire, freely to enjoy their domestic
institutions; ^69 nor were the Romans excluded from the common
benefits of this legal toleration. ^70 The children embraced the
law of their parents, the wife that of her husband, the freedman
that of his patron; and in all causes where the parties were of
different nations, the plaintiff or accuser was obliged to follow
the tribunal of the defendant, who may always plead a judicial
presumption of right, or innocence. A more ample latitude was
allowed, if every citizen, in the presence of the judge, might
declare the law under which he desired to live, and the national
society to which he chose to belong. Such an indulgence would
abolish the partial distinctions of victory: and the Roman
provincials might patiently acquiesce in the hardships of their
condition; since it depended on themselves to assume the
privilege, if they dared to assert the character, of free and
warlike Barbarians. ^71

[Footnote 65: I have derived much instruction from two learned
works of Heineccius, the History, and the Elements, of the
Germanic law. In a judicious preface to the Elements, he
considers, and tries to excuse the defects of that barbarous

[Footnote 66: Latin appears to have been the original language of
the Salic law. It was probably composed in the beginning of the
fifth century, before the era (A.D. 421) of the real or fabulous
Pharamond. The preface mentions the four cantons which produced
the four legislators; and many provinces, Franconia, Saxony,
Hanover, Brabant, &c., have claimed them as their own. See an
excellent Dissertation of Heinecties de Lege Salica, tom. iii.
Sylloge iii. p. 247 - 267.

Note: The relative antiquity of the two copies of the Salic
law has been contested with great learning and ingenuity. The
work of M. Wiarda, History and Explanation of the Salic Law,
Bremen, 1808, asserts that what is called the Lex Antiqua, or
Vetustior in which many German words are mingled with the Latin,
has no claim to superior antiquity, and may be suspected to be
more modern. M. Wiarda has been opposed by M. Fuer bach, who
maintains the higher age of the "ancient" Code, which has been
greatly corrupted by the transcribers. See Guizot, Cours de
l'Histoire Moderne, vol. i. sect. 9: and the preface to the
useful republication of five of the different texts of the Salic
law, with that of the Ripuarian in parallel columns. By E. A. I.
Laspeyres, Halle, 1833. - M.]

[Footnote 67: Eginhard, in Vit. Caroli Magni, c. 29, in tom. v.
p. 100. By these two laws, most critics understand the Salic and
the Ripuarian. The former extended from the Carbonarian forest
to the Loire, (tom. iv. p. 151,) and the latter might be obeyed
from the same forest to the Rhine, (tom. iv. p. 222.)]

[Footnote 68: Consult the ancient and modern prefaces of the
several codes, in the fourth volume of the Historians of France.
The original prologue to the Salic law expresses (though in a
foreign dialect) the genuine spirit of the Franks more forcibly
than the ten books of Gregory of Tours.]
[Footnote 69: The Ripuarian law declares, and defines, this
indulgence in favor of the plaintiff, (tit. xxxi. in tom. iv. p.
240;) and the same toleration is understood, or expressed, in all
the codes, except that of the Visigoths of Spain. Tanta
diversitas legum (says Agobard in the ninth century) quanta non
solum in regionibus, aut civitatibus, sed etiam in multis domibus
habetur. Nam plerumque contingit ut simul eant aut sedeant
quinque homines, et nullus eorum communem legem cum altero
habeat, (in tom. vi. p. 356.) He foolishly proposes to introduce
a uniformity of law, as well as of faith.

Note: It is the object of the important work of M. Savigny,
Geschichte des Romisches Rechts in Mittelalter, to show the
perpetuity of the Roman law from the 5th to the 12th century. -

[Footnote *: The most complete collection of these codes is in
the "Barbarorum leges antiquae," by P. Canciani, 5 vols. folio,
Venice, 1781-9. - M.]
[Footnote 70: Inter Romanos negotia causarum Romanis legibus
praecipimus terminari. Such are the words of a general
constitution promulgated by Clotaire, the son of Clovis, the sole
monarch of the Franks (in tom. iv. p. 116) about the year 560.]
[Footnote 71: This liberty of choice has been aptly deduced
(Esprit des Loix, l. xxviii. 2) from the constitution of Lothaire
I. (Leg. Langobard. l. ii. tit. lvii. in Codex Lindenbrog. p.
664;) though the example is too recent and partial. From a
various reading in the Salic law, (tit. xliv. not. xlv.) the Abbe
de Mably (tom. i. p. 290 - 293) has conjectured, that, at first,
a Barbarian only, and afterwards any man, (consequently a Roman,)
might live according to the law of the Franks. I am sorry to
offend this ingenious conjecture by observing, that the stricter
sense (Barbarum) is expressed in the reformed copy of
Charlemagne; which is confirmed by the Royal and Wolfenbuttle
MSS. The looser interpretation (hominem) is authorized only by
the MS. of Fulda, from from whence Heroldus published his
edition. See the four original texts of the Salic law in tom.
iv. p. 147, 173, 196, 220.
Note: Gibbon appears to have doubted the evidence on which
this "liberty of choice" rested. His doubts have been confirmed
by the researches of M. Savigny, who has not only confuted but
traced with convincing sagacity the origin and progress of this
error. As a general principle, though liable to some exceptions,
each lived according to his native law. Romische Recht. vol. i.
p. 123 - 138 - M.]

Note: This constitution of Lothaire at first related only to
the duchy of Rome; it afterwards found its way into the Lombard
code. Savigny. p. 138. - M.]

Chapter XXXVIII: Reign Of Clovis.

Part III.

When justice inexorably requires the death of a murderer,
each private citizen is fortified by the assurance, that the
laws, the magistrate, and the whole community, are the guardians
of his personal safety. But in the loose society of the Germans,
revenge was always honorable, and often meritorious: the
independent warrior chastised, or vindicated, with his own hand,
the injuries which he had offered or received; and he had only to
dread the resentment of the sons and kinsmen of the enemy, whom
he had sacrificed to his selfish or angry passions. The
magistrate, conscious of his weakness, interposed, not to punish,
but to reconcile; and he was satisfied if he could persuade or
compel the contending parties to pay and to accept the moderate
fine which had been ascertained as the price of blood. ^72 The
fierce spirit of the Franks would have opposed a more rigorous
sentence; the same fierceness despised these ineffectual
restraints; and, when their simple manners had been corrupted by
the wealth of Gaul, the public peace was continually violated by
acts of hasty or deliberate guilt. In every just government the
same penalty is inflicted, or at least is imposed, for the murder
of a peasant or a prince. But the national inequality established
by the Franks, in their criminal proceedings, was the last insult
and abuse of conquest. ^73 In the calm moments of legislation,
they solemnly pronounced, that the life of a Roman was of smaller
value than that of a Barbarian. The Antrustion, ^74 a name
expressive of the most illustrious birth or dignity among the
Franks, was appreciated at the sum of six hundred pieces of gold;
while the noble provincial, who was admitted to the king's table,
might be legally murdered at the expense of three hundred pieces.

Two hundred were deemed sufficient for a Frank of ordinary
condition; but the meaner Romans were exposed to disgrace and
danger by a trifling compensation of one hundred, or even fifty,
pieces of gold. Had these laws been regulated by any principle
of equity or reason, the public protection should have supplied,
in just proportion, the want of personal strength. But the
legislator had weighed in the scale, not of justice, but of
policy, the loss of a soldier against that of a slave: the head
of an insolent and rapacious Barbarian was guarded by a heavy
fine; and the slightest aid was afforded to the most defenceless
subjects. Time insensibly abated the pride of the conquerors and
the patience of the vanquished; and the boldest citizen was
taught, by experience, that he might suffer more injuries than he
could inflict. As the manners of the Franks became less
ferocious, their laws were rendered more severe; and the
Merovingian kings attempted to imitate the impartial rigor of the
Visigoths and Burgundians. ^75 Under the empire of Charlemagne,
murder was universally punished with death; and the use of
capital punishments has been liberally multiplied in the
jurisprudence of modern Europe. ^76

[Footnote 72: In the heroic times of Greece, the guilt of murder
was expiated by a pecuniary satisfaction to the family of the
deceased, (Feithius Antiquitat. Homeric. l. ii. c. 8.)
Heineccius, in his preface to the Elements of Germanic Law,
favorably suggests, that at Rome and Athens homicide was only
punished with exile. It is true: but exile was a capital
punishment for a citizen of Rome or Athens.]

[Footnote 73: This proportion is fixed by the Salic (tit. xliv.
in tom. iv. p. 147) and the Ripuarian (tit. vii. xi. xxxvi. in
tom. iv. p. 237, 241) laws: but the latter does not distinguish
any difference of Romans. Yet the orders of the clergy are
placed above the Franks themselves, and the Burgundians and
Alemanni between the Franks and the Romans.]

[Footnote 74: The Antrustiones, qui in truste Dominica sunt,
leudi, fideles, undoubtedly represent the first order of Franks;
but it is a question whether their rank was personal or
hereditary. The Abbe de Mably (tom. i. p. 334 - 347) is not
displeased to mortify the pride of birth (Esprit, l. xxx. c. 25)
by dating the origin of the French nobility from the reign
Clotaire II. (A.D. 615.)]

[Footnote 75: See the Burgundian laws, (tit. ii. in tom. iv. p.
257,) the code of the Visigoths, (l. vi. tit. v. in tom. p. 384,)
and the constitution of Childebert, not of Paris, but most
evidently of Austrasia, (in tom. iv. p. 112.) Their premature
severity was sometimes rash, and excessive. Childebert condemned
not only murderers but robbers; quomodo sine lege involavit, sine
lege moriatur; and even the negligent judge was involved in the
same sentence. The Visigoths abandoned an unsuccessful surgeon to
the family of his deceased patient, ut quod de eo facere
voluerint habeant potestatem, (l. xi. tit. i. in tom. iv. p.

