Wars and Warriors in Gregory of Tours’ Histories I-IV

Wars and Warriors in Gregory of Tours’ Histories I-IV

By Phillip Wynn

Francia, Vol. 28 (2001)

In his book on Gregory of Tours’ Histories, Martin Heinzelmann showed how Gregory interpreted events and stylized his narrative according to a scheme of Biblically-based typological situations and persons. An appreciation of this figurative aspect can be extended in analyzing some of the work’s dynamics. The Histories’ characters are not static Biblical archetypes, but are enmeshed in a purposeful, driven narrative, a view best illuminated by Gregory’s thread on war, war’s actors, and the conceptual settings and dramatic framework of the wars depicted in the well-established unit of Books I-IV[1]. Here Gregory contrasts his contemporary kings with Clovis, who is portrayed as the founder of a divinely-legitimated dynasty and thereby the exemplar of Christian royalty to his successors. Gregory’s narratives on war not only have characters based on Biblical types but are driven as well by a generalized Biblical metaphor. The resulting interpretation allows a glimpse of the author’s ideology and worldview as much as any insight into fifth- or sixth-century Gallic history.

The preface to Book V

The best guide to Gregory’s intentions in the first four books is Book V’s preface, more epilogue than prologue. He adopts the stance of Deuteronomistic prophecy, which warns the kings of Israel against having “many wives, lest they seduce his heart, nor shall he possess an immensity of gold and silver.” The case fit well the polygamous Merovingians, whose store-rooms and treasure-houses were “overflowing with wine, wheat, and olive oil, and piled high with silver and gold”[2]. Their susceptibility to civil strife is condemned, and the author, like an Old Testament prophet, warns the kings that they risked defeat and destruction at the hands of enemy gentes[3]. Clearly the civil wars at the beginning of Gregory’s episcopacy stimulated his prophetic passion as he was writing the early books of the Histories, and any literary interpretation of the narrative thread on war therein must acknowledge their centrality.

In contrast, the Merovingians’ ancestors had subjected gentes in hard-fought wars. “Remember what Clovis, the source of your victories [capud victuriarum vestrarum], accomplished, he who slew enemy kings, wiped out criminal nations [noxias gentes], and subjugated their countries, the rule of which he left to you intact and uninjured”[4]. Gregory here summarized the dominant thread of the last section of Book II, as well as his motive for Clovis’s depiction there: Clovis’s wars and stratagems against enemy kings and peoples is to be contrasted with the civil wars of his Merovingian descendants[5].

The noxiae gentes

Who are these noxiae gentes, a prominent adversary among the dramatis personae of Books I-IV? Modern historical accounts would make them barbarian tribes, as in the classical usage[6]. But Gregory’s is patent Biblical typology, one example in a centuries-long tradition of a Christian, Biblically-based perception of reality regarding war and those it is legitimate to war against, which stretches through the Crusades to the sermons of Cotton Mather against the native Americans of New England, and beyond[7]. Gregory’s noxiae gentes are the goyyim of the Old Testament, foreign nations[8], foes of Israel and of God[9], sometimes allowed to survive as a whetstone to sharpen Israel’s war-making skills[10], otherwise deserving of being displaced and destroyed[11], but also the instrument of divine judgment[12], metaphorically translated into an interpretation and perception of Gallic history. So Gregory’s gentes are usually outsiders, “breaking into” or “rushing into” Gaul, violating the borders of the Christian Terra Sancta[13]. Likewise, already in Book I, the gentes are also identified with the pagan and heretical persecutors of the Church, foes of the New Israel and its God[14]. When Gregory promises to write of the wars of the Merovingians with gentes adversae, of the martyrs with the pagani, and of the Church with the heretici, there again the noxiae gentes are included[15]. The characterization of these gentes as pagans and heretics goes to their qualification as noxiae, which from Gregory’s usage elsewhere points to the meaning “criminal” or “guilty,” often in a legal (the classical definition) or religious setting[16]. The noxiae gentes are guilty by having injured the Church through invasion and/or persecution, thereby sanctioning by both Roman and Christian ideas a just war against them[17].

Gregory was constrained to justify Clovis’s wars against certain gentes, and this tendency to attribute invasion and persecution to the Merovingian’s adversaries helps explain some of the historical “errors” in Books I and II. In Book I, chapters 32 and 34, Gregory describes an invasion of Gaul led by Chroc, king of the Alamanni. The historical context suggests a third-century barbarian raid, but Chroc’s invasion is seen rather as another trial of the Gallic Christians during the heroic age of persecutions. Chroc’s capture and execution is described not as a Roman triumph over a barbarian enemy, but as a condign punishment for his offenses against God’s elect[18]. Now if Gregory were simply recounting third-century Gallo-Roman history, it is peculiar that he would single out this one raid. His historical interest here, as elsewhere, is with his own time. Gregory did not distinguish Chroc’s Alamanni from those Clovis fought two centuries later. The story aims to establish the Alamanni as persecutors and invaders: they are a noxia gens and Clovis’s later war against them, which would otherwise be an unjust war of aggression and conquest, is thereby justified[19]. Although in the later episode they are not made invaders of Gaul, attentive readers recognized the Alamanni as still guilty of persecution, and appreciated the appropriateness of Clovis’s turn to the Christian God to defeat God’s enemies.

Later in Book II, Gregory tries to convict the Burgundians as guilty of both heresy and persecution. But the only persecution which Gregory mentions, a plot to kill Bishop Aprunculus of Langres, is magnified by its literary association, the lowering at night from the city wall, with the escape of St. Paul from his Jewish persecutors in Damascus[20]. Burgundian royalty is said to be “ex genere Athanarici regis persecutoris”[21]. Gregory means that Athanaric and the Burgundian kings are related by nature, not blood[22]. He here uses guilt by association to besmirch the Burgundians with the stigma of persecutors, thus further convicting them as a noxia gens deserving chastisement.

Gregory’s Goths are the quintessential noxia gens. They first appear in the Histories as the agent of divine vengeance against a heretical persecutor, Emperor Valens[23]. When they are formally introduced, it is again as the agent of ultio divina, this time as heretical persecutors themselves under King Athanaric[24]. Gregory’s antipathy towards the Goths is doubtless related to his contemporary circumstance, in which their Spanish realm, ruled by heretical kings until 587, was the only real political peer to the Merovingian Franks in Western Europe. Gregory’s antipathy and Biblically-conditioned worldview combine with the dramatic and ethical necessities of his plot in Book II, in which Clovis’s invasion of their territory has to be justified, to produce a wavering image of the fifth-century Goths, an unsteady portrait only partially explained by the scantiness of his sources. This is seen in the account of Athanaric’s persecution, presented in a brief, concentrated scene, suspended in an unknown time and place. This vagueness is typical of Gregory’s noxiae gentes. Nowhere does he specify the home of the Alamanni. The Huns are said to have left Pannonia to invade Gaul, but for Gregory Pannonia was an indistinct, faraway land, the original home not only of the Huns, but also of the Franks and even of St. Martin himself[25]. Gregory terms the Avars of his own day “Huns.” He perhaps did not know, and certainly did not care, that the Attilanic Huns of the fifth century differed from the Avars of the sixth. Gregory was not just ignorant or confused. He surely knew where the Alamanni lived. Rather, this vagueness results from the narrowly focused dramatic and metaphorical reality of the noxiae gentes. They attain geographic and temporal clarity only after entering Gaul. Otherwise, like the gentes of the Old Testament, they are simply off-stage.

Even when Gregory locates the Goths and other peoples in Book II, his geography there too is often the product of literary artifice, contemporary concerns and metaphorical vision[26]. Gregory’s chronological and geographical “error” in having the Vandal king Trasamund ruling in Spain in the fifth century would seem to be, inter alia, a typological prefiguration of the heretical Goths of Spain in his own era[27]. In chapter 25 he writes that the late fifth-century Gothic king Euric had crossed the Spanish border (“excedens Hispanum limitem”) and inflicted a harsh persecution upon the Christians in Gaul[28]. Gregory writes as though the political situation is that of his own time a century later, when the Goths were mostly confined to Spain. Here again, Gregory had not forgotten, nor had he misread his source for the persecution, a letter of Sidonius Apollinaris[29]. The Goths had to be seen not only as persecutors but as invaders of Gaul.

Gregory’s use of a noxia gens as a dramatic character in a theological interpretation of history is best seen in his account of Attila’s invasion of Gaul, an event so distant in time as to allow molding its presentation into a prophetic narrative directed at his own period. The setting is the conception of Christian Gaul as a New Israel[30]. The plot is based on the generalized Biblical pattern of the invasion of a decadent Israel by chastising gentes, a prophetic response, and the appearance of a deliverer, which corresponds to the narrative pattern in the book of Judges, as well as other Old Testament associations[31]. The Hunnic invasion’s typological identity as a divine chastisement is reinforced by the Old Testament language used to describe the destruction of Metz, and by the Biblical reminiscence to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and its inhabitants’ malitia[32]. The Huns are a noxia gens, whose historicity is secondary to their role as the agent of divine judgment. Read as prophetic warning, the account is directed at Gregory’s contemporary Gallic society and especially its Frankish rulers, who similarly risk invasion by chastising gentes[33].

The noxiae gentes of the preface to Book V, therefore, are for Gregory foreign nations, pagan and heretical persecutors of the Church, invaders of Gaul, the metaphorical correspondent to the goyyim of the Old Testament, against whom orthodox Frankish kings may legitimately wage war. Gregory’s depiction of certain nations as criminally culpable and thus deserving of attack falls within a general conception of legitimate warfare found throughout the Histories, which in its lineaments conforms to the early Christian idea of a just war.

The just war in Gregory

Although wars do not dominate the Histories, enough are described to cause surprise at the relatively scant attention given to Gregory’s ideology of war in the scholarly literature, an unfortunate lacuna given the resulting insights into both ideological and institutional realities of late sixth-century Gaul[34]. One reason for this may be that Gregory’s views are rarely explicit, and have to be sifted out through literary analysis. Gregory, like Ambrose and Augustine before him, derived his idea of a just war from both Roman and Old Testament influences[35]. In the preface to Book V Gregory cites both Biblical and Roman examples in his diatribe against civil strife, which he, in agreement with both traditions, regarded as unjust war[36]. As in the Roman bellum justum, the prior guilt of an offender justified war, even if, as in the case of the Alamanni, their transgression had occurred two centuries earlier[37]. In both Roman and Christian traditions the defense of the patria against foreign invasion was considered a just war[38]. The noxiae gentes are therefore often portrayed as invaders of Gaul[39]. Although the Church was reconciled to the necessity of war, a longstanding tradition prohibited the clergy from taking part, causing Gregory to be scandalized at the participation of bishops Salonius and Sagittarius in battle[40]. Both the Roman and the Christian just war had peace as its goal, and only a war waged to obtain or restore peace could be considered just[41]. Likewise, Gregory considered the conclusion of peace agreements with defeated enemies as the proper end of a just war. Although the Alamanni are a noxia gens, at their request Clovis had made peace with them after their defeat[42]. Gregory also emphasized the inviolability of such a sworn peace agreement, a sacramentum. As shown by the Biblical reminiscences, the literary model was the agreement between Gibeon and the Israelites in Joshua, chapter 9: “And Joshua made peace with them, and after striking a peace treaty promised that they would not be killed, and the princes of the people also swore to them”[43]. By analogy with intra-Frankish treaties (notably the Treaty of Andelot) detailed in the Histories, such agreements included a solemn sanctio invoking the powers of the saints against would-be violators. The consequence for Gregory’s reportage has the side that respects the sanctity of agreements and is wronged by violation of them fight with divine help and win. Conversely, the side that perjures or spurns a peace agreement incurs divine wrath and loses[44].

Although Gregory’s attitude is shaped by an underlying Biblical metaphor, it would be mistaken to regard his conception of the just war as more literary than real. His accounts of the Frankish wars with the Thuringians and the Saxons in Books III and IV exhibit a considered reflection on just and unjust wars and the difference between them. Both accounts are molded in such a deliberate literary fashion as to qualify any claim to faithful historicity[45], yet the issues are presented with an at-times quasi-juridical concreteness. The Thuringian king Hermanefred had violated the understanding between him and the Merovingian Theuderic. The latter summoned the Franks and reminded them of an earlier Thuringian attack. Hostages were given and the Franks had tried to make peace, but the Thuringians had slain the hostages. After recounting Thuringian atrocities and Hermanefred’s perjury, Theuderic concluded: “Verbum directum habemus. Eamus cum Dei adiutorio contra eos”[46]. Verbum directum is a term unique to Gregory. The derivation of the Romance word for “right” or “law” from directum indicates the meaning “lawful,” “right,” “just”[47]. Theuderic’s exhortation could be translated, “Our cause is just. With God’s help, let us go forth against them!” The phrase “let us go forth with God’s help” is repeated from Clovis’s speech before the climactic battle with the Goths, thus further sanctioning the war against the Thuringians by linking it with the model just war of the Histories. The Franks are victorious[48]. The later Saxon rebellion against Chlothar is presented as the counterpart to the Thuringian war. The story bears the earmarks of a cautionary fable, with the Saxons three times making increasingly abject offers of submission, and three times being refused by the Frankish soldiers, who are eager for war. Chlothar’s pleas to his soldiers not to attack grow correspondingly more desperate. He echoes the reply of the princes of Israel to the people disenchanted by the treaty with Gibeon in Joshua 9: “we have sworn to them in the name of the Lord God of Israel, and therefore we cannot touch them … we will even let them live, lest the wrath of the Lord be stirred up against us should we perjure ourselves”[49]. Finally, to point up the contrast with the Thuringian war, Chlothar says: “Indeed, our cause is unjust (“Verbum enim directum non habemus.”). Don’t enter into a battle which you will lose”[50]. The Franks ignore Chlothar’s warning and lose. In the end, Chlothar is forced to the proper conclusion of war and makes peace with the Saxons[51]. In these accounts, Gregory provides a historicized exposition of his views on just war, including the culpability of nations in justifying wars against them[52], the necessity of fighting in a just cause[53], God’s role as the enforcer of peace agreements[54], peace as the goal of a just war[55], even the Augustinian requirement of right intention in a just war[56], as opposed to the Frankish war lust in the attack on the Saxons[57]. This last account is reminiscent of the view later expressed by Sedulius Scottus, who “contrasted the good prince who sought peace even for his enemies and only went to war for a necessary and just cause with the wicked prince who continued to fight after refusing an offer of peace”[58].

The divinely-favored warrior

How did Gregory view warriors in Books I-IV of the Histories? An answer might best begin with his account of the Hunnic invasion, which emphasizes the power of the saints and of the bishop-prophets of Gaul, especially Anianus of Orleans. But what about Aetius?

