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Merovingian dynasty

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Christa Jenneman
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« on: August 03, 2009, 02:19:22 am »

Merovingian dynasty

The Merovingians (also Merovings) were a Salian Frankish dynasty that came to rule the Franks in a region (known as Francia in Latin) largely corresponding to ancient Gaul from the middle of the fifth century. Their politics involved frequent civil warfare among branches of the family. During the final century of the Merovingian rule, the dynasty was increasingly pushed into a ceremonial role. The Merovingian rule was ended in 751 when Pepin the Short formally deposed Childeric III, beginning the Carolingian monarchy.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2009, 02:19:46 am »

They were sometimes referred to as the "long-haired kings" (Latin reges criniti) by contemporaries, for their symbolically unshorn hair (traditionally the tribal leader of the Franks wore his hair long, as distinct from the Romans and the tonsured clergy). The term "Merovingian" comes from medieval Latin Merovingi or Merohingi ("sons of Merovech"), an alteration of an unattested Old West Low Franconian form, akin to their dynasty's Old English name Merewīowing,[1] with the final -ing being a typical patronymic suffix.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2009, 02:20:48 am »



The Kingdom of the Franks expanded from Austrasia, established by the Merovingian dynasty
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2009, 02:21:33 am »

Origins

The Merovingian dynasty owes its name to the semi-legendary Merovech (Latinised as Meroveus or Merovius), leader of the Salian Franks, and emerges into wider history with the victories of his son Childeric I (reigned c.457 – 481) against the Visigoths, Saxons, and Alemanni. Childeric's son Clovis I went on to unite most of Gaul north of the Loire under his control around 486, when he defeated Syagrius, the Roman ruler in those parts. He won the Battle of Tolbiac against the Alemanni in 496, at which time, according to Gregory of Tours, Clovis adopted his wife's Nicene Christian faith. He subsequently went on to decisively defeat the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in the Battle of Vouillé in 507. After Clovis' death, his kingdom was partitioned among his four sons, and over the next century this tradition of partition would continue. Even when several Merovingian kings simultaneously ruled their own realms, the kingdom — not unlike the late Roman Empire — was conceived of as a single entity ruled collectively by these several kings (in their own realms) among whom a turn of events could result in the reunification of the whole kingdom under a single ruler. Leadership among the early Merovingians was probably based on mythical descent and alleged divine patronage, expressed in terms of continued military success.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2009, 02:22:07 am »



Signet ring of Childeric I. Monnaie de Paris.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2009, 02:22:50 am »

History

Upon Clovis' death in 511, the Merovingian kingdom included all the Franks and all of Gaul but Burgundy. To the outside, the kingdom, even when divided under different kings, maintained unity and conquered Burgundy in 534. After the fall of the Ostrogoths, the Franks also conquered Provence. After this their borders with Italy (ruled by the Lombards since 568) and Visigothic Septimania remained fairly stable.[2]

Internally, the kingdom was divided among Clovis' sons and later among his grandsons and frequently saw war between the different kings, who quickly allied among themselves and against one another. The death of one king would create conflict between the surviving brothers and the deceased's sons, with differing outcomes. Later, conflicts were intensified by the personal feud around Brunhilda. However, yearly warfare often did not constitute general devastation but took on an almost ritual character, with established 'rules' and norms.[3]

Eventually, Clotaire II in 613 reunited the entire Frankish realm under one ruler. Later divisions produced the stable units of Austrasia, Neustria, Burgundy and Aquitania.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2009, 02:23:36 am »



Coin of Chlothar II, 584-628. British Museum.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2009, 02:23:55 am »

The frequent wars had weakened royal power, while the aristocracy had made great gains and procured enormous concessions from the kings in return for their support. These concessions saw the very considerable power of the king parcelled out and retained by leading comites and duces (counts and dukes). Very little is in fact known about the course of the seventh century due to a scarcity of sources, but Merovingians remained in power until the eighth century.

Clotaire's son Dagobert I (died 639), who had sent troops to Spain and pagan Slavic territories in the east, is commonly seen as the last powerful Merovingian King. Later kings are known as rois fainéants ("do-nothing kings"), despite the fact that only the last two kings did nothing. The kings, even strong-willed men like Dagobert II and Chilperic II, were not the main agents of political conflicts, leaving this role to their mayors of the palace, who increasingly substituted their own interest for their king's. Many kings came to the throne at a young age and died in the prime of life, weakening royal power further.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2009, 02:24:28 am »



Triens of Dagobert I and moneyer Romanos, Augaune, 629-639, gold 1.32g. Monnaie de Paris.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2009, 02:24:51 am »

The conflict between mayors was ended when the Austrasians under Pepin the Middle triumphed in 687 in the Battle of Tertry. After this, Pepin, though not a king, was the political ruler of the Frankish kingdom and left this position as a heritage to his sons. It was now the sons of the mayor that divided the realm among each other under the rule of a single king.