[Footnote 76: See, in the sixth volume of the works of
Heineccius, the Elementa Juris Germanici, l. ii. p. 2, No. 261,
262, 280 - 283. Yet some vestiges of these pecuniary
compositions for murder have been traced in Germany as late as
the sixteenth century.]

The civil and military professions, which had been separated
by Constantine, were again united by the Barbarians. The harsh
sound of the Teutonic appellations was mollified into the Latin
titles of Duke, of Count, or of Praefect; and the same officer
assumed, within his district, the command of the troops, and the
administration of justice. ^77 But the fierce and illiterate
chieftain was seldom qualified to discharge the duties of a
judge, which required all the faculties of a philosophic mind,
laboriously cultivated by experience and study; and his rude
ignorance was compelled to embrace some simple, and visible,
methods of ascertaining the cause of justice. In every religion,
the Deity has been invoked to confirm the truth, or to punish the
falsehood of human testimony; but this powerful instrument was
misapplied and abused by the simplicity of the German
legislators. The party accused might justify his innocence, by
producing before their tribunal a number of friendly witnesses,
who solemnly declared their belief, or assurance, that he was not
guilty. According to the weight of the charge, this legal number
of compurgators was multiplied; seventy-two voices were required
to absolve an incendiary or assassin: and when the chastity of a
queen of France was suspected, three hundred gallant nobles
swore, without hesitation, that the infant prince had been
actually begotten by her deceased husband. ^78 The sin and
scandal of manifest and frequent perjuries engaged the
magistrates to remove these dangerous temptations; and to supply
the defects of human testimony by the famous experiments of fire
and water. These extraordinary trials were so capriciously
contrived, that, in some cases, guilt, and innocence in others,
could not be proved without the interposition of a miracle. Such
miracles were really provided by fraud and credulity; the most
intricate causes were determined by this easy and infallible
method, and the turbulent Barbarians, who might have disdained
the sentence of the magistrate, submissively acquiesced in the
judgment of God. ^79

[Footnote 77: The whole subject of the Germanic judges, and their
jurisdiction, is copiously treated by Heineccius, (Element. Jur.
Germ. l. iii. No. 1 - 72.) I cannot find any proof that, under
the Merovingian race, the scabini, or assessors, were chosen by
the people.

Note: The question of the scabini is treated at considerable
length by Savigny. He questions the existence of the scabini
anterior to Charlemagne. Before this time the decision was by an
open court of the freemen, the boni Romische Recht, vol. i. p.
195. et seq. - M.]

[Footnote 78: Gregor. Turon. l. viii. c. 9, in tom. ii. p. 316.
Montesquieu observes, (Esprit des Loix. l. xxviii. c. 13,) that
the Salic law did not admit these negative proofs so universally
established in the Barbaric codes. Yet this obscure concubine
(Fredegundis,) who became the wife of the grandson of Clovis,
must have followed the Salic law.]

[Footnote 79: Muratori, in the Antiquities of Italy, has given
two Dissertations (xxxvii. xxxix.) on the judgments of God. It
was expected that fire would not burn the innocent; and that the
pure element of water would not allow the guilty to sink into its

But the trials by single combat gradually obtained superior
credit and authority, among a warlike people, who could not
believe that a brave man deserved to suffer, or that a coward
deserved to live. ^80 Both in civil and criminal proceedings, the
plaintiff, or accuser, the defendant, or even the witness, were
exposed to mortal challenge from the antagonist who was destitute
of legal proofs; and it was incumbent on them either to desert
their cause, or publicly to maintain their honor, in the lists of
battle. They fought either on foot, or on horseback, according to
the custom of their nation; ^81 and the decision of the sword, or
lance, was ratified by the sanction of Heaven, of the judge, and
of the people. This sanguinary law was introduced into Gaul by
the Burgundians; and their legislator Gundobald ^82 condescended
to answer the complaints and objections of his subject Avitus.
"Is it not true," said the king of Burgundy to the bishop, "that
the event of national wars, and private combats, is directed by
the judgment of God; and that his providence awards the victory
to the juster cause?" By such prevailing arguments, the absurd
and cruel practice of judicial duels, which had been peculiar to
some tribes of Germany, was propagated and established in all the
monarchies of Europe, from Sicily to the Baltic. At the end of
ten centuries, the reign of legal violence was not totally
extinguished; and the ineffectual censures of saints, of popes,
and of synods, may seem to prove, that the influence of
superstition is weakened by its unnatural alliance with reason
and humanity. The tribunals were stained with the blood,
perhaps, of innocent and respectable citizens; the law, which now
favors the rich, then yielded to the strong; and the old, the
feeble, and the infirm, were condemned, either to renounce their
fairest claims and possessions, to sustain the dangers of an
unequal conflict, ^83 or to trust the doubtful aid of a mercenary
champion. This oppressive jurisprudence was imposed on the
provincials of Gaul, who complained of any injuries in their
persons and property. Whatever might be the strength, or
courage, of individuals, the victorious Barbarians excelled in
the love and exercise of arms; and the vanquished Roman was
unjustly summoned to repeat, in his own person, the bloody
contest which had been already decided against his country. ^84
[Footnote 80: Montesquieu (Esprit des Loix, l. xxviii. c. 17) has
condescended to explain and excuse "la maniere de penser de nos
peres," on the subject of judicial combats. He follows this
strange institution from the age of Gundobald to that of St.
Lewis; and the philosopher is some times lost in the legal

[Footnote 81: In a memorable duel at Aix-la-Chapelle, (A.D. 820,)
before the emperor Lewis the Pious, his biographer observes,
secundum legem propriam, utpote quia uterque Gothus erat,
equestri pugna est, (Vit. Lud. Pii, c. 33, in tom. vi. p. 103.)
Ermoldus Nigellus, (l. iii. 543 - 628, in tom. vi. p. 48 - 50,)
who describes the duel, admires the ars nova of fighting on
horseback, which was unknown to the Franks.]

[Footnote 82: In his original edict, published at Lyons, (A.D.
501,) establishes and justifies the use of judicial combat,) Les
Burgund. tit. xlv. in tom. ii. p. 267, 268.) Three hundred years
afterwards, Agobard, bishop of Lyons, solicited Lewis the Pious
to abolish the law of an Arian tyrant, (in tom. vi. p. 356 -
358.) He relates the conversation of Gundobald and Avitus.]
[Footnote 83: "Accidit, (says Agobard,) ut non solum valentes
viribus, sed etiam infirmi et senes lacessantur ad pugnam, etiam
pro vilissimis rebus. Quibus foralibus certaminibus contingunt
homicidia injusta; et crudeles ac perversi eventus judiciorum.
Like a prudent rhetorician, he suppresses the legal privilege of
hiring champions.]

[Footnote 84: Montesquieu, (Esprit des Loix, xxviii. c. 14,) who
understands why the judicial combat was admitted by the
Burgundians, Ripuarians, Alemanni, Bavarians, Lombards,
Thuringians, Frisons, and Saxons, is satisfied (and Agobard seems
to countenance the assertion) that it was not allowed by the
Salic law. Yet the same custom, at least in case of treason, is
mentioned by Ermoldus, Nigellus (l. iii. 543, in tom. vi. p. 48,)
and the anonymous biographer of Lewis the Pious, (c. 46, in tom.
vi. p. 112,) as the "mos antiquus Francorum, more Francis
solito," &c., expressions too general to exclude the noblest of
their tribes.]

A devouring host of one hundred and twenty thousand Germans
had formerly passed the Rhine under the command of Ariovistus.
One third part of the fertile lands of the Sequani was
appropriated to their use; and the conqueror soon repeated his
oppressive demand of another third, for the accommodation of a
new colony of twenty-four thousand Barbarians, whom he had
invited to share the rich harvest of Gaul. ^85 At the distance of
five hundred years, the Visigoths and Burgundians, who revenged
the defeat of Ariovistus, usurped the same unequal proportion of
two thirds of the subject lands. But this distribution, instead
of spreading over the province, may be reasonably confined to the
peculiar districts where the victorious people had been planted
by their own choice, or by the policy of their leader. In these
districts, each Barbarian was connected by the ties of
hospitality with some Roman provincial. To this unwelcome guest,
the proprietor was compelled to abandon two thirds of his
patrimony, but the German, a shepherd and a hunter, might
sometimes content himself with a spacious range of wood and
pasture, and resign the smallest, though most valuable, portion,
to the toil of the industrious husbandman. ^86 The silence of
ancient and authentic testimony has encouraged an opinion, that
the rapine of the Franks was not moderated, or disguised, by the
forms of a legal division; that they dispersed themselves over
the provinces of Gaul, without order or control; and that each
victorious robber, according to his wants, his avarice, and his
strength, measured with his sword the extent of his new
inheritance. At a distance from their sovereign, the Barbarians
might indeed be tempted to exercise such arbitrary depredation;
but the firm and artful policy of Clovis must curb a licentious
spirit, which would aggravate the misery of the vanquished,
whilst it corrupted the union and discipline of the conquerors.
^* The memorable vase of Soissons is a monument and a pledge of
the regular distribution of the Gallic spoils. It was the duty
and the interest of Clovis to provide rewards for a successful
army, settlements for a numerous people; without inflicting any
wanton or superfluous injuries on the loyal Catholics of Gaul.
The ample fund, which he might lawfully acquire, of the Imperial
patrimony, vacant lands, and Gothic usurpations, would diminish
the cruel necessity of seizure and confiscation, and the humble
provincials would more patiently acquiesce in the equal and
regular distribution of their loss. ^87

[Footnote 85: Caesar de Bell. Gall. l. i. c. 31, in tom. i. p.
[Footnote 86: The obscure hints of a division of lands
occasionally scattered in the laws of the Burgundians, (tit. liv.
No. 1, 2, in tom. iv. p. 271, 272,) and Visigoths, (l. x. tit. i.
No. 8, 9, 16, in tom. iv. p. 428, 429, 430,) are skillfully
explained by the president Montesquieu, (Esprit des Loix, l. xxx.
c. 7, 8, 9.) I shall only add, that among the Goths, the division
seems to have been ascertained by the judgment of the
neighborhood, that the Barbarians frequently usurped the
remaining third; and that the Romans might recover their right,
unless they were barred by a prescription of fifty years.]
[Footnote *: Sismondi (Hist des Francais, vol. i. p. 197)
observes, they were not a conquering people, who had emigrated
with their families, like the Goths or Burgundians. The women,
the children, the old, had not followed Clovis: they remained in
their ancient possessions on the Waal and the Rhine. The
adventurers alone had formed the invading force, and they always
considered themselves as an army, not as a colony. Hence their
laws retained no traces of the partition of the Roman properties.

