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Saturday, 25 February 2017

Cuneglasus, Ursus and King Arthur

By Dane Pestano and contributing editor, Mak Wilson,1
© 2017. Composed in Sussex, England.


The tyrant Cuneglasus appears in a polemic written by a sixth century monk called Gildas in his work: De excidio et Conquestu Britanniæ (‘On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain’ shortened to De Excidio), where all of Cuneglasus’ various crimes and sins are laid bare by its author for all to see, along with those of four other tyrannical rulers of the Britons.2 In looking at the life of Cuneglasus from Gildas’ words we will try to disentangle the historical Cuneglasus from perceived links with King Arthur by various authors. The main points below will be discussed.
  1. By the twelfth century Cuneglasus has been assumed by some, to have been Arthur;3 as Geoffrey of Monmouth may have disguised him in his description of Gildas’ five kings, which he made follow Arthur in kingship in his History of the Kings of Britain; and certain Arthurian glosses were added to the Historia Britonnum in the early thirteenth century that have been seen to be related to Gildas’ description of Cuneglasus.4
  2. Assertions that Cuneglasus was 'King' Arthur may have been made because of the ‘bear’ reference to Cuneglasus in De Excidio (as Welsh Arth can mean ‘bear’),5 and, perhaps, because Geoffrey gave Arthur a 'special weapon', Caliburnus (later called Excalibur), just as Cuneglasus is described as having “arms special to thyself”.
  3. Geoffrey also used the form of Arthurus when referring to Arthur in his Prophecies of Merlin (c. 1130CE), a name that can be derived from the Greco-Romano cosmological and mythological figure, Arcturus (Greek Arktouros); an imagery that some have read into Gildas’ words regarding Cuneglasus (as Arcturus > Arthurus > Arthur).
  4. It could also be argued that by the twelfth century Cuneglasus had contributed to the legend of Arthur by hagiographers who portrayed a rather more brutal, tyrannical Arthur, prone to murder, civil war and rebellion, in Wales.
  5. From here it has also been suggested that the link with Cuneglasus and Arthur was picked up by the French Romance writers who tell the story of the False Guinevere, seemingly shadowing the story of Cuneglasus having driven away his wife and courted his wife’s sister. Mallory’s ‘Castle of the Chariot’, perhaps the Grail Castle, has also been seen as a reference to Cuneglasus, and Gildas’ use of the chariot metaphor.6
  6. Cuneglasus has been linked to a fort called Dinarth in Rhos, north Wales, due to the words of Gildas, and also to other possible forts in Ceredigion. We will discuss the validity of this in relation to a proposed metaphorical reading of Gildas' words.
In looking at all these arguments, on a line by line basis from Gildas’ De Excidio, the metaphorical and biblical nature of some of Gildas’ polemics against Cuneglasus will be examined and presented in a revised form and a solution to the difficult subject of Gildas’ confused translation of Cuneglasus into Latin ‘tawny butcher’ will also be attempted.
      The map below is a rough guide to Wales in the mid sixth century, with tyrants placed in approximate places as discussed in this work; including some of the later medieval names for the kingdoms. It presumes Maglocunus had deposed other tyrants in the north as described by Gildas and so a larger7 Gwynedd is indicated than would normally apply later. It should not be taken as definitive in any way.

Cuneglasus8 the bear.
(De excidio, §32) “Ut quid in nequitiae tuae volveris vetusta faece et tu ab adolescentiae annis, urse, multorum sessor auriga que currus receptaculi ursi, dei contemptor sortisque eius depressor, Cuneglase, Romana lingua lanio fulve. Quare tantum certamen tam hominibus quam deo praestas, hominibus, civibus scilicet, armis specialibus, deo infinitis sceleribus? Quid praeter innumerabiles casus propria uxore pulsa furciferam germanum eius, perpetuam deo viduitatis castimoniam promittentem, ut poeta ait, summam ceu teneritudinem caelicolarum, tota animi veneratione vel potius hebetudine [nympharum] contra interdictum apostoli denegantis posse adulteros regni caelestis esse municipes suspicis? Quid gemitus atque suspiria sanctorum propter te corporaliter versantium, vice immanis leaenae dentium ossa tua quandoque fracturae, crebris instigas iniuriis?”9
Why dost thou, also, wallow in the old filth of thy wickedness, from the years of thy youth, thou bear, rider of many, and driver of a chariot belonging to a bear's den, despiser of God and contemner of His decree, thou Cuneglas[us] (meaning in the Roman tongue, thou ‘tawny butcher’). Why dost thou maintain such strife against both men and God? Against men, thine own countrymen, to wit, by arms special to thyself; against God, by crimes without number? Why, in addition to innumerable lapses, dost thou, having driven away thy wife, cast thine eyes upon her dastardly sister, who is under a vow to God of the perpetual chastity of widowhood, that is as the poet says, of the highest tenderness of heavenly nymphs, with the full reverence, or rather bluntness, of her mind, against the apostle's prohibition when he says that adulterers cannot be citizens of the kingdom of heaven? 
Why dost thou provoke, by thy repeated injuries, the groans and sighs of saints, who on thy account are living in the body, as if they were the teeth of a huge lioness that shall some day break thy bones? [...]”

