Franks (Latin: Franci or Latin: gens Francorum) were a collection
of Germanic peoples, whose name was first mentioned in 3rd century
Roman sources, associated with tribes on the Lower and
Middle Rhine in
the 3rd century AD, on the edge of the Roman Empire. Later the term is
associated with Romanized Germanic dynasties within the collapsing
Roman Empire, who eventually commanded the whole region between the
Loire and Rhine, and imposed power over many other post-Roman
kingdoms and Germanic peoples, later being recognized by the Catholic
church as successors to the old rulers of the Western Roman
Although the Frankish name only appears in the 3rd century, at least
some of the original Frankish tribes had long been known under their
own names to the Romans, 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 into Roman territory, but from
the beginning this was associated also with attacks upon them from
outside their frontier area, for example by Saxons, and a desire by
frontier tribes to move into Roman territory.
Known Frankish peoples inside the Roman
Rhine river frontier were the
Salian Franks who were permitted to live in Roman territory, and the
Ripuarian or Rhineland
Franks who, after many attempts, eventually
conquered the Roman frontier city of
Cologne and settled the left bank
of the Rhine. Later, in a period of factional conflict all over Gaul
in the 450s and 460s, Childeric I, a Frank, was one of several
military leaders commanding Roman forces with various ethnic
affiliations. Childeric and his son
Clovis I faced competition from
Aegidius and his son as competitors for the kingship of the Franks,
and commanders of the Roman
Loire forces. (According to Gregory of
Aegidius held this kingship for 8 years while Childeric was in
exile, while in contrast Gregory refers to his son
Syagrius as "King
of the Romans".) This new type of kingship, perhaps inspired by Alaric
I, represents the start of the
Merovingian dynasty, which succeeded
in conquering most of
Gaul in the 6th century, as well as establishing
its leadership over all the Frankish kingdoms on the
It was on the basis of this
Merovingian empire that the resurgent
Carolingians eventually came to be seen as the new Emperors of Western
Europe in 800.
In the Middle Ages, the term Frank came to be used as a synonym for
Western European, as the
Franks were rulers of most of
Western Europe, and established a political order which was the basis
of the European ancien regime that only ended with the French
revolution. Western Europeans shared their allegiance to the Roman
Catholic church and worked as allies in the
Crusades beyond Europe in
the Levant, where they still referred to themselves and the
Principalities they established as Frankish. This has had a lasting
impact on names for Western Europeans in many languages.
2 Mythological origins
3.1 Early history
Merovingian kingdom (481–751)
Carolingian empire (751–843)
4.1 Participation in the Roman army
4.2 Military practices of the early Franks
4.3.1 Composition and development
4.3.2 Strategy, tactics and equipment
5.2 Art and architecture
9 See also
11.1 Primary sources
11.2 Secondary sources
12 External links
Main article: Name of the Franks
A 19th century depiction of different
Franks (AD 400–600)
The name Franci was not a tribal name, but within a few centuries it
had eclipsed the names of the original peoples who constituted it.
Following the precedents of
Edward Gibbon and Jacob Grimm, the name
Franks has been linked with the word frank in English. There
have also been proposals that Frank comes from the Germanic word for
"javelin" (such as in
Old English franca or
Old Norse frakka).
Words in other
Germanic languages meaning "fierce", "bold" or
"insolent" (German frech,
Middle Dutch vrac,
Old English frǣc and Old
Norwegian frakkr), may also be significant.
Eumenius addressed the
Franks in the matter of the execution of
Frankish prisoners in the circus at
Constantine I in 306 and
certain other measures: Latin: Ubi nunc est illa ferocia? Ubi
semper infida mobilitas? ("Where now is that ferocity of yours? Where
is that ever untrustworthy fickleness?"). Latin: Feroces was used
often to describe the Franks. Contemporary definitions of Frankish
ethnicity vary both by period and point of view. A formulary written
Marculf about 700 AD described a continuation of national
identities within a mixed population when it stated that "all the
peoples who dwell [in the official's province], Franks, Romans,
Burgundians and those of other nations, live ... according to
their law and their custom." Writing in 2009, Professor
Christopher Wickham pointed out that "the word 'Frankish' quickly
ceased to have an exclusive ethnic connotation. North of the River
Loire everyone seems to have been considered a Frank by the mid-7th
century at the latest; Romani [Romans] were essentially the
inhabitants of Aquitaine after that".
