Charles the Bald and the small free farmers, 862-869

charles-the-baldCharles the Bald and the small free farmers, 862-869

Carroll Gillmor

Military aspects of Scandinavian society in a European perspective, AD 1-1300, May (1996)

In response to the Viking invasions, Charles the Bald in 862 ordered the construction of a fortified bridge on the Seine at Pont de l’Arche. To build this bridge, labor was recruited from the lowest echelon of the Carolingian military hierarchy, from free farmers too poor to perform military service in the expeditionary army. This in effect inverted the traditional hierarchy, placing the small free farmers at the forefront of defending the kingdom, The organization of labor for this project affords an opportunity to explore the complexities of his administrative effort and demonstrate how defense measures reaffirmed the traditional military hierarchy, yet departed significantly from it.

The texts that appear in the Edict of Pitres and the Annales Bertiniani, 862-869 on the mobilization of the work force and garrison duty appear to represent contrasting perceptions as to how these tasks were performed. But a comparison of texts from two distinct types of sources, legal and narrative, suggests that seemingly differing regulations for mobilizing workers and garrisons actually fit into a chronological sequence with fundamental reforms carried out in order to expedite the performance of obligations. Several entries in the Annales Bertiniani diverge from the thrust of the Edict of Pitres, namely those relating to the transferral of workers for bridge construction in 865, the kings order to build a castellum in 868, and his survey of estates in 869. But there would appear to be a simple explanation for this deviation. As specific measures relating to bridge construction at Pont de l’Arche, these orders are all dated after 864 and were intended to extend and refine the Edict of Pitres. Hincmar of Rheims, author of the Annales Bertiniani after 861, also participated in drafting the Edict of Pitres,1 so that he was perfectly situated to observe progress on the bridge. In any case, no other sources exist which could be used as controls to evaluate the content of the Edict and the Annals, so that we are dependent upon his perceptions of these events.


The Edict of Pitres reaffirmed traditional regulations for mobilizing the grades of combatants within the traditional military hierarchy with horsemen at the top, ch. 26 “Everyman wealthy enough to own a horse is to join the army with his mount.”2  Ch. 27 of the Edict reiterated the traditional procedure for mobilizing the remaining ranks of those eligible for military service: “All other free men who could afford to go on campaign by their own means,” reaching to the small property holders, who because they could not meet the property qualification individually to report for military service, combined their assets in groups of varying numbers to equip one of their members.3

The Edict in ch. 27 affirmed the free status of the small farmers (pauperes), and defined two categories of them: specifically, those who pooled their resources to equip another for the arms from those who had insufficient wealth to unite their assets and whose lack of equipment presented them from participating in campaigns.4 These small free farmers were nevertheless dependents, first mobilized from all lands of the kingdom in 862 to build the bridge at Pont de l’Arche,5 but most likely originating from adjacent fiscal lands 6 or nearby ecclesiastical estates, particularly those from holdings of St. Germain-des-Pres whose extensive properties reached to an area close to Pont de l’Arche; they therefore provided the closest source of a large labor supply for fluvial defense on the Seine.7 Territorial proximity may explain the availability of workers, but we must also consider whether the ecclesiastical estates contributed most of the labor.

The king’s survey of estates in 869 further identified the small free farmers as dependents of the ecclesiastical estates, as part of his measures to refine and further develop the procedure to ensure a supply of reliable workers for the project. To obtain the necessary data on which to base military reforms, the king ordered a survey of all lands within his kingdom to determine assessments for raising a work force, expressly for the military purpose of fortified bridge construction at Pont de 1’Arche. Hincmar reported: “[Charles the Bald] sent his letters throughout the realm ordering that bishops, abbots, and abbesses should take care to bring written lists concerning their honors, and how many mansi each has, and moreover that royal vassals should list in writing the benefices of the counts and counts the fiscs of the vassals, and they should deliver the written lists of the households at the aforesaid placitum”8

The account groups will have been in place by 868, when Charles ordered the construction of a castellum at Pont de l’Arche. Measuring the planned dimensions of the castellum, the king assigned sections 9 of the proposed castellum to individual magnates who were to be responsible for its construction.10 Although the survey of 869 relied on the account groups of 868, the administrative machinery of Charles’ reign for the ecclesiastical estates is attested well before that; in the 853 Capitulary of Soissons Charles ordered a survey of church lands.11 Inventories of estates of secular magnates swill have occurred under Louis the Pious in 828-829 in order to obtain reliable lists for mobilizing the army.12

A comparison of the terminology denoting the assessment units within the 869 text of the Annales Bertiniani suggests that the job of constructing the bridgeheads belonged to the ecclesiastical magnates 13 who were required to supply lists of their mantes, while the vassalli dominici were to have breves or lists of their aedes(households) established on the beneficia held by the counts. The text employs the term manse to denote households of ecclesiastical estates, while the term aedes refers to the households of secular estates.14 Specifying that the labor was to be mobilized from the manses, one worker for every too manses, suggests that the work was to be requisitioned from the ecclesiastical estates.

If the burden of mobilizing workers for bridge building fell only on the ecclesiastical lords, the 869 text leaves no stated purpose for the written reports about the military obligation of the benefices held by the counts and the vassals. With their position at the top of the military hierarchy, the counts and vassals presumably would continue their traditional obligation of serving on horseback as reaffirmed in the Edict of Pitres.