...and he goes on for a while longer after this with some Biblical examples, ending with....
 “Otherwise thou shalt know and see, even in this world, how evil and bitter it is to have abandoned the Lord thy God, and that His fear is not with thee, and that in the world to come thou shalt be burnt in the hideous mass of eternal fires, without, however, in any way dying. For the souls of sinners are as immortal for never-ending fire as those of the saints are for joy.” 10 
The Latin name Cuneglasus is from Brythonic *Cunoglastos - Cunoglasos. Brythonic *cune means ‘hound’, 'dog’, ‘wolf’ or ‘lord’11 and *glasos (Welsh glas) is normally used for ‘blue’ or ‘green’ (sometimes ‘silver’); it can also mean ‘grey’ in Cornish and Gaelic.12 Gildas’ suggestion that it meant ‘tawny butcher’ will be resolved below when we come to discuss that part of his tirade.
Most scholars identify this man with Cinglas from the tenth-century North Welsh genealogies13 of the small kingdom of Rhos, with its llys (fort/court) at Dinerth/Dinarth (now Bryn Euryn) in what is now mid-North Wales. Another Rhos in West Wales has also been suggested, because of a Dinarth in Ceredigion, near the Avon (River) Arth.14 The hill fort of Llandewi, Aberarth in Ceredigion has also been suggested as an alternative ruling site for the rulers of this kingdom, as the archaeology suggests a possible early medieval enclosure there.15 This second position would make sense if Gildas were moving in a geographical clockwise direction with his tyrants’ locations, otherwise he has jumped Gwynedd, which follows Cuneglasus if he were from Rhos. Of course, perhaps he had no choice since Maglocunus (the next in line for Gildas’ quill lashing) attracted far more of his time; in fact, more ink is spilled on him than the other four leaders put together, portraying him as the most powerful of the five. 
 Like others, Nicholas Higham suggested the power-base of Cuneglasus to have been the area that became the North Wales cantref 16 of Rhos. He notes that in the ninth century the kingdom of Powys was ruled from their Gwynedd (Venedotia) overlord’s fort of Deganwy, which lies only five miles west of Dinerth as the crow flies. This is why he suggests Gwynedd (and therefore Maglocunus) may have also ruled Rhos, and it in turn may have encompassed what had been the Romano-British Deceangli region (what became medieval Tegeingl) and part of what became northern Powys. Therefore, between Gwynedd and Rhos, perhaps, all of what is now north-west to north-east Wales was under their rule, and even perhaps, in Gildas’ time.17 If this were the case, it would seem Cuneglasus would have to have had some kind of power for Gildas to focus on him also, unless his marital crimes were enough to get his attention; that and, possibly, his familial relation to the next tyrant to get Gildas’ tirade. Of course, Cuneglasus himself couldn’t have ruled Gwynedd at the time if Maglocunus was its ruler, and the most powerful in the region, hence why it is thought that Rhos could have been a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd, or a tribute polity. If this is all the case, however, it is hard to understand how Cuneglasus could still have held power in the region, being in such close proximity, unless he was one of the tyrants that Maglocunus removed from power, but did not kill. If Cuneglasus was given an association by Gildas with a fort whose name contained -arth, which is by no means certain,18 we would suggest that Ceredigion or the area that became Powys, as Gildas may have implied, would be a more suitable kingdom, being far enough away from Maglocunus to be viable.

 See the next 26 pages on

 1 Thanks and appreciation goes to Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews for help with the Latin and Charles Evans-Gunther for help with the structure and a peer review to formalise the final version. Special thanks to Mak Wilson, whose many contributions and help with the copious editing has been invaluable.

2 Maglocunus, Aurelius Caninus, Constantine and Vortiporus.

3 See: Mark Devere Davis’s theory concerning Cuneglasus and Arthur- [Accessed 8th February, 2017]
Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman, King Arthur: The True Story, Bit Bound, 1992, and Graham Phillips the Lost Tomb Of King Arthur, 2016, who suggest Owain Danwyn (whom they call, Owain Ddantgwyn), the genealogical father of Cinglas (Cuneglasus) could be Arthur, but this is easily disproved. Latin is more precise than English and when Gildas used the word uncle when describing the man Owain killed to grab power, he used the Latin word “avunculus”. The precise meaning is ‘one’s mother’s brother’ – in other words the maternal uncle. Owain Danwyn was Maelgwn’s (i.e. Maglocunus’s) paternal uncle. Many scholars suggest the word was used just a general meaning for uncle, but this is the sixth century and Gildas was clearly a well education member of the religious class. He would have used Latin in its correct form. Thanks to Charles Evans-Gunther for pointing this out.