Walter Goffart has argued that “the Hunnic army [had been] routed by Catholic prayers, regardless of who did the actual fighting,” and that Gregory had dealt with Aetius rather summarily, motivated by “the resolve to cut a vir fortis down to merely human size.” Goffart argues against the notion of Gregory’s period as being a “heroic age” which gave birth to later German heroic literature. To the contrary, Gregory and other late antique Christian authors are seen repudiating the classical ethos of martial valor: there is a “dearth of heroic prowess in the Histories,” and Gregory instead “gives a negative conception of war”[59]. Goffart located Gregory’s heroism not among kings or military leaders, but among the saints of the Church[60].

Goffart is doubtless correct in seeing Gregory as actively rejecting the individual warrior ethos, but his arguments take little notice of how Christian spokesmen viewed the warrior figure within the context of a well-developed ideology of war[61]. Gregory’s warriors and their actions are often measured not by their adherence to individual Christian morality, but according to their conformance to the standards of the just war, an ideology of practical utility for the vital interests of the broader Christian society. Particularly in the first four books, Gregory also relates the activities of warriors to those of Clovis as the founder of a Christian polity[62].

Certainly Gregory’s warriors, often streaked with ambiguity and moral failures, are contrasted unfavorably with his saintly heroes[63]. Such portrayals proceed less from the drawing of a sharp satirical contrast, however, as Goffart argues, than from Gregory’s Biblical models. In the historical books of the Old Testament there appear deeply flawed, highly ambiguous warrior figures, characters who are unfavorably contrasted with spiritual leadership, but who are nonetheless instrumental in the furtherance of God’s purposes and constantly favored with divine inspiration and assistance. Such figures include Jephthah, Joshua, and David, who are strong military men in their own right, viri fortes, mighty men of valor[64]. Alongside their warrior prowess is set the decisive assistance of God. In the Biblical narratives of these warrior figures and their actions, there is no unambiguous assignment of relative responsibility for events between God and man; indeed, this tension between divine and human responsibility is a defining characteristic of Biblical narrative[65]. The same tension between human and divine initiative occurs in the Histories, and Gregory similarly provides no resolution. He neatly states his view of the coequal and coordinate roles of human and divine causation regarding war in two consecutive sentences near the end of his account of the Hunnic invasion. “Let no one doubt that the Hunnic army was put to flight thanks to the intercession of the aforesaid bishop [viz., Anianus of Orleans]. Nevertheless, it was the patrician Aetius along with Thorismod who obtained the victory and destroyed the enemy”[66]. These two sentences portray coordinate and complementary roles in the defeat of the invasion. The heavenly intercession of the saintly bishop had turned the Hunnic army to flight, but it required the earthly activity of Aetius and his Gothic allies to defeat the enemy in a pitched battle.

The second sentence also contains a key word, victoria, which, sometimes with victor, is significantly associated with Gregory’s narratives of war throughout the Histories. The mystique of victoria, an originally pagan concept, linked to legitimate imperium since the beginning of the Empire, appears fully Christianized by the late sixth century[67]. Thus the word’s first appearance in the Histories conveys the illegitimacy of Magnus Maximus’s rule with the expression that he “had usurped victoria,” a quality which rightfully belonged to the faithful Theodosius, whose entry into Constantinople as victor is noted in the previous sentence[68]. Associated with victory’s legitimation of power is the favoring assistance of God. At one point Gregory states that “the attainment of victory rests in the hands of God,” and this is only the most blatant of a number of such statements in the Histories, wherein God’s aid is the indispensable ingredient of victory[69]. More specifically, victoria is in Gregory’s theological conception the inevitable consequence of God’s favoring assistance in a just war. Thus, Theuderic attains victory in his just war against the Thuringians[70], and, in a reversal of their defeat of Chlothar, the Saxons lose in battle against the Swabians after thrice rejecting increasingly abject offers of submission, enabling the latter to obtain victory in a just cause[71]. The sequel of victoria is often a return home of the victor, implying if not directly stating that the war had been against foreign, enemy gentes[72]. Conversely, with few exceptions, the usage is absent from accounts of unjust wars: there is neither victor nor victoria in civil wars[73]. Besides the association of victoria with just wars against enemy gentes, rulers must honor the Church. Guntram’s generals admit that their defeats resulted from not following the ways of their forefathers, who had built churches and venerated martyrs and bishops[74]. Gregory’s contemporary paragon of royal virtue, the Byzantine emperor Tiberius, obtained victories by being “the truest Christian”[75].

Clovis is most often linked with victoria[76]. While battling the Alamanni he had prayed to Christ as the granter of victoria[77]. Here, Clovis is fighting a just war against a noxia gens, and obtains victoria with divine assistance[78]. The same elements are seen later in the account of the Gothic war, where Clovis places his hope of victoria in the blessed Martin[79]. In conformance with the dual tradition of victoria, Gregory presents Clovis’s success in war with aspects both individual and societal, classical and Christian, with an ambiguity that is unresolved and perhaps unrealized. Gregory’s contemporary Merovingians owe their current successes to Clovis, their source: the very legitimation of the dynasty itself was due to Clovis’s past victories[80]. Conversely, when Gregory writes that Godigisil secretly allied with Clovis after learning of his victories and then had himself obtained victory, the individual aspect can be glimpsed. Clovis’s victoria, in this respect no different than that of the pagan emperors, has the quality of a personal mystical power analogous to a saint’s virtus. Although he was an Arian heretic engaged in a civil war, Godigisil’s alliance with Clovis had allowed him to share in the latter’s victoria[81].

Others in the Histories, particularly Aetius and Gregory’s contemporary, the patrician Mummolus, are associated with victoria. There can sometimes be seen in their portrayals an interpenetration with his depiction of Clovis, and their victories are thereby similarly tinged with divine favor. Thus, Aetius’s victoria was complementary to the divine assistance gained by Anianus of Orleans[82]. There is a verbally-expressed similarity between the careers of Clovis and Mummolus[83]. The character sketch of Aetius in Book II, chapter 8, lifted from the fifth-century historian Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus, contains both an association with Clovis and an unusual depiction for the Histories of traditional, and quite classical, military virtues[84]. Far from showing Gregory’s resolve to diminish Aetius, chapter 8 with its elevated tone draws attention to itself. The motive for this quotation is found in its last sentence: “The foregoing description makes clear the extent of the power the fates had destined for him from his youth, as will be proclaimed at the appropriate times and places”[85]. Yet what follows is anti-climactic: a one-sentence report from another source of Aetius’s death at the hands of Emperor Valentinian III[86]. Gregory could have ended this quotation earlier without obscuring the sense. Its inclusion shows him making an internal typological link between characters in the Histories[87]. For as noted by Gustavo Vinay, it points to Clovis, the first of three such anticipations in Book II[88]. The association of Aetius and Clovis, already seen in the common usage of the victoria-language, is strengthened by the story of Aetius’s wife, said to be a devout woman whose prayers secured her husband’s safety in battle[89]. Aetius’s wife, of whom otherwise little is known, is apparently modeled on Clovis’s wife, the pious Clotild[90].

The type-scene of a divinely-favored warrior obtaining victoria is played out in miniature, for a somewhat different audience than the Histories’, in Gregory’s work on the miracles of St. Julian. A band of marauding Arian Burgundians had plundered St. Julian’s shrine at Brioude and were making off with loot and captives when they were attacked by a certain Hillidius of Le Velay, who defeated them and freed the captives[91]. As with Aetius and the Huns, victoria is due to both saint and soldier[92]. Not only is the battle framed as a just war against a criminal nation guilty of persecuting the Church, but Gregory expounds on the significance of a dove which hovered above Hillidius as he fought the Burgundians, a dove said to be “aliquod misterium virtutis divinae”[93]. Here Gregory is explicit in his Biblical typology: Hillidius is termed a “new Moses,” and the rejoicing of the freed captives is compared to that of the Israelites after the Egyptians had been drowned at the crossing of the Red Sea[94]. The differences between this account and those of divinely-favored warriors in the Histories are as revealing as the similarities. As we will see, a marvelous animal appears as a sign of divine assistance in stories of war involving both Clovis and Mummolus, and in both cases the accounts are guided by an underlying Biblical metaphor[95]. But in neither case does Gregory explicate the symbology as he does here. Such explication was unnecessary for the more sophisticated, clerical audience of the Histories, and its absence cautions the modern interpreter to be prepared always to peer beneath the deceptively simple surface of Gregory’s text[96].

Gaul as Terra Sancta

One can see in the historico-theological drama in Book II of the Histories Gregory’s conception of Gaul as a holy land, a New Israel[97]. Here the author comes to grips with events central to his contemporary society, the establishment by Clovis of a Frankish kingdom in Gaul ruled by the Merovingian dynasty[98]. How this happened within the framework of a divinely-actuated history and what lessons this past had for Gregory’s present explain many of the peculiar aspects of his narrative in Book II, including its disordered chronology and historical “errors.” Because of the focus on Clovis and the Franks, Book II is probably also the most “political” book in the Histories, where Gregory’s views on wars and warriors are seen most clearly.

Book II has a number of features that contribute to its peculiar appearance, one being the author’s tendency to view his past in a didactic relationship with his present. Another is the use of typological persons and occurrences, what Heinzelmann terms Grundsituationen, to model his depiction of characters and events[99]. Many of these models are found in the Bible and/or in the first book of the Histories. Book I thus often becomes a prefigurative pattern for Book II[100]. The resulting portraits are never exact replications, but deteriorate with each iteration in conformance with the widespread contemporary notion of the world’s senescence[101]. Thus Clovis falls short of his prototype David, as Gregory’s contemporary kings fall short of Clovis[102]. A related characteristic of Book II is the guiding of its “political” narrative by a generalized metaphor derived from Old Testament history, including the Israelite conquest of Canaan and the rise of David as a divinely-sanctioned, victorious king, the founder of a legitimate dynasty[103]. Although Gregory’s distance from and sources for fifth-century Gaul gave him flexibility in applying this metaphor, there remains a tension in Book II between adherence to the res gestae and the desire to have events cut to the pattern of his guiding metaphor, a tension reflected in the wide spectrum of the metaphor’s application. On one end, Gregory’s verse citations, Biblical lexicon and Biblical literary devices and effects all point to the truism that the Christian Bible was for him, as it has been for Christians for many centuries, the lens through which he viewed reality itself[104]. At the other end of the spectrum, Gregory may consciously relate a Biblical class to a class in the Histories, or one or more individuals in the Histories to one or more in the Bible, but there is rarely an exclusive one-to-one mapping between characters and events in the Bible and in the Histories. For example, when the walls of Angoulême collapsed before Clovis’s gaze as he was conquering the Gothic territory of Gaul, there is a link to Joshua, the fall of Jericho, and the Israelite conquest of Canaan, but elsewhere Clovis is more often linked to David: the latter acts as well as an underlying type for Clovis’s father Childeric[105].

In Book I and the preface to Book II, Gregory appeals to the authority of the vetus historia, especially regum historia(e), i.e., the Old Testament and the Vulgate books I-IV Regum (1 Samuel through 2 Kings). Gregory regarded the historical books of the Old Testament as normative history, and Book II is saturated with their atmosphere[106]. The preface establishes the tone, with its evocation of Old Testament prophets and kings. Here Gregory writes: “In tracing out the course of times, we recount in an intermingled and mixed together way (“mixte confusaeque”) the miracles of saints as well as the massacres of foreign nations (“strages gentium”). For I think it not to be considered unreasonable if I narrate the divinely-favored life of the blessed among the disasters of the worthless, since it is the sequence of times, not authorial whim, which requires this”[107]. This passage has spawned a welter of interpretations, seeing in it a statement of the overall organizational principle of the Histories[108]. Insofar as this preface refers only to Book II, however, it reads as a justification for the relative prominence in Gregory of the prophetic character based on Biblical typology[109]. Although Gregory did not distinguish between “Profangeschichte” and “Sakralgeschichte”[110], he probably did distinguish between what Victorius of Aquitaine termed “gestarum rerum publici scriptores”[111] – writers more or less in the classical historiographical tradition who comprised Gregory’s “secular” sources for fifth-century Gallic history – and the confessedly Christian works of Eusebius, Jerome, Sulpicius Severus and Orosius. By invoking the principle “mixte confusaeque,” Gregory can emphasize the prophetic character of saints and bishops in a way analogous to the Biblical history and in contrast to the largely non-extant publici scriptores of the fifth century, whose works would have been dominated by “strages gentium”[112]. The examples of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who in Krusch’s edition comprise about six of the nine lines devoted to the preface’s Biblical typology, illustrate the author’s intent: just as the Biblical history had placed Elijah and Elisha in the foreground of its narrative at one point while largely relegating the contemporary kings of Israel and Judah to lesser, supporting roles, so Gregory will similarly emphasize prophetic figures in his account of fifth-century Gaul[113].

Although Gregory arguably lacked the abstract idea of the state and did not as a rule identify Gaul with the Frankish realm[114], his overall Gallic identity was both pronounced and primarily religious, as seen in his use of Gallia, Galliae, and Gallican-, which appear over 100 times in his extant writings[115]. The stage for Gregory’s dramatic depictions of wars and warriors is his conception of Gaul as a locus for divine activity. This stage is dressed for action by the sanctifying deeds of Gallic martyrs and saints, who thereby created in Gaul a New Israel. Gaul had been sanctified by the blood of martyrs[116], some from Gregory’s own Gallic episcopal and senatorial class[117], by holy relics[118], but above all by St. Martin, sent by God for the salvation of Gaul[119], whose preaching and miracles lit up Gaul like a torch[120]. There was a “short distance, according to Gregory’s geography, between the Promised Land and the Gauls, between Jerusalem and the Gallic cities Clermont and Tours”[121]. It was the apostolic mission of St. Martin which had elevated Gaul to the status of Biblical holiness. “Happy indeed was Greece, which merited to hear the apostle preaching; but Christ did not forsake the Gauls, to which He gave as its own possession Martin”[122].

Since Gaul was holy ground, the holding of even a portion of it by heretics was a defilement not to be borne: both Clovis and Guntram used the Arian Goths’ possession of a part of Gaul to justify attacks against them[123]. The ultimate transgression was the eruption of criminal nations into Gregory’s Christian patria, the Gallic Terra Sancta, a transgression that justified war[124].

Although Gallic territory was holy, its borders were undefined. Gallia was coterminous with orthodoxy and Frankish rule, with the former aspect predominant[125]. As to be expected with such a metaphorical conception, the edges were indistinct. Though its external borders were unclear, Gaul as Terra Sancta had a fixed internal border in the river Loire, a concept which illustrates the ambiguous and polysemous nature of Gregory’s sacral symbolism and its blurred though perceptible relationship with “reality.” The Loire, still today a notional border between southern and northern France, roughly corresponded in Gregory’s day to that between “Roman” and “barbarian” Gaul, between a Romanized south where classical culture persisted and a less-Romanized north dominated by the barbarian Franks[126]. Such a formulation was, of course, foreign to Gregory, whose worldview was conditioned not by Romanitas but Christianitas, whose landscapes were notable not for their level of culture but for their relationship to the sacred. In both the Histories and Gregory’s hagiographical works, bodies of water especially were often the setting for a display of divine power (virtus)[127]. A typical story involves saintly intervention against the demonic forces conceived to be inherent in violent storms and turbulence[128]. Another motif is the sanctification of water through contact with the relics or body of a saint[129]. The Biblical models were those of Christ on the Sea of Galilee[130] and the purificatory quality of the river Jordan, a quality already found in the Old Testament but especially due in Christian ideology to Christ’s baptism[131]. Gregory cites both places as typical settings for displays of virtus in the context of a story about the Loire[132]. Although to us it seems irreconcilably ambiguous, the Loire can be modeled in Gregory either on the Sea of Galilee or the river Jordan, depending on the divine action involved. The Galilean typology would have been familiar to worshippers at St. Martin’s basilica, since a mural depicting Christ’s rescue of St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee could be seen, with an accompanying inscription, over the door of the church facing the Loire[133]. In such stories, the Loire’s waters are made turbulent and stormy by demonic agency, only to be rendered harmless and even helpful through the invoked intervention of St. Martin[134].

