What is a Merovingian?
While there are several milestones for measuring the decline of the Roman Empire, generally, a thirst for power and authority catalyzed the beginning stages. One of the initial setbacks occurred in 235 AD. Germanic and Sarmatian tribes invaded the Gallic frontier. Unwilling to surrender the territory, Emperor Severus Alexander mustered additional soldiers and sailed his army to the Gallic shore and marched into the heartland.
Emperor Severus Alexander
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Meanwhile, while the Emperor and his reinforcements made their way to the battlefield, frontier Roman soldiers, having returned from a long war with the Persians, bravely fended off the Germanic army and quieted the barbarians. By the time Severus arrived, the frontier soldiers were in control of the land. Persuaded by his mother, Julia Avita Mamaea, the Emperor offered a bribe to the German army in exchange for their surrender. For the victorious Roman soldiers, this was a cowardly and an unneeded diplomatic solution. The bribe was an embarrassment and was demoralizing. An already bad relationship between Severus and his soldiers became bitter. Severus had a reputation for being a strict military disciplinarian, and many of the soldiers disliked him. The harsh discipline and unwarranted bribe caused rebellion within the Roman ranks. While at a meeting with his generals in Mainz, Severus and his mother were fatally stabbed by his soldiers. Immediately, the Roman soldiers nominated Gaius Maximinus to be Severus' successor.
Emperor Gaius Maximinus
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Severus' assassination initiated the Crisis of the 3rd Century (also known as Military Anarchy). For fifty years, as many as 26 Romans claimed the right to be Emperor, and most were prominent Roman generals. Severus' assassination led to authoritative divisions within the empire. By 268, the Empire had split into three states: the Gallic, Palmyrene, and Roman Empires. The Gallic Empire included the Gaul and Brittania provinces. The Roman States map below illustrates the territorial divisions.
The Roman States
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As time progressed, so did the empire's destruction. By the middle of the 5th century, the Empire had experienced great decay. The 3rd and 4th centuries were rife with invasions, pirate attacks, and Christian discord. In 450, the once allied Huns turned against the empire. Attila unified the Huns and forcefully sought Gaul as a dowry gift for marrying Honoria (Emperor Valentinian III's sister). Honoria was expected to wed someone else but was not eager. Attila rescued her from this unwanted marriage.
Attila the Hun
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The Huns destroyed several cities on their way to the fortified town of Orleans. Once there, the Hunneric battering-rams pounded upon the town gates. The inhabitants were very frightened. Not knowing what to do, they sought the wisdom of Bishop Anianus. He directed the people to lay prostrate upon the ground and pray for help. Three times the Bishop implored the inhabitants to pray for help. Each time, he would have someone peer out onto the horizon. On the third gaze, their prayers were answered. Roman General Aetius had arrived and dispersed the Huns. Orleans survived. The Roman and Hun forces soon met at Chalons in 451, and a battle ensued. General Aetius defeated the Huns. While Aetius led the Roman army to victory, one Salian general and his soldiers was advised to return to the Franks. His name was Merovius (or Merovech). He was likely the son of Clodion the Hairy. Merovius was from the northwestern territory of Gaul which was home to the Salians. While there is uncertainty whether Merovius was a king, his son Childeric was King of Touraine. Despite the possible void of royal accolades, there is no disputing Merovech as a king maker. His descendants would rule Gaul from the 5th century to the 8th century, and his royal descendants would carry his name (known as the Merovingians).
Battle of Chalons
(Image courtesy of By Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1323025)
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