The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the and the , on the edge of the . Later the term was associated with Germanic dynasties within the collapsing , who eventually commanded the whole region between the rivers and . They imposed power over many other post-Roman kingdoms and Germanic peoples. Beginning with in 800, Frankish rulers were given recognition by the as successors to the old rulers of the Western Roman Empire. Although the Frankish name does not appear until the 3rd century, at least some of the original Frankish tribes had long been known to the Romans under their own names, both as allies providing soldiers, and as enemies. The new name first appears when the Romans and their allies were losing control of the Rhine region. The Franks were first reported as working together to raid Roman territory. However, from the beginning, the Franks also suffered attacks upon them from outside their frontier area, by the , for example, and as frontier tribes they desired to move into Roman territory, with which they had had centuries of close contact. The Germanic tribes which formed the Frankish federation in are associated with the / cultural-linguistic grouping. Frankish peoples inside Rome's frontier on the Rhine river included the who from their first appearance were permitted to live in Roman territory, and the or Rhineland Franks who, after many attempts, eventually conquered the Roman frontier city of and took control of the left bank of the Rhine. Later, in a period of factional conflict in the 450s and 460s, , a Frank, was one of several military leaders commanding Roman forces with various ethnic affiliations in Roman Gaul (roughly modern France). Childeric and his son faced competition from the Roman as competitor for the "kingship" of the Franks associated with the Roman Loire forces. (According to , Aegidius held the kingship of the Franks for 8 years while Childeric was in exile.) This new type of kingship, perhaps inspired by , represents the start of the which succeeded in conquering most of Gaul in the 6th century, as well as establishing its leadership over all the Frankish kingdoms on the Rhine frontier. It was on the basis of this Merovingian empire that the resurgent s eventually came to be seen as the new Emperors of Western Europe in 800. The terms "Frank" or "Frankish" subsequently developed several different levels, sometimes representing a very large part of Europe, and on the other hand sometimes limited to France. In the and , Western Europeans shared their allegiance to the and worked as allies in the beyond Europe in the . In 1099, the crusader population of mostly comprised French settlers who, at the time, were still referred to as Franks, and other Europeans such as , and . French knights made up the bulk of the steady flow of reinforcements throughout the two-hundred-year span of the Crusades, in such a fashion that the Arabs uniformly continued to refer to the crusaders and West Europeans as ''Franjī'' caring little whether they really came from France. The French Crusaders also imported the French language into the , making the base of the ' (lit. "Frankish language") of the . This has had a lasting impact on names for Western Europeans in many languages. Western Europe is known alternatively as "Frangistan" to the . Following the in , the Frankish Realm was divided into three separate kingdoms: , and . In , Middle Francia was partitioned again, with most of its territory being divided among West and East Francia, which would hence form the nuclei of the future and the respectively, with West Francia (France) eventually retaining the .


The name was not a tribal name, but within a few centuries it had eclipsed the names of the original peoples who constituted them. Following the precedents of and , the name of the Franks has been linked with the English adjective ', originally meaning "free". There have also been proposals that Frank comes from the Germanic word for "" (such as in or ). Words in other Germanic languages meaning "fierce", "bold" or "insolent" (German , , Old English and ), may also be significant. addressed the Franks in the matter of the execution of Frankish prisoners in the circus at by in 306 and certain other measures: ("Where now is that ferocity of yours? Where is that ever untrustworthy fickleness?"). Latin was used often to describe the Franks. Contemporary definitions of Frankish ethnicity vary both by period and point of view. The written about 700 AD described a continuation of national identities within a mixed population when it stated that "all the peoples who dwell n the official's province Franks, Romans, Burgundians and those of other nations, live … according to their law and their custom." Writing in 2009, Professor pointed out that "the word 'Frankish' quickly ceased to have an exclusive ethnic connotation. North of the everyone seems to have been considered a Frank by the mid-7th century at the latest xcept ''Romani'' omanswere essentially the inhabitants of after that".