Two early sources that describe the origin of the
Franks are a
7th-century work known as the
Chronicle of Fredegar
Chronicle of Fredegar and the anonymous
Liber Historiae Francorum, written a century later.
The author of the
Chronicle of Fredegar
Chronicle of Fredegar claimed that the
Troy and quoted the works of
Vergil and Hieronymous,
Franks are mentioned in those works, by Hieronymous. The
Priam as a Frankish king whose people migrated to
Macedonia after the fall of Troy. In Macedonia, the
divided. The European
Francia under King Francio, just
Romulus went to Rome. Another branch, under King Turchot, became
Fredegar stated that Theudemer, named king of the
Gregory, was descended from Priam, Friga and Francio.
Another work, the Gesta, described how 12,000 Trojans, led by Priam
and Antenor, sailed from
Troy to the River Don in
Russia and on to
Pannonia, which is on the River Danube, settling near the Sea of Azov.
There they founded a city called Sicambria. (The
Sicambri 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 "savage"). A decade later the Romans killed
Priam and drove
Marcomer and Sunno, the sons of
Priam and Antenor, and the other
The major primary sources on the early
Franks include the Panegyrici
Latini, Ammianus Marcellinus, Claudian, Zosimus, Sidonius Apollinaris
and Gregory of Tours. The
Franks are first mentioned in the Augustan
History, a collection of biographies of the Roman emperors. 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 Edwards (1988, p. 35):
A Roman marching-son 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
Chamavi were mentioned as a
Frankish people as early as 289, the
Bructeri from 307, the Chattuarri
from 306-15, the Salii or Salians from 357, and the Amsivarii and
Tubantes from c. 364-75.
In 288 the emperor
Maximian defeated the Salian Franks, Chamavi,
Frisians and other Germans living along the
Rhine and moved them to
Germania inferior to provide manpower and prevent the settlement of
other Germanic tribes. In 292 Constantius, 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 Toxandria.
Eumenius mentions Constantius as having "killed, expelled, captured
[and] kidnapped" the
Franks who had settled there and others who had
crossed the Rhine, using the term nationes Franciae for the first
It seems likely that the term Frank in this first period had a broader
meaning, sometimes including coastal Frisians:
Franks were described in Roman texts both as allies (laeti) and
enemies (dediticii). About the year 260 one group of
as far as
Tarragona 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
Maximian forced a Frankish
Genobaud and his people to surrender without a fight. Maximian
then forced the Salians in
Toxandria (the present Low Countries) to
accept imperial authority, but was not able to follow on this success
by reconquering Britain.
The Life of Aurelian, which was possibly written by Vopiscus, mentions
that in 328, Frankish raiders were captured by the 6th Legion
stationed at Mainz. As a result of this incident, 700
killed and 300 were sold into slavery. Frankish incursions
Rhine became so frequent that the Romans began to settle the
Franks on their borders in order to control them.
Franks are mentioned in the Tabula Peutingeriana, an atlas of
Roman roads. 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
Francia is close to a misspelling of Bructeri. Beyond
Mainz is Suevia,
the country of the Suebi, and beyond that is Alamannia, the country of
the Alamanni. Four tribes at the mouth of the
Rhine are depicted: the
Chauci, the Amsivarii ('Ems dwellers'), the
Cherusci and the Chamavi,
followed by qui et Pranci ('who are also Franks'). This implies that
Chamavi were considered Franks. The Tabula was probably based on
the Orbis Pictus, a map of twenty years' labour commissioned by
Augustus 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.
Detail of the Tabula Peutingeriana, showing
Francia at the top
Main article: Salian Franks
The Salians were first mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus, who
described Julian's defeat of "the first
Franks of all, those whom
custom has called the Salians," in 358. Julian allowed the
Franks to remain in Texuandria as fœderati within the Empire, having
moved there from the Rhine-Maas delta. The 5th century Notitia
Dignitatum lists their soldiers as Salii.