It is curious to observe the recoil from the national vanity of
the French historians of the last century. M. Sismondi compares
the position of the Franks with regard to the conquered people
with that of the Dey of Algiers and his corsair troops to the
peaceful inhabitants of that province: M. Thierry (Lettres sur
l'Histoire de France, p. 117) with that of the Turks towards the
Raias or Phanariotes, the mass of the Greeks. - M.]

[Footnote 87: It is singular enough that the president de
Montesquieu (Esprit des Loix, l. xxx. c. 7) and the Abbe de Mably
(Observations, tom i. p. 21, 22) agree in this strange
supposition of arbitrary and private rapine. The Count de
Boulainvilliers (Etat de la France, tom. i. p. 22, 23) shows a
strong understanding through a cloud of ignorance and prejudice.
Note: Sismondi supposes that the Barbarians, if a farm were
conveniently situated, would show no great respect for the laws
of property; but in general there would have been vacant land
enough for the lots assigned to old or worn-out warriors, (Hist.
des Francais, vol. i. p. 196.) - M.]
The wealth of the Merovingian princes consisted in their
extensive domain. After the conquest of Gaul, they still
delighted in the rustic simplicity of their ancestors; the cities
were abandoned to solitude and decay; and their coins, their
charters, and their synods, are still inscribed with the names of
the villas, or rural palaces, in which they successively resided.

One hundred and sixty of these palaces, a title which need not
excite any unseasonable ideas of art or luxury, were scattered
through the provinces of their kingdom; and if some might claim
the honors of a fortress, the far greater part could be esteemed
only in the light of profitable farms. The mansion of the
long-haired kings was surrounded with convenient yards and
stables, for the cattle and the poultry; the garden was planted
with useful vegetables; the various trades, the labors of
agriculture, and even the arts of hunting and fishing, were
exercised by servile hands for the emolument of the sovereign;
his magazines were filled with corn and wine, either for sale or
consumption; and the whole administration was conducted by the
strictest maxims of private economy. ^88 This ample patrimony was
appropriated to supply the hospitable plenty of Clovis and his
successors; and to reward the fidelity of their brave companions
who, both in peace and war, were devoted to their persona
service. Instead of a horse, or a suit of armor, each companion,
according to his rank, or merit, or favor, was invested with a
benefice, the primitive name, and most simple form, of the feudal
possessions. These gifts might be resumed at the pleasure of the
sovereign; and his feeble prerogative derived some support from
the influence of his liberality. ^* But this dependent tenure was
gradually abolished ^89 by the independent and rapacious nobles
of France, who established the perpetual property, and hereditary
succession, of their benefices; a revolution salutary to the
earth, which had been injured, or neglected, by its precarious
masters. ^90 Besides these royal and beneficiary estates, a large
proportion had been assigned, in the division of Gaul, of
allodial and Salic lands: they were exempt from tribute, and the
Salic lands were equally shared among the male descendants of the
Franks. ^91
[Footnote 88: See the rustic edict, or rather code, of
Charlemagne, which contains seventy distinct and minute
regulations of that great monarch (in tom. v. p. 652 - 657.) He
requires an account of the horns and skins of the goats, allows
his fish to be sold, and carefully directs, that the larger
villas (Capitaneoe) shall maintain one hundred hens and thirty
geese; and the smaller (Mansionales) fifty hens and twelve geese.

Mabillon (de Re Diplomatica) has investigated the names, the
number, and the situation of the Merovingian villas.]

[Footnote *: The resumption of benefices at the pleasure of the
sovereign, (the general theory down to his time,) is ably
contested by Mr. Hallam; "for this resumption some delinquency
must be imputed to the vassal." Middle Ages, vol. i. p. 162. The
reader will be interested by the singular analogies with the
beneficial and feudal system of Europe in a remote part of the
world, indicated by Col. Tod in his splendid work on Raja'sthan,
vol. ii p. 129, &c. - M.]

[Footnote 89: From a passage of the Burgundian law (tit. i. No.
4, in tom. iv. p. 257) it is evident, that a deserving son might
expect to hold the lands which his father had received from the
royal bounty of Gundobald. The Burgundians would firmly maintain
their privilege, and their example might encourage the
Beneficiaries of France.]

[Footnote 90: The revolutions of the benefices and fiefs are
clearly fixed by the Abbe de Mably. His accurate distinction of
times gives him a merit to which even Montesquieu is a stranger.]

[Footnote 91: See the Salic law, (tit. lxii. in tom. iv. p. 156.)
The origin and nature of these Salic lands, which, in times of
ignorance, were perfectly understood, now perplex our most
learned and sagacious critics.
Note: No solution seems more probable, than that the ancient
lawgivers of the Salic Franks prohibited females from inheriting
the lands assigned to the nation, upon its conquest of Gaul, both
in compliance with their ancient usages, and in order to secure
the military service of every proprietor. But lands subsequently
acquired by purchase or other means, though equally bound to the
public defence, were relieved from the severity of this rule, and
presumed not to belong to the class of Sallic. Hallam's Middle
Ages, vol. i. p. 145. Compare Sismondi, vol. i. p. 196. - M.]
In the bloody discord and silent decay of the Merovingian
line, a new order of tyrants arose in the provinces, who, under
the appellation of Seniors, or Lords, usurped a right to govern,
and a license to oppress, the subjects of their peculiar
territory. Their ambition might be checked by the hostile
resistance of an equal: but the laws were extinguished; and the
sacrilegious Barbarians, who dared to provoke the vengeance of a
saint or bishop, ^92 would seldom respect the landmarks of a
profane and defenceless neighbor. The common or public rights of
nature, such as they had always been deemed by the Roman
jurisprudence, ^93 were severely restrained by the German
conquerors, whose amusement, or rather passion, was the exercise
of hunting. The vague dominion which Man has assumed over the
wild inhabitants of the earth, the air, and the waters, was
confined to some fortunate individuals of the human species.
Gaul was again overspread with woods; and the animals, who were
reserved for the use or pleasure of the lord, might ravage with
impunity the fields of his industrious vassals. The chase was the
sacred privilege of the nobles and their domestic servants.
Plebeian transgressors were legally chastised with stripes and
imprisonment; ^94 but in an age which admitted a slight
composition for the life of a citizen, it was a capital crime to
destroy a stag or a wild bull within the precincts of the royal
forests. ^95
[Footnote 92: Many of the two hundred and six miracles of St.
Martin (Greg Turon. in Maxima Bibliotheca Patrum, tom. xi. p. 896
- 932) were repeatedly performed to punish sacrilege. Audite
haec omnes (exclaims the bishop of Tours) protestatem habentes,
after relating, how some horses ran mad, that had been turned
into a sacred meadow.]

[Footnote 93: Heinec. Element. Jur. German. l. ii. p. 1, No. 8.]
[Footnote 94: Jonas, bishop of Orleans, (A.D. 821 - 826. Cave,
Hist. Litteraria, p. 443,) censures the legal tyranny of the
nobles. Pro feris, quas cura hominum non aluit, sed Deus in
commune mortalibus ad utendum concessit, pauperes a potentioribus
spoliantur, flagellantur, ergastulis detruduntur, et multa alia
patiuntur. Hoc enim qui faciunt, lege mundi se facere juste
posse contendant. De Institutione Laicorum, l. ii. c. 23, apud
Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. iii. p. 1348.]

[Footnote 95: On a mere suspicion, Chundo, a chamberlain of
Gontram, king of Burgundy, was stoned to death, (Greg. Turon. l.
x. c. 10, in tom. ii. p. 369.) John of Salisbury (Policrat. l. i.
c. 4) asserts the rights of nature, and exposes the cruel
practice of the twelfth century. See Heineccius, Elem. Jur.
Germ. l. ii. p. 1, No. 51 - 57.]