Mythological origins

Apart from the ' by , two early sources relate the mythological origin of the Franks: a 7th-century work known as the ' and the anonymous , written a century later. The author of the ''Chronicle of Fredegar'' claimed that the Franks came originally from and quoted the works of and : According to historian , those two stories are "alike in betraying both the fact that the Franks knew little about their background and that they may have felt some inferiority in comparison with other peoples of antiquity who possessed an ancient name and glorious tradition. (...) Both legends are of course equally fabulous for, even more than most barbarian peoples, the Franks possessed no common history, ancestry, or tradition of a heroic age of migration. Like their c neighbours, they were by the sixth century a fairly recent creation, a coalition of Rhenish tribal groups who long maintained separate identities and institutions." The other work, the , previously known as before its republication in 1888 by Bruno Krusch, described how 12,000 Trojans, led by Priam and , sailed from Troy to the in Russia and on to , which is on the River , settling near the . There they founded a city called Sicambria. (The were the most well-known tribe in the Frankish homeland in the time of the early Roman empire, still remembered though defeated and dispersed long before the Frankish name appeared.) The Trojans joined the Roman army in accomplishing the task of driving their enemies into the marshes of Mæotis, for which they received the name of Franks (meaning "fierce"). A decade later the Romans killed Priam and drove away and , the sons of Priam and Antenor, and the other Franks.


Early history

The major primary sources on the early Franks include the , , , , and . The Franks are first mentioned in the ', a collection of biographies of the s. None of these sources present a detailed list of which tribes or parts of tribes became Frankish, or concerning the politics and history, but to quote : :A Roman marching-song joyfully recorded in a fourth-century source, is associated with the 260s; but the Franks' first appearance in a contemporary source was in 289. ..The were mentioned as a Frankish people as early as 289, the from 307, the from 306–315, the Salii or Salians from 357, and the and from c. 364–375. The Franks were described in Roman texts both as allies () and enemies (). About the year 260 one group of Franks penetrated as far as in present-day Spain, where they plagued the region for about a decade before they were subdued and expelled by the Romans. In 287 or 288, the Roman Caesar forced a Frankish leader and his people to surrender without a fight. In 288 the emperor defeated the , , and other Germanic people living along the Rhine and moved them to to provide manpower and prevent the settlement of other Germanic tribes.Williams, 50–51.Barnes, ''Constantine and Eusebius'', 7. In 292 , the father of Constantine I defeated the Franks who had settled at the mouth of the Rhine. These were moved to the nearby region of . mentions Constantius as having "killed, expelled, captured kidnapped" the Franks who had settled there and others who had crossed the Rhine, using the term for the first time. It seems likely that the term Frank in this first period had a broader meaning, sometimes including coastal . The ''Life of Aurelian'', which was possibly written by Vopiscus, mentions that in 328, Frankish raiders were captured by the 6th Legion stationed at . As a result of this incident, 700 Franks were killed and 300 were sold into slavery. Frankish incursions over the Rhine became so frequent that the Romans began to settle the Franks on their borders in order to control them. The Franks are mentioned in the , an of s. It is a 13th-century copy of a 4th or 5th century document that reflects information from the 3rd century. The Romans knew the shape of Europe, but their knowledge is not evident from the map, which was only a practical guide to the roads to be followed from point to point. In the middle Rhine region of the map, the word is close to a misspelling of . Beyond Mainz is Suevia, the country of the , and beyond that is Alamannia, the country of the . Four tribes at the mouth of the Rhine are depicted: the , the ('Ems dwellers'), the and the , followed by ('who are also Franks'). This implies that the Chamavi were considered Franks. The ''Tabula'' was probably based on the , a map of twenty years' labour commissioned by and then kept by the Roman's treasury department for the assessment of taxes. It did not survive as such. Information about the imperial divisions of Gaul probably derives from it.