4 A. O. Anderson, “Gildas and Arthur.” The Celtic Review, vol. 8, no. 30, 1912, pp. 149–165. [Accessed 8th February, 2017]

5 For example by Steve Blake and Scott Lloyd, Pendragon: The Definitive Account of the Origins of Arthur, The Lyons Press, 2004.

6 Ibid., Mark Devere.- This castle was, however, in Lambeth, London. From the Book of the Queens Maying- Le Morte d’Arthur Book XIX chapter I, [accessed 8th February, 2017] .

7 As portrayed in the eleventh to twelfth century Saints' lives where Maglocunus rules all of the north.

8 Gildas wrote the name as Cuneglase, in the vocative, as was Urse.

9 We will also consider readings from the simplified De Excidio, Avranches PL.162 MS, which is twelfth century but possibly from a family of MSS dated to around the ninth to tenth century. That reading is in the appendix.

10 From the Winterbottom translation.

11 Thomas O’Sullivan, The De excidio of Gildas: Its Authenticity and Date, Leiden: Brill, 1978, p.27.

12 Ibid.

13 Harleian genealogy 3: [H]iguel map Caratauc map Meriaun map Rumaun map Enniaun map Ytigoy map Catgual Crisban map Cangan map Meic map Cinglas map Eugein dant guin map Enniaun Girt map Cuneda. Source: [Accessed 8th February, 2017]. Thomas O’Sullivan noted that the Rhos genealogy may not have been well preserved by their overlords and sometimes enemy, Gwynedd (The De Excidio of Gildas: Its Authenticity and Date, 1978, p.108).

14 Castle of Dinerth (Welsh: Castell Dineirth, Castell Dinerth, or Castell Allt Craig Arth) is in the Welsh county of Ceredigion, West Wales. No evidence of an early medieval settlement has been found but there are remains of a promontory fort, which the Normans may have built over.

15 See August Hunt’s Shadows in the Mist website: The Probable ruling center [sic] of Ceredig/Arthur in Ceredigion.

16 Cantref = hundred towns.

17 Nicholas Higham, The English Conquest, Manchester University Press, 1994, pp.179-180

18 We will discuss this further below. Gildas would need to have been layering several metaphorical meanings over this one line concerning the refuge of the bear.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The myth of Merovech, the Merovingians and who were Clovis's noble Ancestors?

The myth of Merovech, the Merovingians and who were Clovis's noble Ancestors?

Who were Clovis' noble ancestors spoken of by Bishops Remigius and Avitus in their letters to him? Avitus especially lauds Clovis ancestors:
 Of all your ancient genealogy you have chosen to keep only your own nobility, and you have willed that your race should derive from you all the glories which adorn high birth. Your ancestors have prepared a great destiny for you; you willed to prepare better things (for those who will follow you). You follow your ancestors in reigning in this world; you have opened the way to your descendants to a heavenly realm.”
Avitus states that Clovis' ancestors had also reigned in this world, meaning he was from a long line of Frankish kings. He was pleased that Clovis was preparing a new path for his own descendants, that of Christianity. Merovech is supposed to be one of these kings of the past, Clovis' possible grandfather according to Gregory. So we should examine the origin tale of the Merovingi.