In requiring lists of holdings from both the ecclesiastical and secular estates, the survey of 869 was intended to estimate the number of potentially available forces. The lists of benefices from the secular estates ensured that the administrative machinery would be in place for the continued mobilization of the field army during the construction period,15 even with the king’s priority of building the fortified bridge and his concomitant reliance on the lowest echelon of the military hierarchy.

If we say in 869 that both the secular and the ecclesiastical magnates were to make available ox-carts and laborers for bridge construction, then the secular magnates would have incurred a military obligation in addition to service in the field, specifically, the provision of men and materiel for building the fortified bridge. A question exists as to whether the secular magnates would have considered this arrangement an equitable distribution of the military service obligation. As to the labor contribution of the secular magnates, it is important to keep in mind the chronology of recent events. The need for workers began in 862, when Charles had just reached a reconciliation in 861 with Robert the Strong, leader of the magnate revolt that had lasted from 858-861.16  To begin exacting labor quotas from magnates so soon after the reconciliation of this protracted conflict would have risked the resumption of hostilities. The secular lords are unlikely to have allowed their peasantry to work on the fortified bridge, and an entry in the Annales Beruniani for 865 affirms that the local levies in the Seine basin had not been repairing the brides for fear of the Northmen.17

As dependents of nearby ecclesiastical estates, these small free farmers were required to perform specific tasks. Rather than giving a formulaic repetition of long-standing regulations,18 the Edict diverged from earlier capitularies in stipulating “that those who are unable to serve the army, according to ancient [custom] and the custom of other peoples work on new urban walls 19 and brides and swamp crossings and perform guard service in the marches.”20

Whether the Franks or the Anglo-Saxons originally combined these obligations depends on the translation of this passage. If we emend the text with the insertion of ‘Francorum’ to read “iuxta [Francorum] antiquam et aliarum gentium consuetudinem,” that is, “according to ancient custom of the Franks and the custom of those other peoples,” a precedent for the grouping of military obligations at the lowest rank would seem to exist in a 775 immunity charter for the episcopal see of Metz issued by Charlemagne which exempted free men from the three fold obligation of military service in the army, garrison duty, and building bridges.21  This reading of the passage would ascribe a dual origin for the grouping of these obligations, for the concept that the combination of these obligations was borrowed from the traditional obligation and custom of ‘other peoples’ surely points to the Anglo-Saxons.22  Reliable texts for the Anglo-Saxon trinoda necessitas first appear in 770, thus predating the Frankish immunity charter by five years.23  The objective here is less to contest whether the Franks or the Anglo-Saxons first grouped these obligations, than to determine how these obligations came to appear in the Edict of Pitres. For this purpose an alternative translation is necessary. Dropping the Franci from the text, the passage translates, “according to ancient custom and the custom of those other peoples.” In this rendering, the passage specifies that the custom is ancient, and elaborates even further to say that the custom derives from “those other peoples.” This translation would then diminish the importance of the 775 immunity charter as a source for the threefold obligations in the Edict of Pitrcs. A piece of evidence chronologically closer to the 864 Edict exists in the ‘De ecclesiis et capellis’. Written just a few years earlier, in 858 or 859, this treatise by Hincmar of Rheims had compared the Frankish with the Anglo-Saxon military obligations,24 so that the connection between rite threefold obligations of the Edict and the Anglo-Saxons should be sought through him.

While the Anglo-Saxon trinoda necessitas was comprised of fyrd service, bridge building, and garrison duty, the Edict borrowed the principle of grouping these military responsibilities with the difference of separating service in the field from building urban walls, bridges and swamp crossings and doing garrison duty – tasks better suited to the small farmers of the free manses.25

Earlier capitularies contain no references to the performance of these duties by the poor free farmers. Some idea of their military obligation before the Edict can be derived from a comparison with a capitulary which provided a detailed description of the lower echelons of the military hierarchy in West Francia during Charlemagne’s reign. In the 807 ‘Memoratorium de Exercitu in Gallia occidentali praeparando’, the possession of three manses or less served as the dividing line separating the free farmers who could serve by themselves from the small free farmers who were forced to unite their assets to send another for military service; those obliged to serve, combining their resources to equip one of their number included the holders of only one manse and projected the property qualification down to the holders of a half manse of whom five should equip a sixth.26  By contrast, the Edict of Pitres restricted the process of combining assets to a maximum of four men who could assist a fifth to serve in the army.27  Although the Edict did not match a property qualification to the small free farmers who served in person or to the groups who united their assets, the four man combination to assist a fifth of the Edict suggests that service in the expeditionary army extended only down to the holders of one manse. For those at the bottom of the military hierarchy, the ‘Capitulare missorum de exercito promovendo’ of 808 provided for a category of unspecified alternative service,28 in comparison with the Edict of Pities which prescribed the threefold duties for the less prosperous small free farmers.