In other stories the Loire’s association with St. Martin renders the river itself holy. The Loire first appears in the Histories as the mourners from Tours are making off with Martin’s body after his death. Gregory writes significantly that they, bearing with them on a boat the “sanctissimi corporis gleba,” “entered into the channel of the Loire” on their way back to Tours[135]. The Loire, sanctified by Martin’s posthumous voyage and his tomb’s presence at Tours, becomes for Gregory a reference point in the sacral geography of Gaul, typologically corresponding to the orientational significance of the river Jordan in the symbolic geography of the Bible, a border both demarcating and constituting an arena for displays of divine power. It is not merely Gregory’s vantage point at Tours, but the presence of the saint’s tomb which privileges one side of the Loire. As with the Jordan, the Loire could act as the boundary between lawlessness and religiosity, between the sterility of spiritual deprivation and the fertility of divine sovereignty, whose passage signified entry into the fullness of divine promise; in this metaphorical conception one may glimpse Gregory’s perception of a distinction between southern and northern Gaul[136]. For him, the land beyond the Loire witnessed acts of profanation, whose perpetrators were both punished and redeemed through the virtus of St. Martin, a power especially manifested on the side of the Loire where his basilica and tomb were located. A certain Ursulf had been blinded after profaning a holy day. Though he hailed from the civitas of Tours, he was “de pago trans Ligerem,” where presumably his sacrilege had occurred. He was ultimately cured at St. Martin’s[137]. Another story of the profanation of a holy day involved a “mulier Transligeritana”[138]. The adjective Transligeritana, which appears only once in Gregory’s works, is reminiscent of the Vulgate “trans Iordanen,” an expression which seems at times more adjective than prepositional phrase[139]. The woman’s sole identification as “mulier Transligeritana” underlines the significance of her origin and the setting for her sacrilege, both by its placement as the opening words and by its very reticence in not naming her, a folkloric technique used by Gregory to emphasize that quality of a character meaningful for the story[140]. When Roccolen came to the Touraine to extract Chilperic’s enemies from asylum at St. Martin’s, he had while encamped beyond the Loire (“ultra Legerem”) demolished a church-house and threatened to devastate the entire region. But when he reached the further shore (“ulteriorem ripam”) of the Loire, he was stricken with the morbus regius, a disease which Gregory attributes to “the virtus of the blessed Martin.” Then Roccolen crossed the river and joined the Epiphany procession from the cathedral church in Tours to Martin’s basilica. Immediately upon entering the latter, his rage subsided. Further, at one point during Roccolen’s invasion Gregory relates that “by the command of God and the divine power of the blessed man [Martin]” the Loire, swollen with water though there had been no rains, had prevented the enemy from crossing over and harming Tours[141]. The Loire here bears a deep typological resonance, linked not only to the river Jordan but through it to the latter’s intra-Biblical figurative pattern of the Red Sea of the Exodus. As is usually the case with Gregory, the symbology is polysemous and active, where the meaning is revealed through specific narratives and is not tied to a unique and restricted typological correspondence.

Even when Gregory in Histories II 9 seems to associate the Loire with a fifth-century geopolitical “reality,” his geography is less historical than symbolic. He writes: “Now in those parts, that is, to the south, dwelt the Romans unto the river Loire. But beyond the Loire the Goths ruled”[142]. Source criticism has derived from this passage the use of a source originating from north of the Loire[143]. Interesting here is “ad meridianam plagam,” literally, “towards the southern quarter.” “Plaga” meaning “region, quarter, tract” is mostly poetical in classical Latin[144], but occurs 117 times in the Old Testament Vulgate, 80 times with a directional adjective as here. It occurs often in the books of Numbers, Deuteronomy, and especially Joshua, linked with the Jordan in geographical descriptions of the Promised Land[145]. This passage is not fifth-century political geography, but is in fact a Biblical reminiscence of such Promised Land geography, especially of Joshua 5,1: “Therefore when all the kings of the Amorites who dwelt across Jordan to the west heard … that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel until they had passed over, their heart melted, neither was spirit left in them, fearing the entrance of the children of Israel”[146].

This passage is an especially clear indication of the Loire’s privileged place in Gregory’s worldview. The Loire bounded the core of his own Terra Sancta, Christian Gaul, as Jordan similarly bounded the heart of Israel. This passage’s orientation looks forward to the Frankish conquest from the north, south across the Loire-as-Jordan, dispossessing the Goths from the core of the New Israel. Joshua 5,1 similarly anticipates the Israelite conquest, one of a number of such passages, which also correspond to statements in Book II of the Histories anticipating the Frankish conquest of Gaul[147]. The Israelite conquest metaphor continues in the second sentence following. The Frankish king Chlogio sent spies to Cambrai before capturing the city[148]. Regardless of whether Gregory had a source for this account, its selection and placement bespeak the clear intention of associating Chlogio’s spies with the spies sent by Moses into Canaan in Numbers 13, and especially the spies Joshua sent to Jericho in Joshua 2. The Franks cannot be seen as the pure, symbolic equivalent of the Israelites. The basis for Gregory’s depiction of the Franks in Book II shifts along a spectrum from his Biblically-framed worldview to the conscious desire to articulate the Franks and their kings literarily as the after-image of the Israelites and the Davidic dynasty[149].

It is also no accident that these passages occur in chapter 9, most of which is an inquiry into the names or even the existence of early Frankish kings. Adriaan Breukelaar argues that Gregory’s research into early Frankish history was written to disprove the legend, first found in the mid seventh-century chronicle of Fredegar, that Merovech, the eponymous ancestor of the Merovingians, had been a demi-god[150]. Although this would explain Gregory’s interest in the name of the first Frankish king, there is no proof that Gregory knew this legend[151]. Nor does this argument explain Gregory’s interest in the titles of the Frankish rulers, and his seeming perverse delight in noting that Frankish kings went either unmentioned or unnamed in his sources[152]. The key passage for understanding Gregory’s inquiry occurs after the first Frigeridus fragment in chapter 9, which had mentioned Franks, Alamanni, and Vandals, but only named kings for the last two: “This occasions a profound effect upon me, for although he [Frigeridus] names the kings of the other gentes, why does he not also name that of the Franks”[153]? This is not a negative note of exasperation, but an affirmative, almost triumphant recognition, rhetorically emphasized as an adversative interrogative, that the Franks did not then have over them “a king as other gentes have,” a passage linking the early Franks to pre-monarchic Israel not only vertically through the underlying Biblical metaphor but horizontally through Gregory’s prefigurative description of the early Israelites in Book I[154]. In the next chapter Gregory criticizes the pagan idolatry of the Franks before their conversion under Clovis. Most of the proof texts quoted are from Psalms and the prophets, but Gregory is careful at the start to cite the Golden Calf in Exodus 32 as an object lesson[155]. Following as it does so closely upon the symbolism of chapter 9, the image is evoked of the Franks wandering like Israel in a physical and spiritual wilderness on the eve of entry into the Promised Land. Once again, not only is there a vertical link with Biblical metaphor, but a horizontal link to another prefigurative passage in Book I, where the Israelites, after receiving the law, cross the Jordan “cum Iesu Nave” into the Promised Land: Gregory thus signals the future conversion of the Franks before their crossing of the Loire into the Gallic Terra Sancta[156].


The third and last section of Book II, chapters 27 through 43, is largely composed of one lengthy narrative strand, the career of Clovis[157]. The narrative pattern resembles the story of the Hunnic invasion, just as the portrait of Clovis in certain respects resembles Aetius’s. As in the account of the Hunnic invasion, there are dramatic anticipations of a climactic battle, here between the Goths and the Franks[158]. Here as well, a divinely-favored warrior, who obtains victoria with God’s help, monopolizes the fruits of victory through cunning[159]. Although the narrative is more constrained by Gregory’s sources, even here he manipulated chronology for literary ends[160].

Gregory’s depiction of Clovis is multifaceted and has consequently been variously interpreted. One interpretation is based on Gregory’s description of the baptized Clovis as “a new Constantine”[161]. The broader literary model, however, is that of the kings of the Old Testament[162]. Gregory brackets his narrative of Clovis with formulae lifted from the accounts of the kings of Israel and particularly Judah in the books of Kings and Chronicles. As with the Davidic kings of Judah, Clovis’s death and burial at the capital, as well as the noting of his regnal years, marks the literary terminus of his reign[163]. Gregory writes of Clovis’s accession after his father’s death that “Clovis his son reigned in his stead” (“regnavit Chlodovechus filius eius pro eo”)[164]. This is, verbatim, the accession formula found 38 times in the Vulgate Kings and Chronicles: “regnavit X filius eius pro eo”[165]. For Gregory’s clerical audience, so well-versed in Scripture that they were expected to admire Bishop Maurilio of Cahors’ memorization of Old Testament genealogies[166], it is a fitting introduction to the Biblically-conditioned portrait of an ambiguous but nonetheless divinely-favored king. It is within this Old Testament regnal context that one must evaluate what strikes us as a jarring note in the midst of Clovis’s atrocities, the comparison of Clovis with the righteous kings David and Jehoshaphat: “he walked before Him with an upright heart and did what was pleasing in His sight”[167].

The conflict between the Goths and the Franks which culminated in the battle of Vouillé is the foremost example in the Histories of a justifiable war against a criminal nation[168]. The battle of Vouillé was well-remembered in Gregory’s day[169], and in his narrative he exploits the event’s notoriety by heightening, then frustrating, his readers’ expectation for an account of the battle. Already in Histories II 9, the Franks are juxtaposed to the Goths in terms of Promised Land geography, in anticipation of the ultimate attack on the Goths south across the Loire[170]. The next hint of the coming conflict reports that “the terror of the Franks was resounding in those parts and everyone was longing with an ardent passion to have them as rulers”[171]. This terror Francorum is reminiscent of the divine terror which God had promised to send upon the inhabitants of Canaan in passages similarly anticipatory of the Israelite conquest[172]. Another statement of longing for Frankish rule concludes chapter 35, just before the account of the battle[173]. But the reader’s expectation is again thwarted by the story of a Gothic plot against Bishop Quintianus of Rodez, yet another effort, plainly partisan considering the evidently flawed chronology, to paint the Goths as persecutors[174].

Clovis’s campaign is marked with signs of divine assistance[175]. As in the accounts of Old Testament holy wars, Clovis before battle consults a divine oracle and receives a favorable response[176]. When he prays to be shown a ford over the rain-swollen Vienne, a marvelous hind, undoubtedly a misterium virtutis divinae, crosses the river and points the way[177]. While encamped near the basilica of St. Hilary at Poitiers, a fiery beam of light shone from the church, reminding one of the pillar of fire by night which had led the Israelites through the wilderness[178]. Clovis is also in this chapter both through a vertical link to the underlying Biblical metaphor and horizontal links to other characters depicted in the colors of Gregory’s divinely-favored warrior. His peremptory execution of the thieving soldier, as well as his battle oracle’s form as a psalm of David, point to that Israelite king as a metaphorical model near the beginning of chapter 37[179], whereas near its end the collapse of the walls of Angoulême points to Joshua[180]. The story of the battle itself records Clovis’s escape from danger due to his horse’s swiftness, which links horizontally to Aetius’s horsemanship[181].

Clovis is the figure in the Histories most linked with victoria[182]. A looter must die to retain any hope of victoria. Clovis seeks an omen of victoria from St. Martin, obtains victoria with God’s help, and upon his return offered many gifts to St. Martin’s church[183]. Not only is the essential divine ingredient of victoria stressed, but the imperial connotation is also evoked in Clovis’s celebratory procession through Tours[184].

The account of Clovis’s campaign in chapter 37 contains all the elements so far explored in Gregory’s literary presentation of war and war’s actors. A divinely-favored warrior fights a justifiable war against a criminal nation, a noxia gens convicted of heresy and persecution, and with God’s help obtains victory. Further, the narrative is permeated at all levels by the influence of the Vulgate, particularly the historical books of the Old Testament.

Because it goes to the question of Gregory’s attitude towards Clovis and the other warrior figures in the first four books of the Histories, it is necessary to touch on Clovis’s cunning, his dolus. Gregory’s apparent endorsement of Clovis’s actions was considered by nineteenth-century scholars “as proof of the perversion of his moral sensibility.” Godefroid Kurth more moderately wrote that while there was something in these stories “which shocks a modern moral conscience,” that nonetheless Gregory regarded Clovis as “un roi chrétien”[185]. More recently, Walter Goffart has written that Gregory’s tongue was firmly in cheek when making this Biblical comparison, arguing that these stories “are all ironic encounters of bad with worse, leaving it for us to decide whether Clovis or his victims were more depraved”[186].

A judicious evaluation of the author’s attitude should certainly avoid projecting the affront to our moral sensibilities onto Gregory, thereby risking an anachronism of feeling. A fair treatment of this question should be both horizontal, looking at other instances of cunning across the entire range of the Gregorian corpus, and vertical, to examine in depth elements in individual examples. Such an examination uncovers a divinely-enforced moral economy wherein some tricks win God’s favor and succeed, others punished by divine vengeance and thereby judged as sinful. Deceit in Gregory is often associated with the violation of oaths, particularly oaths sworn on saints’ relics. The ensuing divine punishment is related to and merges with the divine activity which enforces sworn peace treaties and decides trial by combat, as well as the issue of war itself[187].

