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.

Eudo was no passive observer of life in the north. Like any canny ruler, he was always looking for a way to strengthen his position vis a vis his more powerful number. He first appears in the sources around 717, when the Frankish civil war was in a crucial phase. Charles (Martel, but not so named as yet), mayor of the Austrasian palace, was in pursuit of his Neustrian rivals king Chilperic and mayor Ragamfred. They, in turn, turned to Eudo for assistance. I have no doubt that promises of eternal Aquitanian independence were made, and Eudo marched north. But when faced with Charles’ forces, Eudo found discretion to be the better part of valor. As Fredegar somewhat uncharitibly puts it, “Eudo was terrified when he saw that resistance was useless, and he fled… Charles sent an embassy to Duke Eudo and received from him the said Chilperic.”2.Fredegar, Continuations, chapter 11 In return for the hostage Charles allowed Eudo to keep his kingdom, but of course it was now clear who held the upper hand. Nonetheless a treaty or agreement now bound them to terms.

The Muslim conquest of Spain constricted Eudo’s options considerably. By 719 the invaders had crossed the Pyrenees and occupied the Visigothic kingdom of Septimania on the Mediterranean coast. Two years later they had taken Narbonne and were besieging Toulouse, but Eudo gathered his allies, including the Basques, and relieved the city. In a major setback for the Arabic forces he defeated and killed the governor of Spain, As-Samh. He wrote to Pope Gregory II telling him that he had killed 375,000 Arabs, and related an unintentionally amusing story about some “liturgical sponges” that the Pope had sent him.3.Liber Pontificalis, 91:11. Eudo told the pope that everyone who had ingested a tiny portion of the sponges had escaped death.

This victory, along with some discord in the Muslim polity, opened an opportunity for Eudo to strengthen his southern flank. He married his daughter to Munnuza, a Berber (not Arab) governor of Asturias. The decade of 720s must have been Eudo’s finest, with treaties on both his borders. Despite relative peace he must have watched with alarm as the Arabs continued their conquest along the Mediterranean coast, taking the towns of Carcassonne, Nimes, and Autun in 724 and 725. Other eyes looked for opportunities as well.

Charles took advantage of the death of Eudo’s old ally Ragamfred in 731, who had a fortress in Angers, to launch an attack into Aquitaine. Charles used Eudo’s alliance with Munnuza and an accusation of appropriating church property (not unlike a modern politician accusing another of accepting corporate donations) to renounce their treaty and invade. The assaults did not defeat Eudo, but they did draw his forces north. To the south , the Arab leader ‘Abd ar Rahman took the opportunity to attack Munnuza. Sadly for Eudo, and more so for his daughter, Munnuza was killed, and his wife carried off to Damascus for the Caliph’s amusement. Nothing further is heard of her.

In the name of Toulouse, of Munnuza, and booty and conquest, in 732 ‘Abd ar Rahman continued his efforts to expand into the north. He attacked and defeated Eudo at the River Garonne, marshaled his forces, and kept going. Eudo was forced to appeal to Martel for relief. In October of 7324.There is a great debate over the year of the battle. While some make a convincing argument for 733, I will stick with 732 out of tradition. Collins has a good summary of the evidence, Collins, Arab Conquest of Spain, p.90 a combined force inflicted a decisive defeat at the Battle of Tours/Poitiers, killing ‘Abd ar Rahman. It was the last great act of Eudo’s life.

Eudo died in 735,5.some say 737, and some say he went to a monastery first apparently held in high esteem. The near contemporary Vita Pardulfi says that Saint Pardulfi died in 737, hearing the war trumpets of Eudo summoning him to heaven.6.Fouracre, Age of Charles Martel, p85. Someone, please translate the Vita Pardulfi. I will pay handsomely. His son Chunoald was now in charge, and would cause trouble for the Franks in his turn, as did his brother/son/etc. Eudo had left the stage, but the fierce sense of Aquitanian independence did not die with him. It would take Martel’s son Pepin six years of near-scorched earth fighting to finally subdue the Aquitanian spirit.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Geary, Before France and Germany, p.203. Geary and Fouracre, below, have good overviews of Eudo and his times.
2. Fredegar, Continuations, chapter 11
3. Liber Pontificalis, 91:11. Eudo told the pope that everyone who had ingested a tiny portion of the sponges had escaped death.
4. There is a great debate over the year of the battle. While some make a convincing argument for 733, I will stick with 732 out of tradition. Collins has a good summary of the evidence, Collins, Arab Conquest of Spain, p.90
5. some say 737, and some say he went to a monastery first
6. Fouracre, Age of Charles Martel, p85. Someone, please translate the Vita Pardulfi. I will pay handsomely.

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