The Chronicle of Fredegar

The version of this source that you can actually get your hands on is called “The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar, and Continuations.” Well. Let’s unpack that mouthful and see what we can learn.

Starting from the middle, the source is, in fact, a chronicle. That is to say, it is a written account of important events in the order of their occurrence. Is Fredegar the author? There is actually no reason to believe so, as the attribution to “Fredegar” only begins in the sixteenth century. There is a prologue of sorts, where the author addresses the reader, but he does not name himself. The “critical edition” from the late nineteenth century1.A German scholar named Krusch scoured Europe and found thirty different copies of the Chronicle, analyzed them, and put together a single version, with notes, explanations, etc. divides the work into four books. J.M. Wallace-Hedrill translated and published only the fourth book because the other three are derived and copied from sources that, he says, are otherwise available. Finally, most manuscripts of the chronicle end (in other words, the fourth book ends) in the year 642. But some manuscripts have a “continuation,” written by another person or two, that take the chronicle up through the year 768.

Read more…

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. A German scholar named Krusch scoured Europe and found thirty different copies of the Chronicle, analyzed them, and put together a single version, with notes, explanations, etc.

The Most Famous Battle of the Eighth Century

Let’s look at the most famous battle of the eighth century, and one of the most famous in world history, the Battle of Tours.

First we have to figure out what to call it. Battles are usually named for a location, but the archaeologists have yet to pinpoint the exact location of this battle. It was fought somewhere between the towns of Poitiers and Tours, and so you’ll see it called either one of those. There was another Battle of Poitiers fought during the Hundred Years War, which is one reason why more people refer to the Battle of Tours, to avoid confusion.

The battle was fought in 732 between Charles Martel, father of Pepin and grandfather of Charlemagne, and the Arab ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi of the Umayyad dynasty. The result was a sharp defeat for the Arabs, who withdrew to their kingdoms south of the Pyrenees and along the Mediterranean. Let’s set the stage:

Read more…

Aquitaine, the Heart of France

Aquitaine occupied the central region of modern France. The Atlantic to the west, the Loire river to the north and east, while to the southwest the Garonne river is the border between Aquitaine and Gascony. The region of Septimania bordered Aquitaine to the southeast. The area is mostly flat, with hills and mountains in the southeast. It was one of the richest regions of Europe at the time. Patrick Geary describes it thusly: “The riches of Aquitaine, not only its agricultural produce but also its salt, wood, furs, marble, lead, iron, and silver mines had long made it a valued Frankish possession.”1.Geary, Before France and Germany, p.202. He and Fouracre, below, outline the political social situation in more detail.

The major towns and cities included Poitiers, Bordeaux, Nantes, Cahors, and Liguge. The town and mines of Melle produced much of the silver for the Carolingian coinage.

Read more…

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Geary, Before France and Germany, p.202. He and Fouracre, below, outline the political social situation in more detail.

Frenemies in Christ

In the middle of the eighth century two religious men became great rivals. They had so much in common, their ages, upbringing, learning, careers, teachers, and, most of all, their mentor and leader, one of the greatest churchmen of the middle ages, that it drove them apart, as it often does with ambitious men.

First we have to talk about Boniface. You’ll get more in another post, but it is sufficient to know that he was, in the words of Norman Cantor1.One of the few scholars to make truly accessible popular medieval history. “one of the truly outstanding creators of the first Europe, as the apostle of Germany, the reformer of the Frankish church, and the chief fomentor of the alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian family.” Boniface traveled widely and hobnobbed with kings and popes. He was a very big deal.

Read more…

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. One of the few scholars to make truly accessible popular medieval history.

Eudo of Many Names

The first thing to know about Eudo of Aquitaine is that his name is translated several different ways. I’ve seen Odo, Eudes, and Eudo. I like the sound of Odo, but it’s usually Eudo in the books. At least it’s not as bad as some of the transliterations of Arabic names.

Eudo was the ruler of Aquitaine for at least 35 years, a region located between the two great powers in Europe at the beginning of the eighth century, the Franks to the north and the Muslims to the south. It was Eudo’s misfortune to rule just as those two peoples were about to impinge on each other. He spent his career constantly balancing and battling these two forces.

On his father and family, Patrick Geary put it most succinctly when he said, “Nothing is known of his origins or background.”1.Geary, Before France and Germany, p.203. Geary and Fouracre, below, have good overviews of Eudo and his times. It is possible he was Duke of Aquitaine by 700, but no way to know for sure.

Read more…

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Geary, Before France and Germany, p.203. Geary and Fouracre, below, have good overviews of Eudo and his times.