According to the maxims of ancient war, the conqueror became
the lawful master of the enemy whom he had subdued and spared:
^96 and the fruitful cause of personal slavery, which had been
almost suppressed by the peaceful sovereignty of Rome, was again
revived and multiplied by the perpetual hostilities of the
independent Barbarians. The Goth, the Burgundian, or the Frank,
who returned from a successful expedition, dragged after him a
long train of sheep, of oxen, and of human captives, whom he
treated with the same brutal contempt. The youths of an elegant
form and an ingenuous aspect were set apart for the domestic
service; a doubtful situation, which alternately exposed them to
the favorable or cruel impulse of passion. The useful mechanics
and servants (smiths, carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, cooks,
gardeners, dyers, and workmen in gold and silver, &c.) employed
their skill for the use, or profit, of their master. But the
Roman captives, who were destitute of art, but capable of labor,
were condemned, without regard to their former rank, to tend the
cattle and cultivate the lands of the Barbarians. The number of
the hereditary bondsmen, who were attached to the Gallic estates,
was continually increased by new supplies; and the servile
people, according to the situation and temper of their lords, was
sometimes raised by precarious indulgence, and more frequently
depressed by capricious despotism. ^97 An absolute power of life
and death was exercised by these lords; and when they married
their daughters, a train of useful servants, chained on the
wagons to prevent their escape, was sent as a nuptial present
into a distant country. ^98 The majesty of the Roman laws
protected the liberty of each citizen, against the rash effects
of his own distress or despair. But the subjects of the
Merovingian kings might alienate their personal freedom; and this
act of legal suicide, which was familiarly practised, is
expressed in terms most disgraceful and afflicting to the dignity
of human nature. ^99 The example of the poor, who purchased life
by the sacrifice of all that can render life desirable, was
gradually imitated by the feeble and the devout, who, in times of
public disorder, pusillanimously crowded to shelter themselves
under the battlements of a powerful chief, and around the shrine
of a popular saint. Their submission was accepted by these
temporal or spiritual patrons; and the hasty transaction
irrecoverably fixed their own condition, and that of their latest
posterity. From the reign of Clovis, during five successive
centuries, the laws and manners of Gaul uniformly tended to
promote the increase, and to confirm the duration, of personal
servitude. Time and violence almost obliterated the intermediate
ranks of society; and left an obscure and narrow interval between
the noble and the slave. This arbitrary and recent division has
been transformed by pride and prejudice into a national
distinction, universally established by the arms and the laws of
the Merovingians. The nobles, who claimed their genuine or
fabulous descent from the independent and victorious Franks, have
asserted and abused the indefeasible right of conquest over a
prostrate crowd of slaves and plebeians, to whom they imputed the
imaginary disgrace of Gallic or Roman extraction.

[Footnote 96: The custom of enslaving prisoners of war was
totally extinguished in the thirteenth century, by the prevailing
influence of Christianity; but it might be proved, from frequent
passages of Gregory of Tours, &c., that it was practised, without
censure, under the Merovingian race; and even Grotius himself,
(de Jure Belli et Pacis l. iii. c. 7,) as well as his commentator
Barbeyrac, have labored to reconcile it with the laws of nature
and reason.]

[Footnote 97: The state, professions, &c., of the German,
Italian, and Gallic slaves, during the middle ages, are explained
by Heineccius, (Element Jur. Germ. l. i. No. 28 - 47,) Muratori,
(Dissertat. xiv. xv.,) Ducange, (Gloss. sub voce Servi,) and the
Abbe de Mably, (Observations, tom. ii. p. 3, &c., p. 237, &c.)
Note: Compare Hallam, vol. i. p. 216. - M.]

[Footnote 98: Gregory of Tours (l. vi. c. 45, in tom. ii. p. 289)
relates a memorable example, in which Chilperic only abused the
private rights of a master. Many families which belonged to his
domus fiscales in the neighborhood of Paris, were forcibly sent
away into Spain.]
[Footnote 99: Licentiam habeatis mihi qualemcunque volueritis
disciplinam ponere; vel venumdare, aut quod vobis placuerit de me
facere Marculf. Formul. l. ii. 28, in tom. iv. p. 497. The
Formula of Lindenbrogius, (p. 559,) and that of Anjou, (p. 565,)
are to the same effect Gregory of Tours (l. vii. c. 45, in tom.
ii. p. 311) speak of many person who sold themselves for bread,
in a great famine.]

The general state and revolutions of France, a name which
was imposed by the conquerors, may be illustrated by the
particular example of a province, a diocese, or a senatorial
family. Auvergne had formerly maintained a just preeminence
among the independent states and cities of Gaul. The brave and
numerous inhabitants displayed a singular trophy; the sword of
Caesar himself, which he had lost when he was repulsed before the
walls of Gergovia. ^100 As the common offspring of Troy, they
claimed a fraternal alliance with the Romans; ^101 and if each
province had imitated the courage and loyalty of Auvergne, the
fall of the Western empire might have been prevented or delayed.
They firmly maintained the fidelity which they had reluctantly
sworn to the Visigoths, out when their bravest nobles had fallen
in the battle of Poitiers, they accepted, without resistance, a
victorious and Catholic sovereign. This easy and valuable
conquest was achieved and possessed by Theodoric, the eldest son
of Clovis: but the remote province was separated from his
Austrasian dominions, by the intermediate kingdoms of Soissons,
Paris, and Orleans, which formed, after their father's death, the
inheritance of his three brothers. The king of Paris, Childebert,
was tempted by the neighborhood and beauty of Auvergne. ^102 The
Upper country, which rises towards the south into the mountains
of the Cevennes, presented a rich and various prospect of woods
and pastures; the sides of the hills were clothed with vines; and
each eminence was crowned with a villa or castle. In the Lower
Auvergne, the River Allier flows through the fair and spacious
plain of Limagne; and the inexhaustible fertility of the soil
supplied, and still supplies, without any interval of repose, the
constant repetition of the same harvests. ^103 On the false
report, that their lawful sovereign had been slain in Germany,
the city and diocese of Auvergne were betrayed by the grandson of
Sidonius Apollinaris. Childebert enjoyed this clandestine
victory; and the free subjects of Theodoric threatened to desert
his standard, if he indulged his private resentment, while the
nation was engaged in the Burgundian war. But the Franks of
Austrasia soon yielded to the persuasive eloquence of their king.
"Follow me," said Theodoric, "into Auvergne; I will lead you into
a province, where you may acquire gold, silver, slaves, cattle,
and precious apparel, to the full extent of your wishes. I
repeat my promise; I give you the people and their wealth as your
prey; and you may transport them at pleasure into your own
country." By the execution of this promise, Theodoric justly
forfeited the allegiance of a people whom he devoted to
destruction. His troops, reenforced by the fiercest Barbarians
of Germany, ^104 spread desolation over the fruitful face of
Auvergne; and two places only, a strong castle and a holy shrine,
were saved or redeemed from their licentious fury. The castle of
Meroliac ^105 was seated on a lofty rock, which rose a hundred
feet above the surface of the plain; and a large reservoir of
fresh water was enclosed, with some arable lands, within the
circle of its fortifications. The Franks beheld with envy and
despair this impregnable fortress; but they surprised a party of
fifty stragglers; and, as they were oppressed by the number of
their captives, they fixed, at a trifling ransom, the alternative
of life or death for these wretched victims, whom the cruel
Baroarians were prepared to massacre on the refusal of the
garrison. Another detachment penetrated as far as Brivas, or
Brioude, where the inhabitants, with their valuable effects, had
taken refuge in the sanctuary of St. Julian. The doors of the
church resisted the assault; but a daring soldier entered through
a window of the choir, and opened a passage to his companions.
The clergy and people, the sacred and the profane spoils, were
rudely torn from the altar; and the sacrilegious division was
made at a small distance from the town of Brioude. But this act
of impiety was severely chastised by the devout son of Clovis.
He punished with death the most atrocious offenders; left their
secret accomplices to the vengeance of St. Julian; released the
captives; restored the plunder; and extended the rights of
sanctuary five miles round the sepulchre of the holy martyr. ^106

[Footnote 100: When Caesar saw it, he laughed, (Plutarch. in
Caesar. in tom. i. p. 409:) yet he relates his unsuccessful siege
of Gergovia with less frankness than we might expect from a great
man to whom victory was familiar. He acknowledges, however, that
in one attack he lost forty-six centurions and seven hundred men,
(de Bell. Gallico, l. vi. c. 44 - 53, in tom. i. p. 270 - 272.)]
[Footnote 101: Audebant se quondam fatres Latio dicere, et
sanguine ab Iliaco populos computare, (Sidon. Apollinar. l. vii.
epist. 7, in tom i. p. 799.) I am not informed of the degrees and
circumstances of this fabulous pedigree.]
[Footnote 102: Either the first, or second, partition among the
sons of Clovis, had given Berry to Childebert, (Greg. Turon. l.
iii. c. 12, in tom. ii. p. 192.) Velim (said he) Arvernam
Lemanem, quae tanta jocunditatis gratia refulgere dicitur, oculis
cernere, (l. iii. c. p. 191.) The face of the country was
concealed by a thick fog, when the king of Paris made his entry
into Clermen.]

[Footnote 103: For the description of Auvergne, see Sidonius, (l.
iv. epist. 21, in tom. i. p. 703,) with the notes of Savaron and
Sirmond, (p. 279, and 51, of their respective editions.)
Boulainvilliers, (Etat de la France, tom. ii. p. 242 - 268,) and
the Abbe de la Longuerue, (Description de la France, part i. p.
132 - 139.)]

[Footnote 104; Furorem gentium, quae de ulteriore Rheni amnis
parte venerant, superare non poterat, (Greg. Turon. l. iv. c. 50,
in tom. ii. 229.) was the excuse of another king of Austrasia
(A.D. 574) for the ravages which his troops committed in the
neighborhood of Paris.]

[Footnote 105: From the name and situation, the Benedictine
editors of Gregory of Tours (in tom. ii. p. 192) have fixed this
fortress at a place named Castel Merliac, two miles from Mauriac,
in the Upper Auvergne. In this description, I translate infra as
if I read intra; the two are perpetually confounded by Gregory,
or his transcribed and the sense must always decide.]
[Footnote 106: See these revolutions, and wars, of Auvergne, in
Gregory of Tours, (l. ii. c. 37, in tom. ii. p. 183, and l. iii.
c. 9, 12, 13, p. 191, 192, de Miraculis St. Julian. c. 13, in
tom. ii. p. 466.) He frequently betrays his extraordinary
attention to his native country.]

Chapter XXXVIII: Reign Of Clovis.

Part IV.

