The Info List - Burgundians

The Burgundians
(Latin: Burgundiōnes, Burgundī; Old Norse: Burgundar; Old English: Burgendas; Greek: Βούργουνδοι) were a large East Germanic or Vandal
tribe, or group of tribes, who lived in the area of modern Poland
in the time of the Roman Empire. In the late Roman period, as the empire came under pressure from many such "barbarian" peoples, a powerful group of Burgundians
and other Vandalic
tribes moved westwards towards the Roman frontiers along the Rhine
Valley, making them neighbors of the Franks
who formed their kingdoms to the north, and the Suebic Alemanni
who were settling to their south, also near the Rhine. They established themselves in Worms, but with Roman cooperation their descendants eventually established the Kingdom of the Burgundians
Kingdom of the Burgundians
much further south, and within the empire, in the western Alps region where modern Switzerland, France and Italy
meet. This later became a component of the Frankish empire. The name of this Kingdom survives in the regional appellation, Burgundy, which is a region in modern France, representing only a part of that kingdom. Another part of the Burgundians
stayed in their previous homeland in the Oder- Vistula
basin and formed a contingent in Attila's Hunnic army by 451.[1][2] Before clear documentary evidence begins, the Burgundians
may have originally emigrated from mainland Scandinavia
to the Baltic island of Bornholm, and from there to the Vistula
basin, in the middle of modern Poland.[3]


1 Name 2 History

2.1 Background 2.2 Kingdom

2.2.1 Establishment

2.3 Settlement in Savoy

2.3.1 Aspirations to the empire 2.3.2 Consolidation of the kingdom 2.3.3 Fall

3 Physical appearance 4 Language

4.1 Religion 4.2 Law

5 See also 6 References

6.1 Notes 6.2 Sources

Name[edit] The ethnonym Burgundians
is commonly used in English to refer to the Burgundi (Burgundionei, Burgundiones or Burgunds) who settled in Sapaudia
(Savoy), in the western Alps, during the 5th Century. The original Kingdom of the Burgundians
Kingdom of the Burgundians
barely intersected the modern Bourgogne
and more closely matched the boundaries of the Arpitan
or Romand
(Franco-Provençal) language area,[4] centred on the Rôno-Arpes (Rhône-Alpes) region of France, Romandy
in west Switzerland and Val d'Outa (Val d'Aosta), in north west Italy. In modern usage, however, "Burgundians" can sometimes refer to later inhabitants of the geographical Bourgogne
or Borgogne (Burgundy), named after the old kingdom, but not corresponding to the original boundaries of it. Between the 6th and 20th centuries, the boundaries and political connections of "Burgundy" have changed frequently. In modern times the only area still referred to as Burgundy
is in France, which derives its name from the Duchy of Burgundy. But in the context of the middle ages the term Burgundian (or similar spellings) can refer even to the powerful political entity the Dukes controlled which included not only Burgundy
itself but had actually expanded to have a strong association with areas now in modern Belgium
and Southern Netherlands. The parts of the old Kingdom not within the French controlled Duchy tended to come under different names, except for the County of Burgundy. History[edit] Background[edit]