New in the Edict of Pitres appeared a sepa–ration between those obliged to perform the alternative service of the threefold duties from those who had to pay a special army tax. The heribannus, a fine exacted from those who failed to perform duty in the host, also included the meanings of evasion of military service, neglect, desertion, and refusal to appear.29  Originally a fine only a rich man could afford,30 heribannus in Ch. 27 of the Edict cited the 805 Capitulary of Thionville which introduced graded penal–ties, but with an important distinction: “those, who are unable to serve in the army, … work on [the threefold duties]: for the defense of the realm let all come without any excuse. And those of this group who evade the army, let them pay the heribannus, …”31

The Edict distinguished the idea of exemption from that of evasion and clearly separated those who were unable to serve as opposed to those who would not serve. That the Edict made this distinction is indicated by the parallel construction: “ut illi, qui in hostem non potuerint” as distinct from “qui de talibus hostem dimiserint.” Those who were unable to serve, defined as lacking sufficient wealth to equip themselves or combine assets to send another, had the threefold obligation; they were exempt from regular military service in the host and were required to perform these obligations instead. By, contrast, those who fail to serve (dimiserint) fell into the category of neglect, evasion, and desertion; they were the ones who had to pay the fine.

The lowest class of small tree farmers had the threefold obligation because they cannot afford to serve in the host, or regular army. In the 864 Edict these small free farmers were not liable for the heribannus; ch. 27 states that heribannus was due only from those required to serve but failed to serve in the expeditionary army. Heribannus was directed at those small farmers who combined their assets to send one of their own for military service; the chosen man could then buy his way out of the obligation. This option would be advantageous especially if the same man were chosen each time; payment of the fine provided a mechanism for hinl to retain his farm.32

The passage divided the small farmers into two groups: those exempt from military service to perform the three obligations and those paving the heribannus instead of service in the expeditionary army. The work was performed by those without enough wealth to pay the heribannus, so that c.27 clearly reaffirms the existence of a group of small farmers even poorer than those who paid the heribannus. With the imposition of the threefold duties, the 864 Edict of Pitres therefore modified the obligation of this lowest gradc in the military hierarchy so that they would not have to continue uniting their assets to serve in the expeditionary army.

The polyptyques, inventories of landed estates, also support the existence of a category of small free farmers below the lowest group of heribanni: this group, identified in ch. 27 of the Edict, should be connected with thepolyptyques.33 In the polyptyques this lowest echelon of small free farmers was distinguished by the obligation to pay the hostilitium, a lesser army tax collected by the ecclesiastical estates.34 Hostilitium, whether construed as a public or a private obligation,35 offers all opportunity to explore military financing further.

The main problem with using the polyptychs as evidence for most of the period of fortified bridge construction, 862-869, is that all but one dates from the pre-construction period, that is before 862, the polyptych of St. Bertin compiled under the abbacy of Adalard (844-59, 861-864).36  With 864 as the last possible date for a polyptych in Charles the Bald’s reign, it is difficult to determine whether hostilitium continued after the Edict of Pitres or was supplanted by the threefold obligations. If the hostilitium operated as a mechanism to deplete the numerical strength of potentially available workers, the practice would have to be confined to the years 862-864 from the beginning of construction to the Edict; indeed, payment of the hostilitium may have contributed to the absence of labor on the bridge in 863, and provides one piece of evidence that Charles the Bald experienced difficulties in mobilizing labor to work on the project, 862-864.37 Provided we accept the polyptyques, the least prosperous of the small free farmers have to pay the hostilitium, but only to 864.

After 864 the question arises as to whether the small farmers continue to pay both the hostilitium and work the threefold obligations, or do the threefold obligations replace the hostilitium? Two post 864 scenarios will draw out the implications of these alternatives.

In the first scenario the threefold duties are replacing the hostilitium. That Charles introduced something new in the Edict, specifically his borrowing of the Anglo-Saxon practice possibly undercuts the value of the polyptychs as evidence for the construction period.  Instead. the king took all of these free farmers at the bottom of the military hierarchy who did not have the means to serve in the expeditionary army and put them to work on the threefold duties. This does nor means that the evidence in tic polyptyques is not valuable in other ways.  Especially, the polyptychs show that the lowest category of small farmers was already accustomed to performing cartage, a traditional labor service obligation.38  Possibly, the small free farmers of the polyptyques who formerly supplied oxen and carts for the army’s supply train now had to supply the same for bridge construction, but only one text, a passage in the polyptyque of St. Matte des Fosses dated c. 850, explicitly connected the obligation of providing oxen and carts with service in the army supply train.39  The Edict of Pitres ch. 29 nonetheless cites the polyptyques to support the king’s order that the small farmers would have to continue to cart marl.40  The 864 reform possibly had an effect on the military obligation of solve ecclesiastical estates as contained in the polyptychs. The reform strongly suggests that the bridge building obligation included cartage and was intended to replace the peasant exemptions from military duties on the ecclesiastical honores.41

In the second scenario, the threefold duties were imposed in addition to hostilitium. If the lowest grade of small farmers continue to pay the hostilitium with the added imposition of performing the threefold duties, then we can connect c. 27 of the Edict with the polyptyques: the small farmers of the Edict, exempt from military service in the expeditionary army and those of the polyptyques who have to pay the hostilitium. An addition of the threefold duties to the hostilitium would form important background to the resistance Charles the Bald encountered when he ordered the transferral of workers upstream for bridge repair in 865, and contributed to the King’s reliance on an alternative source of labor in 869. A fundamental change in the labor force in 869, at the end of the construction period, as will be argued, would make reliance on the content of the polyptyques from Charles’s reign extremely risky. An additional tax burden, the tribute of 866, imposed payment of the heribannus on all free Franks,42 so that after 866 the least prosperous of the small free farmers may have been liable for not only the threefold duties and the hostilitium but also the heribannus.