After Pepin's long rule, his son Charles Martel assumed power, fighting against nobles and his own stepmother. His reputation for ruthlessness further undermined the king's position. During the last years of his life he even ruled without a king, though he did not assume royal dignity. His sons Carloman and Pepin again appointed a Merovingian figure-head to stem rebellion on the kingdom's periphery. However, in 751, Pepin finally displaced the last Merovingian and, with the support of the nobility and the blessing of Pope Zachary, became one of the Frankish Kings. The deposed Merovingian was sent into a monastery, bereft of his symbolic long hair. With Pepin, the Carolingians ruled the Franks as Kings.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2009, 02:26:54 am »

The Merovingian king was the master of the booty of war, both movable and in lands and their folk, and he was in charge of the redistribution of conquered wealth among his followers, though these powers were not absolute. "When he died his property was divided equally among his heirs as though it were private property: the kingdom was a form of patrimony" (Rouche 1987 p 420). Some scholars have attributed this to the Merovingians lacking a sense of res publica, but other historians have criticized this view as an oversimplification.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2009, 02:27:40 am »



Merovingian Kingdoms
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2009, 02:27:53 am »

The kings appointed magnates to be comites (counts), charging them with defense, administration, and the judgement of disputes. This happened against the backdrop of a newly isolated Europe without its Roman systems of taxation and bureaucracy, the Franks having taken over administration as they gradually penetrated into the thoroughly Romanised west and south of Gaul. The counts had to provide armies, enlisting their milites and endowing them with land in return. These armies were subject to the king's call for military support. There were annual national assemblies of the nobles of the realm and their armed retainers which decided major policies of warmaking. The army also acclaimed new kings by raising them on its shields in a continuance of ancient practice which made the king the leader of the warrior-band. Furthermore, the king was expected to support himself with the products of his private domain (royal demesne), which was called the fisc. This system developed in time into feudalism, and expectations of royal self-sufficiency lasted until the Hundred Years' War. Trade declined with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and agricultural estates were mostly self-sufficient. The remaining international trade was dominated by Middle Eastern merchants, often Jewish Radanites.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2009, 02:28:02 am »

Merovingian law was not universal law equally applicable to all; it was applied to each man according to his origin: Ripuarian Franks were subject to their own Lex Ripuaria, codified at a late date (Beyerle and Buchner 1954), while the so-called Lex Salica (Salic Law) of the Salian clans, first tentatively codified in 511 (Rouche 1987 p 423) was invoked under medieval exigencies as late as the Valois era. In this the Franks lagged behind the Burgundians and the Visigoths, that they had no universal Roman-based law. In Merovingian times, law remained in the rote memorisation of rachimburgs, who memorised all the precedents on which it was based, for Merovingian law did not admit of the concept of creating new law, only of maintaining tradition. Nor did its Germanic traditions offer any code of civil law required of urbanised society, such as Justinian caused to be assembled and promulgated in the Byzantine Empire. The few surviving Merovingian edicts are almost entirely concerned with settling divisions of estates among heirs.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2009, 02:28:34 am »

Religion and culture

Merovingian culture was so thoroughly imbued with religion that Yitzhak Hen found that a presentation of Merovingian popular culture was essentially synonymous with Merovingian religion, which he presented through written texts.[4] Merovingian culture certainly witnessed an extensive proliferation of saints.

Christianity was brought to the Franks by monks. The most famous of these missionaries is St. Columbanus, an Irish monk who enjoyed great influence with Queen Balthild. Merovingian kings and queens used the newly forming ecclesiastical power structure to their advantage. Monasteries and episcopal seats were shrewdly awarded to elites who supported the dynasty. Extensive parcels of land were donated to monasteries to exempt those lands from royal taxation and to preserve them within the family. The family would maintain its dominance over the monastery by appointing family members as abbots. Extra sons and daughters who could not be married off were sent to monasteries so that they would not threaten the inheritance of older children. This pragmatic use of monasteries ensured close ties between elites and monastic properties.
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