The Salians were first mentioned by , who described 's defeat of "the first Franks of all, those whom custom has called the Salians," in 358. Julian allowed the Franks to remain in as within the Empire, having moved there from the Rhine-Maas delta. The 5th century lists a group of soldiers as . Some decades later, Franks in the same region, possibly the Salians, controlled the River and were disrupting transport links to in the . Although Roman forces managed to pacify them, they failed to expel the Franks, who continued to be feared as pirates. The Salians are generally seen as the predecessors of the Franks who pushed southwestwards into what is now modern France, who eventually came to be ruled by the Merovingians (see below). This is because when the Merovingian dynasty published the Salian law (') it applied in the Neustrian area from the river Liger () to the ''Silva Carbonaria'', the western kingdom founded by them outside the original area of Frankish settlement. In the 5th century, Franks under pushed into Roman lands in and beyond the ''""'' or "Charcoal forest", which ran through the area of modern western . The forest was the boundary of the original Salian territories to the north and the more Romanized area to the south in the Roman province of ''Belgica Secunda'' (roughly equivalent to what Julius Caesar had long ago called "Belgium"). Chlodio conquered , , , and as far as the . Chlodio is often seen as an ancestor of the future Merovingian dynasty. , who according to was a reputed descendant of Chlodio, was later seen as administrative ruler over Roman ' and possibly other areas. Records of Childeric show him to have been active together with Roman forces in the Loire region, quite far to the south. His descendants came to rule Roman Gaul all the way to there, and this became the Frankish kingdom of , the basis of what would become medieval France. Childeric's son also took control of the more independent Frankish kingdoms east of the Silva Carbonaria and Belgica II. This later became the Frankish kingdom of , where the early legal code was referred to as "Ripuarian".


The Rhineland Franks who lived near the stretch of the Rhine from roughly to , the region of the city of , are often considered separately from the Salians, and sometimes in modern texts referred to as Ripuarian Franks. The suggests that ''Francia Renensis'' included the old ''civitas'' of the , in Germania II (), but also the northern part of Germania I (Germania Superior), including . Like the Salians they appear in Roman records both as raiders and as contributors to military units. Unlike the Salii, there is no record of when, if ever, the empire officially accepted their residence within the empire. They eventually succeeded to hold the city of Cologne, and at some point seem to have acquired the name Ripuarians, which may have meant "river people". In any case a Merovingian legal code was called the ', but it probably applied in all the older Frankish lands, including the original Salian areas. , in ' mentions the Riparii as auxiliaries of during the in 451: But these ("river dwellers") are today not considered to be Ripuarian Franks, but a known military unit based on the . Their territory on both sides of the Rhine became a central part of Merovingian , which stretched to include Roman (later ''Germania Secunda'', which included the original Salian and Ripuarian lands, and roughly equates to medieval Lower Lotharingia) as well as Prima (late Roman "Belgium", roughly medieval Upper Lotharingia), and lands on the east bank of the Rhine.

Merovingian kingdom (481–751)

Gregory of Tours (Book II) reported that small Frankish kingdoms existed during the fifth century around , , and elsewhere. The kingdom of the Merovingians eventually came to dominate the others, possibly because of its association with Roman power structures in northern Gaul, which the Frankish military forces were apparently integrated into to some extent. , was originally the of northern Gaul appointed by , but after Majorian's death apparently seen as a Roman rebel who relied on Frankish forces. reported that Childeric I was exiled for 8 years while Aegidius held the title of "King of the Franks". Eventually Childeric returned and took the same title. Aegidius died in 464 or 465. Childeric and his son Clovis I were both described as rulers of the Roman Province of , by its spiritual leader in the time of Clovis, . Clovis later defeated the son of Aegidius, , in 486 or 487 and then had the Frankish king imprisoned and executed. A few years later, he killed , the Frankish king of Cambrai, and his brothers. After conquering the and expelling the from southern Gaul at the , he established Frankish hegemony over most of Gaul, excluding , Provence and , which were eventually absorbed by his successors. By the 490s, he had conquered all the Frankish kingdoms to the west of the except for the and was in a position to make the city of Paris his capital. He became the first king of all Franks in 509, after he had conquered Cologne. Clovis I divided his realm between his four sons, who united to defeat Burgundy in 534. Internecine feuding occurred during the reigns of the brothers and , which was largely fuelled by the rivalry of their queens, and , and which continued during the reigns of their sons and their grandsons. Three distinct subkingdoms emerged: , and Burgundy, each of which developed independently and sought to exert influence over the others. The influence of the clan of Austrasia ensured that the political centre of gravity in the kingdom gradually shifted eastwards to the Rhineland. The Frankish realm was reunited in 613 by , the son of Chilperic, who granted his nobles the in an effort to reduce corruption and reassert his authority. Following the military successes of his son and successor , royal authority rapidly declined under a series of kings, traditionally known as ''les ''. After the in 687, each , who had formerly been the king's chief household official, effectively held power until in 751, with the approval of the Pope and the nobility, deposed the last Merovingian king and had himself crowned. This inaugurated a new dynasty, the .