The lowest ranking free farmers, as we have seen, provided the primary source of labor for bridge construction before 869. The category above them, the lowest grade in the expeditionary army, could pay the heribannus after 864, so that this group of small farmers cannot have been an integral part of the defense against the Vikings after the Edict of Pitres.43  The labor supply then would have been dependent on the smallest free farmers who had incurred the imposition of the threefold duties in the 864 Edict of Pitres. This labor requirement of the small free farmers also would have fit in with the traditional bridge building and repair obligation derived ultimately from the Codex Theodosianus.44  –The adoption of the three duties in 864 would serve to enhance the traditional bridge repair obligation.

Here, the 865 passage of Annales Bertiniani on the transfer of workers and ox-carts provides a capital text on the organization of labor for fluvial defense on the Seine. Acting on the counsel of his fideles, the king abandoned Pont de l’Arche to the Northmen and transferred fluvial defense upstream, to Auvers on the Oise and Charenton at the confluence of the Seine and the Marne. An alternative to the defense structures at Pont de l’Arche, the immediate strategic objective of this transferral was the protection of the Paris district.45

On the advice of his retainers, he ordered the bridges over the Oise and the Marne at the places called Auvers and Charenton, which because of the Vikings’ invasion could not be repaired by the inhabitants who had formerly built them, should therefore, because of the current crisis, be rebuilt by those who had been sent on labor service from distant regions to complete the fortifications on the Seine, on condition that those who now rebuilt those bridges should never again in future times be liable to loss by performing labor service on this task.46

What dearly emerges from this passage is the notion that bridge repair was the obligation of the local inhabitants who are now being transferred from their locale to do work upstream.

As with the bridge on the Marne in 862, the repair job did not include the building of fortifications, but simply the repair of existing structures.47   Moreover, the hasty transfer of the workers 48 with the royal promise of a single venture clearly indicates that the bridge repairs at Auvers and Charenton were no more than an emergency expedient. The most significant aspect of this transferred labor force was that the bridges were to be rebuilt on the condition that in future times these workers would never be required to build these same bridges again. The workers resisted the transferral largely owing to the legal traditions embodied in earlier capitularies which assigned the task of bridge repair to inhabitants residing in the immediate vicinity.49

Two capitularies of Louis the Pious worked against the idea of transferring workers from one building site to another. These capitularies on the maintenance of roads and bridges emphasized the upkeep of the present structures, requiring the building of bridges on their existing sites. In an 821 capitulary Louis commanded themissi dominici to order the inhabitants to rebuild twelve bridges on the Seine. Moreover, the missi also received exceptional instructions to disregard local pressure for the reconstruction of old bridges, insisting that the building would now be done at places which had proven more functional than former locations.50  The local inhabitants who actually had to do the building doubtless preferred to modernize an existing structure rather than to start from scratch, and they had legal precedent on their side.51  An abrogation of this order appeared in a later capitulary of 823-25, stipulating that bridges be built on their traditional sites.52

In view of these precedents against the transferral of workers and bridge building as the job of the local inhabitants, the king in 865 appeared to be fully cognizant of the workers’ legal position in that he made an agreement with them for a single venture, underscoring the stipulation that they would never be asked to repair those same bridges again. The reluctance of the peasants in the area of Pont de l’Arche to leave their agricultural lands unprotected from Viking raids explains why the king made special arrangements superseding the older capitularies on bridge repair.

The problem of effectively mobilizing men and materiel largely explains why the 869 reforms took the direction they did. But the precise nature of these changes needs to be analyzed in relation to the features of the old military obligations of the work force. In comparing the royal order of 869 with the Edict of Pitres, the greatest difference emerges with the mobilization of small farmers who could serve independently and those who united their manses. The earlier practice of the Edict required that at the time of mobilization the magnates would name from compiled lists 53  those who had to participate in expeditions, as distinct from those who combined their assets, and, finally, determined the members of the poorest class of small free farmers – those who actually performed the manual labor on the fortifications.

This traditional arrangement lasted until 869, when Charles the Bald stipulated in writing the obligations in manpower and equipment which were to be brought to Pont de l’Arche. The purpose of the registers drawn up by the magnates, especially those for the smaller property holders, was to provide a more accurate estimate of the forces which were available. In fulfilling the manpower requirement, “[Charles the Bald] commanded that one young worker from each hundred mansi and one cart with two oxen from each thousand mansi be sent to the aforesaid general assembly at Pitres together with other tribute.”54

The king’s order improved significantly on the old system. The measure was intended to facilitate mobilization by placing the logistical requirements equally on specified numbers of manses.

The scholarly literature on the manse has been polarized between the meanings of a peasant holding and a fiscal assessment unit.55   Carrying both meanings, the manse in the 869 passage is clearly functioning as a fiscal assessment unit in that every 100 manses should contribute a farm worker for bridge building. By expressing military service in terms of a definite number of fiscal assessment units, the 869 reform clearly was directed at the removal of the irregular combinations of manses 56 which must have contributed to the previously inaccurate numerical estimates of manpower. In so doing, Charles the Bald shifted the obligation upwards in the military hierarchy from the impoverished farmers who had performed the threefold duties since 864 to the lowest echelon of the expeditionary army, those who combined manses to send one man – with the difference that the king now removes the variable groupings of manses. Reflecting earlier military regulations, the Edict ordered a representative from each numerically variable group of manses to perform military service. With the 869 reform, military service was regularized for the smaller property holders. Instead of the variable number of manses which previously contributed a representative, now each 100 manses had to provide a young worker who drove to the site with other free men in a cart containing building materials.