Some decades later,
Franks in the same region, possibly the Salians,
controlled the River
Scheldt and were disrupting transport links to
Britain in the English Channel. Although Roman forces managed to
pacify them, they failed to expel the Franks, who continued to be
feared as pirates.
In the 5th century
Chlodio pushed into Roman lands in and
beyond the "Silva Carbonaria" or "Charcoal forest" which ran through
the area of modern western Wallonia. The forest was the boundary of
the original Salian territories to the north and the more Romanized
area to the south.
Chlodio conquered Tournai, Artois, Cambrai, and as
far as the Somme river.
Childeric I and his son Clovis I, possibly relatives of Chlodio,
took command of Roman
Gaul as far as the river Loire, the Frankish
sub-kingdom of Neustria, and the basis of what would become France.
Clovis then preceded to take control of the Frankish kingdoms to the
North, the kingdom of Austrasia, but when the
later published the Salian law (Lex Salica) it applied in the
Neustrian area from the river Liger
Loire to the Silva Carbonaria.
Main article: Ripuarian Franks
Approximate location of the original Frankish tribes in the 3rd
Franks lived near the stretch of the
Rhine from roughly
Mainz to Duisburg, and 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
Merovingian legal code was called the Lex Ribuaria.
Jordanes, in Getica mentions the Riparii as auxiliaries of Flavius
Aetius during the
Battle of Châlons
Battle of Châlons in 451: "Hi enim affuerunt
auxiliares: Franci, Sarmatae, Armoriciani, Liticiani, Burgundiones,
Saxones, Riparii, Olibriones ..."  But these Riparii ("river
dwellers") are today not considered to be Ripuarian Franks, but a
known military unit based on the river Rhone.
Their territory on both sides of the
Rhine became a central part of
Merovingian Austrasia, which stretched to include Roman Germania
Germania Secunda, which included the original Salian and
Ripuarian lands) as well as
Gallia Belgica Secunda, and lands on the
east bank of the Rhine.
Merovingian kingdom (481–751)
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Main article: Merovingians
A 6th-7th century necklace of glass and ceramic beads with a central
amethyst bead. Similar necklaces have been found in the graves of
Frankish women in the Rhineland.
A 6th century bow fibula found in north-eastern
France and the
Rhineland. They were worn by Frankish noblewomen in pairs at the
shoulder or as belt ornaments.
Numerous small Frankish kingdoms existed during the 5th century around
Cologne, Tournai, Le Mans,
Cambrai and elsewhere. The
kingdom of the
Merovingians eventually came to dominate the others,
probably because of its association with Roman power structures in
northern Gaul. Aegidius, was originally the magister militum of
Gaul appointed by Majorian, but after Majorian's death
apparently seen as a Roman rebel who relied on Frankish forces.
Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours reported that
Childeric I was exiled for 8 years
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 Belgica Secunda, by its spiritual leader in
the time of Clovis, Saint Remigius.
Clovis later defeated the son of Aegidius,
Syagrius in 486 or 487 and
then had the Frankish king Chararic imprisoned and executed. A few
years later, he killed Ragnachar, the Frankish king of Cambrai, and
his brothers. By the 490s, he had conquered all the Frankish kingdoms
to the west of the
River Maas except for the
Ripuarian Franks 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. After
conquering the Kingdom of Soissons and expelling the
Gaul at the Battle of Vouillé, he established Frankish
hegemony over most of Gaul, excluding Burgundy,
Provence and Brittany,
which were eventually absorbed by his successors.
Clovis I divided his realm between his four sons, who united to defeat
Burgundy in 534. Internecine feuding occurred during the reigns of the
Sigebert I and Chilperic I, which was largely fuelled by the
rivalry of their queens, Brunhilda and Fredegunda, and which continued
during the reigns of their sons and their grandsons. Three distinct
subkingdoms emerged: Austrasia,
Neustria and Burgundy, each of which
developed independently and sought to exert influence over the others.
The influence of the
Arnulfing clan of
Austrasia ensured that the
centre of political gravity in the kingdom gradually shifted eastwards
to the Rhineland.
