Royal Coercion or Youthful Ambition?

After defeating the Roman king Syagrius, the invading Alemanni army, the fratricidal Gundobad, and the Arian Visigoth Alaric II, King Clovis had acquired almost all of Gaul and the attention of the Byzantine Roman Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus. At the time of Clovis' conquests, the Emperor was engaged in building a large civilian aristocracy, and Clovis became an integral part of this elite noble network. The Emperor appointed Clovis the westernmost consulate to the Byzantine Empire. As consulate, Clovis acquired judicial power and authority over his domain. To celebrate, Clovis dressed in a royal purple thigh length tunic shirt, a gold crown, and a military length overcoat. As he departed St Martin's Church to go to Paris, Clovis tossed gold and silver coins to the local villagers. When he arrived in Paris, he began the process of establishing his government.

St Martin's Tomb

(Image courtesy of By Tipoune - Own work, Public Domain,

Previously, during the Alemanni incursions, King Sigibert's kingdom and subjects were under severe distress. With Clovis' army supporting Sigibert, the Alemanni were defeated, and Sigibert's eastern Zulpich kingdom was saved. During the battle, King Sigibert was injured in the knee and was made lame. The injury defined him. From this point forward, he was identified as Sigibert the Lame.

Subsequently, unable to assist King Clovis in his conquest of King Alaric II, King Sigibert sent his son Chloderic. Together, Chloderic and Clovis were magnificently triumphant over the Visigoths.

Back in Paris, Clovis was burgeoning with pride, power, and authority. On the eastern side of the kingdom, King Sigibert had grown old, and his son, Chloderic, enjoyed a notable existence. Clandestinely, Clovis sent Chloderic a message, "Your father is old and he is lame in one leg. If he were to die, his kingdom would come to you of right, and my alliance would come with it."

How did this young and ambitious noble interpret the message? Was Clovis simply indicating the inevitable death of his aging relative and the ascent of Chloderic, or was Clovis encouraging Chloderic to expedite Sigibert's demise?

Chloderic either interpreted Clovis' message as encouragement to expedite the death of his father, or he became ambitious and simply plotted to kill him. Desiring a quiet stroll in the Buchau forest, Sigibert departed Cologne and encamped in the wooded landscape. Chloderic dispatched assassins. While resting in his tent, the assassins murdered Sigibert. With the death of his father, Chloderic inherited the kingdom and sent messengers to Clovis with his accession announcement. In addition, Chloderic invited Clovis to witness his treasure and take as pleased.

Ancient Gaul Map

(Image courtesy of

Clovis responded with gratitude but did not accept the treasure. Secretively, he wanted his messengers to witness Chloderic's measure of wealth and complete their mission. Chloderic obliged. The messengers asked Chloderic to plunge his hand deeply into the treasure box. As he reached, one of the messengers silently raised his double edged axe and split Chloderic's head in half. The empty void between the coinage was instantly filled with blood and gray matter.

When Clovis received Chloderic's death announcement, he immediately went to Cologne and assembled the villagers. In a speech to them, he acknowledged the death of both men and denied any involvement in the tragedy. Suggesting the villagers accept his protection, the nobles assembled their shields into a platform, set Clovis atop, and raised him in tribal tradition to indicate subjection. Clovis had acquired the king's treasure and the kingdom.

#AnastasiusI #consulate #ByzantineEmpire #aristocracy #StMartinChurch #Paris #Chloderic #Buchau #Cologne #assassins #treasure #nobles #subjection #coins

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