More can be gleaned from this passage in the Annals once we identify these farm workers, the haistaldi. A more precise idea of who the haistaldi were does not appear until later in the ninth century with the Polyptyque of Prum in 893. In this polpy a haistaldus was a dependent who lived within the limits of the domaine, without being invested with hereditary tenure, and who enjoyed the rights of usage recognized by the totality of the peasant community. The haistaldi engaged in a broad spectrum of activities. Certain haistaldi could be simple laborers, working on lands of the ecclesiastical magnates or employed by well-off farmers on those estates; others could exploit lands situated outside of the domain; still others could be immigrants having come to seek the protection of ecclesiastical magnates. The haistaldi of Prum also could be serfs awaiting to be loaned a mansus.57

It would be methodologically unsound to read this data back twenty-four years if it did not mesh with what we already know from contemporary texts. The polyptyque of Prim describes the haistaldi of the late 9th century, but the connection with the fortified bridge workers of the 860s can be reinforced further. A long term resident of East Francia since 845, the year of his appointment as Archbishop of Rheims, Hincmar inserted into his account of the Annales Bertiniani this Germanic term native to East Francia, the area around Rheims and Prum, to describe these small farmers without hereditary tenure in the Seine basin.

Acceptance of the haistaldi as farm workers without hereditary tenure greatly enhances our understanding of the manse in the 869 text, extending its meaning as a fiscal assessment unit to include a landed component. If haistaldi work as landless laborers on manses of the ecclesiastical estates, the meaning of the manse is then connected to the agrarian landscape, making the manse equivalent to a land holding. In view of this connection between the haistaldi and the land, we can say that the 869 text conveys both meanings of the term manse, a fiscal assessment unit having a landed equivalent.

Several advantages would have accrued to Charles in choosing the haistaldi as workers on the fortified bridge. Lacking hereditary tenure on the ecclesiastical estates, the haistaldi did not have a farm to maintain, and, provided the hos–tilitium continued after 864, they had no incen–tive to buy their way out of military service. As agricultural workers without land, the haistaldi helped to make possible the elimination in 869 of the category of small farmers who combined their assets to equip a single farmer for military service. Indeed, Charles the Bald’s choice of these landless farm workers added another rank to the bottom of the traditional military hierar–chy. Moreover, the mobility of haistaldi, the fact that they could work anywhere, must have had an appeal to Charles, especially given his difficulties in mobilizing the workers in the years 862-865, and especially, the incident of 865, when small farmers claimed the legal right not to be transferred upstream for bridge repair.58

A further indication of who the haistaldi were can be derived from what they did. The text of the Annales “ipsi haistaldi castellum… excolerent et custodirent,”59suggests that the haistaldi were sent as military colonists to garrison the area of font de l’Arche. In order to be effective, the garrison of a fortified bridge would have to be a permanent standing force.60  If the haistaldi were indeed military colonists, we can say that the king devised a way to keep the garrisons in place.

The appearance of haistaldi as military “colonists” suggests that the land around Pont de l’Arche had been completely devastated and depopulated by the Northmen, as implied by ch.31 of the Edict of Pitres which refers to displaced individuals wandering in the countryside.61  In 865 the reluctance of the peasants Pont de l’Arche to leave their farms for fear of the Northmen to repair bridges upstream nevertheless indicates that peasants continued to reside in the area of Pont de l’Arche and endured the worst of the Norse raids before 865. Their continued presence in the area in 869 would be a reasonable assumption, as only one raid on the Seine occurred in the years 866-68; in 866 the Northmen reached Melun, and Charles negotiated the tribute shortly thereafter.62

The peasants still residing near Pont de l’Arche presumably were still obliged to perform the traditional bridge building and repair duties. An explanation for Charles’ reliance on the haistaldi in 869 may well be connected with the transferal of the workers in 865. As a result of the difficulties the king experienced in attempting to mobilize these small free farmers for bridge repair upstream, Charles borrowed haisraldi one for every 100 manses, from the ecclesiastical estates, the nearest being those of St. Germain-des-Pres, to guard and maintain the structure at Pont de l’Arche. The verb ‘custodirent’ implies that the haistaldi were to function as a garrison, but this reading may be overstayed in comparison with what they actually did. To avoid placing weapons at the disposal of the haisraldi, the kind likely would have limited their military defense to inserting obstacles such as baulks into the water at the approach of the Northmen,63 hopefully awaiting the arrival of the kings forces.

Charles the Bald’s military reforms have as their main purpose finding ways around the inadequate mechanisms for mobilizing labor. In making the small free farmers the backbone of his new fortified bridge policy, the Edict of Pitres is the turning point in Charles the Bald’s defense against the Northmen. The new defense plan was to depend for its efficacy upon the lowest ranking personnel of the old military organization until 869, when he streamlined the entire structure for mobilizing the labor, finally relying on landless farm workers of the ecclesiastical estates.


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1. Nelson 1986a:97-98, and 19866:121 n. 16.

2. Capitularia Karolinorum: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Capitularia regum Francorum, ii, 321, c. 25. Noticeably absent from the Edict of Pitres are the distinctions between heavily and lightly armed horsemen of the earlier capitularies as exemplified especially in Charlemagne’s letter to Abbot Fulrad. See MGH, Capit i, p. 168 no. 75. Also Ganshof 1952: 531-36.