The Frankish realm was reunited in 613 by Chlothar II, the son of
Chilperic, who granted his nobles the Edict of
Paris in an effort to
reduce corruption and reassert his authority. Following the military
successes of his son and successor Dagobert I, royal authority rapidly
declined under a series of kings, traditionally known as les rois
fainéants. After the
Battle of Tertry in 687, each mayor of the
palace, who had formerly been the king's chief household official,
effectively held power until in 751, with the approval of the
Pepin the Short
Pepin the Short deposed the last
Childeric III and had himself crowned. This inaugurated a new dynasty,
Carolingian empire (751–843)
The unification achieved by the
Merovingians ensured the continuation
of what has become known as the
Carolingian Renaissance. 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 coronation of their ruler
Charlemagne as Holy Roman
Pope Leo III in 800 AD, he and his successors were
recognised as legitimate successors to the emperors of the Western
Roman Empire. 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,
Roman Empire and Burgundy, though the Frankish identity
remained most closely identified with France.
After the death of Charlemagne, his only adult surviving son became
Emperor and King Louis the Pious. Following Louis the Pious's death
however, accordingly with Frankish culture and law that demanded
equality among all living male adult heirs, the
Frankish Empire 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 Julius Caesar. After the Roman administration collapsed in
Gaul in the 260s, the armies under the Germanic Batavian Postumus
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 Carausius
created a Batavian–British rump state on Roman soil that was
supported by Frankish soldiers and raiders. Frankish soldiers such as
Magnentius, Silvanus and
Arbitio held command positions in the Roman
army during the mid 4th century. From the narrative of Ammianus
Marcellinus it is evident that both Frankish and Alamannic tribal
armies were organised along Roman lines.
After the invasion of Chlodio, the Roman armies at the
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 till the days of the scholar Procopius
(c. AD 500 – c. AD 565), more than a century after the demise of the
Western Roman Empire, who wrote describing the former
Rhine army as
still in operation with legions of 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
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
Agathias and Procopius, the latter two Eastern
Roman historians writing about Frankish intervention in the Gothic
Writing of 539,
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 Theudebert I
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 [the Franks] is very
simple ... They do not know the use of the coat of mail or
greaves 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 missile weapons except the double edged
axe and the angon 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 javelin, and also in hand to hand
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 Charles Martel'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
it one of their primary weapons. They agree that the
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 (
Sidonius Apollinaris and Gregory of Tours) and
the archaeological evidence. The Lex Ribuaria, the early 7th century
legal code of the Rhineland or Ripuarian Franks, specifies the values
of various goods when paying a wergild in kind; whereas a spear and
shield were worth only two solidi, a sword and scabbard were valued at
seven, a helmet at six, and a "metal tunic" at twelve. Scramasaxes
and arrowheads are numerous in Frankish graves even though the
Byzantine historians do not assign them to the Franks.
The frontispiece of Gregory's Historia Francorum
The evidence of Gregory and of the
Lex Salica 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 Lex Ribuaria
specifies that a mare's value was the same as that of an ox or of a
shield and spear, two solidi 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
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 (castra) and in general these centres were held by
garrisons of milities or laeti, 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 leudes, his sworn followers, who were generally 'old soldiers' in
service away from court. Some historians[who?] have gone to the
length of relating their oath-making to the later development of
feudalism. The king had an elite bodyguard called the truste. Members
of the truste often served in centannae, garrison settlements that
were established for military and police purposes. The day-to-day
bodyguard of the king was made up of antrustiones (senior soldiers who
were aristocrats in military service) and pueri (junior soldiers and
not aristocrats). All high-ranking men had pueri.
The Frankish military was not composed solely of
Gallo-Romans, but also contained Saxons, Alans,
Taifals and Alemanni.
After the conquest of
Burgundy (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
Patrician of Burgundy.
In the late 6th century, during the wars instigated by
Merovingian monarchs introduced a new element into
their militaries: the local levy. 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 conscription. 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 counts of the
districts. A much rarer occurrence was the general levy, which applied
to the entire kingdom and included peasants (pauperes and inferiores).