Location of the island of Bornholm

The Burgundians
had a tradition of Scandinavian origin which finds support in place-name evidence and archaeological evidence (Stjerna) and many consider their tradition to be correct (e.g. Musset, p. 62). The Burgundians
are believed to have then emigrated to the Baltic island of Bornholm
("the island of the Burgundians" in Old Norse). However, by about 250 CE, the population of Bornholm
had largely disappeared from the island. Most cemeteries ceased to be used, and those that were still used had few burials (Stjerna, in Nerman 1925:176). In Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar (The Saga of Thorstein, Viking's Son), the Veseti settled in an island or holm, which was called Borgund's holm, i.e. Bornholm. Alfred the Great's translation of Orosius uses the name Burgenda land to refer to a territory next to the land of Sweons ("Swedes").[5] The poet and early mythologist Viktor Rydberg
Viktor Rydberg
(1828–1895), (Our Fathers' Godsaga) asserted from an early medieval source, Vita Sigismundi, that they themselves retained oral traditions about their Scandinavian origin. Early Roman sources, such as Tacitus
and Pliny the Elder, knew little concerning the Germanic peoples
Germanic peoples
east of the Elbe river, or on the Baltic Sea. Pliny (IV.28) however mentions them among the Vandalic
or Eastern Germanic
Eastern Germanic
Germani peoples, including also the Goths. Claudius Ptolemy lists them as living between the Suevus (probably the Oder) and Vistula
rivers, north of the Lugii, and south of the coast dwelling tribes. Around the mid 2nd century AD, there was a significant migration by Germanic tribes of Scandinavian origin (Rugii, Goths, Gepidae, Vandals, Burgundians, and others)[6] towards the south-east, creating turmoil along the entire Roman frontier.[6][7][8][9] These migrations culminated in the Marcomannic Wars, which resulted in widespread destruction and the first invasion of Italy
in the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
period.[9] Jordanes
reports that during the 3rd century, the Burgundians
living in the Vistula
basin were almost annihilated by Fastida, king of the Gepids, whose kingdom was at the mouth of the Vistula. In the late 3rd century, the Burgundians
appear on the east bank of the Rhine, confronting Roman Gaul. Zosimus (1.68) reports them being defeated by the emperor Probus in 278 in Gaul. At this time, they were led by a Vandal
king. A few years later, Claudius Mamertinus mentions them along with the Alamanni, a Suebic people. These two peoples had moved into the Agri Decumates
Agri Decumates
on the eastern side of the Rhine, an area today referred to still as Swabia, at times attacking Roman Gaul together and sometimes fighting each other. He also mentions that the Goths
had previously defeated the Burgundians. Ammianus Marcellinus, on the other hand, claimed that the Burgundians were descended from Romans. The Roman sources do not speak of any specific migration from Poland
by the Burgundians
(although other Vandalic
peoples are more clearly mentioned as having moved west in this period), and so there have historically been some doubts about the link between the eastern and western Burgundians.[10] In 369/370, the Emperor Valentinian I
Valentinian I
enlisted the aid of the Burgundians
in his war against the Alemanni. Approximately four decades later, the Burgundians
appear again. Following Stilicho's withdrawal of troops to fight Alaric I
Alaric I
the Visigoth in AD 406-408, a large group of peoples from central Europe north of the Danube, came west and crossed the Rhine, entering the Empire, near the lands of the Burgundians
who had moved much earlier. The dominant groups were Alans, Vandals
( Hasdingi and Silingi), and Danubian Suevi
(probably descended from Marcomanni
and Quadi). The majority of these Danubian peoples moved through Gaul
and eventually established themselves in kingdoms in Roman Hispania. One group of Alans
was settled in northern Gaul
by the Romans. Some Burgundians
also migrated westwards and settled as foederati in the Roman province of Germania Secunda
Germania Secunda
along the Middle Rhine. Other Burgundians
however remained outside the empire and apparently formed a contingent in Attila's Hunnic army by 451.[1][2] Kingdom[edit] Main article: Kingdom of the Burgundians Establishment[edit] In 411, the Burgundian king Gundahar (or Gundicar) set up a puppet emperor, Jovinus, in cooperation with Goar, king of the Alans. With the authority of the Gallic emperor that he controlled, Gundahar settled on the left (Roman) bank of the Rhine, between the river Lauter and the Nahe, seizing Worms, Speyer, and Strassburg. Apparently as part of a truce, the Emperor Honorius later officially "granted" them the land, (Prosper, a. 386) with its capital at the old Celtic Roman settlement of Borbetomagus (present Worms). Despite their new status as foederati, Burgundian raids into Roman Upper Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica
became intolerable and were ruthlessly brought to an end in 436, when the Roman general Aëtius called in Hun mercenaries, who overwhelmed the Rhineland kingdom in 437. Gundahar was killed in the fighting, reportedly along with the majority of the Burgundian tribe. (Prosper; Chronica Gallica 452; Hydatius; and Sidonius Apollinaris) The destruction of Worms
and the Burgundian kingdom by the Huns became the subject of heroic legends that were afterwards incorporated in the Nibelungenlied—on which Wagner based his Ring Cycle—where King Gunther
(Gundahar) and Queen Brünhild hold their court at Worms, and Siegfried comes to woo Kriemhild. (In Old Norse
Old Norse
sources the names are Gunnar, Brynhild, and Gudrún as normally rendered in English.) In fact, the Etzel of the Nibelungenlied
is based on Attila
the Hun. Settlement in Savoy[edit]