Fredegar, writing in about 660CE relates the full tale of the mythical birth of Merovech the supposed founder of the Merovingian dynasty. He tells the story such :
It is said that, when Chlodio was staying with his wife on the seashore in the summer, his wife went to the sea around noon to bathe and a beast of Neptune resembling the quinotaur sought her out. Right away she conceived by either the beast or her husband and afterwards gave birth to a son called Merovech, after whom the kings of the Franks were later called Merovingian.”
Gregory may have known of this legend as he mentions that “Certain authorities assert that king Merovech, whose son was Childeric, was of the family of Chlogio”. So there was some doubt as to the paternity of Merovech; was he Chlodio's son or the Quinotaur's? We can see that by Gregory's time he believed Childeric's father to be Merovech, probably due to these legends, that sought to explain and etymologise the word Merovingi. Alexander Callander Murray explains in his 1998 work - Post vocantur Merogingii, Fredegar, Merovech and 'Sacral Kingship - that the mythical story of Merovech appears to be a concoction to explain the Merovingian bloodline; so an etymological explanation created in the seventh and eighth centuries with a fable woven around it1. He supports the view that Merovech was not mythical and that he was indeed a king of the Franks. He agrees with the idea suggested by Johannes Georg Von Eckhart in the early eighteenth century, that the name Merovech became the sea beast itself, explaining it as 'mer' - 'the sea' and 'veh/vieh' - 'a beast'. This is novel solution but veh/vieh does not readily lend itself to the suffix ving/veng. Gregory uses the form Merovech. It also overlooks the fact that Merovech was conceived of the beast with Chlodio's wife, not the beast itself. I would like to suggest an alternative below that could explain the identity of the beast.
Karl Hauck (1955) suggested that the word comes from an old cult myth of the Franks derived from the God Freyr and closely links it to the bull cult, this despite it's close association with a real life king Chlodio. Murray dismisses this bull evidence, such as the golden bull head found in Childeric's grave and indeed the Quinotaur (five headed bull) in this story, but finishes by saying :
If notions of divine descent and bull cults are to be considered pertinent, they have to be sustained by the context of the story itself and, most importantly must be shown to be the best categories available for interpreting the peculiarities of the tale.”
I hope to show that the bull reference is indeed very relevant in the context. Murray suggests the possibility that the tale took form due to the revival of the name Merovech in the time of Chilperic (obit 584) whose son was so named. Gregory would have been a contemporary. This would suggest the legends were forming by this time and Gregory was therefore aware of the speculation surrounding the origin of the name. Gregory may have avoided using the tale in his own work due to its overtly pagan nature, although he did point out that the Franks were pagan at this time. His only other possible concession to this story was stating that he was unsure as to the relationship of Chlodio and Merovech as mentioned above. It remains though that this tale may not yet have taken its final form in his time, so he may not have been aware of it all. The form Merovingian was not used until the eighth century. Fredegar used Merohingii, The earliest form, Mervengus, in the singular, was mentioned by Bobbio in 640CE. With these two earliest forms, confusing a 'v' with an 'h' we might suggest an earlier 'u' in this position, hence Meruingi. All long after Gregory's time though and Gregory himself did not use the term. Certainly not in Clovis' time where Remigius was still mentioning the poetic form of his ancestors - the Sicambrian Franks. So, if as Murray suggests, that the mythical tale was an invention of the seventh century onwards, should we be looking at a legitimate etymology for the word or an invented etymology based around sea and beast?
In a legitimate etymology the suffix 'ingi' means 'descendants of', or 'belonging to' an example being the Thuringi or Toringi. (descendants of Thor) and the Carolingi, (descendants of Charles the Great). Also note the Gothic tribe the Tervingi/Teruingi (possibly also descendants of Thor) and Jordanes mentions the Evagreotingi (descendants of mighty horsemen?). 'Belonging to' usually denotes a place. The prefix mero is likely derived from mer-, mir-, mar-, to PGmc *mērjaz 'famous'2, an example being Meroildi (famous in battle), rather than mer – sea. The original word in a legitimate etymology could then have been Meroingi or Meruingi, (this latter form could readily produce the early Mervengus) the meaning of which seems to be descendants of the famous. The form Teruingi above for Tervingi shows well this possibility where u/v replace each other. We could postulate Mervigius or Merovig (famous fighter) as a possible explanation but they would not produce Mervengus or Merovingi. We could also postulate 'belonging to the sea' as an alternative, possibly relating to the Salian Franks but this doesn’t quite equate to a name place or named ancestors place.
So we are left with descendants of the famous. So who were these famous ancestors that the sixth to seventh century Frankish elite claimed as their own? Clovis and Childeric for sure but the others? Mero appears as a suffix or prefix in Frankish names. If we look at the ancestors of Chlodio, who I suggest was Childeric's father (and others his grandfather), we find his illustrious genus. Chlodio's grandfather is said to be Richomeres (obit 393, famous noble), who became an important official within the Roman Empire as a Comes, Magister Militum and more importantly as an Eastern Consul in 384. This was a time of very influential Romano Frankish Generals. In the west Merobaudes (famous fighter/ruler), another, mero, was also a Consul in 377 and 383. The son of Richomeres was the father of Chlodio (according to Fredegar) - another mero – Theudomeres (obit 422). This meres suffix sometimes appeared in Latin sources as mero, ie Theudemero. Whether Richomeres was related to Merobaudes is unknown.
Little is known of Theudomer(es) . He possibly supported the usurper Jovinus with his Franks and was executed when a Roman army crushed the rebellion. Gregory of Tours mentions that he was the son of Richimer and Ascyla and calls him Theodomer and that he and his mother were killed by the sword3. This just before he mentions Merovech and Chlodio. I would suggest then that the Merovingian origin could have been derived from Richomeres and then more specifically Theudomero. Why Theudomero? Because his name means 'people fame' but the mero part may have been considered and legends made, over the years leading up to the sixth and seventh centuries, as meaning 'the sea', hence 'belonging to the sea'. Then the first part of his name Theudo, was construed as 'theuto', the Frankish word for bull, so 'bull from the sea'. In effect Theudomero was possibly the father of Merovech rather than Chlodio, hence Gregory' concern as to his paternity.
In conclusion we have seen that the earliest attested singular form Mervengus possibly derived from an earlier Meruingi, becoming Mervingi and then ultimately Merovingi when the birth of Merovech was mythologised. The original meaning descendants of the famous, was lost and the myth makers seeing the name Theudomer in Gregory of Tour's work, just before Chlodio's and Merovechs could use Theudomer's name as a construct for the bull from the sea that ravished Chlodions wife, thereby inventing an etymology to explain both his name and birth.
So did Merovech exist? Murray suggests he did, others suggest he is a myth. There was one other son of Chlodio mentioned at the time of his death. The elder son, who sided with Atilla and probably lost his life at Chalons. Was this Merovech? If not then the problem remains. In support of his existence is the fact that the name reappeared in the late sixth century when Chilperic named his son Merovech. But was this because there was a real life Merovech or was this because the legend had become current by this time? Difficult to say.