Carolingian empire (751–843)

The unification achieved by the Merovingians ensured the continuation of what has become known as the . The Carolingian Empire was beset by internecine warfare, but the combination of Frankish rule and Roman Christianity ensured that it was fundamentally united. Frankish government and culture depended very much upon each ruler and his aims and so each region of the empire developed differently. Although a ruler's aims depended upon the political alliances of his family, the leading families of Francia shared the same basic beliefs and ideas of government, which had both Roman and Germanic roots. The Frankish state consolidated its hold over the majority of western Europe by the end of the 8th century, developing into the Carolingian Empire. With the as by in 800 AD, he and his successors were recognised as legitimate successors to the emperors of the . As such, the Carolingian Empire gradually came to be seen in the West as a continuation of the ancient Roman Empire. This empire would give rise to several successor states, including France, the and , though the ''Frankish'' identity remained most closely identified with France. After the death of , his only adult surviving son became Emperor and King . Following Louis the Pious's death, however, according to Frankish culture and law that demanded equality among all living male adult heirs, the was now split between Louis' three sons.


Participation in the Roman army

Germanic peoples, including those tribes in the Rhine delta that later became the Franks, are known to have served in the Roman army since the days of . After the Roman administration collapsed in Gaul in the 260s, the armies under the Germanic Batavian revolted and proclaimed him emperor and then restored order. From then on, Germanic soldiers in the Roman army, most notably Franks, were promoted from the ranks. A few decades later, the Menapian created a Batavian–British rump state on Roman soil that was supported by Frankish soldiers and raiders. Frankish soldiers such as , and held command positions in the Roman army during the mid 4th century. From the narrative of it is evident that both Frankish and Alamannic tribal armies were organised along Roman lines. After the invasion of , the Roman armies at the Rhine border became a Frankish "franchise" and Franks were known to levy Roman-like troops that were supported by a Roman-like armour and weapons industry. This lasted at least until the days of the scholar (c. 500 – c. 565), more than a century after the demise of the Western Roman Empire, who wrote describing the former ', having merged with the Franks, retaining their legionary organization in the style of their forefathers during Roman times. The Franks under the Merovingians melded Germanic custom with Romanised organisation and several important tactical innovations. Before their conquest of Gaul, the Franks fought primarily as a tribe, unless they were part of a Roman military unit fighting in conjunction with other imperial units.