The Second Burgundian Kingdom between 443 and 476

For reasons not cited in the sources, the Burgundians
were granted foederati status a second time, and in 443 were resettled by Aëtius in the region of Sapaudia. (Chronica Gallica 452) Though the precise geography is uncertain, Sapaudia
corresponds to the modern-day Savoy, and the Burgundians
probably lived near Lugdunum, known today as Lyon. (Wood 1994, Gregory II, 9) A new king Gundioc or Gunderic, presumed to be Gundahar's son, appears to have reigned following his father's death. (Drew, p. 1) The historian Pline[citation needed] tells us that Gonderic ruled the areas of Saône, Dauphiny, Savoie and a part of Provence. He set up Vienne as the capital of the kingdom of Burgundy. In all, eight Burgundian kings of the house of Gundahar ruled until the kingdom was overrun by the Franks
in 534. As allies of Rome in its last decades, the Burgundians
fought alongside Aëtius and a confederation of Visigoths
and others in the battle against Attila
at the Battle of Châlons
Battle of Châlons
(also called "The Battle of the Catalaunian Fields") in 451. The alliance between Burgundians
and Visigoths
seems to have been strong, as Gundioc and his brother Chilperic I accompanied Theodoric II
Theodoric II
to Spain to fight the Sueves in 455. (Jordanes, Getica, 231) Aspirations to the empire[edit] Also in 455, an ambiguous reference infidoque tibi Burdundio ductu ( Sidonius Apollinaris
Sidonius Apollinaris
in Panegyr. Avit. 442.) implicates an unnamed treacherous Burgundian leader in the murder of the emperor Petronius Maximus in the chaos preceding the sack of Rome by the Vandals. The Patrician Ricimer
is also blamed; this event marks the first indication of the link between the Burgundians
and Ricimer, who was probably Gundioc's brother-in-law and Gundobad's uncle, (John Malalas, 374) In 456, the Burgundians, apparently confident in their growing power, negotiated a territorial expansion and power sharing arrangement with the local Roman senators. (Marius of Avenches) In 457, Ricimer
overthrew another emperor, Avitus, raising Majorian
to the throne. This new emperor proved unhelpful to Ricimer
and the Burgundians. The year after his ascension, Majorian
stripped the Burgundians
of the lands they had acquired two years earlier. After showing further signs of independence, he was murdered by Ricimer
in 461. Ten years later, in 472, Ricimer–who was by now the son-in-law of the Western Emperor Anthemius–was plotting with Gundobad to kill his father-in-law; Gundobad beheaded the emperor (apparently personally). (Chronica Gallica 511; John of Antioch, fr. 209; Jordanes, Getica, 239) Ricimer
then appointed Olybrius; both died, surprisingly of natural causes, within a few months. Gundobad seems then to have succeeded his uncle as Patrician and king-maker, and raised Glycerius to the throne. (Marius of Avenches; John of Antioch, fr. 209) In 474, Burgundian influence over the empire seems to have ended. Glycerius
was deposed in favor of Julius Nepos, and Gundobad returned to Burgundy, presumably at the death of his father Gundioc. At this time or shortly afterwards, the Burgundian kingdom was divided between Gundobad and his brothers, Godigisel, Chilperic II, and Gundomar I. (Gregory, II, 28) Consolidation of the kingdom[edit]