General levies could also be made within the still-pagan trans-Rhenish
stem duchies on the orders of a monarch. The Saxons,
Thuringii 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. Radulf
of Thuringia called up the levy for a war against
Sigebert III 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). However, all the forms of the levy
gradually disappeared in the course of the 7th century after the reign
of Dagobert I. Under the so-called rois fainéants, the levies
disappeared by mid-century in
Austrasia and later in
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 magnates 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 coats of mail, helmets, shields, lances,
swords, bows and arrows and war horses. The armament of private armies
resembled those of the
Gallo-Roman potentiatores of the late Empire. A
strong element of Alanic cavalry settled in
Armorica influenced the
fighting style of the
Bretons down into the 12th century. Local urban
levies could be reasonably well-armed and even mounted, but the more
general levies were composed of pauperes and inferiores, who were
mostly farmers by trade and carried ineffective weapons, such as
farming implements. The peoples east of the Rhine – Franks,
Saxons and even Wends – who were sometimes called upon to
serve, wore rudimentary armour and carried weapons such as spears and
axes. Few of these men were mounted.
Merovingian society had a militarised nature. The
Franks called annual
meetings every Marchfeld (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 siege engines. In wars
waged against external foes, the objective was typically the
acquisition of booty or the enforcement of tribute. Only in the lands
Rhine did the
Merovingians seek to extend political control
over their neighbours.
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 Danes by Theuderic
I in 515 involved ocean-worthy ships and rivercraft were used on the
Rhône and Rhine.
Main article: Frankish language
In a modern linguistic context, the language of the early
variously called "Old Frankish" or "Old Franconian" and refers to the
West Germanic dialects of the
Franks prior to the advent of the Second
Germanic consonant shift, which took place between 600 and 700 CE.
After this consonant shift the Frankish dialect diverges, with the
dialects which would become modern Dutch not undergoing the
consonantal shift, while all others did so to varying degrees and
thereby became part of the larger German dialectal domain.
Frankish language has not been directly attested, apart from a
very small number of runic inscriptions found within contemporary
Frankish territory such as the Bergakker inscription. The distinction
Old Dutch and
Old Frankish is largely negligible, with Old
Dutch (also called Old Low Franconian) being the term used to
differentiate between the affected and non-affected variants following
the aforementioned Second Germanic consonant shift.
A significant amount of
Old Frankish vocabulary has been reconstructed
by examining early Germanic loanwords found in
Old French as well as
through comparative reconstruction through Dutch. The
Old Frankish on contemporary
Gallo-Roman vocabulary and
phonology, 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.
Art and architecture
A chalice from the Treasure of Gourdon.
The pinnacle of
Carolingian architecture: the palatine chapel at
Merovingian art and architecture and
Early Frankish art and architecture belongs to a phase known as
Migration Period art, which has left very few remains. The later
period is called
Carolingian art, or, especially in architecture,
pre-Romanesque. Very little
Merovingian architecture has been
preserved. The earliest churches seem to have been timber-built, with
larger examples being of a basilica type. The most completely
surviving example, a baptistery in Poitiers, is a building with three
apses of a
Gallo-Roman style. A number of small baptistries can be
seen in Southern France: as these fell out of fashion, they were not
updated and have subsequently survived as they were.
Jewelery (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 Aregund, discovered in 1959,
and the Treasure of Gourdon, which was deposited soon after 524, are
notable examples. The few
Merovingian illuminated manuscripts that
have survived, such as the Gelasian Sacramentary, contain a great deal
of zoomorphic representations. Such Frankish objects show a greater
use of the style and motifs of
Late Antiquity and a lesser degree of
skill and sophistication in design and manufacture than comparable
works from the British Isles. 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
Carolingian developments were decisive for the future
course of Western art.
Carolingian illuminated manuscripts and ivory
plaques, which have survived in reasonable numbers, approached those
Constantinople in quality. The main surviving monument of
Carolingian architecture is the Palatine Chapel in Aachen, which is an
impressive and confident adaptation of
San Vitale, Ravenna
San Vitale, Ravenna — from
where some of the pillars were brought. Many other important buildings
existed, such as the monasteries of Centula or St Gall, or the old
Cologne Cathedral, 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.
Main article: Frankish Mythology
Drawing of golden bees or flies that was discovered in the tomb of
Frankish paganism 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 Germanic paganism. The
mythology of the
Franks was probably a form of Germanic polytheism. It
was highly ritualistic. Many daily activities centred around the
multiple deities, chiefest of which may have been the Quinotaur, 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
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 angon (meaning "sting"), from its
distinctive spearhead. It is possible that the fleur-de-lis is derived
from the angon.