Gregory seems to have enjoyed the twist or reversal of fortune in stories of trickery. His tone ranges from faintly comic to tragic, and there is often an expressed or implicit divine element. In the last chapter of Book I, Almighty God Himself acts to secure St. Martin as the patron saint of Tours. At Martin’s wake the men of Tours wait until their rivals for his corpse, the men of Poitiers, fall asleep, then stealthily pass this holiest relic out through a window to their compatriots outside. Gregory thought the result justified the deed[188]. Less overtly comic, but certainly ironic, is the tale of Gundobad’s counselor Aredius, who successfully tricks the trickster Clovis. Gregory prepares us for the treachery, and his implicit approval, when Aredius invokes the Lord’s pietas[189]. Most probative of Gregory’s occasional approval of trickery is a pair of stories juxtaposed in Book IV, chapters 29 and 30. In the first, the Merovingian Sigibert is defeated and captured by Huns using magic, only to reverse his fate by bribery[190]. In the second story, Bishop Sabaudus of Arles convinces Sigibert’s forces which had occupied the city to make a sally against their besiegers, promising to uphold the oaths of allegiance sworn to Sigibert if, with God’s favor, they win in battle. “Fooled by the trick,” they venture out but are defeated, freeing from their oaths Sabaudus and his followers, who close the city gates against the retreating army[191]. Gregory with a citation from the Aeneid elevates the scene of the routed soldiery drowning in the Rhone[192]. His account is tragic, but is in no way condemnatory of Sabaudus, who is mentioned elsewhere only in Book VIII at his death, recorded without adverse comment[193]. Gregory did, however, explicitly judge the wily (“versutus”) Sigibert’s actions with the Huns, writing that it was “something rightly to be considered more praiseworthy than disgraceful”[194]. This judgment could be extended to all the stories of approved trickery, and especially to the adjacent and linked story of Sabaudus’s deceit. The two stories also share the theme of cunning in the interests of peace. Without further bloodshed, Sigibert secured a long-lasting peace with the Huns, and the result of the battle at Arles is the restoration of the status quo ante bellum[195]. Common to many of these stories, too, is the victory of guile over brute force[196].

These elements in stories of approved deceit, the defeat of the powerful in the interests of peace, as well as the deservedness of the victim’s fate, also appear in stories of cunning involving both Aetius and Clovis. Aetius had tricked the Goths out of battlefield spoils by warning their king to return home to forestall a family revolt[197]. Aetius’s cunning appears to prefigure Clovis’s, as in both instances trickery after a climactic battle monopolizes the fruits of victory. By depriving them of treasure and embroiling them in domestic conflict, Aetius is seen thwarting a Gothic bid for dominance of Gaul. The Goths, already depicted as heretical persecutors, are deserving victims of treachery, and divine sanction for the trick is intimated by the story’s placement immediately after the sentence emphasizing Aetius’s role in obtaining victoria over the Huns[198].

The stories of Clovis’s dolus at the end of Book II show similar signs of the author’s approval. The order of the stories shows a progression from bad to worse in the villainy of Clovis’s victims, with a corresponding progression in the scale of conflict necessary for overcoming them, as well as in the level of his personal involvement in their deaths[199]. In the first instance, as noted by Kurth, Clovis is not directly responsible for the deaths of Sigibert and his son Chloderic[200]. Chloderic would not have killed his father if not for his greed: the same cupiditas enabled Clovis to acquire his kingdom without war[201]. Clovis does march against Chararic, but Chararic falls prey to Clovis’s guile and is captured without bloodshed. The subsequent execution of Chararic and his son is perfectly legitimate, since they were plotting to kill Clovis[202]. Ragnachar, the worst of Clovis’s victims, is so vicious that Clovis can exploit his subjects’ disgust and bribe them to desert. Although a battle proves necessary, it is soon over, and Clovis himself dispatches the defeated king and his brother[203]. There are internal and contextual hints in these stories that Gregory regarded Clovis here as the agent of divine justice and providence. There is not only the implied approval following from his theology that the just cause is revealed by success, but Gregory’s explicit statement that God Himself subdued Clovis’s enemies and enlarged his kingdom[204]. The victims, too, are fully deserving of divine judgment: it is said of Chloderic that “by the judgment of God he fell into the pit which he inimically dug for his father”[205]. It also seems significant that Clovis resolved potential Frankish civil wars with a minimum of bloodshed and destruction. Gregory already had an approved example for this in Orosius’s story of Theodosius the Great’s victory over the tyrant Maximus, an almost bloodless victory secured largely by the latter’s execution[206]. Gregory contrasts Clovis’s largely peaceful albeit murderous subjugation of his rivals with the bloody and destructive civil wars of his day.

The underlying literary model in these stories continues to be Biblical, and the inspiration for Clovis’s character remains primarily Davidic. Louis Halphen saw in the last chapters of Book II an echo of Ehud’s slaying of the king of Moab[207], but these stories are more reminiscent of the killings recounted in II Samuel whereby David enlarged and consolidated his rule over Israel. Examples include Clovis’s disclaimer of responsibility for Sigibert’s assassination, to be compared with David’s exculpatory proclamation regarding the slaying of Abner[208], and David’s question posed after the assassinations of Abner and Ishbosheth, “Do you think there is anyone left of the house of Saul that I may show him mercy”[209]? Clovis’s corresponding lament, that he is left a stranger among foreigners with no relative to help him should adversity strike, is interpreted by Gregory to be yet another trick to discover any surviving relatives to kill[210]. The motivation of Clovis’s search for relatives is more sinister than that of his Biblical model: in a world past its prime and growing old, men can resemble but never equal the ideal types, whether of David as king or St. Martin as bishop.

Gregory’s attitude towards Clovis is also seen in the story of the Vase of Soissons. The underlying story has elements linking it to a common stock of European heroic folklore. The quarrel over booty reminds one of the Celtic competition for the “champion’s portion” of the boar at a banquet often held after battle[211]. The patient waiting until the proper moment is reminiscent of Hengest’s vengeance upon Finn in Beowulf[212]. The folkloric underpinnings are perhaps best illuminated by the quality of cunning intelligence in Greek heroic stories and mythology termed metis, “expressed by the Greeks in images of watchfulness, of lying in wait, when a man who is on the alert keeps watch on his adversary in order to strike at the chosen moment”[213]. Odysseus is the exemplar of the man of metis[214], and the heroic resonance of his, and Hengest’s, patient suffering of injury until sudden vengeance reveals some of this story’s basic elements. First, it originally was likely a story of the victory of cunning over brute force: the man of metis is able “to triumph, in unequal combat, over adversaries who are better equipped for a trial of strength”[215]. Though not said explicitly, the rebel’s actions suggest he was a strong man[216]. Clovis, who perhaps could not best him in a face-to-face fight, exploits his royal prerogative of inspecting the troops to throw the man’s weapons to the ground in feigned disgust at their condition, rendering him vulnerable as he bends to retrieve them to the ax stroke from a weaker man[217]. This tale also appears at root a story of the establishment of royal sovereignty. Metis “intervenes at moments … when there are struggles over the succession, conflicts over sovereignty … or when a new prince is being promoted … victory in the struggle for power had to be won not by force but by a cunning trick”[218]. An apt description here: according to Gregory’s chronology, the incident occurred in the fifth year of Clovis’s reign[219]. The mythic backdrop suggests that the rebel was originally more than merely insubordinate, but a rival for royal power.

The foregoing should prove that this story is not Gregory’s invention. The underlying story involves the characteristics and establishment of royal authority, which is more than merely brute force[220]. A young, heroic king must establish his right to the throne over a physically stronger adversary, which he does by a cunning trick. The decisive blow at the end strikes fear into his followers because they now see how their new king had suppressed his initial anger and waited for the right moment to strike[221]. The story may not have originally featured Clovis, but became attached to him because of his reputation for cunning.

That he did not invent this story goes to the question of why and how Gregory used it. First, the underlying theme of a potential rival links it with the later stories of cunning, for they should be read historically as Clovis’s dynastic consolidation within a larger Merovingian stock through the elimination of rivals[222]. Second, the story was probably too well-embedded in the Clovis tradition for Gregory to ignore. As has been recognized, the tale is a characterizing episode, but of what[223]? The answer lies in considering what can be discerned of Gregory’s re-working of the original. He was perhaps responsible for making the disputed item plunder from a church, and for introducing the bishop, an obviously added character, who asks for its return[224]. He probably also de-emphasized Clovis’s rival, whose name is not mentioned, thus minimizing his legitimacy, an important consideration given his view of Clovis. More importantly, Gregory Christianized the tale, making it into a story of divine vengeance against looters of the Church, with Clovis as the agent[225]. Regarding divine vengeance, J.M. Wallace-Hadrill compared it to “God’s own feud in support of his servants,” and Goffart writes that “Gregory rarely shocks our sensibilities more than when exemplifying this idea”[226]. Nonetheless, Gregory approved of such stories. Given the link between the Vase of Soissons and the later stories of Clovis, one may also see in the latter similar evidence of Gregory’s hand. Here again, stories originally focusing on Clovis’s cunning may have been favorably re-worked, not only to establish the link between David and Clovis, but to emphasize the villainy of his victims and imply his role as the agent of divine justice.

The Franks and Merovingians after Clovis

Gregory’s apex for the Franks came during Clovis’s reign. When Clovis asked his followers to grant him the Vase of Soissons, most conceded with protestations of loyal subordination to royal mastery (dominium): he made an example of the one exception[227]. The Franks swiftly decline, and soon their eagerness for battle overrides their loyalty to Theuderic, which he retains only by appealing to their lust for booty, enlisting them in a plundering expedition into the (Frankish) Auvergne[228]. Frankish war lust again eclipses obedience to the king in the account of Lothar’s expedition against the Saxons, with disastrous results[229]. By Gregory’s day, the Franks had degenerated to the level of a noxia gens. During the civil wars of the 570s, they burn and loot churches, kill the clergy and rape the nuns, in an outburst of violence considered worse than the Great Persecution of Diocletian[230]. Gregory contrasts the contemporary Franks with their ancestors under Clovis, who had endowed monasteries and churches rather than looting and destroying them[231]. In Clovis’s day, Christian Gaul had desired the Franks as rulers: now they are feared as barbarians[232]. They have declined from an earlier, exemplary period, when their war lust was mastered by obedience to king and Church.

Clovis’s descendants are no better. Gregory is uniformly negative about the generation of Merovingians after Clovis[233]. The one praiseworthy Merovingian of this period is Clovis’s grandson Theudebert, the royal hero of Book III, whose death closes the book[234]. His introduction is as the defender of Gaul, fighting a just war against an invading gens[235]. He later appears briefly in battle with the Goths, but his expansionism and especially his invasion of Italy are minimized in favor of emphasizing his benefactions to the Church[236]. Instead of Theudebert, the credit for conquering Italy is given to his general Buccelen. The latter’s brief appearance in Book III resembles that of Aetius in Book II insofar as he is a stand-in and prefiguration of a greater warrior to come, in this case the patrician Mummolus. Like Mummolus, Buccelen is a non-royal warrior who obtains victoria against Italian enemies, and is otherwise linked with the divinely-favored warriors of Books I-IV[237]. The Buccelen of the Histories, who repeatedly defeats the Byzantine generals Belisarius and Narses, differs markedly from the historical figure, who unsuccessfully invaded Italy years after Theudebert’s death and was slain in battle by Narses[238]. Gregory seems unaware of or uninterested in the historical Buccelen. His literary function is to fill the long gap of divinely-favored warriors between Clovis and Mummolus, and so he is placed halfway between them, near the end of Book III, and unhistorically credited with victories over the renowned Belisarius[239].

As Clovis is the idealization of Gregory’s divinely-favored warrior, so Mummolus is its realization. Mummolus was Gregory’s contemporary, the patricius of Provence under King Guntram. Gregory highlights his narrative on Mummolus in at least three ways. First, he placed it following a geographical excursion, a device which highlights what is related when the narrative returns to Gaul[240]. Second, the narrative violates chronological order in emphasizing the contrast with the Merovingian civil wars related later in Book IV. For although the chronology of the Lombard invasions is uncertain, it seems that the battles with them in chapter 44 took place after the beginning of the series of civil wars in chapters 47 through 51[241]. Third, Gregory at the beginning of chapter 42 attempts an elevation of style, as in his introduction of Mummolus he uses as a model Frigeridus’s description of Aetius[242], an unusual narrative strategy for Gregory, who often introduces his characters in media res, without the preamble of family origin and previous career[243]. The use of Frigeridus not only lends a certain classical gravity to Mummolus’s introduction, but forges a horizontal link between two of the divinely-favored warriors in Books I-IV. Gregory continues to use classical locutions, and borrows as well from the other now lost historian he quotes in Book II, Sulpicius Alexander, all to draw attention to his account of Mummolus’s wars[244].

Gregory depicts Mummolus as fighting just wars. The Lombards and their Saxon allies are a contemporary example of noxiae gentes. The Biblical pattern of invading gentes defeated by a divinely-assisted deliverer is never far beneath the surface. The Saxon plundering near Avignon is reminiscent of the marauding Midianites soon to be attacked by Gideon[245]. The three-pronged Lombard invasion is reminiscent of the Philistine invasion defeated by Saul and Jonathan[246]. Mummolus threatens the Saxons with attack, saying, “I am avenging the injury (“ulciscar iniuriam”) of my lord King Guntram”: this is the exact Augustinian wording of one rationale for a just war, ulcisci iniurias[247]. On the eve of the climactic battle against the Lombards, by the will of God (“nutu Dei”) an animal crosses a river and reveals a ford to Mummolus’s army, a horizontal link to Clovis and his model just war against the Goths[248]. As we should by now expect, a warrior fighting with signs of divine approval a just war against criminal nations obtains victoria. There is a deliberate contrast with the contemporary civil wars, which degrade their Frankish participants, which feature neither victor nor victoria, and which evidence no sign of divine assistance. When Sigibert marched against his brother Chilperic, he could find no ford to cross the Seine: no marvelous animal appeared to point the way[249].

For Gregory of Tours, war was a reality, and civil war lamentably so. Whatever impelled him to begin the Histories, the civil wars of the mid 570s profoundly influenced the selection and organization of the “political” material for the first four books. The prominence of the civil wars in the early books bears on the question of the Histories’ chronology of composition. The account of the civil wars and the assassination of Sigibert in 575 at the end of Book IV and the prominence of Gregory’s trial at Berny-Rivière in 580 at the end of Book V, a trial prefigured by similar accounts in Book II, indicate at least a dramatic date of 580 for the first five books[250].

The narrative thread on war is so illuminating in the first four books because the events described were safely in Gregory’s past, allowing greater freedom in their literary presentation[251]. He is here writing “fictionalized history,” where the stories are molded to his didactic and prophetic purposes[252]. These stories highlight elements of Gregory’s ideology, including his views on war and his spiritual cosmology of Christian Gaul. The idea of the world declining with age is expressed as the literary dynamic of deterioration from ideal types: Gaul and its bishops decline from the days of St. Martin, just as the Franks from the days of Clovis.

A dramatic sensibility is evident in the early books of the Histories, particularly Book II. It seems unlikely that Gregory acquired this from the stage or the ceremonial of liturgy[253]. Rather, it is one more proof of the author’s dominant literary inspiration, the Latin Bible. The narrative structure of the account of the Hunnic invasion, for instance, is paralleled in the story of the struggle between the Philistines and the Israelites in I Samuel 28-31. In both stories the reader is held in suspense by the retardation of the account of a climactic battle, and in both cases the effect is to highlight a meaningful foreground against a background of epic, well-known historical events. Other Biblical reminiscences include the story of Childeric’s exile and his faithful friend, to be compared with the story of David and Jonathan in I Samuel 18-20, and the report of Basina’s desertion of her husband Bisinus for Childeric, to be compared with the account in I Samuel 25 of Abigail’s desertion of Nabal for David. It is apparent that the second half of I Samuel which contains all these stories occupied a special place in Gregory’s mind as he framed Book II, doubtless because of its central theme of the rise of David. Indeed, the overall organization of the Bible impacted the compositional scheme of the Histories. Just as the Old Testament prefigured the New, so in many ways Book I provides a prefigurative pattern for Book II of the Histories, and in some respects for the entire work.

