Treachery, Revenge, and Dominion
Knowing King Gundobad of Burgundy murdered his father-in-law, tribal notions must have coexisted within King Clovis' mind, as the eternal battle of good versus evil likely raged. He was newly baptized and had witnessed a miracle; moreover, he would likely have been taught to forsake revenge and embrace forgiveness, but his barbaric tendencies were deeply embedded, and to expect an immediate change of heart was unrealistic for this king. Behavioral conversion for all is typically a long-term or lifelong process of refinement, and Clovis was still a spiritual babe suckling the milk of the gospel.
King Godigisel of Burgundy was Clotilde's uncle and King Gundobad's brother. With knowledge of Gundobad's insatiable appetite for power and a desire to eliminate all challengers, enmity grew between Godigisel and Gundobad. Envisioning the inevitable, Godigisel was inspired to seek a resolution for dispelling the contention.
With his conquest of Soissons and victory against the Alamanni, Clovis had created a well-respected reputation for military might. Furthermore, Godigisel and Clovis were related through Clovis' marriage to Clotilde. With these two factors in mind, Godigisel sent envoys to Clovis. His message was, "If you help me to attack my brother, so that I can kill him in battle or drive him out of his territory, I will pay you any annual tribute which you may care to exact." His permanent solution carried a heavy promise. Offering 'any annual tribute' desired demonstrated Godigisel's desperation, fear, and determination.
Unable to resist potential for gained influence in Burgundy and an unlimited source of revenue, Clovis accepted the offer. When he mobilized his army, Gundobad was alarmed and made a plea to Godigisel, "Come to my assistance for the Franks are marching against us. Let us make a common front..." Godigisel replied, "I am coming with my army, and I will support you." The family's treachery reached a new pinnacle. The trap was set.
But, what would Godigisel do? He had options. He could abide by his agreement with Clovis, kill his brother, acquire Gundobad's kingdom, and pay Clovis an unlimited tribute, or he could break his promise with Clovis, rekindle a favorable relationship with Gundobad, defeat Clovis' army, and claim the Soissons territory.
Arriving at Dijon, in northern Burgundy, the three armies faced off. Initially, Godigisel's army stood alongside Gundobad's, while Clovis' army faced both. When they all met at the Ouche River, Godigisel recalled his brother's fratricidal penchant and joined forces with Clovis. The plan worked, Gundobad was outnumbered and Godigisel honored his agreement with Clovis. For Godigisel, Gundobad could not be trusted. He had committed fratricide twice, and Godigisel was the last of Gundobad's challengers. Gundobad's lack of familial compassion was a reminder of potential danger and death. Protecting their interests, Clovis and Godigisel's army destroyed Gundobad's, but Gundobad escape to Avignon in the Provencal south with a fellow fugitive named Aridius.
(Image courtesy of https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e8/Division_of_Gaul_-_511.jpg)
As tribute to Clovis, Godigisel surrendered a portion of Burgundy. The land increased Clovis' domain and became his southernmost territory. Faced with another choice of righteousness and tradition, Clovis had to choose between mercy or justice. He could allow Gundobad to live in Avignon, or he could chase and kill him. Clovis chose the latter and pursued Gundobad into Avignon.
Entrenched in the city, Gundobad and Aridius plotted. Aridius suggested an escape strategy. Aridius would find Clovis and declare himself a fugitive from Gundobad; he would pledge his allegiance to Clovis; and he would convince Clovis to spare Gundobad's life. With nothing to lose, Gundobad agreed.
When Aridius found Clovis encamped near Avignon, he approached the king, swore his allegiance, and begged for acceptance. Clovis agreed.
Aridius was cunning. He had a skill for convincing people and had an uncanny ability to understand them. Exercising these skills, Aridius endeared himself to Clovis, and soon after, Aridius was accepted into Clovis' inner circle. Within days, Aridius proposed a solution. Clovis' army was destroying the countryside. Forests were being stripped, and local food sources were being ravished. Aridius suggested sending the army home to preserve the Burgunde food source and demand a lifelong tribute in exchange for Gundobad's life. Feeling the wisdom in Aridius' logic, Clovis agreed. He sent his army home and issued a tribute ultimatum to Gundobad. Gundobad agreed and paid the first full tribute.
Compassion and loyalty were never strong attributes within Gundobad's character. A few years after his tribute agreement with Clovis, Gundobad reneged and quit paying. In addition, Gundobad set out to complete his mission. Godigisel was his last living brother and the final obstacle for becoming sole ruler of Burgundy. Gundobad gathered an army and laid siege to Vienne with his brother inside. The objective was to starve Godigisel into submission. With food dwindling inside the city, and no way to replenish without loss of life, Godigisel began to realize the inevitable and made a poor decision. He forsook his people and forced them out. One of the unfortunates was the city engineer. As an act of revenge, the engineer sought an audience with Gundobad. When he received permission, the engineer revealed a secret passage into the city using the aqueduct. Quietly leading a portion of Gundobad's army to the rear of the city, a large stone was rolled away to reveal a passageway. With a portion of the army attacking from the rear, the warriors in the front were able to break through the main gate and attacked. The townspeople were slaughtered, while Godigisel hid in an Arian church. Soon after, he was found and killed.
Gundobad had escaped death, reinvigorated his army, and achieved his ultimate goal. He had murdered all his brothers, eliminated all challengers, and gained sovereignty over the entire Burgunde territory.