Statue in the
Cathedral of Reims
Cathedral of Reims depicting the baptism of
Clovis I by
Saint Remi in around 496
Further information: Christianity in
Gaul and Frankish
Some Franks, like the 4th century usurper Silvanus, converted early to
Christianity. In 496, Clovis I, who had married a Burgundian Catholic
named Clotilda in 493, was baptised by
Saint Remi after a decisive
victory over the
Alemanni at the Battle of Tolbiac. 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
Christianised Germanic tribe without a predominantly Arian aristocracy
and this led to a naturally amicable relationship between the Catholic
Church and the increasingly powerful Franks.
Though 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 Ragnachar, who had played an
important role in Clovis' initial rise to power. Though 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
Gelasian Sacramentary, c. 750
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
Merovingian forms of kingship deeply rooted in pagan
Germanic tradition and accommodate Irish and Anglo-Saxon missionary
activities and papal requirements. The
Carolingian reformation of
monasticism and church-state relations was the culmination of the
The increasingly wealthy
Merovingian elite endowed many monasteries,
including that of the Irish missionary Columbanus. The 5th, 6th and
7th centuries saw two major waves of hermitism in the Frankish world,
which led to legislation requiring that all monks and hermits follow
the Rule of St Benedict. 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
slowly replace the
Gallican Rite with the Roman rite. 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 lawspeakers of
Scandinavia. By the 6th century, when these laws first appeared in
written form, two basic legal subdivisions existed:
Salian Franks were
Salic law and
Ripuarian Franks to Ripuarian law.
Gallo-Romans south of the River
Loire and clergy remained subject to
traditional Roman law. 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
curiales, or municipal councilors".
Carolingian Empire (green) in 814
The term Frank has been used by many of the Eastern Orthodox and
Muslim neighbours of medieval Latin
Christendom (and beyond, such as
in Asia) as a general synonym for a European from Western and Central
Europe, areas that followed the Latin rites of Christianity under the
authority of the
Pope in Rome. 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
Rhomaios and Rûmi
("Roman") for Orthodox Christians. On a number of Greek islands,
Catholics are still referred to as Φράγκοι (Frangoi) or
"Franks", for instance on Syros, where they are called
Φραγκοσυριανός (Frangosyrianos). The period of Crusader
rule in Greek lands is known to this day as the
Frangokratia ("rule of
the Franks"). Latin Christians living in the Middle East (particularly
in the Levant) are known as Franco-Levantines.
Mongol Empire in the 13-14th centuries, the
the term "Franks" to designate Europeans. The term Frangistan
("Land of the Franks") was used by Muslims to refer to Christian
Europe and was commonly used over several centuries in
Iran and the
The Chinese called the Portuguese Folangji 佛郎機 ("Franks") in the
1520s at the
Battle of Tunmen
Battle of Tunmen and Battle of Xicaowan. Some other
Mandarin Chinese pronounced the characters as Fah-lan-ki.
During the reign of Chingtih (Zhengde) (1506), foreigners from the
west called Fah-lan-ki (or Franks), who said they had tribute,
abruptly entered the Bogue, and by their tremendously loud guns shook
the place far and near. This was reported at court, and an order
returned to drive them away immediately, and stop the trade.
— Samuel Wells Williams, The Middle Kingdom: A Survey of the
Geography, Government, Education, Social Life, Arts, Religion, &c.
of the Chinese Empire and Its Inhabitants, 2 vol. (Wiley & Putnam,
Mediterranean Lingua Franca
Mediterranean Lingua Franca (or "Frankish language") was a pidgin
first spoken by 11th century European Christians and Muslims in
Mediterranean ports that remained in use until the 19th century.
Examples of derived words include:
Frangos (Φράγκος) in Greek
Frëng in Albanian
Frenk in Turkish
al-Faranj, Afranj and Firinjīyah in Arabic
Farang, Farangī in Persian, Faranji in Tajik.