Before the Austrasian army retreated from Auvergne,
Theodoric exacted some pledges of the future loyalty of a people,
whose just hatred could be restrained only by their fear. A
select band of noble youths, the sons of the principal senators,
was delivered to the conqueror, as the hostages of the faith of
Childebert, and of their countrymen. On the first rumor of war,
or conspiracy, these guiltless youths were reduced to a state of
servitude; and one of them, Attalus, ^107 whose adventures are
more particularly related, kept his master's horses in the
diocese of Treves. After a painful search, he was discovered, in
this unworthy occupation, by the emissaries of his grandfather,
Gregory bishop of Langres; but his offers of ransom were sternly
rejected by the avarice of the Barbarian, who required an
exorbitant sum of ten pounds of gold for the freedom of his noble
captive. His deliverance was effected by the hardy stratagem of
Leo, an item belonging to the kitchens of the bishop of Langres.
^108 An unknown agent easily introduced him into the same family.
The Barbarian purchased Leo for the price of twelve pieces of
gold; and was pleased to learn that he was deeply skilled in the
luxury of an episcopal table: "Next Sunday," said the Frank, "I
shall invite my neighbors and kinsmen. Exert thy art, and force
them to confess, that they have never seen, or tasted, such an
entertainment, even in the king's house." Leo assured him, that
if he would provide a sufficient quantity of poultry, his wishes
should be satisfied. The master who already aspired to the merit
of elegant hospitality, assumed, as his own, the praise which the
voracious guests unanimously bestowed on his cook; and the
dexterous Leo insensibly acquired the trust and management of his
household. After the patient expectation of a whole year, he
cautiously whispered his design to Attalus, and exhorted him to
prepare for flight in the ensuing night. At the hour of
midnight, the intemperate guests retired from the table; and the
Frank's son-in-law, whom Leo attended to his apartment with a
nocturnal potation, condescended to jest on the facility with
which he might betray his trust. The intrepid slave, after
sustaining this dangerous raillery, entered his master's
bedchamber; removed his spear and shield; silently drew the
fleetest horses from the stable; unbarred the ponderous gates;
and excited Attalus to save his life and liberty by incessant
diligence. Their apprehensions urged them to leave their horses
on the banks of the Meuse; ^109 they swam the river, wandered
three days in the adjacent forest, and subsisted only by the
accidental discovery of a wild plum-tree. As they lay concealed
in a dark thicket, they heard the noise of horses; they were
terrified by the angry countenance of their master, and they
anxiously listened to his declaration, that, if he could seize
the guilty fugitives, one of them he would cut in pieces with his
sword, and would expose the other on a gibbet. A length, Attalus
and his faithful Leo reached the friendly habitation of a
presbyter of Rheims, who recruited their fainting strength with
bread and wine, concealed them from the search of their enemy,
and safely conducted them beyond the limits of the Austrasian
kingdom, to the episcopal palace of Langres. Gregory embraced
his grandson with tears of joy, gratefully delivered Leo, with
his whole family, from the yoke of servitude, and bestowed on him
the property of a farm, where he might end his days in happiness
and freedom. Perhaps this singular adventure, which is marked
with so many circumstances of truth and nature, was related by
Attalus himself, to his cousin or nephew, the first historian of
the Franks. Gregory of Tours ^110 was born about sixty years
after the death of Sidonius Apollinaris; and their situation was
almost similar, since each of them was a native of Auvergne, a
senator, and a bishop. The difference of their style and
sentiments may, therefore, express the decay of Gaul; and clearly
ascertain how much, in so short a space, the human mind had lost
of its energy and refinement. ^111

[Footnote 107: The story of Attalus is related by Gregory of
Tours, (l. iii. c. 16, tom. ii. p. 193 - 195.) His editor, the P.
Ruinart, confounds this Attalus, who was a youth (puer) in the
year 532, with a friend of Silonius of the same name, who was
count of Autun, fifty or sixty years before. Such an error,
which cannot be imputed to ignorance, is excused, in some degree,
by its own magnitude.]

[Footnote 108: This Gregory, the great grandfather of Gregory of
Tours, (in tom. ii. p. 197, 490,) lived ninety-two years; of
which he passed forty as count of Autun, and thirty-two as bishop
of Langres. According to the poet Fortunatus, he displayed equal
merit in these different stations.
Nobilis antiqua decurrens prole parentum,
Nobilior gestis, nunc super astra manet.
Arbiter ante ferox, dein pius ipse sacerdos,
Quos domuit judex, fovit amore patris.]

[Footnote 109: As M. de Valois, and the P. Ruinart, are
determined to change the Mosella of the text into Mosa, it
becomes me to acquiesce in the alteration. Yet, after some
examination of the topography. I could defend the common

[Footnote 110: The parents of Gregory (Gregorius Florentius
Georgius) were of noble extraction, (natalibus ... illustres,)
and they possessed large estates (latifundia) both in Auvergne
and Burgundy. He was born in the year 539, was consecrated
bishop of Tours in 573, and died in 593 or 595, soon after he had
terminated his history. See his life by Odo, abbot of Clugny,
(in tom. ii. p. 129 - 135,) and a new Life in the Memoires de
l'Academie, &c., tom. xxvi. p. 598 - 637.]

[Footnote 111: Decedente atque immo potius pereunte ab urbibus
Gallicanis liberalium cultura literarum, &c., (in praefat. in
tom. ii. p. 137,) is the complaint of Gregory himself, which he
fully verifies by his own work. His style is equally devoid of
elegance and simplicity. In a conspicuous station, he still
remained a stranger to his own age and country; and in a prolific
work (the five last books contain ten years) he has omitted
almost every thing that posterity desires to learn. I have
tediously acquired, by a painful perusal, the right of
pronouncing this unfavorable sentence]
We are now qualified to despise the opposite, and, perhaps,
artful, misrepresentations, which have softened, or exaggerated,
the oppression of the Romans of Gaul under the reign of the
Merovingians. The conquerors never promulgated any universal
edict of servitude, or confiscation; but a degenerate people, who
excused their weakness by the specious names of politeness and
peace, was exposed to the arms and laws of the ferocious
Barbarians, who contemptuously insulted their possessions, their
freedom, and their safety. Their personal injuries were partial
and irregular; but the great body of the Romans survived the
revolution, and still preserved the property, and privileges, of
citizens. A large portion of their lands was exacted for the use
of the Franks: but they enjoyed the remainder, exempt from
tribute; ^112 and the same irresistible violence which swept away
the arts and manufactures of Gaul, destroyed the elaborate and
expensive system of Imperial despotism. The Provincials must
frequently deplore the savage jurisprudence of the Salic or
Ripuarian laws; but their private life, in the important concerns
of marriage, testaments, or inheritance, was still regulated by
the Theodosian Code; and a discontented Roman might freely
aspire, or descend, to the title and character of a Barbarian.
The honors of the state were accessible to his ambition: the
education and temper of the Romans more peculiarly qualified them
for the offices of civil government; and, as soon as emulation
had rekindled their military ardor, they were permitted to march
in the ranks, or even at the head, of the victorious Germans. I
shall not attempt to enumerate the generals and magistrates,
whose names ^113 attest the liberal policy of the Merovingians.
The supreme command of Burgundy, with the title of Patrician, was
successively intrusted to three Romans; and the last, and most
powerful, Mummolus, ^114 who alternately saved and disturbed the
monarchy, had supplanted his father in the station of count of
Autun, and left a treasury of thirty talents of gold, and two
hundred and fifty talents of silver. The fierce and illiterate
Barbarians were excluded, during several generations, from the
dignities, and even from the orders, of the church. ^115 The
clergy of Gaul consisted almost entirely of native provincials;
the haughty Franks fell at the feet of their subjects, who were
dignified with the episcopal character: and the power and riches
which had been lost in war, were insensibly recovered by
superstition. ^116 In all temporal affairs, the Theodosian Code
was the universal law of the clergy; but the Barbaric
jurisprudence had liberally provided for their personal safety; a
sub-deacon was equivalent to two Franks; the antrustion, and
priest, were held in similar estimation: and the life of a bishop
was appreciated far above the common standard, at the price of
nine hundred pieces of gold. ^117 The Romans communicated to
their conquerors the use of the Christian religion and Latin
language; ^118 but their language and their religion had alike
degenerated from the simple purity of the Augustan, and Apostolic
age. The progress of superstition and Barbarism was rapid and
universal: the worship of the saints concealed from vulgar eyes
the God of the Christians; and the rustic dialect of peasants and
soldiers was corrupted by a Teutonic idiom and pronunciation. Yet
such intercourse of sacred and social communion eradicated the
distinctions of birth and victory; and the nations of Gaul were
gradually confounded under the name and government of the Franks.

[Footnote 112: The Abbe de Mably (tom. p. i. 247 - 267) has
diligently confirmed this opinion of the President de
Montesquieu, (Esprit des Loix, l. xxx. c. 13.)]

[Footnote 113: See Dubos, Hist. Critique de la Monarchie
Francoise, tom. ii. l. vi. c. 9, 10. The French antiquarians
establish as a principle, that the Romans and Barbarians may be
distinguished by their names. Their names undoubtedly form a
reasonable presumption; yet in reading Gregory of Tours, I have
observed Gondulphus, of Senatorian, or Roman, extraction, (l. vi.
c. 11, in tom. ii. p. 273,) and Claudius, a Barbarian, (l. vii.
c. 29, p. 303.)]
[Footnote 114: Eunius Mummolus is repeatedly mentioned by Gregory
of Tours, from the fourth (c. 42, p. 224) to the seventh (c. 40,
p. 310) book. The computation by talents is singular enough; but
if Gregory attached any meaning to that obsolete word, the
treasures of Mummolus must have exceeded 100,000l. sterling.]
[Footnote 115: See Fleury, Discours iii. sur l'Histoire
[Footnote 116: The bishop of Tours himself has recorded the
complaint of Chilperic, the grandson of Clovis. Ecce pauper
remansit Fiscus noster; ecce divitiae nostrae ad ecclesias sunt
translatae; nulli penitus nisi soli Episcopi regnant, (l. vi. c.
46, in tom. ii. p. 291.)]