Military practices of the early Franks

The primary sources for Frankish military custom and armament are , and Procopius, the latter two historians writing about Frankish intervention in the . Writing of 539, Procopius says:
At this time the Franks, hearing that both the Goths and Romans had suffered severely by the war ... forgetting for the moment their oaths and treaties ... (for this nation in matters of trust is the most treacherous in the world), they straightway gathered to the number of one hundred thousand under the leadership of and marched into Italy: they had a small body of cavalry about their leader, and these were the only ones armed with spears, while all the rest were foot soldiers having neither bows nor spears, but each man carried a sword and shield and one axe. Now the iron head of this weapon was thick and exceedingly sharp on both sides, while the wooden handle was very short. And they are accustomed always to throw these axes at a signal in the first charge and thus to shatter the shields of the enemy and kill the men.
His contemporary, Agathias, who based his own writings upon the tropes laid down by Procopius, says:
The military equipment of this people he Franksis very simple ... They do not know the use of the or s and the majority leave the head uncovered, only a few wear the helmet. They have their chests bare and backs naked to the loins, they cover their thighs with either leather or linen. They do not serve on horseback except in very rare cases. Fighting on foot is both habitual and a national custom and they are proficient in this. At the hip they wear a sword and on the left side their shield is attached. They have neither bows nor slings, no except the double edged axe and the which they use most often. The angons are spears which are neither very short nor very long. They can be used, if necessary, for throwing like a , and also in .
While the above quotations have been used as a statement of the military practices of the Frankish nation in the 6th century and have even been extrapolated to the entire period preceding 's reforms (early mid-8th century), post-Second World War historiography has emphasised the inherited Roman characteristics of the Frankish military from the date of the beginning of the conquest of Gaul. The Byzantine authors present several contradictions and difficulties. Procopius denies the Franks the use of the spear while Agathias makes it one of their primary weapons. They agree that the Franks were primarily infantrymen, threw axes and carried a sword and shield. Both writers also contradict the authority of Gallic authors of the same general time period ( and ) and the archaeological evidence. The , the early 7th century legal code of the Rhineland or Ripuarian Franks, specifies the values of various goods when paying a in kind; whereas a spear and shield were worth only two , a sword and scabbard were valued at seven, a helmet at six, and a "metal tunic" at twelve.James, Edward, ''The Franks''. Oxford; Blackwell 1988, p. 211 es and arrowheads are numerous in Frankish graves even though the Byzantine historians do not assign them to the Franks. The evidence of Gregory and of the implies that the early Franks were a cavalry people. In fact, some modern historians have hypothesised that the Franks possessed so numerous a body of horses that they could use them to plough fields and thus were agriculturally technologically advanced over their neighbours. The specifies that a mare's value was the same as that of an ox or of a shield and spear, two and a stallion seven or the same as a sword and scabbard, which suggests that horses were relatively common. Perhaps the Byzantine writers considered the Frankish horse to be insignificant relative to the Greek cavalry, which is probably accurate.

Merovingian military

Composition and development

The Frankish military establishment incorporated many of the pre-existing Roman institutions in Gaul, especially during and after the conquests of Clovis I in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. Frankish military strategy revolved around the holding and taking of fortified centres () and in general these centres were held by garrisons of or , who were former Roman mercenaries of Germanic origin. Throughout Gaul, the descendants of Roman soldiers continued to wear their uniforms and perform their ceremonial duties. Immediately beneath the Frankish king in the military hierarchy were the , his sworn followers, who were generally 'old soldiers' in service away from court. The king had an elite bodyguard called the '. Members of the ''truste'' often served in , garrison settlements that were established for military and police purposes. The day-to-day bodyguard of the king was made up of ' (senior soldiers who were s in military service) and (junior soldiers and not aristocrats). All high-ranking men had ''pueri''. The Frankish military was not composed solely of Franks and Gallo-Romans, but also contained , , and . After the conquest of (534), the well-organised military institutions of that kingdom were integrated into the Frankish realm. Chief among these was the standing army under the command of the . In the late 6th century, during the wars instigated by and , the Merovingian monarchs introduced a new element into their militaries: the local . A levy consisted of all the able-bodied men of a district who were required to report for military service when called upon, similar to . The local levy applied only to a city and its environs. Initially only in certain cities in western Gaul, in Neustria and Aquitaine, did the kings possess the right or power to call up the levy. The commanders of the local levies were always different from the commanders of the urban garrisons. Often the former were commanded by the s of the districts. A much rarer occurrence was the general levy, which applied to the entire kingdom and included peasants ( and ). General levies could also be made within the still-pagan trans-Rhenish on the orders of a monarch. The , Alemanni and all had the institution of the levy and the Frankish monarchs could depend upon their levies until the mid-7th century, when the stem dukes began to sever their ties to the monarchy. called up the levy for a war against in 640. Soon the local levy spread to Austrasia and the less Romanised regions of Gaul. On an intermediate level, the kings began calling up territorial levies from the regions of Austrasia (which did not have major cities of Roman origin). All the forms of the levy gradually disappeared, however, in the course of the 7th century after the reign of . Under the so-called , the levies disappeared by mid-century in Austrasia and later in Burgundy and Neustria. Only in Aquitaine, which was fast becoming independent of the central Frankish monarchy, did complex military institutions persist into the 8th century. In the final half of the 7th century and first half of the 8th in Merovingian Gaul, the chief military actors became the lay and ecclesiastical s with their bands of armed followers called retainers. The other aspects of the Merovingian military, mostly Roman in origin or innovations of powerful kings, disappeared from the scene by the 8th century.