Ferengi or Faranji in some Turkic languages
Feringhi or Firang in Hindi and Urdu (derived from Persian)
Phirangee in some other Indian languages
Parangiar in Tamil
Parangi in Malayalam; in Sinhala, the word refers specifically to
Barang in Khmer
Feringgi in Malay
Folangji or Fah-lan-ki (佛郎機) and Fulang in Chinese
Farang (ฝรั่ง) in Thai.
Pirang ("blonde"), Perangai ("temperament/al") in Bahasa Indonesia
In the Thai usage, the word can refer to any European person. When the
presence of US soldiers during the
Vietnam War placed Thai people in
contact with African Americans, they (and people of African ancestry
in general) came to be called
Farang dam ("Black Farang",
ฝรั่งดำ). Such words sometimes also connote things,
plants or creatures introduced by Europeans/Franks. For example, in
Khmer, môn barang, literally "French Chicken", refers to a turkey and
Farang is the name both for Europeans and for the guava
fruit, introduced by Portuguese traders over 400 years ago. In
contemporary Israel, the Yiddish word פרענק
(Frenk) has, by a curious etymological development, come to refer to
Mizrahi Jews and carries a strong pejorative connotation.
Some linguists (among them Drs. Jan Tent and Paul Geraghty) have
suggested that the Samoan and generic Polynesian term for Europeans,
Palagi (pronounced Puh-LANG-ee) or Papalagi, might also be cognate,
possibly a loan term gathered by early contact between Pacific
islanders and Malays.
Ancient Germanic culture portal
List of Frankish kings
List of Frankish queens
Name of France
List of Germanic peoples
^ "Holy Roman Empire"
^ Coronation of Charlemagne
^ Halsall (2007, p. 267)
^ Angeliki Laiou, Henry P. Maguire (1992). Byzantium: A World
Civilization. Dumbarton Oaks. p. 62.
ISBN 978-0-88402-200-8. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter
^ Richard W. Bulliett et alii (2011). The Earth and Its Peoples.
Cengage Learning. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-495-91310-8.
^ Janet L. Nelson (2003). The Frankist World. Continuum International.
p. xiii. ISBN 978-1-85285-105-7.
^ Perry 1857, p. 42.
^ Examples: "frank". American Heritage Dictionary. "frank".
Webster's Third New International Dictionary. And so on.
^ Robert K. Barnhart, ed. Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology (Bronx, NY:
H. W. Wilson, 1988), 406.
^ Murray, Alexander Callander (2000). From Roman to
A Reader. Broadview Press. p. 1. The etymology of 'Franci' is
uncertain ('the fierce ones' is the favourite explanation), but the
name is undoubtedly of Germanic origin.
^ Panegyric on Constantine, xi.
^ Howorth 1884, p. 217.
^ Perry 1857, p. 43.
^ James 1988, p. 187.
^ Wickham, Chris (2010) . The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating
the Dark Ages 400–1000. Penguin History of Europe, 2. Penguin Books.
p. 123. ISBN 978-0-670-02098-0.
^ Rydberg, Viktor; Anderson, Rasmus B. (Translator) (1889). Teutonic
Mythology. Swan Sonnenschein & Co. pp. 33–36.
^ Williams, 50–51.
^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 7.
^ Nicol, Matthews, Donald, J.F. "Constantine I". Encyclopedia
Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica inc. Retrieved 10 November
^ Howorth 1884, pp. 215–216
^ Lanting; van der Plicht (2010), "De 14C-chronologie van de
Nederlandse Pre- en Protohistorie VI: Romeinse tijd en Merovingische
periode, deel A: historische bronnen en chronologische schema's",
Palaeohistoria, 51/52: 67
^ As the 6th Gallicana is only known from this work, its existence is
sometimes questioned along with the genuineness of the work; however,
the question remains unanswered: Lendering, Jona. "Legio VI
^ Howorth 1884, p. 213.
^ Res Gestae, XVII.8.
^ The Latin, petit primos omnium Francos, eos videlicet quos
consuetudo Salios appellavit is slightly ambiguous, resulting in an
interpretation "first of all he proceeded against the Franks ..."
with "first" presented improperly as an adjective instead of an
adverb. As it stands, the Salians are the first
Franks of all; if an
adverb is intended, the
Franks are they who are the Salians.
^ Previté-Orton. The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History, vol. I.
^ Pfister 1911, p. 296.