3. MGH, Capit. ii, 321, c. 27: comites vel missi noscri diligenter inquirant, quanti homines liberi in comitacibus maneant, qui per se possunt expeditionem facere, vel quanti de his, quibus unus alium adiuvet, … de his, qui a quatuor quincus adiuvetur et adiuvetur et praeparetur. ut expeditionem exercitalem facere possint, … citing as precedent the Capitula ab episcopis in placito rractanda of 829 in MGH, Capir., ii, 7, c. 7.

4. MGH, Capit. ii, 3 2 I, c. 27. The Edict did  not specify as precise designation for these  small free fanners. Three arguments advanced by Coupland 1987:88ff. indicate that these small free farmers were pauperes: the Annales  Bertiniani, ed. 1964:126 on the tribute of 866  which distinguished between free Franks who  paid the heribannum and the farmers who worked the mansi ingenuiles: the Italian capitulary of 866 in MGH, Capit. ii, 94, c. I, which differentiated the pauperes torn those who possessed enough wealth independently  or by combining assets; the payment of the  hostilitium (see n. 33f below). These small free fanners should not be considered free coloni, hereditary and independent proprietors of the lands they exploited. In Ch. 30 of 11  the Edict of Pitres, coloni requested the right  to sell their parcels of land. Although the  Edict did not specify why the coloni wanted  to sell their land, Durliat,1984:197 & n. 4, citing Guerard 1844: vol. 2, p. 51, explained that  coloni alienated their lands in order to escape  military service in person to become simple  tenants of the ecclesiastical estates, paying  only the hostilitium. In view of the king’s  new project to build the fortified bridge at  Pont de l’Arche, the imposition of this additional burden may have inspired the coloni to  think that they could escape bridge building  by selling their lands, but they may not have  been aware of the agenda which eventually  went into the Edict included the conscription  for bridge building.

5. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 862.

6. Against Dannenbauer 1954, vol. 1:49-64 who argued that the Konigsfreie were restricted to fiscal lands; Coupland 1987:87 concluded that none of Dannenbauer’s evidence applied to the period of fortified bridge construction. Also Martindale 1983:162, emphasized the importance of determining how much fiscal land Charles the Bald retained instead of the traditional scholarly emphasis on the fiscal lands alienated during his reign. In 865, see n. 45f below, peasants were negotiating directly with Charles and pat through the intermediary of some magnate, suggesting that the area around Pont de l’Arche was fiscal land. This idea is further supported by the construction of a royal hunting lodge there in 863. See MGH, Capit, ii, 327, c. 37; Coupland 1987:182; Cf. Lot, 1970:554 & n. 4.

7. On the extent of the holdings of and St. Germain, see de la Motte-Collar 1956:49-80.

8. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 869, 152-153: “Ec antequam ad Conadain pergeret, per omne regnum suum litteras misfit, ut episcopi, abbates ec abbacissae beeves de honoribus suis, quanta mansa quisque haberet, futuras I:alendas mai deferre curarent, vassalli autem dominici comitum beneficia et cornices vassallorum heneficia inbreviarent et praedicto placito hreves aedium inde deterrent …”. On early medieval inventories of estates, see Davis 1987: 15-39.

9. In attempting to prove that pedituras referred to the apportionment of the responsibility for defense «, the magnates, Coupland 1987:179, cited the examples of the siege of Toulouse in S49 and Baldwin II’s distribution of defense for the castellum around the monastery of St. Berlin. Both examples refer to the defense of finished structures instead of preparations for the construction of a new castellum as at font de l’Arche. The view that the king in 868 was assigning sections for construction rather than defense seems more plausible, since in 369, he arranged for haiscaldi (see n.57 below) to defend the castellum.

10. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 868. See Bachrach  1993:69-70.

11.Capitulate missorum Suessionense, MGH, Capic. ii, p. 267.

12. The Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 842, pp. 43-5 and the Annales Xantenses, s.a. 842, 13 mentioned that the sons of Louis the Pious planned a survey of manses in the entire kingdom, but the project according to Nithard 1926: iv, ch. 5, p. 136, was not carried out because of Lothairs opposition. Also Davis 1987:20.

13. Nelson 1986:82-83, also for the view that the church bore the main burden of defense.

14. The manse in this text operated as the fiscal assessment unit only for the ecclesiastical estates. Cf. Duelist 1990:192, that the manse was the standard assessment for the Carolinian Empire.

15. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 862, 865. Coupland 1987:86.

16. Most recently on the magnate revolt, see Smith 1992:100-106.

17. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 865.

18. Nelson 1983:209, for additional examples in the Edict of Pities of modifying or adding to older capitularies.

19. “Civitates” surely ought not to be translated as castles, as in Coupland 1987:91 & n. 81., for the term evokes the stone structures of a later period. Civitates most likely refer to the rebuilding of Roman urban walls, as distinct from castella, as in the Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 869, p. 166: “Karolus veto civitates traps Sequanam ab incolis firmari rogavit, Cynomannis scilicet ac Turonis, ut praesidio cont Nortmannos populis else possenr”. See Btuhl 1975:106. Later, the 877 Capitulary of Quiersy, MGH, Capit. ii, 361, c. 27, dearly distinguished a civitas from a castellum.