[Footnote 117: See the Ripuarian Code, (tit. xxxvi in tom. iv. p.
241.) The Salic law does not provide for the safety of the
clergy; and we might suppose, on the behalf of the more civilized
tribe, that they had not foreseen such an impious act as the
murder of a priest. Yet Praetextatus, archbishop of Rouen, was
assassinated by the order of Queen Fredegundis before the altar,
(Greg. Turon. l. viii. c. 31, in tom. ii. p. 326.)]

[Footnote 118: M. Bonamy (Mem. de l'Academie des Inscriptions,
tom. xxiv. p. 582 - 670) has ascertained the Lingua Romana
Rustica, which, through the medium of the Romance, has gradually
been polished into the actual form of the French language. Under
the Carlovingian race, the kings and nobles of France still
understood the dialect of their German ancestors.]

The Franks, after they mingled with their Gallic subjects,
might have imparted the most valuable of human gifts, a spirit
and system of constitutional liberty. Under a king, hereditary,
but limited, the chiefs and counsellors might have debated at
Paris, in the palace of the Caesars: the adjacent field, where
the emperors reviewed their mercenary legions. would have
admitted the legislative assembly of freemen and warriors; and
the rude model, which had been sketched in the woods of Germany,
^119 might have been polished and improved by the civil wisdom of
the Romans. But the careless Barbarians, secure of their
personal independence, disdained the labor of government: the
annual assemblies of the month of March were silently abolished;
and the nation was separated, and almost dissolved, by the
conquest of Gaul. ^120 The monarchy was left without any regular
establishment of justice, of arms, or of revenue. The successors
of Clovis wanted resolution to assume, or strength to exercise,
the legislative and executive powers, which the people had
abdicated: the royal prerogative was distinguished only by a more
ample privilege of rapine and murder; and the love of freedom, so
often invigorated and disgraced by private ambition, was reduced,
among the licentious Franks, to the contempt of order, and the
desire of impunity. Seventy-five years after the death of Clovis,
his grandson, Gontran, king of Burgundy, sent an army to invade
the Gothic possessions of Septimania, or Languedoc. The troops
of Burgundy, Berry, Auvergne, and the adjacent territories, were
excited by the hopes of spoil. They marched, without discipline,
under the banners of German, or Gallic, counts: their attack was
feeble and unsuccessful; but the friendly and hostile provinces
were desolated with indiscriminate rage. The cornfields, the
villages, the churches themselves, were consumed by fire: the
inhabitants were massacred, or dragged into captivity; and, in
the disorderly retreat, five thousand of these inhuman savages
were destroyed by hunger or intestine discord. When the pious
Gontran reproached the guilt or neglect of their leaders, and
threatened to inflict, not a legal sentence, but instant and
arbitrary execution, they accused the universal and incurable
corruption of the people. "No one," they said, "any longer fears
or respects his king, his duke, or his count. Each man loves to
do evil, and freely indulges his criminal inclinations. The most
gentle correction provokes an immediate tumult, and the rash
magistrate, who presumes to censure or restrain his seditious
subjects, seldom escapes alive from their revenge." ^121 It has
been reserved for the same nation to expose, by their intemperate
vices, the most odious abuse of freedom; and to supply its loss
by the spirit of honor and humanity, which now alleviates and
dignifies their obedience to an absolute sovereign. ^*

[Footnote 119: Ce beau systeme a ete trouve dans les bois.
Montesquieu, Esprit des Loix, l. xi. c. 6.]

[Footnote 120: See the Abbe de Mably. Observations, &c., tom. i.
p. 34 - 56. It should seem that the institution of national
assemblies, which are with the French nation, has never been
congenial to its temper.]

[Footnote 121: Gregory of Tours (l. viii. c. 30, in tom. ii. p.
325, 326) relates, with much indifference, the crimes, the
reproof, and the apology. Nullus Regem metuit, nullus Ducem,
nullus Comitem reveretur; et si fortassis alicui ista displicent,
et ea, pro longaevitate vitae vestrae, emendare conatur, statim
seditio in populo, statim tumultus exoritur, et in tantum
unusquisque contra seniorem saeva intentione grassatur, ut vix se
credat evadere, si tandem silere nequiverit.]

[Footnote *: This remarkable passage was published in 1779 - M.]

The Visigoths had resigned to Clovis the greatest part of
their Gallic possessions; but their loss was amply compensated by
the easy conquest, and secure enjoyment, of the provinces of
Spain. From the monarchy of the Goths, which soon involved the
Suevic kingdom of Gallicia, the modern Spaniards still derive
some national vanity; but the historian of the Roman empire is
neither invited, nor compelled, to pursue the obscure and barren
series of their annals. ^122 The Goths of Spain were separated
from the rest of mankind by the lofty ridge of the Pyrenaean
mountains: their manners and institutions, as far as they were
common to the Germanic tribes, have been already explained. I
have anticipated, in the preceding chapter, the most important of
their ecclesiastical events, the fall of Arianism, and the
persecution of the Jews; and it only remains to observe some
interesting circumstances which relate to the civil and
ecclesiastical constitution of the Spanish kingdom.
[Footnote 122: Spain, in these dark ages, has been peculiarly
unfortunate. The Franks had a Gregory of Tours; the Saxons, or
Angles, a Bede; the Lombards, a Paul Warnefrid, &c. But the
history of the Visigoths is contained in the short and imperfect
Chronicles of Isidore of Seville and John of Biclar]
After their conversion from idolatry or heresy, the Frank
and the Visigoths were disposed to embrace, with equal
submission, the inherent evils and the accidental benefits, of
superstition. But the prelates of France, long before the
extinction of the Merovingian race, had degenerated into fighting
and hunting Barbarians. They disdained the use of synods; forgot
the laws of temperance and chastity; and preferred the indulgence
of private ambition and luxury to the general interest of the
sacerdotal profession. ^123 The bishops of Spain respected
themselves, and were respected by the public: their indissoluble
union disguised their vices, and confirmed their authority; and
the regular discipline of the church introduced peace, order, and
stability, into the government of the state. From the reign of
Recared, the first Catholic king, to that of Witiza, the
immediate predecessor of the unfortunate Roderic, sixteen
national councils were successively convened. The six
metropolitans, Toledo, Seville, Merida, Braga, Tarragona, and
Narbonne, presided according to their respective seniority; the
assembly was composed of their suffragan bishops, who appeared in
person, or by their proxies; and a place was assigned to the most
holy, or opulent, of the Spanish abbots. During the first three
days of the convocation, as long as they agitated the
ecclesiastical question of doctrine and discipline, the profane
laity was excluded from their debates; which were conducted,
however, with decent solemnity. But, on the morning of the
fourth day, the doors were thrown open for the entrance of the
great officers of the palace, the dukes and counts of the
provinces, the judges of the cities, and the Gothic nobles, and
the decrees of Heaven were ratified by the consent of the people.

The same rules were observed in the provincial assemblies, the
annual synods, which were empowered to hear complaints, and to
redress grievances; and a legal government was supported by the
prevailing influence of the Spanish clergy. The bishops, who, in
each revolution, were prepared to flatter the victorious, and to
insult the prostrate labored, with diligence and success, to
kindle the flames of persecution, and to exalt the mitre above
the crown. Yet the national councils of Toledo, in which the free
spirit of the Barbarians was tempered and guided by episcopal
policy, have established some prudent laws for the common benefit
of the king and people. The vacancy of the throne was supplied
by the choice of the bishops and palatines; and after the failure
of the line of Alaric, the regal dignity was still limited to the
pure and noble blood of the Goths. The clergy, who anointed their
lawful prince, always recommended, and sometimes practised, the
duty of allegiance; and the spiritual censures were denounced on
the heads of the impious subjects, who should resist his
authority, conspire against his life, or violate, by an indecent
union, the chastity even of his widow. But the monarch himself,
when he ascended the throne, was bound by a reciprocal oath to
God and his people, that he would faithfully execute this
important trust. The real or imaginary faults of his
administration were subject to the control of a powerful
aristocracy; and the bishops and palatines were guarded by a
fundamental privilege, that they should not be degraded,
imprisoned, tortured, nor punished with death, exile, or
confiscation, unless by the free and public judgment of their
peers. ^124

[Footnote 123: Such are the complaints of St. Boniface, the
apostle of Germany, and the reformer of Gaul, (in tom. iv. p.
94.) The fourscore years, which he deplores, of license and
corruption, would seem to insinuate that the Barbarians were
admitted into the clergy about the year 660.]
[Footnote 124: The acts of the councils of Toledo are still the
most authentic records of the church and constitution of Spain.
The following passages are particularly important, (iii. 17, 18;
iv. 75; v. 2, 3, 4, 5, 8; vi. 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18; vii. 1;
xiii. 2 3 6.) I have found Mascou (Hist. of the Ancient Germans,
xv. 29, and Annotations, xxvi. and xxxiii.) and Ferreras (Hist.
Generale de l'Espagne, tom. ii.) very useful and accurate
One of these legislative councils of Toledo examined and
ratified the code of laws which had been compiled by a succession
of Gothic kings, from the fierce Euric, to the devout Egica. As
long as the Visigoths themselves were satisfied with the rude
customs of their ancestors, they indulged their subjects of
Aquitain and Spain in the enjoyment of the Roman law. Their
gradual improvement in arts, in policy, and at length in
religion, encouraged them to imitate, and to supersede, these
foreign institutions; and to compose a code of civil and criminal
jurisprudence, for the use of a great and united people. The
same obligations, and the same privileges, were communicated to
the nations of the Spanish monarchy; and the conquerors,
insensibly renouncing the Teutonic idiom, submitted to the
restraints of equity, and exalted the Romans to the participation
of freedom. The merit of this impartial policy was enhanced by
the situation of Spain under the reign of the Visigoths. The
provincials were long separated from their Arian masters by the
irreconcilable difference of religion. After the conversion of
Recared had removed the prejudices of the Catholics, the coasts,
both of the Ocean and Mediterranean, were still possessed by the
Eastern emperors; who secretly excited a discontented people to
reject the yoke of the Barbarians, and to assert the name and
dignity of Roman citizens. The allegiance of doubtful subjects
is indeed most effectually secured by their own persuasion, that
they hazard more in a revolt, than they can hope to obtain by a
revolution; but it has appeared so natural to oppress those whom
we hate and fear, that the contrary system well deserves the
praise of wisdom and moderation. ^125

[Footnote 125: The Code of the Visigoths, regularly divided into
twelve books, has been correctly published by Dom Bouquet, (in
tom. iv. p. 273 - 460.) It has been treated by the President de
Montesquieu (Esprit des Loix, l. xxviii. c. 1) with excessive
severity. I dislike the style; I detest the superstition; but I
shall presume to think, that the civil jurisprudence displays a
more civilized and enlightened state of society, than that of the
Burgundians, or even of the Lombards.]