If Childeric was the son of Merovech and he a son of Chlodion this would present difficulties. The average age of a Frankish warrior king at death does not seem to have been more than about 45. So Chlodion would have been born in around 404. Say he had Merovech at the age of 18, in 422, so that in 449 Merovech would be 27. In this case Merovech could not be the elder young son of Chlodion who sided with Atilla as he was too old. Priscus describes the younger as being about 13/14, the elder brother then could be no more than say 17/18, meaning he was born in around 431. So say he had Childeric when he was 18, then Childeric would be born in 449. But this would be impossible for Childeric as he would only be eight years old in 457!!. He also then couldn't possibly be the younger son described by Priscus. So we can now see why Gregory must have had his doubts as to Merovechs paternity. Gregory says that the rumour was that Merovech was of the family of Chodion, hence not necessarily his son. So he could have been a brother. This presents another difficulty. Chlodion is presented in contemporary records as the only king of the Salian Franks at the time. If Merovech was also a king following the death of Theudomer in 422 we should have heard of his exploits and his own kingdom. Wood though has pointed out that Germanic kingship did not always pass onto other brothers on succession. The record is silent though concerning any kingdom of Merovech.
If Merovech was a brother of Chlodion he could not possibly be the elder son of Chlodion who disputed the kingship in 449/450, so again, no kingdom. If the legend is trying to say that Merovech was the son of Theudomer, it also presents difficulties. Merovech then would have been born long before 422 and then surely would have become king or disputed the kingship with Chlodion. But as above the record is silent. So we end up going in circles looking for an imaginary king Merovech who surely never existed. Take away Merovech and everything works perfectly. Childeric born in 435 then becomes the younger son of Chlodion, described by Priscus, the elder sons name unknown. In 450 Childeric would have become 15 and entitled to his portion of the kingship, causing the dispute with the elder brother. His brother sided with the Hun of Atilla. It's probably where he met his end at the battle of Chalons. Our only stumbling block is Gregory's statement that Childeric was the son of Merovech. This may purely be due to the legend that was developing at the time. If he had any existence then he was not a king and was possibly just a son of Theudomer and died at the same time as Chlodion which probably counts him out as an illustrious ancestor of Clovis.
If all of this has some semblance of truth then Clovis indeed had a very famous bloodline, from Childeric his father, then Chlodion and going all the way back to the fourth century Roman Consul Richomeres. More importantly though, Clovis' sons' could claim that they were descended from very famous ancestors, lauded by Avitus and Remigius, starting with Clovis himself and hence the Mero(v)ingi were born.

1 Murray, Alexander C. ( Editor) After Rome's Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History University of Toronto Press 1998, Post vocantur Merogingii, Fredegar, Merovech and 'Sacral Kingship' pages 121 - 142
3 Histories II.9

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Clovis - Towards a New Chronology Part Nine

Clovis, King of the Franks - King by right of war and defender of the faith.