Gregory’s prophetic reading of the past leads to the question of how much of his representation of “historical reality” is literary contrivance, and how much is based on “fact.” Perhaps the best response is that Gregory’s worldview is a consequence of both metaphor and reality, with the metaphorical aspect sometimes predominant, depending on the prophetic or didactic aim of the particular narrative involved. It is this clash between Gregory’s perception and our confident, Cartesian worldview that causes much of the frisson experienced by a modern reader of the Histories. Works on Gregory of Tours and the Merovingian era that include detailed maps of cities, rivers and boundaries give a fundamentally misleading impression of Gregory’s mental universe. Rather than cartographic reference points, Gregory saw Gallic poles of sanctity at Clermont and especially Tours, distant and faded reflections of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. For him, even directions bore theological significance, and it mattered less, in the heart of Christian Gaul, whether a place was north or south of the Loire, but whether it was on that side of the river privileged by the body and basilica of St. Martin. On the margins of this world prowled noxiae gentes, who are both a literary construct, set in a prophetically-meaningful past, and the depiction of a living reality, e.g., the contemporary Saxons, Lombards, and Goths. They were foreigners to Christian Gaul, who lived in the spiritual and sometimes, as with the gentes beyond the Rhine, physical wilderness, heretics and pagans, occasional invaders of the Gallic Terra Sancta. In Cotton Mather’s image of the Native American, “Wolvish Persecutors” of God’s people, inhabitants of the outer wilderness, at odds with the order of a Christian patria, one catches a distant afterimage of Gregory’s perception of the enemies of Christian Gaul[254].

Because the Histories is suffused with a Biblically-based worldview, Gregory’s witness is often found wanting according to the canons of modern historiography. But the ubiquity of victoria in the remnants of this period, from coins to the helmet of Agilulf, argues that Gregory’s theological conception is a genuine relic of his age, another testament to the persistent centrality of victoria in the ideology of power[255]. Gregory’s concept of victoria as evidence of divine favor in the prosecution of just wars clarifies his view of the legitimacy of Merovingian rule[256]. As long as they strove to conquer their inner vices, conferred benefits upon the Church, refrained from civil wars, and in defense of the New Israel fought criminal nations in just wars, they would be favored by God with victoria. If not, God would turn the same enemy gentes into chastising agents of divine justice.

Although victoria is subsumed within a Christian theological framework, it retained elements of its ancient inheritance[257]. In turn, the vitality of victoria was such that it remains an integral component of those aspects of Merovingian ideology inherited by their Carolingian successors. Such Carolingian ideas as that of the Franks as a Chosen People, a New Israel ruled by kings patterned after David, kings favored by God with victory over their enemies, are all anticipated in the pages of Gregory of Tours’ Histories[258]. The rhetoric of war and victory hardens into formulae, propaganda for the new dynasty. The continuation of Fredegar and the so-called Annales Regni Francorum share formulae such as “victor reversus est” or the like, the latter recording s.a. 791 a just war in miniature against the Avars, fought “cum Dei adiutorio” to avenge the “malitia” they had perpetrated “against the holy Church and the Christian people”[259]. Gregory’s insistence on the sanctity of sworn peace treaties, the sacramentum, and what evils can befall those who violate them is echoed 250 years later in Nithard. As word and idea, sacramentum is a leitmotiv in Nithard, and appears in the guise sagrament, a Romance reliquum antiquissimum, in the Oaths of Strasbourg[260]. The first part of the Annales Mettenses Priores is similar to the early books of the Histories in that the author used the relative literary freedom afforded him by a distant past to mold his account in ways similarly revelatory of contemporary ideology. Like Clovis, Pippin II legitimized his rule with the defeat and subjugation of foreign gentes. The author explicitly refers to the personal mystique of victory in writing of Pippin’s “virtus atque victoria.” Victory is “the declaration of divine power,” the revelation of divine justice, and is always obtained with divine help. Pippin urged his followers to commend themselves to God, “Who gives honor and victory to all who fear Him and keep His precepts”[261]. The mantle of victoria, with all it implied for the legitimacy of power, had passed to the Carolingians.

The ideology of the just war remains a vital cultural substrate which informs these Carolingian texts. There is evident a concern for the justification of civil wars, where now victoria is possible. Civil wars remain a terrible evil. On the eve of the battle of Tertry, Pippin had still sought peace from his adversary, “lest upon his refusal there be a civil war in which the most noble, consanguineal blood of the Franks would be poured out according to the fortunes of war”[262] . The annalist is at pains to justify Pippin’s attack on Neustria; he is reluctant to fight, despite repeated provocations. At one point Pippin states that “we can tolerate struggles of this sort [i.e., civil wars] only for the sake of God and His saints”[263]. That such a concern for the justification of civil wars was not merely here a literary artifact, but the idealized representation of an all-too-painful reality, can be seen in Nithard, who tells how after the battle of Fontenoy it had been determined “in public assembly” (“in conventu publico”) that the justice of Lothar’s defeat was “made manifest by the judgment of God”[264]. Such statements of just war ideology and ongoing evidence of its functionality negate judgments which have it moribund or non-existent in the centuries between Augustine and the canonists[265]. The view of early medieval just war ideology as constituting an underlying Christian tradition also explains its appearance in Gregory, who supposedly had not read Augustine[266]. Our necessary dependence on texts has us miss for this period an explicitly formulated treatise, the very lack of which argues for the just war being a societal assumption, transmitted as much by tradition as text. The tradition could change: in Carolingian times, one could win a civil war. One sees clearly that the Church mediated this tradition and acted to uphold its norms, whether through the sacramentum sworn upon the relics of the saints or in episcopal assembly. In this as otherwise, the Church remained a vital transmitter of tradition, then as now. Historical texts could fill the absence of a formal treatise. If we regard just war ideology in the early medieval West as a living body of ideas mediated through the Church, Ambrose and Augustine, and no less Gregory of Tours, become not so much the creators, but the expositors of an ongoing tradition[267].


End Notes

The notes witness the debt this paper, in no sense original, owes to many, whose generosities over the years may seem at times ill-returned, when I differ most from those to whom most is owed. The text of the Histories quoted has occasionally for clarity’s sake been conservatively normalized from Krusch’s (MGH: srm I/1, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Libri Historiarum X, ed. Bruno Krusch, Wilhelm Levison, Walther Holtzmann, Hanover 1937-1951; hereafter Hist.) without warning, though with MS warrant. Citations from the Vulgate from Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam versionem, 3rd ed., Stuttgart 1985; Latin abbreviations for Biblical books follow p. xxxi. All translations mine. An earlier version was delivered at the 32nd International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1997.

[1] Walter Goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History, Princeton 1988, pp. 118, 166; Adriaan Breukelaar, Historiography and Episcopal Authority in Sixth-Century Gaul, Göttingen 1994, pp. 294, 296; Martin Heinzelmann, Gregor von Tours, Zehn Bücher Geschichte, Darmstadt 1994, pp. 97-101, who argues that Gregory originally intended a history comprising essentially Books I-IV, with the civil wars as one theme.

[2] Dt 17,17: “nam habebit uxores plurimas quae inliciant animum eius, neque argenti et auri inmensa pondera.” Cf. V praef. (193,14-16): “in prumptuariis vinum, triticum oleumque redundat, in thesauris aurum atque argentum coacervatur.”

[3] V praef. (194,3-5): “Quid aliud sperandum erit, nisi cum exercitus vester caeciderit, vos sine solatio relicti atque a gentibus adversis oppressi protinus conruatis?” Cf. e.g., Dt 28,49-53; Ier 5,15-17; 9,13-16; 29,16-19; Am 6,15. Cf. also Hist. I 16 (15,13-15): “nunc contra Deum murmorantes, nunc post idola conruentes vel abominationes, quae gentes exerceunt, imitantes, dum Dei prophetas contempnunt, gentibus traduntur, subiugantur, intercedunt,” on which below, n. 33.

[4] V praef. (193,8-12): “Utinam et vos, o reges, in his proelia in quibus parentes vestri desudaverunt, exercimini, ut gentes, vestra pace conterritae, vestris viribus praemerentur! Recordamini quid capud victuriarum vestrarum Chlodovechus fecerit, qui adversos reges interfecit, noxias gentes elisit, patrias subiugavit, quarum regnum vobis integrum inlesumque reliquit!” On this passage, also notes 80 and 256 below.

[5] A. Demyttenaere, Clovis en de Kanaänieten: Het heilshistorisch perspectief van Gregorius van Tours, Ad fontes: Feestbundel voor C. van der Kieft, Amsterdam 1984, pp. 34-35.

[6] Suzanne Teillet, Des Goths à la nation Gothique: les origines de l’idée de nation en Occident du Ve au VIIe siècle, Paris 1984, pp. 12-38; Herwig Wolfram, Das Reich und die Germanen, Berlin 1990 (Eng. tr. T. Dunlap, The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples, Berkeley 1997), intro.; Patrick Amory, People and Identity in Ostrogothic Italy, 489-554, Cambridge (Eng.) 1997, pp. 18-23.

[7] Susan Niditch, War in the Hebrew Bible, New York 1993, pp. 3-4, which quotes from Mather’s 1689 sermon, Souldiers Counselled and Comforted, a Discourse Delivered Unto Some Part of the Forces Engaged in the Just War of New England Against the Northern and Eastern Indians. On further examples in eighteenth-century sermons of the typological characterization of Native Americans as Canaanites and Amalekites, enemies of the New Israel in America, see Roland Bainton, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace, Nashville 1960, pp. 168-169. On the changing meaning of gens due to Biblical influence, Amory (n. 6 above), pp. 24-25. Of the 71 occurrences of gens in the Histories, it is applied to the Franks 11 times, and 30 times to the noxiae gentes as defined here; Denise St-Michel, Concordance de l’Historia Francorum de Gregoire de Tours 1, Montreal 1982, pp. 433-434.

[8] E.g., Gn 10,5; Nm 23,9.

[9] E.g., Nm 24,8; II Esr 5,9.

[10] Idc 3,1-2.

[11] E.g., Ex 34,24; Dt 7,1; 11,23; 19,1; 31,3; Ios 23,9; 24,18; Ps 43,2-3.

[12] Is 10, 5-6.

[13] Breukelaar (n. 1 above), p. 213 and n. 87. On Gaul as Terra Sancta, notes 97-156 below.

[14] Hist. I 28 (21,7-9): “Post has vero passiones sanctorum non fuit satis parti adversae gentes incredulas contra christicolas excitasse, nisi commoveret et in ipsis christianis scismas.”

[15] Hist. praef. (1,2-3); I praef. (3,13-14); Demyttenaere (n. 5 above), pp. 35-36; Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 90 and 213, n. 19.

[16] E.g., Hist. IV 48 (185,13); V 36 (242,16); V 43 (252,2); VI 36 (308,12); VII 47 (367,11); X 2 (483,11); X 5 (488,2); X 19 (512,21); MGH: srm I, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Opera Omnia, ed. Wilhelm Arndt, Bruno Krusch, Hanover 1885 (hereafter Arndt), De virtutibus s. Martini, III praef. (632,14); IV praef. (649,10).

[17] Bainton (n. 7 above), p. 96; Frederick H. Russell, The Just War in the Middle Ages, Cambridge (Eng.) 1975, pp. 5, 6, 8, 26; James Turner Johnson, The Quest for Peace: Three Moral Traditions in Western Cultural History, Princeton 1987, pp. 54-55, 60-61 and n. 104.

[18] Hist. I 32, 34 (24-25, 26). On the legendary nature of this story, Gabriel Monod, Études critiques sur les sources de l’histoire mérovingienne, Paris 1872, pp. 95-97.

[19] Russell (n. 17 above), p. 21.

[20] II 23 (69,28-29): “nocte a castro Divionensi per murum dimissus.” Cf. Act 9,25: “discipuli eius nocte per murum dimiserunt eum.”

[21] II 28 (73,6-7).

[22] Here genus has the meaning “class, sort, species” (Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford 1980, s.v., II B). Efforts based on this passage to link the Burgundian royal family to Athanaric, e.g., Wolfram (n. 6 above), p. 354 (Eng., p. 250), are misguided.

[23] I 41 (28, esp. 6).

[24] II 4 (45,10-15).

[25] Huns: II 6 (47,6); Franks: II 9 (57,11); St. Martin: I 36 (26,24).

[26] See also notes 142-146 below.

[27] II 2 (39,13 – 40,7).

[28] II 25, esp. 70,16.

[29] Epist. VII 6.

[30] Note 97 below.

[31] David M. Gunn, “Joshua and Judges,” The Literary Guide to the Bible, ed. Robert Alter, Frank Kermode, Cambridge (Mass.) 1987, pp. 104-105; Martin Heinzelmann, Die Franken und die frankische Geschichte in der Perspektive der Historiographie Gregors von Tour, Historiographie im frühen Mittelalter, ed. A. Scharer, G. Scheibelreiter, Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung 32 (1994), p. 339. See also n. 253 below.

[32] Destruction of Metz, 47,7-8: “tradentes urbem incendium, populum in ore gladii trucidantes.” Cf. Idc 1,8; 18,27. Sodom and Gomorrah, 47,20: “clamor malitiae eorum ascendit coram Deo.” Cf. Gn 19,13; Ion 1,2; Michel Banniard, L’aménagement de l’histoire chez Grégoire de Tours: à propos de l’invasion de 451, Romanobarbarica 3 (1978), pp. 10 and n. 25, 11. For Gregory, malitia was, as it is often in the Vulgate, a wickedness which deserves and elicits divine judgment, as exemplified by the accounts of Pilate, Herod and Nero in Book I. Cf. Hist. I 24 (19,9-10,13-14): “Pylatus autem non permanens inpunitus ob suae malitiae scelere … Sic et Herodes rex, dum in apostulos Domini saevit, percussus divinitus ob tanta scelera … “; 25 (20,7-8): “[Nero] ad complendam malitiae suae molem.” Cf. Gn 6,5 (causes the Flood); I Sm 12,25: “quod si perseveraveritis in malitia, et vos et rex vester pariter peribitis”; II Sm 3,39: “retribuat Dominus facienti malum iuxta malitiam suam”; III Rg 2,44: “reddidit Dominus malitiam tuam in caput tuum”; Est 8,3; Ps 106,34; Ier 1,16; 7,12; 21,12; 23,2; 26,3; 44,3; Os 9,15; I Mcc 13,46.

[33] Note 3 above.

[34] Brief remarks in J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, “War and peace in the early Middle Ages,” in Early Medieval History, Oxford 1975, pp. 24-26, and Demyttenaere, n. 5 above, esp. pp. 27-38. I know I have missed others.