Strategy, tactics and equipment

Merovingian armies used , helmets, s, s, s, and . The armament of private armies resembled those of the Gallo-Roman of the late Empire. A strong element of Alanic cavalry settled in influenced the fighting style of the down into the 12th century. Local urban levies could be reasonably well-armed and even mounted, but the more general levies were composed of and , who were mostly farmers by trade and carried ineffective weapons, such as farming implements. The peoples east of the  – Franks, Saxons and even  – who were sometimes called upon to serve, wore rudimentary armour and carried weapons such as s and s. Few of these men were mounted. Merovingian society had a militarised nature. The Franks called annual meetings every (1 March), when the king and his nobles assembled in large open fields and determined their targets for the next campaigning season. The meetings were a show of strength on behalf of the monarch and a way for him to retain loyalty among his troops. In their civil wars, the Merovingian kings concentrated on the holding of fortified places and the use of s. In wars waged against external foes, the objective was typically the acquisition of booty or the enforcement of tribute. Only in the lands beyond the Rhine did the Merovingians seek to extend political control over their neighbours. Tactically, the Merovingians borrowed heavily from the Romans, especially regarding siege warfare. Their battle tactics were highly flexible and were designed to meet the specific circumstances of a battle. The tactic of subterfuge was employed endlessly. Cavalry formed a large segment of an army , but troops readily dismounted to fight on foot. The Merovingians were capable of raising naval forces: the naval campaign waged against the by in 515 involved ocean-worthy ships and rivercraft were used on the , and .



In a modern context, the language of the early Franks is variously called "Old Frankish" or "Old Franconian" and these terms refer to the language of the Franks prior to the advent of the , which took place between 600 and 700 CE. After this consonant shift the Frankish dialect diverges, with the dialects which would become modern not undergoing the consonantal shift, while all others did so . As a result, the distinction between and Old Frankish is largely negligible, with Old Dutch (also called ) being the term used to differentiate between the affected and non-affected variants following the aforementioned Second Germanic consonant shift.B. Mees
"The Bergakker inscription and the beginnings of Dutch"
in: , edited by Erika Langbroek, Annelies Roeleveld, Paula Vermeyden, Arend Quak, Published by Rodopi, 2002, , 9789042015791
The Frankish language has not been directly attested, apart from a very small number of found within contemporary Frankish territory such as the . Nevertheless a significant amount of Frankish vocabulary has been reconstructed by examining early Germanic loanwords found in as well as through through Dutch. The influence of Old Frankish on contemporary and , have long been questions of scholarly debate. Frankish influence is thought to include the designations of the four cardinal directions: ''nord'' "north", ''sud'' "south", ''est'' "east" and ''ouest'' "west" and at least an additional 1000 stem words. Although the Franks would eventually conquer all of , speakers of Frankish apparently expanded in sufficient numbers only into northern Gaul to have a linguistic effect. For several centuries, northern Gaul was a bilingual territory ( and Frankish). The language used in writing, in government and by the Church was Latin. has proposed that a Germanic language continued to be spoken as a second tongue by public officials in western and Northern as late as the 850s, and that it completely disappeared as a spoken language during the 10th century from regions where only French is spoken today.

Art and architecture

Early Frankish art and architecture belongs to a phase known as , which has left very few remains. The later period is called , or, especially in architecture, . Very little Merovingian architecture has been preserved. The earliest churches seem to have been timber-built, with larger examples being of a type. The most completely surviving example, a in , is a building with three s of a Gallo-Roman style. A number of small baptistries can be seen in : as these fell out of fashion, they were not updated and have subsequently survived as they were. Jewelry (such as brooches), weapons (including swords with decorative hilts) and clothing (such as capes and sandals) have been found in a number of grave sites. The grave of Queen , discovered in 1959, and the , which was deposited soon after 524, are notable examples. The few Merovingian that have survived, such as the , contain a great deal of . Such Frankish objects show a greater use of the style and motifs of and a lesser degree of skill and sophistication in design and manufacture than comparable works from the . So little has survived, however, that the best quality of work from this period may not be represented. The objects produced by the main centres of the Carolingian Renaissance, which represent a transformation from that of the earlier period, have survived in far greater quantity. The arts were lavishly funded and encouraged by Charlemagne, using imported artists where necessary, and Carolingian developments were decisive for the future course of . Carolingian s and ivory plaques, which have survived in reasonable numbers, approached those of in quality. The main surviving monument of is the , which is an impressive and confident adaptation of – from where some of the pillars were brought. Many other important buildings existed, such as the monasteries of Centula or , or the old , since rebuilt. These large structures and complexes made frequent use of towers.