In the introduction to this work I discussed the problems inherent with Chlodovean Chronology. As we have seen an effort was made to interpolate extra dating mechanisms into Gregory of Tour's
Histories to extend Clovis' reign to 518. Take away these interpolations and we are left with Gregory's authentic dating statements, which were five years to the battle of Soissons, ten years to the battle against Thuringians and that he died five years after Vouille. Hence, there is no pattern and no lustra scheme. Just bare facts as Gregory knew them. He was in fact quite accurate. He placed Clovis' accession in the late 480's and by removing the seven year interpolations to Clovis' age and reign length we are able to see that Clovis began to reign in 488, age 15 and was therefore born in 473. His father though had died in around 481. Gregory's statements now make perfect sense when amalgamated with the letters from Remegius and the words of Procopius describing Clovis' exploits from 493 onwards against the Visigoths and Thuringians. The fifth year from 488 would place the battle of Soissons in 492. I have suggested 491/2. The tenth year would place the battle against the Thuringians to 498, I have suggested 499. With the interpolated seven years removed, we could now accurately report Clovis' age when he mounted his offensives, about eighteen onwards.
In the second part of this work I discussed the life of Clovis' father Childeric, placing Clovis' birth in the context of that life, meaning Clovis was probably born in Paris. I suggested that Childeric had occupied Paris from 466-476, marrying Basina sometime in this period and that Clovis was born in 473. We then looked at Childeric's exploits in Noricum Ripense when he was called by Odoacer to help with the frequent interruptions of the Alamanni into the province. Using coin evidence to support the dating, the battle against the Alamanni (as reported by Gregory) I have associated with the Battle of Batavis in around 478/9, which agrees with Gregory's sychronisms. Childeric was to return to Tournai and die shortly after this battle, possibly at the hands of Syagrius who at this time had made a play for power in the west in opposition to Odoacer. Zeno though had supported Odoacer forcing Syagrius to set up his rump state with support from the Visigoths, this statement supported by archaeology.
In part three of this work we moved onto Clovis' battle for Soissons against the Romans and Visigoths of Syagrius in 491/2. This answered the question that many scholars had asked. Why did Syagrius flee to the Visigoths when he was defeated? It was, I suggested from archaeological evidence, because the Visigoths had supported his rump state. Clovis had become king in 488 but he did not have a kingdom, so he could not acquire a wife. This was, I suggested, one of the reasons for Clovis' war against the last of the Romans. I followed this with Clovis' subsequent marriage to Clotilda, a Burgundian Catholic Princess in around 492 and at which time, I would suggest, Clovis also became a Christian, but had not chosen which form to be baptised as. The evidence for this came from the letter of Remigius, the words of Procopius and Clovis' allowance for his children to be baptised as Catholics by Clotilda.
In part four I discussed the first Visigothic war which was begun in 493 to force the Visigoths to hand over Syagrius. This at odds with Gregory's testimony that Syagrius was handed over immediately. If he had been then there would have been no obvious reason for Clovis to pursue a war. Clovis appears to have moved against the cities of the Loire, ousting the nominal Visigothic Lordship where it existed. Some independent cities held out against the Franks such as Nantes and western Armorica, forcing him to form an alliance with the Armorici. There was a hint here that Clovis was already Christian due to the words of Procopius who said the Armoricans preferred the Franks because they were Catholic rather than Arian. Procopius also confirmed the chronology by stating it was after the death of Odoacre in 493 that the Visigoths and Thuringians feared the power of the populous Franks, forcing them into marriage alliances with Theoderic, the new Princeps of Italy.
I also discussed here the first letter of Bishop Remigius to Clovis, congratulating him on his 'second military campaign' where he had started retaking the cities on the Loire. This letter has been much discussed but I place it early in his reign and it also confirms that Clovis had a 'first campaign' – i.e. the battle for Soissons. The battles and sieges along the Loire took us up to 495/6, with an episode at the siege of Nantes which may have persuaded Clovis to be baptised a Catholic.