[35] Bainton (n. 7 above), pp. 95-98; Russell (n. 17 above), p. 15; Johnson (n. 17 above), pp. 57, 59, 60, 65.

[36] V praef. (193,4-7): “Debebant enim eos [sc. Gregory’s contemporary Franks and their kings] exempla anteriorum regum [Goffart, n. 1 above, p. 205, n. 401, identifies these as the Biblical kings] terrere, qui, ut divisi, statim ab inimicis sunt interempti. Quotiens et ipsa urbs urbium et totius mundi capud ingens bella civilia diruit … “ Gregory also cites Orosius here on the evils of civil war (193,18 – 194,1-3). Also, Bainton (n. 7 above), pp. 23-24.

[37] Bainton (n. 7 above), p. 96; Russell (n. 17 above), p. 5; Johnson (n. 17 above), p. 60.

[38] Bainton (n. 7 above), p. 25; Russell (n. 17 above), p. 21; Johnson (n. 17 above), p. 54.

[39] Note 13 above. On Gregory’s conception of Gaul, notes 114-125 below.

[40] Hist. IV 42 (175,13-15); Bainton (n. 7 above), pp. 90-91; Russell (n. 17 above), p. 15; Johnson (n. 17 above), pp. 55-56.

[41] Bainton (n. 7 above), pp. 33ff., 95-96; Russell (n. 17 above), p. 16; Johnson (n. 17 above), pp. 60, 63-65.

[42] Hist. II 30 (76,3-4): “ille [sc. Clovis], prohibito bello, cohortato populo cum pace regressus.” Clovis’s behavior towards the Alamanni here is meant to contrast with that of Chlothar and the Franks towards the Saxons in IV 14, notes 49-51 below.

[43] Ios 9,15. Cf. Hist. III 7 (104,10-11) = Ios 9,2; and IV 14 (146,11) = Ios 9,20.

[44] Hist. III 7, esp. 104,9-11, on which notes 46-48 below; IV 14; VII 6; IX 20 (Treaty of Andelot). Frankish failure to honor a sacramentum is also invoked to explain the defeat of an invasion of Lombardy in Hist. X 3 (esp. 486,5-12).

[45] Monod (n. 18 above), p. 95.

[46] III 7 (104,10-11).

[47] Both Niermeyer and Ducange cite only this passage and IV 14 (n. 50 below). From directum stems of course the French, Spanish, and Italian droit, derecho, diritto.

[48] Hist. II 37 (85,6); III 7 (105,2-3).

[49] Ios 9,19,20: “Iuravimus illis in nomine Domini Dei Israhel, et idcirco non possumus eos contingere … reserventur quidem ut vivant, ne contra nos ira Domini concitetur si peieraverimus.” Cf. Hist. IV 14 (146,10-11): “Et Chlotharius ait suis: ‘Dissistete, quaeso, ab his hominibus, ne super nos Dei ira concitetur.’”

[50] Hist. IV 14 (146,16-17): “Verbum enim directum non habemus; nolite ad bellum ire, in quo disperdamini.”

[51] IV 14 (147,2,3): “Tunc Chlotharius valde confusus pacem petiit … Qua obtenta, ad propriam rediit.”

[52] I 32, 34; II 30 (notes 18-24, 28 and 29 above); III 7 (notes 46 and 48 above); IV 14 (notes 49 and 50 above).

[53] III 7 (n. 47 above) and IV 14 (n. 50 above).

[54] Note 44 above.

[55] II 30 (n. 42 above).

[56] Johnson (n. 17 above), pp. 61-62.

[57] IV 14 (146,18-20).

[58] Russell (n. 17 above), p. 31.

[59] Goffart (n. 1 above), pp. 216, 217, 218. The last citation is from his paper, Conspicuously Absent: Martial Heroism in the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Likes, a pre-publication copy of which the author graciously allowed me to see.

[60] Goffart (n. 1 above), pp. 175, 203, 220, 230.

[61] In his paper Goffart notes that “Isidore of Seville, like John of Biclar, was firm in support of official wars by Visigothic kings.” These “official wars” are sanctioned and therefore just: war is evaluated by a societal, not an individual, standard.

[62] Notes 5 and 42 above, and 80, 231 and 232 below.

[63] Goffart (n. 1 above), p. 182: “Side by side with the saints, whom Gregory also allows us to glimpse, and in contrast with them, the high and low miseri scuttle about in their base and empty certamena.”

[64] Niditch (n. 7 above), pp. 90-105. Cf. Hist. I 12 (13,16-19), where Gregory’s Israelites are delivered “per virorum fortium brachium.”

[65] Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, New York 1981, pp. 33-35; The Literary Guide to the Bible (n. 31 above), p. 160.

[66] 50,5-7: “Nam nullus ambigat, Chunorum exercitum obtentu memorati antestitis fuisse fugatum. Verum Aetius patricius cum Thorismodo victuriam obtinuit hostesque delevit.” Cf. III 28 (125,8-9): “Quod nullus ambigat, hanc per obtentum reginae beati Martini fuisse virtutem,” on which Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), p. 121.

[67] On the ideology of victory, Jean Gagé, “La théologie de la victoire impériale,” Revue Historique 171 (1933), pp. 1-43, and “Stauròs nikopoiós: La victoire impériale dans l’empire chrétien,” Revue d’Histoire et de Philosophie religieuses 13 (1933), pp. 370-400; Michael McCormick, Eternal Victory: Triumphal Rulership in Late Antiquity, Byzantium, and the Early Medieval West, Cambridge (Eng.) 1986, passim; Philippe Bernard, “’Vestra fides nostra victoria est’: Avit de Vienne, le baptême de Clovis et la théologie de la victoire tardo-antique,” Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes 154 (1996), pp. 47-51; Jean-Pierre Martin, “La mystique de la victoire au Bas Empire,” in Clovis, histoire et mémoire, Paris 1997 (hereafter Clovis), I, pp. 383-393.

[68] I 43 (28,13): “Maximus … sumpsisset victoriam.” Cf. I 42 (28,10,12): “Theodosius … Constantinopolim urbem victor ingressus est”; also, n. 206 below.

[69] VI 41 (313,20-21): “patrationem victuriarum in manu Dei consistere.” Cf. III 6 (102,10): “erit Deus tecum et abiens victuriam obtinebis”; IV 30 (162,18): “si vos Deo propitio illos devincitis”; X 3 (485,1-2): “Hodie apparebit cui Divinitas obtenere victoriam praestitit”; also, notes 77-79 below.

[70] III 7 (105,2).

[71] V 15 (213,13 – 214,9; esp. 214,6-7). The Swabian victory is due to the “Domini miseratio, quae iustitiam facit” (214,3).

[72] II 7 (50,11-12): “Aetius, spoliato campo, victor in patriam cum grande est reversus spolia”; II 30 (76,3-4) and II 37 (88,13-14); III 4 (100,11): “obtenta victuria, Theudericus ad propriam est reversus”; IV 23 (155,13): “Rediens autem Sigiberthus victur a Chunis”; V 30 (236,8-9): “exercitus eius Persas debellavit, victorque regressus”; X 31 (531,17 – 532,1): “Huius tempore Chlodovechus rex victor de caede Gothorum Turonus rediit.” McCormick (n. 67 above), p. 335, n. 25, gives a ceremonial tinge to such expressions, which had a long literary future (n. 259 below).

[73] McCormick (n. 67 above), p. 81. In the account of Sigibert’s war against Chilperic in Hist. IV 51 (188,7-9), Bishop Germanus of Paris promises Sigibert “vivus et victur redis,” but only if he spares his brother’s life: Sigibert ignores Germanus’s warning and is assassinated. On this last passage, also Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 50, 194, n. 8 and 197, n. 34. On the exceptions, notes 81 and 206 below.

[74] VIII 30 (395,8-15). On the wider context of this passage, Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 59-60.

[75] IV 40 (172,6-7): “obtenentem victorias … esse verissimum christianum.” On the role of Tiberius in the Histories as a literary foil to the Merovingians and especially Chilperic, Goffart (n. 1 above), p. 221, Breukelaar (n. 1 above), pp. 233-235, and Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 48 and 196, n. 25.

[76] The depiction of Clovis primarily as a victorious, conquering king predates Gregory: see McCormick (n. 67 above), pp. 340-341; Martin Heinzelmann, “Clovis dans le discours hagiographique,” Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes (n. 67 above), p. 93 and notes.

[77] II 30 (75,18,19-21,22): “’Iesu Christe … qui dare auxilium laborantibus victuriamque in te sperantibus tribuere diceris … si mihi victuriam super hos hostes indulseris … credam tibi et in nomine tuo baptizer’”; Demyttenaere (n. 5 above), p. 24; Françoise Monfrin, “La conversion du roi et des siens,” in Clovis (n. 67 above), I, pp. 299-302.

[78] II 30 (76,4-5): “narravit reginae qualiter per invocationem nominis Christi victuriam meruit obtenire.”

[79] II 37 (85,15): “’ubi erit spes victuriae, si beato Martino offendimus?’”

[80] V praef. (193,10): “capud victuriarum vestrarum Chlodovechus”; II 9 (57,13-15): “[Franci] reges crinitos super se creavisse de prima et, ut ita dicam, nobiliore suorum familia. Quod postea probatum Chlodovechi victuriae tradiderunt … “ On the imperial connotations of Clovis’s victory procession through Tours, described in II 38, n. 184 below with the literature cited there.

[81] II 32 (78,7-8; 79,3): “auditas Godigisilus Chlodovechi regis victurias misit ad eum legationem occulte … Godigisilus vero obtenta victuria.” On the dual personal and religious aspects of victoria during the pagan Empire, Gagé (n. 67 above), “La théologie,” p. 20: “elle [victoria] peut être considérée comme une puissance autonome qui se révèle dans la personne de l’empereur, ou comme l’effet d’une intervention descendue de plus haut.”

[82] Note 66 above; Banniard (n. 32 above), p. 12: “Aetius ne semble être qu’un instrument de plus entre les mains de Dieu.”

[83] Note 237 below.

[84] Even such characteristics in the description of Aetius as wakefulness and endurance of hunger and thirst were considered military virtues in ancient literature since Xenophon (Cyropaedia 1.5.11; 2.3.13; 8.36; Hellenica 5.1.15).

[85] II 8 (52,2-3): “Cui ab ineunte aetate praedictum liquet, quantae potentiae fatis distinaretur, temporibus suis locisque celebrandus.”

[86] II 8 (52,4-5).

[87] For other examples, Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 105, 121-122.

[88] Gustavo Vinay, San Gregorio di Tours, Studi di letteratura medievale I, Turin 1940, p. 105. The others are at II 9 (n. 80 above) and II 12 (62,11-12).

[89] II 7 (49,4 – 50,2).

[90] Pelagia was Aetius’s second wife; cf. PLRE II, p. 21, s.n. “Aetius 7.” On Pelagia, op.cit., pp. 856-857, s.n. “Pelagia 1.” Banniard (n. 32 above), p. 12, n. 30, notes the incompatibility of Gregory’s character with the historical figure, who according to Sidonius Apollinaris (Carm. V.126-274) was murderously jealous of Aetius’s lieutenant and future emperor Majorian.

[91] Lib. de Virt. S. Iuliani 7 (Arndt, 567,31 – 568,9).

[92] 568,2: “Quod ne quis dubitet hanc beati martyris fuisse victoriam … “ Cf. n. 66 above.

[93] 568,3.

[94] 567,37; 568,1.

[95] Notes 177 and 248 below.

[96] On the slightly different, more clerical audience of the Histories, Martin Heinzelmann, Heresy in Books I and II of Gregory of Tours’ Historiae, in After Rome’s Fall, Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History, Essays presented to Walter Goffart, Toronto 1998, p. 76: “It is easy to see that Gregory requires a certain knowledge of patristic theology on the part of his audience [of the Histories].”

[97] On Gregory’s Gaul as Terra Sancta, see now Luce Pietri, “Gregoire et la perception de l’espace gaulois: Rapport introductif,” p. 21; Id., “Clovis et l’église de Tours,” pp. 321-329; Jean Guyon, “Gregoire de Tours et le Midi de la Gaule,” p. 29, in Grégoire de Tours et l’espace gaulois, Actes du Congrès international 1, Tours 1997.

[98] Heinzelmann (n. 31 above), p. 338.

[99] Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), p. 110; Id. (n. 31 above), p. 332.

[100] Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 114-118; Id. (n. 31 above), p. 330, asserts it is such for the whole work. Also, L Pietri, La ville de Tours du IVe au VIe siècle: naissance d’une cité chrétienne, Collection de l’École française de Rome 69, Rome 1983, p. 760: “une introduction indispensable à l’intelligence des livrés suivants.”

[101] E.R. Curtius, Europäische Literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter, Bern 1948 (Eng. tr. W.R. Trask, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, London 1953), p. 36 (Eng. p. 28), on the early Christian and medieval topos of a world grown old and nearing its end.

[102] On Clovis, n. 210 below; on Gregory’s contemporary kings, n. 233 below.

[103] Similarly, Hezekiah is the type for Gregory’s depiction of Guntram in Books VII-IX: Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), esp. pp. 49-50; 197, n. 32; 199, n. 47. In the same passages, the prophet Nathan serves as an underlying type for Gregory himself; Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), p. 199, nos. 47, 48. On the “political” metaphor, Demyttenaere (n. 5 above), p. 30: “Kanaän ligt bij wijze van spreken in Zuid-Gallië. De Kanaänieten zijn de Ariaanse Visigoten.”

[104] Monod (n. 18 above), p. 74; Max Bonnet, Le Latin de Grégoire de Tours, Paris 1890, pp. 52-54, 61, 741-742; Erich Auerbach, Mimesis, tr. W.R. Trask, Princeton 1953, p. 89 and Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, tr. Ralph Manheim, Princeton 1965, p. 111; Paul Antin, OSB, Notes sur le style de S. Grégoire de Tours, Latomus 22 (1963), pp. 273-284; Id., “Emplois de la Bible chez Grégoire de Tours et Mgr Pie,” Latomus 26 (1967), pp. 778-782; Massimo Oldoni, Gregorio di Tours I ‘Libri Historiarum’: letture e fonti, metodi e ragioni,” Studi medievali, ser. ter., 13:2 (1972), pp. 599-612; Marc Reydellet, La Bible miroir des princes, in Bible de tous les temps 2: La monde latin antique et la Bible, ed. Jacques Fontaine, Charles Pietri, Paris 1985, p. 448: “Grégoire de Tours est imprégne de l’esprit de la Bible”; Goffart (n. 1 above), p. 149; Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 82-83.

[105] Hist. II 37 (88,11-12). On the links between Clovis, Childeric and David, notes 163-165, 167, 179, 208-210, and 253 below. On the nature of Biblically-based typological thought for this period, Mary Garrison, The Franks as the New Israel?, in The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Yitzhak Hen, Matthew Innes, Cambridge [Eng.] 2000, pp. 117-118, 122-123.