A sizeable portion of the Frankish aristocracy quickly followed Clovis in converting to Christianity (the Frankish church of the Merovingians). The conversion of all under Frankish rule required a considerable amount of time and effort.


Echoes of can be found in the primary sources, but their meaning is not always clear. Interpretations by modern scholars differ greatly, but it is likely that Frankish paganism shared most of the characteristics of other varieties of . The mythology of the Franks was probably a form of . It was highly ritualistic. Many daily activities centred around the multiple deities, chiefest of which may have been the , a water-god from whom the Merovingians were reputed to have derived their ancestry. Most of their gods were linked with local cult centres and their sacred character and power were associated with specific regions, outside of which they were neither worshipped nor feared. Most of the gods were "worldly", possessing form and having connections with specific objects, in contrast to the God of Christianity. Frankish paganism has been observed in the burial site of Childeric I, where the king's body was found covered in a cloth decorated with numerous bees. There is a likely connection with the bees to the traditional Frankish weapon, the (meaning "sting"), from its distinctive spearhead. It is possible that the is derived from the angon.


Some Franks, like the 4th century usurper , converted early to Christianity. In 496, Clovis I, who had married a Burgundian named in 493, was baptised by after a decisive victory over the Alemanni at the . According to Gregory of Tours, over three thousand of his soldiers were baptised with him. Clovis' conversion had a profound effect on the course of European history, for at the time the Franks were the only major without a predominantly aristocracy and this led to a naturally amicable relationship between the Catholic Church and the increasingly powerful Franks. Although many of the Frankish aristocracy quickly followed Clovis in converting to Christianity, the conversion of all his subjects was only achieved after considerable effort and, in some regions, a period of over two centuries. The ''Chronicle of St. Denis'' relates that, following Clovis' conversion, a number of pagans who were unhappy with this turn of events rallied around , who had played an important role in Clovis' initial rise to power. Although the text remains unclear as to the precise pretext, Clovis had Ragnachar executed. Remaining pockets of resistance were overcome region by region, primarily due to the work of an expanding network of monasteries. The Merovingian Church was shaped by both internal and external forces. It had to come to terms with an established Gallo-Roman hierarchy that resisted changes to its culture, Christianise pagan sensibilities and suppress their expression, provide a new theological basis for Merovingian forms of kingship deeply rooted in pagan Germanic tradition and accommodate Irish and ary activities and papal requirements. The Carolingian reformation of monasticism and church-state relations was the culmination of the Frankish Church. The increasingly wealthy Merovingian elite endowed many monasteries, including that of the Irish missionary . The 5th, 6th and 7th centuries saw two major waves of ism in the Frankish world, which led to legislation requiring that all monks and hermits follow the . The Church sometimes had an uneasy relationship with the Merovingian kings, whose claim to rule depended on a mystique of royal descent and who tended to revert to the polygamy of their pagan ancestors. Rome encouraged the Franks to slowly replace the with the . When the mayors took over, the Church was supportive and an Emperor crowned by the Pope was much more to their liking.


As with other Germanic peoples, the laws of the Franks were memorised by "rachimburgs", who were analogous to the s of . By the 6th century, when these laws first appeared in written form, two basic legal subdivisions existed: Salian Franks were subject to and Ripuarian Franks to . Gallo-Romans south of the and the clergy remained subject to traditional . Germanic law was overwhelmingly concerned with the protection of individuals and less concerned with protecting the interests of the state. According to Michel Rouche, "Frankish judges devoted as much care to a case involving the theft of a dog as Roman judges did to cases involving the fiscal responsibility of , or municipal councilors".