While the kingdom of the Franks and Visigoths were
established in Gaul and Spain, the Saxons achieved the conquest
of Britain, the third great diocese of the Praefecture of the
West. Since Britain was already separated from the Roman empire,
I might, without reproach, decline a story familiar to the most
illiterate, and obscure to the most learned, of my readers. The
Saxons, who excelled in the use of the oar, or the battle- axe,
were ignorant of the art which could alone perpetuate the fame of
their exploits; the Provincials, relapsing into barbarism,
neglected to describe the ruin of their country; and the doubtful
tradition was almost extinguished, before the missionaries of
Rome restored the light of science and Christianity. The
declamations of Gildas, the fragments, or fables, of Nennius, the
obscure hints of the Saxon laws and chronicles, and the
ecclesiastical tales of the venerable Bede, ^126 have been
illustrated by the diligence, and sometimes embellished by the
fancy, of succeeding writers, whose works I am not ambitious
either to censure or to transcribe. ^127 Yet the historian of the
empire may be tempted to pursue the revolutions of a Roman
province, till it vanishes from his sight; and an Englishman may
curiously trace the establishment of the Barbarians, from whom he
derives his name, his laws, and perhaps his origin.

[Footnote 126: See Gildas de Excidio Britanniae, c. 11 - 25, p. 4
- 9, edit. Gale. Nennius, Hist. Britonum, c. 28, 35 - 65, p. 105
- 115, edit. Gale. Bede, Hist. Ecclesiast. Gentis Angloruml. i.
c. 12 - 16, p. 49 - 53. c. 22, p. 58, edit. Smith. Chron.
Saxonicum, p. 11 - 23, &c., edit. Gibson. The Anglo-Saxon laws
were published by Wilkins, London, 1731, in folio; and the Leges
Wallicae, by Wotton and Clarke, London, 1730, in folio.]
[Footnote 127: The laborious Mr. Carte, and the ingenious Mr.
Whitaker, are the two modern writers to whom I am principally
indebted. The particular historian of Manchester embraces, under
that obscure title, a subject almost as extensive as the general
history of England.

Note: Add the Anglo-Saxon History of Mr. S. Turner; and Sir
F. Palgrave Sketch of the "Early History of England." - M.]
About forty years after the dissolution of the Roman
government, Vortigern appears to have obtained the supreme,
though precarious command of the princes and cities of Britain.
That unfortunate monarch has been almost unanimously condemned
for the weak and mischievous policy of inviting ^128 a formidable
stranger, to repel the vexatious inroads of a domestic foe. His
ambassadors are despatched, by the gravest historians, to the
coast of Germany: they address a pathetic oration to the general
assembly of the Saxons, and those warlike Barbarians resolve to
assist with a fleet and army the suppliants of a distant and
unknown island. If Britain had indeed been unknown to the
Saxons, the measure of its calamities would have been less
complete. But the strength of the Roman government could not
always guard the maritime province against the pirates of
Germany; the independent and divided states were exposed to their
attacks; and the Saxons might sometimes join the Scots and the
Picts, in a tacit, or express, confederacy of rapine and
destruction. Vortigern could only balance the various perils,
which assaulted on every side his throne and his people; and his
policy may deserve either praise or excuse, if he preferred the
alliance of those Barbarians, whose naval power rendered them the
most dangerous enemies and the most serviceable allies. Hengist
and Horsa, as they ranged along the Eastern coast with three
ships, were engaged, by the promise of an ample stipend, to
embrace the defence of Britain; and their intrepid valor soon
delivered the country from the Caledonian invaders. The Isle of
Thanet, a secure and fertile district, was allotted for the
residence of these German auxiliaries, and they were supplied,
according to the treaty, with a plentiful allowance of clothing
and provisions. This favorable reception encouraged five
thousand warriors to embark with their families in seventeen
vessels, and the infant power of Hengist was fortified by this
strong and seasonable reenforcement. The crafty Barbarian
suggested to Vortigern the obvious advantage of fixing, in the
neighborhood of the Picts, a colony of faithful allies: a third
fleet of forty ships, under the command of his son and nephew,
sailed from Germany, ravaged the Orkneys, and disembarked a new
army on the coast of Northumberland, or Lothian, at the opposite
extremity of the devoted land. It was easy to foresee, but it was
impossible to prevent, the impending evils. The two nations were
soon divided and exasperated by mutual jealousies. The Saxons
magnified all that they had done and suffered in the cause of an
ungrateful people; while the Britons regretted the liberal
rewards which could not satisfy the avarice of those haughty
mercenaries. The causes of fear and hatred were inflamed into an
irreconcilable quarrel. The Saxons flew to arms; and if they
perpetrated a treacherous massacre during the security of a
feast, they destroyed the reciprocal confidence which sustains
the intercourse of peace and war. ^129

[Footnote 128: This invitation, which may derive some countenance
from the loose expressions of Gildas and Bede, is framed into a
regular story by Witikind, a Saxon monk of the tenth century,
(see Cousin, Hist. de l'Empire d'Occident, tom. ii. p. 356.)
Rapin, and even Hume, have too freely used this suspicious
evidence, without regarding the precise and probable testimony of
Tennius: Iterea venerunt tres Chinlae a exilio pulsoe, in quibus
erant Hors et Hengist.]

[Footnote 129: Nennius imputes to the Saxons the murder of three
hundred British chiefs; a crime not unsuitable to their savage
manners. But we are not obliged to believe (see Jeffrey of
Monmouth, l. viii. c. 9 - 12) that Stonehenge is their monument,
which the giants had formerly transported from Africa to Ireland,
and which was removed to Britain by the order of Ambrosius, and
the art of Merlin.

Note: Sir f. Palgrave (Hist. of England, p. 36) is inclined
to resolve the whole of these stories, as Niebuhr the older Roman
history, into poetry. To the editor they appeared, in early
youth, so essentially poetic, as to justify the rash attempt to
embody them in an Epic Poem, called Samor, commenced at Eton, and
finished before he had arrived at the maturer taste of manhood. -

Hengist, who boldly aspired to the conquest of Britain,
exhorted his countrymen to embrace the glorious opportunity: he
painted in lively colors the fertility of the soil, the wealth of
the cities, the pusillanimous temper of the natives, and the
convenient situation of a spacious solitary island, accessible on
all sides to the Saxon fleets. The successive colonies which
issued, in the period of a century, from the mouths of the Elbe,
the Weser, and the Rhine, were principally composed of three
valiant tribes or nations of Germany; the Jutes, the old Saxons,
and the Angles. The Jutes, who fought under the peculiar banner
of Hengist, assumed the merit of leading their countrymen in the
paths of glory, and of erecting, in Kent, the first independent
kingdom. The fame of the enterprise was attributed to the
primitive Saxons; and the common laws and language of the
conquerors are described by the national appellation of a people,
which, at the end of four hundred years, produced the first
monarchs of South Britain. The Angles were distinguished by
their numbers and their success; and they claimed the honor of
fixing a perpetual name on the country, of which they occupied
the most ample portion. The Barbarians, who followed the hopes
of rapine either on the land or sea, were insensibly blended with
this triple confederacy; the Frisians, who had been tempted by
their vicinity to the British shores, might balance, during a
short space, the strength and reputation of the native Saxons;
the Danes, the Prussians, the Rugians, are faintly described; and
some adventurous Huns, who had wandered as far as the Baltic,
might embark on board the German vessels, for the conquest of a
new world. ^130 But this arduous achievement was not prepared or
executed by the union of national powers. Each intrepid
chieftain, according to the measure of his fame and fortunes,
assembled his followers; equipped a fleet of three, or perhaps of
sixty, vessels; chose the place of the attack; and conducted his
subsequent operations according to the events of the war, and the
dictates of his private interest. In the invasion of Britain
many heroes vanquished and fell; but only seven victorious
leaders assumed, or at least maintained, the title of kings.
Seven independent thrones, the Saxon Heptarchy, ^* were founded
by the conquerors, and seven families, one of which has been
continued, by female succession, to our present sovereign,
derived their equal and sacred lineage from Woden, the god of
war. It has been pretended, that this republic of kings was
moderated by a general council and a supreme magistrate. But
such an artificial scheme of policy is repugnant to the rude and
turbulent spirit of the Saxons: their laws are silent; and their
imperfect annals afford only a dark and bloody prospect of
intestine discord. ^131

[Footnote 130: All these tribes are expressly enumerated by Bede,
(l. i. c. 15, p. 52, l. v. c. 9, p. 190;) and though I have
considered Mr. Whitaker's remarks, (Hist. of Manchester, vol. ii.
p. 538 - 543,) I do not perceive the absurdity of supposing that
the Frisians, &c., were mingled with the Anglo-Saxons.]