In part five of the series I discussed the important Baptism of Clovis in 496 and in so doing dissected Danuta Shanzer's unchallenged 1998 work where she sought to move the baptism much later in time to 508. Overcoming Shanzer's arguments I suggested that the Princeps she had so much difficulty in finding from the letter of Avitus, was Theoderic the Great himself, the new King of Italy in 493. In 497 the new Emperor of the east Anastasius sent him the imperial regalia confirming him as Princeps of the Western Roman empire. This then made sense of the words of Bishop Avitus in his letter to Clovis in 497 congratulating him on his baptism and comparing him to Theoderic. Further evidence for the date of 496 came from the letter of Bishop Nicetius of Trier who wrote to Clotsinda, granddaughter of Clovis trying to get her to convert her husband, the Lombard King Alboin to Catholicism. He wrote that Clovis had been baptised before the Burgundian war of 500. There can be no doubt then that Clovis was baptised as a Catholic in 496.
In part six I discussed the problems Clovis faced due to taking time out to be baptised with his army and losing his sister Albofled. During this time Alaric's Visigoths had retaken Saints in 496. During his time of mourning in 497 the Visigoths continued their offensive and retook Tours as well. Following a consoling letter from Bishop Remigius Clovis was encouraged to keep his kingdom intact and so moved westward again and took Bordeaux in 498, suggesting he would have needed to re-acquire Saints on the way and possibly Tours.
Around 499 the Thuringians, probably encouraged by Theoderic, threw a spanner in the works and Clovis had to turn east again and defeat them. At the same time things were hotting up in Burgundy and Godigisel hearing of Clovis recent victories sought his help in overthrowing his brother Gundobad. Godigisel a Catholic and Clovis now a Catholic meant this was Clovis' first religious crusade, probably supported and encouraged by his wife. He marched into Burgundy in 500 bringing the Burgundians of the Arian Gundobad to their knees and tribute. Clovis though did not consolidate his victory in Burgundy and Gundobad was able to reclaim his kingdom and kill his brother Godigisel. Gundobad captured a group of Frankish warriors supporting Godigisel and sent them to Alaric. Why did Clovis not consolidate his victory? He seemed to have left in a hurry and this was probably because he got word that the Visigoths were about to move against his newly won possessions or had already. Seeing Clovis approaching meant Alaric called a meeting on the Loire to discuss terms of peace. He may still have had Syagrius and definitely had Clovis' captured Frankish warriors so had some bargaining chips. Clovis appears to have ceded all territory south of the Loire to Alaric and recovered his warriors and Syagrius, possibly now a Bishop, if he hadn't done so already and demanded tribute from Alaric which was agreed. This meant Clovis was now secure with his possessions on the Loire and the first Visigothic war came to an end in around 503.
In part seven I then discussed the problems brewing out east again. The Alamanni with the Thuringians subdued had become confident enough to start encroaching on Frankish territory in Germania Secunda in around 505. Answering a call for help from his Frankish allies on the Rhine, Clovis moved against the Alamanni in 506 in a series of battles culminating in the hard fought battle of Tolbiac, where Clovis may have called on his Catholic God to bring him victory, if we believe this anecdote. The Alamanni were slaughtered, their territory invaded and pillaged and their king killed. The remnants of the Alamanni fled to territory protected by Theoderic the Great so Clovis ordered his men to stop the chase and leave the remnants under the protection of Theoderic, who had brokered the peace.
Next I discussed the battle of Vouille. Clovis was not happy with some aspect of his treaty with Alaric. It may have been the debased coinage that Alaric was paying tribute with or it may have been some other matter that was minor according to Theoderic. In any event Clovis felt that the Visigoths needed seeing to once and for all. Theoderic called on the Thuringians, Heruli and Warni to counter the Frankish threat, but they were in no mood to help seeing how Clovis had recently destroyed the Alamanni. Clovis made a pact with Gundobad and the Burgundians and planned a two pronged attack into Visigothic territory. He would approach from the north and Gundobad from the south. The eastern Emperor Anastasius must have known of Clovis' plans as he sent a fleet of ships to harry the Italian coastal cities, tying up Theoderic's army in Italy so he was unable to help his son in law Alaric. The Franks and Burgundians moved swiftly against the Visigoths culminating with the great battle of Voille in 507 where Alaric was killed and the Visigoths finally defeated. Clovis had triumphed where all had failed in the past. He quickly moved onto Bordeaux and Toulouse by 508 and sent his son Theuderic to secure other cities for the Franks. Clovis then made Paris his capital.
Theoderic was not a happy man. Unable to aid his son in law and once Anastasius' ships had departed, he called to arms his Gothic army in 509 and invaded Provence and retook possessions that the Burgundians and Franks had taken. By 510/511 he had gained authority over Visigothic Spanish possessions as well. His plan was to deny Clovis direct access to the Mediterranean and in this he was successful. Clovis himself was to die shortly of unknown causes, either in his wars for consolidation against the other Frankish kings, possibly assassinated by Theoderic, or illness, we are not told.