[106] I 5 (7,8): “vetus historia (=Gn 9,19)”; I 13 (14,12): “sicut Regum testatur historia (=III Rg 6,1; from Jerome)”; II praef. (36,12): “illas regum Israheliticorum historias (citations from I, III, IV Rg); Pietri (n. 100 above), p. 771; Reydellet (n. 104 above).

[107] II praef. (36,8-11): “Prosequentes ordinem temporum, mixte confusaeque tam virtutes sanctorum quam strages gentium memoramus. Non enim inrationabiliter accipi puto, si felicem beatorum vitam inter miserorum memoremus excidia, cum idem non facilitas scriptoris, sed temporum series praestitit.” On the reading of this passage, Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 91-92 and 214, n. 23.

[108] E.g., Vinay (n. 88 above), p. 69; Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 91-93, 109-111; Goffart (n. 1 above), pp. 173-174; Breukelaar (n. 1 above), pp. 308-309.

[109] On yet another programmatic aspect of the preface to Book II, Heinzelmann (n. 1 above), pp. 50 and 196-197, n. 32.

[110] See Breukelaar (n. 1 above), pp. 106-116, on the arguments of Emil Walter and Felix Thürlemann.

[111] MGH:aa IX, Victorii Aquitani Cursus Paschalis 7, Berlin 1892, (681, 17).

[112] E.g., Hist. II 9 (55,17 – 56,1 [Frigeridus]): “Wandalis Francorum bello laborantibus, Godigyselo rege absumpto, aciae viginti ferme milibus ferro peremptis, cunctis Wandalorum ad internitionem delendis … “

[113] III Rg 17 – IV Rg 8, almost one third of III & IV Rg (1 & 2 Kings), focuses on the prophets, especially Elijah and Elisha, not the kings.

[114] Marc Reydellet, La Royauté dans la littérature latine de Sidoine Apollinaire à Isidore de Seville, Rome 1981, p. 389. But see Breukelaar (n. 1 above), p. 216 and n. 92. Does not Gregory’s conception of Gaul as a New Israel speak to a Christianized idea of the state?

[115] St-Michel 1 (n. 7 above), pp. 431-432, plus Arndt’s index, p. 894; Breukelaar (n. 1 above), p. 209.

[116] I 18 (16,15; 17,1-2): “Lugdunum Galliarum … quae postea inlustrata martyrum sanguine nobilissima nuncupatur”; I 28 (21,14-15): “in Gallias multi pro Christi nomine sunt per martyrium gemmis caelestibus coronati.”

[117] I 30 (22,15 – 23,1); I 31 (24,9-10).

[118] Liber in Gloria Martyrum 46 (Arndt, 519,8-10): “[The relics of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius] per totum Galliarum ambitum Deo propitio dilatatae sunt.”

[119] Liber de Virtutibus S. Mart. I 3 (Arndt, 589,24): “ad salvationem Galliarum opitulante Deo diregitur.”

[120] Hist. I 39 (27,14-15): “Tunc iam et lumen nostrum exoritur, novisque lampadum radiis Gallia perlustratur, hoc est tempore beatissimus Martinus in Gallias praedicare exorsus est.”

[121] Breukelaar (n. 1 above), p. 220.

[122] Lib. Virt. S. Mart. I 1 (Arndt, 586,25-27, inexactly quoting Sulpicius Severus’s Dialogi III 17).

[123] II 37 (85,5-6): “Igitur Chlodovechus rex ait suis: ‘Valde molestum fero quod hi Arriani partem teneant Galliarum’”; VIII 30 (393,10,11-12): “[Guntram] dicens: ‘ … indignum est, ut horrendorum Gothorum terminus usque in Galliis sit extensus.’”

[124] Notes 13, 28, 29, and 38 above; Breukelaar (n. 1 above), p. 213 and n. 87.

[125] Breukelaar (n. 1 above), esp. pp. 214-216.

[126] Pierre Riché, Éducation et Culture dans l’Occident barbare, Paris 1962 (Eng. tr. J. Contreni, Education and Culture in the Barbarian West, Columbia [South Carolina] 1976), pp. 220-226 (Eng. pp. 177-183).

[127] Giselle de Nie, The spring, the seed and the tree: Gregory of Tours on the wonders of nature, Journal of Medieval History 11:2 (June 1985), pp. 101-111.

[128] Lib. In Glor. Mart. 75, 82; Lib. De Virt. S. Mart. I 9; Lib. Vitae Patrum XVII.3, 5; Lib. in Glor. Conf. 30, 45, 95; Lib. de Miraculis B. Andreae Apostoli 8, 21; de Nie (n. 127 above), pp. 103-105.

[129] Lib. in Glor. Mart. 5, 68; de Nie (n. 127 above), pp. 104-107: “water is considered to have been made ‘holy’ through contact with a holy person or thing (p. 107).”

[130] Mt 8,23-27; 14,23-33 (n. 133 below); Mc 4,35-40; 6,45-51; Lc 8,22-25; Io 6,16-21.

[131] Jean Danielou, Sacramentum Futuri: Études sur les origines de la typologie biblique, Paris 1950, pp. 233-245.

[132] Lib. de Virt. S. Mart. I 2 (588,31 – 589,2). Gregory here amplifies on his source, Paulinus of Perigueux’s De vita S. Martini 6.351-460, ed. M. Petschenig, CSEL 16.1, Vienna 1888, pp. 153-157.

[133] Text in Pietri (n. 100 above), p. 807 (no. 9).

[134] Lib. de Virt. S. Mart. I 2 (588,19-31), 10; II 17; de Nie (n. 127 above), p. 106.

[135] Hist. I 48 (33,9-13): “ingressi Ligeris alveum.” On this passage also n. 188 below.

[136] On the Jordan as a sacred boundary, Danielou (n. 131 above), esp. p. 242 on Gregory of Nyssa. For our author’s view of the sojourn in the Wilderness and the crossing of the Jordan, see Hist I 11 (13,13-15); also, n. 156 below.

[137] Lib. de Virt. S. Mart. II 13 (613,7-22).

[138] Lib. de Virt. S. Mart. III 55 (645,27-32): “Mulier Transligeritana die dominico cum operam exerceret quam in die illo fieri patrum inhibebat auctoritas … “

[139] E.g., Mt 4,25: “et secutae sunt eum turbae multae de Galilaea et Decapoli et Hierosolymis et Iudaea et de trans Iordanen.”

[140] For another example of this technique, n. 224 below on Hist. II 27.

[141] Hist. V 4 (198,19 – 200,1); Lib. de Virt. S. Mart. II 27 (619,7-19); de Nie (n. 127 above), pp. 108-110.

[142] II 9 (58,3-5): “In his autem partibus, id est ad meridianam plagam, habitabant Romani usque Ligerem fluvium. Ultra Ligerem vero Gothi dominabantur.”

[143] Monod (n. 18 above), p. 85, who links this supposed source with the chronicle source Gregory termed “consulares” a few lines earlier (57,15).

[144] Forcellini, Totius Latinitatis Lexicon IV, Prato 1868, p. 691.

[145] Novae Concordantiae Bibliorum Sacrorum iuxta Vulgatam versionem, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1977 (hereafter Concord. Vulg.), IV, cols. 3822-3823, s.v. “plaga.”

[146] Ios 5,1: “postquam ergo audierunt omnes reges Amorreorum qui habitabant trans Iordanem ad occidentalem plagam … quod siccasset Dominus fluenta Iordanis coram filiis Israhel donec transirent, dissolutum est cor eorum et non remansit in eis spiritus, timentium introitum filiorum Israhel.”

[147] Notes 156 and 171-173 below.

[148] II 9 (58,6-8).

[149] Pietri (n. 100 above), p. 770; Garrison (n. 105 above), p. 123 and n. 28.

[150] Adriaan Breukelaar, Christliche Herrscherlegitimation: das Darstellungsinteresse bei Gregor von Tours, Hist. II 9, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichtes 98 (1987), pp. 332-337.

[151] An idea asserted and not proved, whether by Breukelaar or the authorities he cites (n. 150 above).

[152] II 9 (52,9-11; 54,13,15-16; 55,10-11; 56,2-3 [see next note]; 57,10-11.

[153] II 9 (56,2-3): “Movet nos haec causa, quod cum aliarum gentium reges nominat, cur non nominet et Francorum.”

[154] I 12 (13,18): “regem sicut reliquae gentes habent.” Cf. I Sm 8,5,19b-20.

[155] II 10 (58,11 – 60,21; esp. 59,9-11).

[156] I 11 (13,14-15): “post acceptam legem transgressuque cum Iesu Nave Iordanne terram repromissionis accipiunt.” Here Gregory plays on the typological identification of Jesus Nave, i.e., Joshua son of Nun (from the Septuagint “Ιησους ο του Ναυη”), with Jesus Christ, an interpretive commonplace since Justin Martyr; cf., e.g., Jerome, Epist. 53 (PL 22, cols. 545-546): “Veniam ad Iesum Nave, qui typus Domini non solum in gestis, sed etiam in nomine, transiit Iordanem, hostium regna subvertit, divisit terram victori populo.” On the Joshua-Jesus typology, Danielou (n. 131 above), pp. 203-256.

[157] Exceptions include 4 of 17 chapters: II 33-34, 36, 39.

[158] On the dramatic anticipations in the account of the Hunnic invasion in II 5-7, n. 253 below. On the anticipations of the Frankish-Gothic war, notes 170-173 below.

[159] Notes 199-206 below.

[160] On the chronology, A. Van de Vyver, La victoire contre les Alamans et la conversion de Clovis, Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire 15 (1936), pp. 859 – 915, 16 (1937), pp. 35-94; Id., L’unique victoire contre les Alamans et la conversion de Clovis en 506, Revue Belge 17 (1938), pp. 793-813; I. N. Wood, Gregory of Tours and Clovis, Revue Belge 63 (1985), pp. 249-272.

[161] II 31 (77,8). Cf., e.g., Louis Halphen, Gregoire de Tours, Historien de Clovis, in À travers l’histoire du moyen âge, Paris 1950, pp. 35-36; Demyttenaere (n. 5 above), pp. 27-29, who links Gregory’s Constantine to the emperor of the early medieval “Silvesterlegende”; Monfrin (n. 77 above).

[162] Demyttenaere (n. 5 above), p. 29.

[163] II 43 (93,14-15,16-17): “apud Parisius obiit, sepultusque in basilica sanctorum apostolorum quam cum Chrodechilde regina ipse construxerat … fueruntque omnes dies regni eius anni triginta.” Cf., e.g., IV Rg 16,20: “dormivitque Ahaz cum patribus suis et sepultus est cum eis in civitate David”; also, I Par 29,27: “et dies quibus regnavit super Israhel fuerunt quadraginta anni.”

[164] II 27 (71,11).

[165] Concord. Vulg., IV, cols. 4387-4389, s.v. “regno.” The same regnal formula is used three times elsewhere in the Histories: III 37 (133,2-3); IV 51 (189,14); and VIII 46 (412,3-4).

[166] V 42 (249,4-7).

[167] II 40 (91,8): “ambularet recto corde coram eo et faceret quae placita erant in oculis eius.” Cf. III Rg 3,6 (David); II Par. 20,32 (Jehoshaphat).

[168] On Clovis’s campaign against the Goths, Demyttenaere (n. 5 above), pp. 29-31.

[169] MGH:aa IV:2, Venanti Fortunati Lib. de virt. S. Hilarii, ed. B. Krusch, Berlin 1885, pp. 9-10.

[170] Notes 142-147 above.

[171] II 23 (69,25-26): “terror Francorum resonaret in his partibus et omnes eos amore desiderabili cupirent regnare.”

[172] Ex 23,27: “terrorem meum mittam in praecursum tuum, et occidam omnem populum ad quem ingredieris, cunctorumque inimicorum tuorum coram te terga vertam”; Dt 2,25: “hodie incipiam mittere terrorem atque formidinem tuam in populos qui habitant sub omni caelo”; 11,25: “nullus stabit contra vos, terrorem vestrum et formidinem dabit Dominus Deus vester super omnem terram quam calcaturi estis sicut locutus est vobis”; Ios 2,9: “novi quod tradiderit Dominus vobis terram, etenim inruit in nos terror vester.” On the divine terror in the Biblical holy war, Gerhard von Rad, Der Heilige Krieg im alten Israel, Zürich 1951 (Eng. tr. Holy War in Ancient Israel, Grand Rapids 1991), pp. 12-13 (Eng. pp. 48-49).

[173] II 35 (84,10-11): “Multi iam tunc ex Gallis habere Francos dominos summo desiderio cupiebant.”

[174] II 36; Wood (n. 160 above), pp. 256-257.

[175] Demyttenaere (n. 5 above), p. 30: “De gehele expeditie wordt door Gregorius gezien als een door Jahweh gesanctioneerde en gesteunde oudtestamentische veroveringstocht”; Pietri (n. 97 above), esp. p. 328.

[176] II 37 (85,16 – 86,8). On the oracle of God before battle, von Rad (n. 172 above), p. 7 (Eng. p. 42) and the passages cited there.

[177] II 37 (86,8-12); Pietri (n. 100 above), p. 775. This story of divine guidance also appears in fifth- and sixth-century Byzantine historians, viz., Priscus of Panium, Procopius, and Agathias.

[178] II 37 (86,12-14): “Veniente autem rege apud Pictavus dum eminus in tenturiis commoraret, pharus ignea, de basilica sancti Hilari egressa.” Venantius Fortunatus (n. 169 above) in describing the same apparition explicitly compares it to the “columna ignis” of the Israelites; cf. Ex 13,21,22; 14,24; Nm 14,14.

[179] 85,10-16 (execution of plundering soldier; cf. II Sm 1,13-15 [David’s peremptory execution of Saul’s slayer]; 4,9-12 [David’s peremptory execution of the assassins of Saul’s son Ishbosheth]); 86,4-6 = Ps (G) 17,40-41.

[180] 88,11-12; n. 105 above; Demyttenaere (n. 5 above), p. 31; Pietri (n. 100 above), p. 776.

[181] II 37 (88,3-4): “auxilio tam loricae quam velocis equi, ne periret, exemptus est.” Cf. II 8 (51,15): “eques promptissimus.”

[182] Venantius Fortunatus in his account here also associates Clovis with divinely-granted victoria; see also n. 76 above.

[183] II 37 (85,15,17; 87,15-16; 88,13-14).

[184] II 38 (88,15 – 89,6). On the literature regarding this, Ralph Mathisen, Clovis, Anastase et Grégoire de Tours: consul, patrice et roi, Clovis (n. 67 above), I, p. 396, notes 4 and 5.

[185] Godefroid Kurth, Études Franques II, Paris 1919, pp. 201, 202.

[186] Goffart (n. 1 above), p. 218.

[187] E.g., Hist. III 7, III 14; IV 46; V 16, 25, 32; VI 26; VII 6, 29, 38; VIII 16, 40; Lib. in Glor. Mart. 19, 38, 52, 57, 73; Lib. Vitae Patrum 9; Lib. in Glor. Conf. 91, 92.