Kingdom of the Burgundians
Kingdom of the Burgundians
in around 500

According to Gregory of Tours, the years following Gundobad's return to Burgundy
saw a bloody consolidation of power. Gregory states that Gundobad murdered his brother Chilperic, drowning his wife and exiling their daughters (one of whom was to become the wife of Clovis the Frank, and was reputedly responsible for his conversion).[11] This is contested by, e.g., Bury, who points out problems in much of Gregory's chronology for the events. C.500, when Gundobad and Clovis were at war, Gundobad appears to have been betrayed by his brother Godegisel, who joined the Franks; together Godegisel's and Clovis' forces "crushed the army of Gundobad". (Marius a. 500; Gregory, II, 32) Gundobad was temporarily holed up in Avignon, but was able to re-muster his army and sacked Vienne, where Godegisel and many of his followers were put to death. From this point, Gundobad appears to have been the sole king of Burgundy. (e.g., Gregory, II, 33) This would imply that his brother Gundomar was already dead, though there are no specific mentions of the event in the sources. Either Gundobad and Clovis reconciled their differences, or Gundobad was forced into some sort of vassalage by Clovis' earlier victory, as the Burgundian king appears to have assisted the Franks
in 507 in their victory over Alaric II
Alaric II
the Visigoth. During the upheaval, sometime between 483-501, Gundobad began to set forth the Lex Gundobada
Lex Gundobada
(see below), issuing roughly the first half, which drew upon the Lex Visigothorum. (Drew, p. 1) Following his consolidation of power, between 501 and his death in 516, Gundobad issued the second half of his law, which was more originally Burgundian. Fall[edit]

as part of the Frankish Empire between 534 and 843

The Burgundians
were extending their power over southeastern Gaul; that is, northern Italy, western Switzerland, and southeastern France. In 493, Clovis, king of the Franks, married the Burgundian princess Clotilda (daughter of Chilperic), who converted him to the Catholic faith. At first allied with Clovis' Franks
against the Visigoths
in the early 6th century, the Burgundians
were eventually conquered at Autun by the Franks
in 532 after a first attempt in the Battle of Vézeronce. The Burgundian kingdom was made part of the Merovingian
kingdoms, and the Burgundians
themselves were by and large absorbed as well.

Physical appearance[edit] The 5th century Gallo-Roman
poet and landowner Sidonius, who at one point lived with the Burgundians, described them as a long-haired people of immense physical size:

"Why... do you [an obscure senator by the name of Catullinus] bid me compose a song dedicated to Venus... placed as I am among long-haired hordes, having to endure Germanic speech, praising often with a wry face the song of the gluttonous Burgundian who spreads rancid butter on his hair? ... You don't have a reek of garlic and foul onions discharged upon you at early morn from ten breakfasts, and you are not invaded before dawn... by a crowd of giants."[12]



Region Gaul

Extinct 6th century

Language family



East Germanic


Language codes

ISO 639-3 None (mis)

Linguist List


Glottolog None

The Burgundian language belonged to the East Germanic language group. It appears to have become extinct during the late sixth century.[13] Little is known of the language. Some proper names of Burgundians
are recorded, and some words used in the area in modern times are thought to be derived from the ancient Burgundian language,[13] but it is often difficult to distinguish these from Germanic words of other origin, and in any case the modern form of the words is rarely suitable to infer much about the form in the old language. Religion[edit] Somewhere in the east the Burgundians
had converted to the Arian form of Christianity from their native Germanic polytheism. Their Arianism proved a source of suspicion and distrust between the Burgundians
and the Catholic Western Roman Empire. Divisions were evidently healed or healing circa AD 500, however, as Gundobad, one of the last Burgundian kings, maintained a close personal friendship with Avitus, the bishop of Vienne. Moreover, Gundobad's son and successor, Sigismund, was himself a Catholic, and there is evidence that many of the Burgundian people had converted by this time as well, including several female members of the ruling family. Law[edit] The Burgundians
left three legal codes, among the earliest from any of the Germanic tribes. The Liber Constitutionum sive Lex Gundobada
Lex Gundobada
(The Book of Constitutions or Law of Gundobad), also known as the Lex Burgundionum, or more simply the Lex Gundobada
Lex Gundobada
or the Liber, was issued in several parts between 483 and 516, principally by Gundobad, but also by his son, Sigismund. (Drew, p. 6–7) It was a record of Burgundian customary law and is typical of the many Germanic law codes from this period. In particular, the Liber borrowed from the Lex Visigothorum (Drew, p. 6) and influenced the later Lex Ribuaria. (Rivers, p. 9) The Liber is one of the primary sources for contemporary Burgundian life, as well as the history of its kings. Like many of the Germanic tribes, the Burgundians' legal traditions allowed the application of separate laws for separate ethnicities. Thus, in addition to the Lex Gundobada, Gundobad also issued (or codified) a set of laws for Roman subjects of the Burgundian kingdom, the Lex Romana Burgundionum
Lex Romana Burgundionum
(The Roman Law of the Burgundians). In addition to the above codes, Gundobad's son Sigismund later published the Prima Constitutio.