Who was Clovis?

He must have been one of the most remarkable, possibly even one of the most likeable Germanic monarchs who set medieval Europe on its way” Daley 1994.

So what vision of Clovis should we be looking at? The rough pagan barbarian King reluctantly giving into Christianity and Catholicism or a fairly well Romanised Frank intimately associated with Christianity from an early age? The evidence points to the latter but he was certainly also a great warrior.  Clovis, most likely born in Paris would have had Genevieve as well as Remigius as religious mentors. But his eastern roots were still there, being part Thuringian on his mothers side. It's quite possible that his mother was an Arian Christian as the Thuringians had been converted to a degree in the early fifth century. This may explain why one of Clovis' sisters had already become Arian Christian, rather than through Clovis' own association with Christianity from around 492 onward as is usually assumed. This would also explain his seemingly early sympathy for Church property such as the Vase of Soissons before he had become Christian himself. It might also explain his own knowledge of Christian ideas and ideals. William Daley in his 1994 work presented a revisionist portrayal of Clovis utilising the evidence that showed that at every turn Clovis seemed to be clearly knowledgeable about Christianity from an early period. The great historian Bury had also suggested something similar, that Clovis was already a Christian before the first letter of Remigius had been written to him in around 493.  All letters from churchmen concerning Clovis, whether written to him or by him to them have been proven by Daley to show that Clovis was clearly aware of Christian teachings and tenets. He had even allowed his first born son by Clotilda to be baptised. Daley writes :
Both Remigius and Avitus assumed that Clovis could comprehend religious ideas beyond the level of simple catechesis. In writing to him Avitus, and more especially Remigius, employed advanced scriptural concepts without feeling it necessary to explain them. Clovis's one extant letter cites Scripture relevantly. He precisely adapted the episcopal apostolium as a documentary means to validate the release of prisoners of war. His profound devotion to St. Genevieve, alongside what must have been permission for his sister, Albofled, to become a consecrated virgin, explains the otherwise surprising respect for the ministry of such women within the church expressed in his one surviving letter. He often commuted sentences of civil offenders and even criminals out of respect for the religious values of Genevieve. After the Aquitainian campaign he showed exceptional generosity about releasing prisoners of war. His motives for summoning the Council of Orleans of 511 seem to have included religious as well as personal and political considerations. He approved its canons, which enlarged the rights of criminals and slaves. One of its most specific canons voices his particular insistence that none of his gifts to the church be diverted from sustaining "repairs of churches, alms for priests and the poor, or the redemption of captives." Overall, his religious outlook reflected acceptance of the insistent teaching of Gallo-Roman Catholicism that divine grace and human good works interact profoundly in the economy of personal salvation. Like canon 5 of Orleans I, but in stone, his church at Paris tells us that he understood the value articulated by Genevieve's biographer epitomizing the force that energized her life: "For she knew the truth of the prophet's saying that the person who gives to the poor honors God" (c. 40).”
 If Clovis hadn't converted to Christianity as I suggest in 492 on marriage to Clotilda then the answer would be that his knowledge and association with Christianity came from his mother. 
By the time Clovis was three years old his father had left Paris to seek his fortune defending Noricum Ripense with his Frankish cavalry at the call of Odoacer. With Childeric away the Gallic party under Syagrius began to assert its right to rule. After the defeat of the Alamanni Childeric appears to have returned home to counter the threat but was defeated and killed when Clovis was just eight years old, probably by Syagrius and his Visigothic allies. Basina would have taken the young children off to Tornai to safety, deep within Frankish territory. For the next few years Clovis would have been in training both physically and mentally for his future role as king. That day came in 488 at the age of fifteen where he would traditionally have been raised upon a shield by his men. He cemented his kingship by producing a son by the next year through a concubine, naming him Theoderic. 
At this age though Clovis was in no place to challenge Syagrius. He would need to spend his father's money wisely in building an army and buying or gaining support from his Frankish relatives. By eighteen he was now old enough to lead his first campaign and gain revenge for his fathers displacement and death. Either Clovis was very lucky with his timing or he had a very astute mind, even from this young an age for the timing was perfect to make his challenge to gain himself a kingdom which came by 491/2 and the rest has been discussed above.
Underlying Clovis' devotion to the Catholic faith was his success in war. He was a king by right of war. Like an Alexander, he moved swiftly and decisively to counter all threats, seemingly winning most major battles until Theoderic was able to counter the Frankish threat in the south. Gregory's portrayal of a ruthless Clovis taking on his Frankish relatives to consolidate his empire seems wide of the mark unless he made this decision on religious grounds to bring the eastern Franks into the Catholic fold. I really doubt though that Clovis had the time to actually do this until the very end of his life and so for this reason I think it was his son, the more ruthless Theuderic who consolidated the Germanic provinces under his and his brothers rule. There's a good chance that this is how Clovis died, early on in some battlefield fighting pagans alongside his son. For Clovis, this would have been a glorious way to die, leading from the front, fighting with his men the Frankish way, unafraid of death. He had nearly come to his end earlier at the battle of Vouille. This time he was not so lucky. Clovis was still very young when he died, just thirty-eight years of age. Theoderic would still consider him a juvenis and this is perhaps why he didn't enter the contemporary chronicle record in the way others did. The first great Catholic king of Gaul had died but in so doing had created a new identity for combined peoples who would conquer most of northern Europe and become the country we now know as France. His legacy has lasted over one thousand five hundred years.

Suggested Chronology

Birth of Childeric
Belgica II
Childeric King
Belgica II
Childeric Federate leader
Begica II
Childeric Paris
Childeric Marries Basina
Birth of Clovis
Childeric in Noricum - Alamanni
Death of Childeric
Accession of Clovis
Defeat of Syagrius
Marriage to Clotilda
Start of First Visigoth war.
Treaty with Armoricans
Baptism of Clovis
Death of Albofled his sister
First Visigothic war continues
Defeat of Thuringians
Germania II
Burgundian civil war
500 - 502
Meeting with Alaric
Battle of Tolbiac
Germania II
Battle of Vouillé, Poitiers, Albi, Rodez, Clermont.
Toulouse, Anguoeleme Honorary Consulship
Paris Capital
Loss of southern Gaul.
Southern Gaul
Rex Salica
Council of Orleans
Death of Clovis
Abbot Maxentius, Quintianus
Rodez /Clermont


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