^ Paragraph 191.
^ Nonn "Die Franken", p.85: "Heute dürfte feststehen, dass es sich
dabei um römische Einheiten handelt; die in der Gallia riparensis,
einem Militärbezirk im Rhônegebiet, stationiert waren, der in der
Notitia dignitatum bezeugt ist."
Procopius HW, VI, xxv, 1ff, quoted in Bachrach (1970), 436.
^ Agathias, Hist., II, 5, quoted in Bachrach (1970), 436–437.
^ a b James, Edward, The Franks. Oxford; Blackwell 1988, p. 211
^ Bachrach (1970), 440.
^ Halsall, Guy. Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450–900
(London: Routledge, 2003), p.48
^ Halsall, pp. 48–9
^ Halsall, p.43
^ Rheinischer Fächer – Karte des Landschaftsverband Rheinland
Archived February 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
^ B. Mees, The
Bergakker inscription and the beginnings of Dutch, in:
Amsterdamer beiträge zur älteren Germanistik: Band 56- 2002, edited
by Erika Langbroek, Annelies Roeleveld, Paula Vermeyden, Arend Quak,
Published by Rodopi, 2002, ISBN 9042015799, 9789042015791
^ van der Horst, Joop (2000). Korte geschiedenis van de Nederlandse
taal (Kort en goed) (in Dutch). Den Haag: Sdu. p. 42.
^ a b
^ Noske 2007, p. 1.
^ Otto Pächt,
Book Illumination in the
Middle Ages (trans fr German),
1986, Harvey Miller Publishers, London, ISBN 0-19-921060-8
^ Eduard Syndicus; Early Christian Art; pp. 164–74; Burns &
Oates, London, 1962
^ Schutz, 152.
^ Gregory of Tours, in his History of the Franks, relates: "Now this
people seems to have always been addicted to heathen worship, and they
did not know God, but made themselves images of the woods and the
waters, of birds and beasts and of the other elements as well. They
were wont to worship these as
God and to offer sacrifice to them."
(Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks,
^ Gregory of Tours. "
Book II, 31". History of the Franks.
^ Sönke Lorenz (2001), Missionierung, Krisen und Reformen: Die
Christianisierung von der Spätantike bis in Karolingische Zeit in Die
Alemannen, Stuttgart: Theiss; ISBN 3-8062-1535-9;
^ The Chronicle of St. Denis, I.18–19, 23
^ Lorenz (2001:442)
^ J.M. Wallace-Hadrill covers these areas in The Frankish Church
(Oxford History of the Christian Church; Oxford:Clarendon Press) 1983.
^ Michel Rouche, 435-436.
^ Michel Rouch, 421.
^ Michel Rouche, 421-422.
^ Michel Rouche, 422-423
^ König, Daniel G., Arabic-Islamic Views of the Latin West. Tracing
the Emergence of Medieval Western Europe, Oxford: OUP, 2015, chap. 6,
^ Igor de Rachewiltz - Turks in China under the Mongols, in: China
Among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and its Neighbors, 10th-14th
^ Rashid al-din Fazl Allâh, quoted in Karl Jahn (ed.) Histoire
Universelle de Rasid al-Din Fadl Allah Abul=Khair: I. Histoire des
Francs (Texte Persan avec traduction et annotations), Leiden, E. J.
Brill, 1951. (Source: M. Ashtiany)
^ Kamoludin Abdullaev; Shahram Akbarzaheh (27 April 2010). Historical
Dictionary of Tajikistan. Scarecrow Press. pp. 129–.
^ Endymion Porter Wilkinson (2000). Chinese History: A Manual. Harvard
Univ Asia Center. pp. 730–. ISBN 978-0-674-00249-4.
^ Park, Hyunhee (27 August 2012). Mapping the Chinese and Islamic
Worlds: Cross-Cultural Exchange in Pre-Modern Asia. Cambridge
University Press. pp. 95–. ISBN 978-1-107-01868-6.
^ ฝรั่ง fa rang, thai-language.com, 2008
^ Tent, J., and Geraghty, P., (2001) "Exploding sky or exploded myth?
The origin of Papalagi", Journal of the Polynesian Society, 110, 2:
^ The coronation of
Charlemagne in 800 AD
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