This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in French. (March 2013) Click [show] for important translation instructions.

View a machine-translated version of the French article. Google's machine translation is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary (using German): Content in this edit is translated from the existing German article at [[:de:Exact name of German article]]; see its history for attribution. You should also add the template TranslatedfrBurgondes to the talk page. For more guidance, see:Translation.

See also[edit]

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Ancient Germanic culture portal

(later legends of the Burgundian kings). King of Burgundy Duchy of Burgundy Franche-Comté Dauphiné
(Dauphiny) List of Germanic tribes

References[edit] Notes[edit]

^ a b Sidonnius Appolinarius, Carmina, 7, 322 ^ a b Luebe, Die Burgunder, in Krüger II, p. 373 n. 21, in Herbert Schutz, Tools, weapons and ornaments: Germanic material culture in Pre-Carolingian Central Europe, 400-750, BRILL, 2001, p.36 ^ "Burgundy: History". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved January 17, 2015.  ^ Andres Kristol, "Francoprovencal", in The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 351–2. ^ http://www.gutenberg.org ^ a b "History of Europe: The Germans and Huns". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Retrieved January 16, 2015.  ^ "Ancient Rome: The barbarian invasions". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Retrieved January 16, 2015.  ^ "Germanic peoples". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved January 16, 2015.  ^ a b "Germany: Ancient History". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Retrieved January 16, 2015.  ^ Smith, William (1854), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography  ^ Gregory, II, 28. Gregory's chronology of the events surrounding Clovis and Gundobad has been questioned by Bury, Shanzer, and Wood, among others. Gregory was somewhat of a Frankish apologist, and commonly discredited the enemies of Clovis by attributing to them some fairly shocking acts. As with Godegisel, he also commonly refers to the treachery of Clovis' allies, when in fact Clovis seems to have bought them off (e.g., in the case of the Ripuarians). ^ Heather 2007, pp. 196–197 ^ a b W.B. Lockwood, "A Panorama of Indo-European Languages"


Bury, J.B. The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians. London: Macmillan and Co., 1928. Dalton, O.M. The History of the Franks, by Gregory of Tours. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1927. Drew, Katherine Fischer. The Burgundian Code. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972. Gordon, C.D. The Age of Attila. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961. Guichard, Rene, Essai sur l'histoire du peuple burgonde, de Bornholm (Burgundarholm) vers la Bourgogne
et les Bourguignons, 1965, published by A. et J. Picard et Cie. Heather, Peter (11 June 2007). The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195325419. Retrieved 31 May 2015.  Murray, Alexander Callander. From Roman to Merovingian
Gaul. Broadview Press, 2000. Musset, Lucien. The Germanic Invasions: The Making of Europe AD 400-600. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1975. ISBN 978-0-271-01198-1. Nerman, Birger. Det svenska rikets uppkomst. Generalstabens litagrafiska anstalt: Stockholm. 1925. Rivers, Theodore John. Laws of the Salian and Ripuarian Franks. New York: AMS Press, 1986. Rolfe, J.C., trans, Ammianus Marcellinus. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1950. Shanzer, Danuta. 'Dating the Baptism of Clovis.' In Early Medieval Europe, volume 7, pages 29–57. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1998. Shanzer, D. and I. Wood. Avitus
of Vienne: Letters and Selected Prose. Translated with an Introduction and Notes. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2002. Werner, J. (1953). "Beiträge sur Archäologie des Attila-Reiches", Die Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaft. Abhandlungen. N.F. XXXVIII A Philosophische-philologische und historische Klasse. Münche Wood, Ian N. 'Ethnicity and the Ethnogenesis of the Burgundians'. In Herwig Wolfram and Walter Pohl, editors, Typen der Ethnogenese unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Bayern, volume 1, pages 53–69. Vienna: Denkschriften der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1990. Wood, Ian N. The Merovingian
Kingdoms. Harlow, England: The Longman Group, 1994.

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