20. MGH, Capit. ii, p. 321: “ut illi, qui in hostem’ pergere non potuerint, iuxta antiquam et aliarum gentium consuetudinem ad civitates novas et pontes ac transitus paludium operentur et in civitate atque in marca waccas faciant.” For the military obligation of bridge building in Anglo-Saxon England, see Stevenson 1914:689-703; John 1958:117-29, and 1960:64-79; Hollister 1962:59-60; Brooks 1971:69-84; Wormald 1982:154.

21. In an immunity charter for the episcopal see of Metz, Charlemagne in 775, Monumenca Germanise Historica, Diplomats Karolinorum, no. 91, p. 132, enumerated the exempted military obligations in order of importance: “Illud addi placuit scribendum, ut de tribus causis – hoste publico, hoc est de banno nostro, quando publicitus promowetur, et watts vel pontos compenendum – illi homines bene ingcnui immunes else videnrur”. See Jaschke 1975 1975:79 & n. 515.

22. Nelson 1986b:121 n. 16 concluding that Charles the Bald imposition of a new obligation to build fortifications was “almost certainly influenced by West Saxon developments.”

23. Stevenson, Trinoda necessitas, 696 & n. 37.

24. Nelson 1986:117, citing the work by Hincmar of Rheims, MGH, Follies luris Germani Antiqui, 120. On the ample evidence for cross-Channel contacts at this time, see Stafford 1992:139-53.

25. Goetz 1989:514 & n. 30, the military tax (ad hostem) was limited to the free Tanners. Instances do exist of free and unfree peasants on the same manse; only in Boissy-Maugis was the tax exacted from non-free farmers.

26. MGH, Capit. i, 134-5, c. 2. Cf Coupland  1987:86. Muller-Mertens 1963:81.

27. MGH, Capit. ii, 321, c. 2. Coupland 1987:86.

28. Capitulate missorum de exercitu promovendo in MGH, Capic. i, 137, c. 1. Moller-Mertens 1963:128. In the capitulary of Thionville, the notion of unspecified alternative service could also apply to evasion, specifically, for those who were unable to pay the heribannus in MGH, Capit. i, no. 44, c. 19, citing the capitulary collection of Ansegisus, III, c. 14, which is also cited as the precedent for ch. 27 of the Edict of Pities. The capitularies of Boulogne (811) MGH, Capit. i, 166, c. 1 and Meersen (847) ii, 71, c. (5), prescribed servitium regis for military service evaders who were unable to pay the heribannus.

29. Niermeyer 1976:481.

30. MGH, Capit. i, 205, c. z: Capitulate Italicum  of 801; i, 207, c. 13: Capic. missorum italicum,  a. 781-810.  MGH, Capit, ii, 321, c. 27: ut illi, qui in hostem pergere non potuerint, … ad defensionem patriae onmes sine ulla excusatione veniant. Et qui de talibus hostem dimiserint, heribannum iuxta discretionem, quae in progenitorum nostrorum tertio libro capitulorum, capitulo XIV, persolvant, citing 805 Capitulate in Theodonis villa, Ansegisus III,14 which introduced graded penalties. See Coupland, 1987:89.

32. A serious drawback existed among these farmers who combined their assets; the same man sent each time would not be able to maintain his farm and eventually would lose it (MGH, Capit. i, 165, c.3), unless the designated man could pay the heribannus and buy his way out of military service in order to keep his farm. Muller-Mertens 1963:99-100, 105-106, 130; Devisse 1966:273-87; Hennebicque-Le Jan 1968:169-87: for the same fartner sent each time.

33. Coupland 1987:88ff.

34. Durliat 1989:492: made the point chat the hostilitium payment was a small amount and suggested without further specification that there might exist another larger public obligation, an observation clearly pointing to the heribannus.

35. An avid proponent for the continuity of the Roman past, Durliat 1984:196-9 views the polypryques as public documents ordered by the king. In favor of Durliat’s view, cite abbot in his capacity as a public official collects revenue from the ecclesiastical estates for the army. Devroey 1985:785-89, pointed out that the capitularies contain no references to the hostilitium and so argued that the ecclesiastical lords established the hostilitium to satisfy their military obligation.

36. Guerard 1844; Longnon 1886-95; Guerard 1853; Lutzow 1979:19-99; Lalore 1878:125-130: Lot 1924-1925:107-17, reprinted in Lot 1970:721-31; Ganshof 1975:57-200.

37. MGH, Capit. ii, 327-28. Lot 1970, The Edict of Pitres in 864 refers to the destruction of a hunting lodge (heribergum) which Charles had ordered the previous year, 863. In 864 the king was concerned primarily about the destruction of the heribergum by individuals who, crossing back and forth continuously on the bridge, probably used the facility as a temporary lodging place and refuge from the Northmen.

38. For a classification of these obligations, see Goetz 1989:504-22.

39. C: G: Guerard 1844, vol 2:284, as cited in  Coupland 1987:89.

40. MGH. Capit. ii, no. 273, p. 323, c. 29. See Goffart 1989:205; Nelson 1983:99; Durliat 1990:208; 1989:472.

41. Durliat 1984:197.

42. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 866; Coupland 1987:149f.

43. Coupland 1987:90, where he argues that small farmers could pay either the heribannus or the hostilitium, depending on their wealth.

44. Mommsen 1905:11,10,2.

45. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 865, 122; Vercauteren  1935-36:124.

