766 and 767: The beginning of the end

After two years of rebuilding and rearming (which is my opinion, remember, completely unbuttressed by anything in the sources) Pepin was ready to push the Aquitanian war to its conclusion. “[H]e summoned to Orleans the whole host of the Franks and the other peoples that dwelt in his kingdom.”1.Fredegar, ch.48, p.116. Then he again surged across the Loire and into Aquitaine.

The Royal Frankish Annals say that Pepin went as far as the fortress of Argenton, roughly midway between Poitiers and Bourges. Fredegar says he went all the way to Agen, which is much farther south, on the road between Bordeaux and Toulouse. Perhaps both are true, and the king stopped at Argenton to rebuild the castle there that Waifar had ordered destroyed in 763. Having put that work in motion he led the rest of the army more than two hundred miles south to Agen (probably close to 300 miles if he took the roads, which skirt the Massif Central of France) as he “laid waste the whole region” during the trek.

Read more766 and 767: The beginning of the end

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Fredegar, ch.48, p.116.

763: Waifar’s last chance

After the utter devastation wrought by Pepin’s full-on assault the previous year, in 763 the king was ready to consolidate his gains, both in land and morale, and press home the final blows to break the last Aquitanian resistance.

He decided to hold the annual Frankish Mayfield in the border city of Nevers.1.RFA, 763, p.44. Just a few years ago Nevers had been a frontier town on the Burgundian side of the Loire, the last stop before crossing over to ‘enemy’ territory. Now the town was considered central enough and safe enough a place for the king to hold the Frankish annual assembly there. Waifar, wherever he was, must have gritted his teeth to see the insolence and confidence of Pepin. But that was nothing to what Pepin unleashed next.

Read more763: Waifar’s last chance

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. RFA, 763, p.44.

762: Total war

In 762 Pepin broke the back of the Aquitanian resistance. While the war continued for another six or seven years, after 762 it was clear that it was only a matter of time before the final Frankish victory. The campaigns waged by each side during this pivotal year clearly illustrate both the strategy followed by the Franks, as well as the fatal flaw in the Aquitanian leadership.

The previous year Waifar, or more precisely, a couple of his dukes, had launched an unopposed assault into Burgundy, and returned with much plunder. But then king Pepin marched into eastern Aquitaine and burned several major fortresses. Clearly this was not an equation of exchange which would work out for Waifar in the long run. Waifar must have been pondering his options, none of them good, when Pepin came over the river in force, with a major siege train, heading for the de facto capital of northern Aquitaine.

Read more762: Total war