[188] I 48 (32,7 – 33,14; esp. 33,7-8): “Deus Omnipotens noluit urbem Turonicam a proprio frustrari patrono.”

[189] II 32 (79,5 – 80,10; esp. 79,14-15): “causam tuam Dominus prosperam facere sua pietate dignetur.”

[190] IV 29 (161,15 – 162,8).

[191] IV 30 (162,9 – 163,16).

[192] 163,8-10 = Aen. I.100-101, 118.

[193] VIII 39 (406,6).

[194] IV 29 (162,5-6): “idque ei magis ad laudem quam ad aliquid pertinere opprobrium iusta ratione pensatur.”

[195] IV 29 (162,4-5); 30 (163,15-16).

[196] Also notes 215-217, 220 below.

[197] II 7 (50,7-12). Cf. MGH:aa V:1, Iord. Get. 216 (113,11-16), ed. T. Mommsen, Berlin 1882.

[198] Note 66 above.

[199] Goffart (n. 1 above), p. 218, n. 460.

[200] Kurth (n. 185 above), p. 201.

[201] II 40 (89,12 – 91,8).

[202] II 41 (91,9 – 92,2); Kurth (n. 185 above), p. 201.

[203] II 42 (92,3-93,13).

[204] II 40 (91,6-7): “prosternebat enim cotidie Deus hostes eius sub manu ipsius et augebat regnum eius.”

[205] II 40 (90,5-6): “iuditio Dei in foveam quam patri hostiliter fodit incessit.” Cf. Prv 26,27: “qui fodit foveam incidet in eam.” The same verse is associated with the exercise of divine judgment elsewhere in the Histories, viz., IV 51 (188,9-10); V 49 (259,3); and IX 9 (423,16).

[206] Pauli Orosii Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri VII, ed. C. Zangemeister, CSEL 5, Vienna 1882, VII 35.5 (526,11-12) “Theodosius incruentam victoriam Deo procurante suscepit”; Hist. I 43 (28,16-18).

[207] Halphen (n. 161 above), pp. 36-37.

[208] II 40 (91,1): “in his ego nequaquam conscius sum.” Cf. II Sm 3,28b: “mundus ego sum et regnum meum apud Dominum usque in sempiternum a sanguine Abner filii Ner.”

[209] II Sm 9,1: “putasne est aliquis qui remanserit de domo Saul ut faciam cum eo misericordiam?”

[210] II 42 (93,10-13).

[211] H.R. Ellis Davidson, Myths and Symbols In Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions, Syracuse (New York) 1988, p. 48.

[212] Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, ed. Fr. Klaeber, New York (1926) 1936, ll. 1063-1159 (pp. 40-44).

[213] Marcel Detienne, Jean-Pierre Vernant, Les Ruses d’Intelligence: La mètis des Grecs, Paris 1974 (Eng. tr. J. Lloyd, Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, Atlantic Highlands [New Jersey] 1978), p. 21 (Eng. p. 14).

[214] Detienne, Vernant (n. 213 above), pp. 25, 47, 56 (Eng. pp. 18, 39, 47).

[215] Detienne, Vernant (n. 213 above)., p. 52 (Eng. p. 43).

[216] Hist. II 27 (72,14-16): “unus levis, invidus ac facilis, cum voce magna elevatam bipennem urceo inpulit … ad haec obstupefactis omnibus.”

[217] II 27 (72,17 – 73,4).

[218] Detienne, Vernant (n. 213 above), pp. 105, 20 (Eng. pp. 108, 13).

[219] II 27 (71,12).

[220] Detienne, Vernant (n. 213 above), pp. 65-66 (Eng. p. 61).

[221] II 27 (73,3-4): “Quo mortuo, reliquos abscedere iubet, magnum sibi per hanc causam timorem statuens.”

[222] Michel Rouche, Clovis, Paris 1996, pp. 329-331.

[223] Joaquín Martínez Pizarro, A Rhetoric of the Scene: Dramatic Narrative in the Early Middle Ages, Toronto 1989, p. 181.

[224] Gregory writes only that the vase was stolen “from a certain church” (72,2: “de quadam eclesia”) and the bishop’s sole identification is as “episcopus eclesiae illius” (72,4). Later, Fredegar (III 16) was keen to identify the bishop as Remigius of Rheims. Gregory’s reticence is deliberate: the character’s identification as simply “episcopus” is a folkloric technique which elevates the bishop’s typical significance.

[225] Halphen (n. 161 above), p. 35.

[226] J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Long-Haired Kings, Oxford 1962, p. 127; Goffart (n. 1 above), p. 151.

[227] II 27, esp. 72,11-12. On this passage, Monfrin (n. 77 above), pp. 314-315.

[228] III 11-13.

[229] Notes 49-51 above.

[230] IV 47 (184,10-12).

[231] IV 48 (184,14-18).

[232] IV 48 (185,3).

[233] Goffart (n. 1 above), pp. 221-222.

[234] III 37 (133,2-3): “Mortuo ergo Theudoberto quarto decimo regni sui anno, regnavit Theudoaldus filius eius pro eo” (repetition of Biblical accession formula [n. 165 above], as with this passage’s placement at a book’s conclusion a link with Clovis); Goffart (n. 1 above), pp. 208, 224-225.

[235] III 3 (defeats Danish invasion and kills their king).

[236] III 21; Roger Collins, Theodebert I, ‘Rex Magnus Francorum,’ Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society, Studies Presented to J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, ed. Patrick Wormald, Oxford 1983, pp. 7-33; Goffart (n. 1 above), pp. 224-225.

[237] III 32 (128,10,18): “contra Belsuarium multis vicibus pugnans, victuriam obtenuit … Magna enim ei felicitas in his conditionibus fuit.” Cf. II 7 (50,6-7 [n. 66 above]): “Aetius patricius cum Thorismodo victuriam obtinuit hostesque delevit”; II 27 (73,4): “[Clovis] multa bella victuriasque fecit”; IV 45 (180,8): “Multa enim Mummolus bella gessit in quibus victor extetit.”

[238] On the historical figure, PLRE III A, pp. 253-254, s.n. “Butilinus 1”.

[239] Having fulfilled his literary function, Buccelen is curtly, and historically, disposed of by Narses in IV 9 (140,19-20): the stage is thereby cleared for Mummolus.

[240] IV 40-41 covers events in the Eastern Empire and in Italy respectively. Similarly, in Hist. II 2-4 Gregory’s narrative moves from Gaul to first Spain, then Africa, and finally the unlocated site of Athanaric’s persecution, a literary strategy which emphasizes the account of the Hunnic invasion in II 5-7 when the narrative returns to Gaul.

[241] L.M. Hartmann, Geschichte Italiens im Mittelalter, II,1, Gotha 1900, pp. 59, 80, dates the battles at Grenoble and Embrun to 575. The beginning of the civil wars seems securely dated by the council of Paris summoned by Guntram at their outset on 11 Sept. 573 (Concilia Galliae A. 511-695, ed. C. de Clercq, CCSL 148A [Turnhout, Belgium 1963], p. 211-217; Hist. IV 47 [183,14 – 184,1]).

[242] II 8 (51,9-11): “Et quia de hoc viro [Aetius] consequenter plura memoranda sunt, genus moresque ordire placet. Gaudentius pater, Scyciae provinciae primoris loci, a domesticatu exorsus militiam, usque ad magisterii equitum culmen provectus … “. Cf. IV 42 (174,12-14; 175,1-2): “De cuius militiae origine altius quaedam repetenda potavi. Hic etenim Peonio patre ortus, Audisiodorensis urbis incola fuit. Peonius vero huius municipii comitatum regebat … Ex hoc vero gradatim proficiens, ad maius culmen evectus est.”

[243] Goffart (n. 1 above), p. 161. In two other noteworthy exceptions, the introductions of Andarchius (IV 46 [180,18]) and Count Leudast (V 48 [257,18-19]), Gregory borrows from the same description, though there in the service of his pervasive irony.

[244] Classical battle cliches: commisso bello/proelio, IV 42 (175,3; 179,13,18); donec nox finem [to battle] faceret, IV 42 (176,5). On Sulpicius Alexander, II 9 (52,14; 53,1,7,10,18-19; 54,5-6): “Franci in Germaniam prorupere … onusti praeda … Quintinus cum exercitu … concidibus per extrema silvarum procuratis … maiore multitudine hostium circumfusus exercitus … paucis effugium totum nox et latibula silvarum praestiterunt.” Cf. IV 42 (175,2,5,9-10,12): “Igitur prorumpentibus Langobardis in Galliis … onerati praeda … circumdatisque Langobardis cum exercitu, factis etiam concidibus per divia silvarum … paucis quodadmodo per fugam lapsis.”

[245] IV 42 (176,15-19). Cf. Idc 6,3-5.

[246] IV 44 (178,16 – 179,4). Cf. I Sm 13,17-18.

[247] IV 42 (177,5); Bainton (n. 7 above), p. 96; Russell (n. 17 above), p. 18.

[248] IV 44 (179,10-12). Cf. II 37 (86,8-12 [n. 177 above]).

[249] IV 49 (185,20-21).

[250] Gregory’s account in Hist. II 1 of Brictius’s insults of St. Martin and of his subsequent tribulations as Martin’s episcopal successor is not only linked, as Heinzelmann noted (Heinzelmann, n. 1 above, p. 118; Id., n. 31 above, p. 338), to the story of Sidonius Apollinaris’s enemies in II 23, but also to the account of Gregory’s enemies in V 49. All share the theme of subordinates undermining their bishop. All draw on the writings of Sulpicius Severus on St. Martin (II 1 [37, nos. 1-3]; II 23 [68, n. 2]; V 49 [259, n. 6]). II 1 and V 49 share the theme of malitia (38,16; 259,5; n. 32 above) avenged by divine judgment (38,15; 259,2). The pride (“superbia”) of Simon Magus is invoked to describe the bishops’ enemies in both II 23 (69,22) and V 49 (259,24). Gregory equates Brictius with his priest and subdeacon, both named Riculfus, who had plotted against him (II 1 [37,7,17-18]: “faciles res sequeretur [Brictius] … beatum virum conviciis lacessivit.” Cf. V 49 [259,10,26]: “Riculfus subdiaconus simili levitate perfacilis … [Riculfus presbiter] me conviciis et sputis egit.”). These links show Gregory in his moment of crisis associating himself with the great bishop-saints of two preeminent sees in Gaul. See also Kathleen Mitchell, Saints and Public Christianity in the Historiae of Gregory of Tours,” in Religion, Culture, and Society in the Early Middle Ages: Studies in Honor of Richard E. Sullivan, ed. Thomas F.X. Noble, John J. Contreni, Kalamazoo 1987, p. 83 and n. 54.

[251] Similarly, the author of the Biblical book of Chronicles “had considerable latitude in the arrangement of events and in the adjustment of their presentation to his own historical and theological outlook” (Shemaryahu Talmon, 1 and 2 Chronicles, The Literary Guide to the Bible [n. 31 above], p. 367).

[252] The term is Alter’s, in The Art of Biblical Narrative (n. 65 above), pp. 24-25.

[253] Yitzhak Hen, Culture and Religion in Merovingian Gaul, A.D. 481-751, New York 1995, pp. 76-77.

[254] Niditch (n. 7 above) and Bainton (n. 7 above), pp. 167-168.

[255] On the numismatic evidence, e.g., G.C. Miles, The coinage of the Visigoths of Spain, Hispanic Numismatic Series 2, New York 1952. On the helmet of Agilulf, the discussion in McCormick (n. 67 above), pp. 338-339. The latter object confirms the orthography “VICTVRIA” for this period.

[256] Note 80 above.

[257] Notes 67, 68, and 81 above.

[258] On the Carolingian ideology, see now Garrison (n. 105 above), pp. 114-161, an important and valuable work that came to hand too late.

[259] Quellen zur Geschichte des 7. und 8. Jahrhunderts, Continuationes (Fredegarii), Darmstadt 1982, 14, 17; MGH: Script. rer. Germ., Annales Regni Francorum, ed. F. Kurze, Hanover 1895, s.as. 768, 774, 775, 776, 778, 783, 784, 786, 788, 791 (“propter nimiam malitiam et intollerabilem quam fecerunt Avari contra sanctam ecclesiam vel populum christianum”), 801 (“Carolo augusto, a Deo coronato, magno et pacifico imperatori Romanorum, vita et victoria!”). On the Carolingian ideology of victoria, McCormick (n. 67 above), pp. 347-387.

[260] P. Lauer, ed. and tr., Nithard: Histoire des fils de Louis le Pieux. Les Classiques de l’Histoire de France au moyen âge 7, Paris 1926, passim, esp. p. 106.

[261] MGH: Scriptores rerum Germanicarum, Annales Mettenses Priores (hereafter AMP), ed. B. von Simson, Hanover and Leipzig 1905, esp. 2,5; 4,20-21; 5,4-5; 10,19-24: “Pippinus [on eve of Tertry] contra optimates suos dulcibus alloquiis admonebat, uti sese votis et orationibus Dei omnipotentiae defendendos commendarent, qui dat honorem et victoriam omnibus timentibus eum et custodientibus precepta eius.”

[262] AMP, 9,23-25: “ne forte ipso renuente civile bellum existeret, in quo nobilissimus et cognatus sanguis Francorum sub incerto belli impetu funderetur.”

[263] AMP, 8,29-30: “pro cuius amore et sanctorum illius huiuscemodi certamina toleramus.”

[264] Nithard (n. 260 above), p. 82: “unanimes ad concilium omnes episcopi confluunt inventumque in conventu publico est quod pro sola iusticia et aequitate decertaverint et hoc Dei iuditio manifestum effectum sit.”

[265] E.g., James Turner Johnson, Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions, Westport (Conn.) 1991, p. 12.

[266] Goffart (n. 1 above), p. 181, n. 300. I am uncertain on this.

[267] Robert Holmes has recently written that although “[t]he prevailing view is that, at least within Christianity, the father of just war thinking is St. Augustine,” he ultimately concludes that “there is .. little in Augustine of such a [just war] theory … ” (R.L. Holmes, “St. Augustine and the Just War Theory,” in The Augustinian Tradition, ed. G.B. Matthews [Berkeley 1999], p. 323, 338). Even from the work of Russell (n. 17 above), who argues that “[t]he die for the medieval just war was cast by St. Augustine,” it can be shown that Augustine’s thoughts on the just war are scattered throughout works which include polemics, Biblical commentaries, letters and sermons, in which reflections on just war ideology are often incidental (pp. 16-26), and that the systematization of an Augustinian just war ideology is mostly due to the influence of Gratian’s Decretum, which excerpted Augustine’s writings on the subject, on subsequent systematic theology (pp. 55-85). When modern scholars try to assemble a coherent, foundational statement of the Christian just war from scattered references in the Augustinian corpus, they are following in the methodological tradition of the medieval canonists.


This article was first published in Francia: Forschungen zur westeuropäischen Geschichte v.28 n.1 (2001). We thank Werner Paravicini, editor of this journal, and Phillip Wynn for their permission to republish this article. For more information about this journal see this website.

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