46. Annales &rtiniani, s.a. 865, 123: fidelium suorum consilio pontes super Isaram et Matronam in locis quae dicuntur Alvemis et Carencom, quoniam ab incolis qui ex antiquo ipsos pontes feceranc propcer infestationem Nortmannotnm refici non valebant, ab eis ergo qui ac longinquioribus partibus ad operandum depurati erant ut perecerenr fir–mitates in Sequana ea conditione retici iubet propter imminencem necessitatem ipsos pontes, ne umquam per ventura tempora inde qui rune eosdem pontes reficerint in operan–do ad hoc opus dispendium paciantur,

47. Contrary to the view of Vercauceren 1935:124 and d’Haenens 1970:64.

48. The workers for these projects originally had been commissioned for the project at Pont de l’Arche which the Northmen occupied in 865. The failure of inhabitants to maintain the bridges required an extensive logistical effort to transfer men and materiel upstream to complete the building. There are two ways of explaining how the workers and ox-carts were moved from Pont de l’Arche to Auvers 58. and C:harenton. For example, in 841 Charles had transported an army across the Seine in ninety-eight merchant ships which he requisi–tioned at Rouen. Nithard, ii.6.56, but in 865 the operation involved the moving of carts and oxen, so that the workers and ox-carts more conveniently could have used the Roman road on the right bank of the Seine, which ran from Lillebonne. Rouen, and Mantes to Paris. For Roman roads in Gaul, set Spruner-Mencke 1880:Gallia; Hammond 1981. The fluvial distances from Pont de l’Arche to Auvers and Charemon can he found in Guide officiel…1921 provides a description of navigational conditions and a table of distances between cities and towns. From Pont de l’Arche the overland distance was 120 km to Augers as compared with 137 km by river; 160 km to Charenton was considerably shorter than the fluvial distance of 213 km If the workers rode in ox-carts with their cools, the oxen probable would have been pulling the maximum load of 1,000-2,000 lbs. (see Bachrach 1984:34), so that they would have covered about 6.2 km per day. To reach Auvers would have taken about 7.5 days; Charenton 10 days.

49. Tessier 1943-55; MGH, Capit., ii, no. 261, c.  4, 277; Boyer 1976:20-21.

50. MGH, Capit. i, no. 148, c. 11, 301; cf. Boyer  1976:19.

51. O’Connell 1993:132ff. that most Roman provincial bridges were timber structures, not the refined masonry of surviving examples.

52. MGH, Capit. i, no. 150, c. 22, 306-07; cf  Boyer 1976:19.

53. Without reliable conscription lists, this method of collecting troops from numerically variable groups ensured that no accurate number of men could be counted on for military service. Lists of those required to perform military service first appeared in the capitularies of Louis the Pious. See Capitula ab episcopis in placito tractanda, Dec 828 or early 829 in MGH, Capic ii, 7; Capitula missorum, dated early 829, ii, to; Capitulate pro lege habendum Wormatiense, August 829, ii, 19-20. The Edict of Pitres, MGH, Capic. ii, 321, c. 27, repeated these requests for lists.

54. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 869, 152-153: et de cen tum mansis tlntun haistaldum et de mille  mansis unum carrum cum duobus bobus praedicto placito cumaliis exeniis, quae reg num illius admodum gravant, ad Pistis mini praecepit, quatrnus ipsi haistaldi castellum quod ibidem ex ligno et lapide fieri praecepit,  excolerent et custodirent. Durliat 1984:183-208, 1989:467-504, 1990:192, interpreted the manse as a fiscal assessment unit rather than a parcel of arable land, as distinct from Devroey 1985 & 1989:441-465, who sees the manse as a parcels of land for agricultural exploitation.

56. Lyon 1968:63.

57. Niermeyer 1976:479: haistald. Kuchenbuch  1978:255-58; 1988:255-260; also. Deyroey 1986:CVII-CVIII.  58. Nor was this the first example of peasant resistance. The Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 859 con tains a passage which has generated much commentary on the AB-SAX net and is avail able from Prof. Richard Landes, Princeton University. A a mixed crowd in the area between the Seine and the Loire formed a self help organisation against the Vikings only to be attacked and killed by the magnates. The implicit prohibition of sworn associations, because of their potential for sedition drew from an 821 capitulary of Louis the Pious  (MGH, Capit., i. no. 148, c. 7) shows that the Roman legal tradition was still very much  alive. This event should be placed firmly in its social and political context. Occurring in 859 places the massacre during the magnate revolt, 858-861, the crisis point in Charles the Bald’s reign, and a breakdown of political and social infrastructures. Understandably, magnates would respond with full force against peasants and others who likely possessed a large assemblage of weapons which conceivably could be used in support of the king. Additional examples of peasant unrest followed the 859 incident. Peasant resistance again emerged in the 864 Edict of Pitres, where the peasants objected to the cartage of marl, a newly imposed burden. CE Nelson 1986a:99. Also, n. 4 above, where free coloni wanted to sell their parcels to avoid military service.

59. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 869,153.

60. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 891, 245, reported that in Picardy a fortified bridge without a garrison is virtually worthless.

61. The Edict of Pitres, C. 31 in MGH, Capit. ii, p. 32 – refers to recent peasant migration as a result of persecution of the Northmen. Cf. Nelson 1986a:99.

62. Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 866, 867, 868.

63. Coupland 1991; 1987:174.

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