The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians
Such is the brief story of this most important event, so far as it can be reconstructed from the records of the annals. The lordship of Aquitaine hereby passed from the Goths to the Franks; it became part of Francia in a wide sense of the term; and the authority of Clovis extended to the Pyrenees. The Visigoths were not indeed entirely driven beyond the mountains. They continued to keep, and kept throughout the Merovingian period, the territory of Septimania, with the seaboard, as far as the mouth of the Rhone. But their centre was now transferred to Spain. Thus, with the exception of Septimania, Burgundy, and Provence, and the Breton peninsula of Armorica in the north, all Gaul was now united under the king of the Franks.
The overthrow of the Visigoths made a deep impression on the Gallo-Roman Church, and the impression is preserved in the pages of Gregory of Tours, who adorns his account of the campaign with various miraculous incidents, of which the ecclesiastical origin is apparent. The Gallo-Roman Christians, such as Gregory of Tours himself, looked upon the war as religious, and as justified by religion; the Visigoths were Arians, and therefore war against them was righteous, however unprovoked. Gregory represents Clovis as invading their kingdom without any provocation. "It vexes me", said Clovis to his followers, "to see these Arians holding a part of Gaul. Let us attack them with God's aid, and, having conquered them, subjugate their land". We need not take this story literally, but it expresses an important historical fact, viz. that Clovis's Visigothic war stands out among his other wars as one in which he had the enthusiastic support, not merely of his own Franks, but of the Gallo-Roman Christians and the Church. Soon after his return from Aquitaine, Clovis founded at Paris the Church of the Holy Apostles, afterwards the church of St. Genevieve. The tradition was that before he set out against Alaric, he made a vow to build the church if he should return victorious, and marked out the limits of the site by hurling his axe, according to the German custom of taking possession of a domain. We cannot determine, and it matters little, whether he did make such a vow; the important point is that the clergy of the Church, rightly or wrongly, connected its foundation with the victory over the Visigoths. This, like many other stories which circulated among the Gallic ecclesiastics, may have no historical importance---we may say historical truth---in reflecting accurately the impression which the conquest of the Visigothic kingdom made upon Gaul and especially upon the Church.
The enlargement of his kingdom by the annexation of south-western Gaul altered the centre of the realm, and rendered it expedient for the king to move his residence farther west than Soissons. He fixed on Paris, which then, at the very moment when the greater part of Gaul became co-extensive with Francia, was chosen for preeminence---a preeminence soon lost amid the divisions of the kingdom, but finally reasserted in confirmation of Clovis's choice.
THE ABSORPTION OF THE RIPUARIAN FRANKS
The kingdom of the Ripuarian Franks, of which the centre was at Cöln, seems to have maintained its independence, or at least its separate existence, till after the Visigothic War. But at last it fell into Clovis's hands, and Clovis was elected king by the Ripuarian Franks. This seems to be the utmost one can say with certainty. Frankish legend described this political change as a tragic catastrophe. Sigebert, king of the Ripuarians, had a son named Chloderic, and Clovis secretly suggested to Chloderic to kill his old father and reign in his stead. Accordingly Sigebert was slain by his son, and then Clovis perfidiously slew the son and caused himself to be elected king. I am only summing up a story that is handed down with details which show its legendary character; it is quite insufficient evidence on which to condemn Clovis either of fraud or of violence in this matter. It may seem probable that Sigebert did die a violent death, but the true circumstances are unknown to us.
RELATION OF CLOVIS TO THE ROMAN EMPIRE
I have still to speak of Clovis's relation to the Roman Empire and the Roman Emperor. It is generally said that the advance of the Frankish power under Clovis is distinguished from the advance of the Teutonic power, such as the Visigothic and Burgundian, by the circumstance that there was no disguise about it; that, while those other Teutons were settling within the Empire, the Franks snatched provinces from the Empire and never professed to be inside it. Now there is a certain truth in this view: there is generally a difference between the process by which the Franks formed their kingdom in Gaul and the process by which the Visigoths and Burgundians formed theirs; but this difference has been exaggerated. In the first place, remember that the Salians, like the Visigoths and Burgundians, were originally settled as federate subjects in an imperial province, and remember that Childeric throughout his reign acted as a federate and supported the imperial administration. In the second place, if my interpretation of the letter of Remigius to Clovis is right, Clovis maintained and supported the Roman administration in Belgica for a considerable time after he had overthrown Syagrius, and his attitude must have been that of the king of a federate people, not of an outsider. But the most important point is that his Gallic kingdom, when it was an accomplished fact, was recognised by the Emperor Anastasius as nominally within and not outside the Empire. This fact has been questioned. It depends on a passage of Gregory of Tours which has been largely discussed. At the end of his account of the Visigothic War and Clovis's arrival at the city of Tours, Gregory goes on to say: Igitur ab Anastasio imperatore codicillos de consolato accepit........et ab die tanquam consul aut augustus est vocitatus. That is: the Emperor Anastasius conferred the consulship on Clovis and henceforward he was styled tanquam consul. This statement has been rejected by some critics as a fable because the name of Clovis does not appear in the consular lists. This criticism misapprehends the meaning. Clovis is not made a consul ordinarius, one of the ordinary consuls of the year. He received an honorary or titular consulship, an honour that was often conferred. The technical title of such an honorary consul was ex consule, and this is what is meant by Gregory's expression tanquam consul. The word codicilli for the deed by which the Emperor conferred the titular consulship is technical. There is therefore no reason to question the truth of Gregory's statement, while we recognise his inaccuracy in introducing the title augustus, which Clovis undoubtedly never assumed.
The founder of the Frank monarchy died in 511, and for the last three years of his life he was by virtue of his consular title formally recognised by the Empire. That title was doubtless a recognition of his championship of orthodoxy against the Arian Visigoths. Actually it made no change in the situation; but it is significant as illustrative of the relation of the Empire to the Germans who were dismembering it.