Crusaders and other Western Europeans as "Franks"

The term ''Frank'' has been used by many of the Eastern Orthodox and Muslim neighbours of medieval Latin (and beyond, such as in Asia) as a general synonym for a European from and Central Europe, areas that followed the Latin rites of Christianity under the authority of the Pope in . Another term with similar use was '. Modern historians often refer to Christians following the Latin rites in the eastern Mediterranean as ''Franks'' or ''Latins'', regardless of their country of origin, whereas they use the words ' and ''i'' ("Roman") for Orthodox Christians. On a number of Greek islands, Catholics are still referred to as () or "Franks", for instance on , where they are called (). The period of rule in Greek lands is known to this day as the ' ("rule of the Franks"). During the in the 13-14th centuries, the used the term "Franks" to designate Europeans. used and spread the term in throughout the Middle East with the expansion of the language. The term ' ("Land of the Franks") was used by Muslims to refer to Christian Europe and was commonly used over several centuries in and the . The Chinese called the Portuguese 佛郎機 ("Franks") in the 1520s at the and . Some other varieties of pronounced the characters as Fah-lan-ki. The (or "Frankish language") was a first spoken by 11th century European Christians and Muslims in that remained in use until the 19th century. Examples of derived words include: * () in * in * in * in (derived from Persian) * , and in Arabic * , in , also the toponym * ''Faranji'' in . * ''Ferengi or Faranji'' in some Turkic languages * in , in , and derivative forms in other languages of the , refers to white people or any white (European stock) person * or in and (derived from Persian) * ''Phirangee'' in some other Indian languages * in * in ; in , the word refers specifically to * () in * in * in * or ''Fah-lan-ki'' () and ''Fulang'' in Chinese * () in . * ("blonde"), ("temperament/al") in In the Thai usage, the word can refer to any European person. When the presence of during the placed Thai people in contact with African Americans, they (and people of African ancestry in general) came to be called ("Black Farang", ). Such words sometimes also connote things, plants or creatures introduced by Europeans/Franks. For example, in Khmer, , literally "French Chicken", refers to a turkey and in Thai, is the name both for Europeans and for the fruit, introduced by Portuguese traders over 400 years ago. In contemporary Israel, the word () has, by a curious etymological development, come to refer to in Modern Hebrew and carries a strong pejorative connotation. Some linguists (among them Drs. Jan Tent and Paul Geraghty) have suggested that the and generic term for Europeans, ' (pronounced Puh-LANG-ee) or ''Papalagi'', might also be cognate, possibly a loan term gathered by early contact between Pacific islanders and Malays.Tent, J., and Geraghty, P., (2001) "Exploding sky or exploded myth? The origin of Papalagi", ''Journal of the Polynesian Society'', 110, 2: pp. 171–214.

See also

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Primary sources

* ** ** ** * ** ** ** * ** * **

Secondary sources

* Bachrach, Bernard S. ''Merovingian Military Organization, 481–751''. University of Minnesota Press, 1971. * Collins, Roger. ''Early Medieval Europe 300–1000''. MacMillan, 1991. * * * . * * * * Lewis, Archibald R.
The Dukes in the Regnum Francorum, A.D. 550–751.
''Speculum'', Vol. 51, No 3 (July 1976), pp. 381–410. * McKitterick, Rosamond. ''The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751–987''. London: Longman, 1983. . * Murray, Archibald Callander, and ''After Rome's Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History''. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1998. * Nixon, C. E. V. and Rodgers, Barbara. ''In Praise of Later Roman Emperors''. Berkeley, 1994. * * * * * . ''The Germanic Realms in Pre-Carolingian Central Europe, 400–750''. American University Studies, Series IX: History, Vol. 196. New York: Peter Lang, 2000. * ''The Long-Haired Kings''. London: Butler & Tanner Ltd, 1962. * ''The Barbarian West''. London: Hutchinson, 1970.

Further reading

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External links

* * * * * {{Authority control German tribes