[Footnote *: This term (the Heptarchy) must be rejected because
an idea is conveyed thereby which is substantially wrong. At no
one period were there ever seven kingdoms independent of each
other. Palgrave, vol. i. p. 46. Mr. Sharon Turner has the merit
of having first confuted the popular notion on this subject.
Anglo-Saxon History, vol. i. p. 302. - M.]

[Footnote 131: Bede has enumerated seven kings, two Saxons, a
Jute, and four Angles, who successively acquired in the heptarchy
an indefinite supremacy of power and renown. But their reign was
the effect, not of law, but of conquest; and he observes, in
similar terms, that one of them subdued the Isles of Man and
Anglesey; and that another imposed a tribute on the Scots and
Picts. (Hist. Eccles. l. ii. c. 5, p. 83.)]

A monk, who, in the profound ignorance of human life, has
presumed to exercise the office of historian, strangely
disfigures the state of Britain at the time of its separation
from the Western empire. Gildas ^132 describes in florid
language the improvements of agriculture, the foreign trade which
flowed with every tide into the Thames and the Severn the solid
and lofty construction of public and private edifices; he accuses
the sinful luxury of the British people; of a people, according
to the same writer, ignorant of the most simple arts, and
incapable, without the aid of the Romans, of providing walls of
stone, or weapons of iron, for the defence of their native land.
^133 Under the long dominion of the emperors, Britain had been
insensibly moulded into the elegant and servile form of a Roman
province, whose safety was intrusted to a foreign power. The
subjects of Honorius contemplated their new freedom with surprise
and terror; they were left destitute of any civil or military
constitution; and their uncertain rulers wanted either skill, or
courage, or authority, to direct the public force against the
common enemy. The introduction of the Saxons betrayed their
internal weakness, and degraded the character both of the prince
and people. Their consternation magnified the danger; the want
of union diminished their resources; and the madness of civil
factions was more solicitous to accuse, than to remedy, the
evils, which they imputed to the misconduct of their adversaries.

Yet the Britons were not ignorant, they could not be ignorant, of
the manufacture or the use of arms; the successive and disorderly
attacks of the Saxons allowed them to recover from their
amazement, and the prosperous or adverse events of the war added
discipline and experience to their native valor.

[Footnote 132: See Gildas de Excidio Britanniae, c. i. p. l.
edit. Gale.]
[Footnote 133: Mr. Whitaker (Hist. of Manchester, vol. ii. p.
503, 516) has smartly exposed this glaring absurdity, which had
passed unnoticed by the general historians, as they were
hastening to more interesting and important events]

While the continent of Europe and Africa yielded, without
resistance, to the Barbarians, the British island, alone and
unaided, maintained a long, a vigorous, though an unsuccessful,
struggle, against the formidable pirates, who, almost at the same
instant, assaulted the Northern, the Eastern, and the Southern
coasts. The cities which had been fortified with skill, were
defended with resolution; the advantages of ground, hills,
forests, and morasses, were diligently improved by the
inhabitants; the conquest of each district was purchased with
blood; and the defeats of the Saxons are strongly attested by the
discreet silence of their annalist. Hengist might hope to achieve
the conquest of Britain; but his ambition, in an active reign of
thirty-five years, was confined to the possession of Kent; and
the numerous colony which he had planted in the North, was
extirpated by the sword of the Britons. The monarchy of the West
Saxons was laboriously founded by the persevering efforts of
three martial generations. The life of Cerdic, one of the
bravest of the children of Woden, was consumed in the conquest of
Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight; and the loss which he sustained
in the battle of Mount Badon, reduced him to a state of
inglorious repose. Kenric, his valiant son, advanced into
Wiltshire; besieged Salisbury, at that time seated on a
commanding eminence; and vanquished an army which advanced to the
relief of the city. In the subsequent battle of Marlborough, ^134
his British enemies displayed their military science. Their
troops were formed in three lines; each line consisted of three
distinct bodies, and the cavalry, the archers, and the pikemen,
were distributed according to the principles of Roman tactics.
The Saxons charged in one weighty column, boldly encountered with
their shord swords the long lances of the Britons, and maintained
an equal conflict till the approach of night. Two decisive
victories, the death of three British kings, and the reduction of
Cirencester, Bath, and Gloucester, established the fame and power
of Ceaulin, the grandson of Cerdic, who carried his victorious
arms to the banks of the Severn.
[Footnote 134: At Beran-birig, or Barbury-castle, near
Marlborough. The Saxon chronicle assigns the name and date.
Camden (Britannia, vol. i. p. 128) ascertains the place; and
Henry of Huntingdon (Scriptores pest Bedam, p. 314) relates the
circumstances of this battle. They are probable and
characteristic; and the historians of the twelfth century might
consult some materials that no longer exist.] After a war of a
hundred years, the independent Britons still occupied the whole
extent of the Western coast, from the wall of Antoninus to the
extreme promontory of Cornwall; and the principal cities of the
inland country still opposed the arms of the Barbarians.
Resistance became more languid, as the number and boldness of the
assailants continually increased. Winning their way by slow and
painful efforts, the Saxons, the Angles, and their various
confederates, advanced from the North, from the East, and from
the South, till their victorious banners were united in the
centre of the island. Beyond the Severn the Britons still
asserted their national freedom, which survived the heptarchy,
and even the monarchy, of the Saxons. The bravest warriors, who
preferred exile to slavery, found a secure refuge in the
mountains of Wales: the reluctant submission of Cornwall was
delayed for some ages; ^135 and a band of fugitives acquired a
settlement in Gaul, by their own valor, or the liberality of the
Merovingian kings. ^136 The Western angle of Armorica acquired
the new appellations of Cornwall, and the Lesser Britain; and the
vacant lands of the Osismii were filled by a strange people, who,
under the authority of their counts and bishops, preserved the
laws and language of their ancestors. To the feeble descendants
of Clovis and Charlemagne, the Britons of Armorica refused the
customary tribute, subdued the neighboring dioceses of Vannes,
Rennes, and Nantes, and formed a powerful, though vassal, state,
which has been united to the crown of France. ^137

[Footnote 135: Cornwall was finally subdued by Athelstan, (A.D.
927 - 941,) who planted an English colony at Exeter, and confined
the Britons beyond the River Tamar. See William of Malmsbury, l.
ii., in the Scriptores post Bedam, p. 50. The spirit of the
Cornish knights was degraded by servitude: and it should seem,
from the Romance of Sir Tristram, that their cowardice was almost

[Footnote 136: The establishment of the Britons in Gaul is proved
in the sixth century, by Procopius, Gregory of Tours, the second
council of Tours, (A.D. 567,) and the least suspicious of their
chronicles and lives of saints. The subscription of a bishop of
the Britons to the first council of Tours, (A.D. 461, or rather
481,) the army of Riothamus, and the loose declamation of Gildas,
(alii transmarinas petebant regiones, c. 25, p. 8,) may
countenance an emigration as early as the middle of the fifth
century. Beyond that era, the Britons of Armorica can be found
only in romance; and I am surprised that Mr. Whitaker (Genuine
History of the Britons, p. 214 - 221) should so faithfully
transcribe the gross ignorance of Carte, whose venial errors he
has so rigorously chastised.]

[Footnote 137: The antiquities of Bretagne, which have been the
subject even of political controversy, are illustrated by Hadrian
Valesius, (Notitia Galliarum, sub voce Britannia Cismarina, p. 98
- 100.) M. D'Anville, (Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule, Corisopiti,
Curiosolites, Osismii, Vorganium, p. 248, 258, 508, 720, and
Etats de l'Europe, p. 76 - 80,) Longuerue, (Description de la
France, tom. i. p. 84 - 94,) and the Abbe de Vertot, (Hist.
Critique de l'Etablissement des Bretons dans les Gaules, 2 vols.
in 12 mo., Paris, 1720.) I may assume the merit of examining the
original evidence which they have produced.

Note: Compare Gallet, Memoires sur la Bretagne, and Daru,
Histoire de Bretagne. These authors appear to me to establish
the point of the independence of Bretagne at the time that the
insular Britons took refuge in their country, and that the
greater part landed as fugitives rather than as conquerors. I
observe that M. Lappenberg (Geschichte von England, vol. i. p.
56) supposes the settlement of a military colony formed of
British soldiers, (Milites limitanei, laeti,) during the
usurpation of Maximus, (381, 388,) who gave their name and
peculiar civilization to Bretagne. M. Lappenberg expresses his
surprise that Gibbon here rejects the authority which he follows
elsewhere. - M.]

Chapter XXXVIII: Reign Of Clovis.

Part V.

In a century of perpetual, or at least implacable, war, much
courage, and some skill, must have been exerted for the defence
of Britain. Yet if the memory of its champions is almost buried
in oblivion, we need not repine; since every age, however
destitute of science or virtue, sufficiently abounds with acts of
blood and military renown. The tomb of Vortimer, the son of
Vortigern, was erected on the margin of the sea-shore, as a
landmark formidable to the Saxons, whom he had thrice vanquished
in the fields of Kent. Ambrosius Aurelian was descended from a
noble family of Romans; ^138 his modesty was equal to his valor,
and his valor, till the last fatal action, ^139 was crowned with
splendid success. But every British name is effaced by the
illustrious name of Arthur, ^140 the hereditary prince of the
Silures, in South Wales, and the elective king or general of the
nation. According to the most rational account, he defeated, in
twelve successive battles, the Angles of the North, and the
Saxons of the West; but the declining age of the hero was
imbittered by popular ingratitude and domestic misfortunes. The
events of his life are less interesting than the singular
revolutions of his fame. During a period of five hundred years
the tradition of his exploits was preserved, and rudely
embellished, by the obscure bards of Wales and Armorica, who were


Back to Full Books