Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks


   The History of the Franks by Gregory, bishop of Tours, is an historical record of great importance. The events which it relates are details of the perishing of the Roman Empire and the beginning of a great modern state and for these events it is often the sole authority. However although Gregory was relating history mainly contemporaneous or recent, we must allow largely for error and prejudice in his statements of fact. It is rather as an unconscious revelation that the work is of especial value. The language and style, the intellectual attitude with which it was conceived and written, and the vivid and realistic picture, unintentionally given, of a primitive society, all combine to make the History of the Franks a landmark in European culture. After reading it the intelligent modern will no longer have pleasing illusions about sixth­century society.
   Gregory's life covers the years from 538 to 594. He was a product of central Gaul, spending his whole life in the Loire basin except for brief stays elsewhere. [1] The river Loire may be regarded as the southern limit of Frankish colonization and Gregory therefore lived on the frontier of the barbarians. He was born and grew up at Clermont in Auvergne, a city to which an inexhaustibly fertile mountain valley is tributary. In this valley his father owned an estate. Its wealth brought Clermont much trouble during the disorderly period that followed the break­up of Roman rule, and Gregory gives a hint of the eagerness which the Frankish kings felt to possess this country [2].
   After 573 Gregory lived at Tours in the lower Loire valley. This city with its pleasant climate and moderately productive territorial background had more than a local importance in this age. It lay on the main thoroughfare between Spain and Aquitania and the north. Five Roman roads centered in it and the traffic of the Loire passed by it. The reader of Gregory's history judges that sooner or later it was visited by every one of importance at the time. It was here that the Frankish influences of the north and the Roman influences of the south had their chief contact.
   However the natural advantages of Tours at this time were surpassed by the supernatural ones. Thanks to the legend of St. Martin this conveniently situated city had become "the religious metropolis" of Gaul. St. Martin had made a great impression on his generation. [3] A Roman soldier, turned monk and then bishop of Tours, he was a man of heroic character and force. He had devoted himself chiefly to the task of Christianizing the pagani or rural population of Gaul and had won a remarkable ascendancy over the minds of a superstitious people, and this went on increasing for centuries after his death. The center of his cult was his tomb in the great church built a century before Gregory's time just outside the walls of Tours. This was the chief point of Christian pilgrimage in Gaul, a place of resort for the healing of the sick and the driving out of demons, and a sanctuary to which many fled for protection. [4] In a time of dense superstition and political and social disorder this meant much in the way of securing peace, influence, and wealth, and it was to the strategic advantage of the office of bishop of Tours as well as to his own aggressive character that Gregory owed his position as the leading prelate of Gaul.
   Gregory does not neglect to tell us of his family connections and status in society. [5] He belonged to the privileged classes. Of his father's family he tells us that "in the Gauls none could be found better born or nobler," and of his mother's that it was "a great and leading family." On both his father's and his mother's side he was of senatorial rank, a distinction of the defunct Roman empire which still retained much meaning in central and southern Gaul. But the great distinction open at this time to a Gallo-Roman was the powerful and envied office of bishop. Men of the most powerful families struggled to attain this office and we can therefore judge of Gregory's status when he tells us proudly that of the bishops of Tours from the beginning all but five were connected with him by ties of kinship. We hear much of Gregory's paternal uncle Gallus, bishop of Auvergne, under whom he probably received his education and entered the clergy, and of his grand­uncle Nicetius, bishop of Lyons, and of his great­grandfather Gregory, bishop of Langres, in honor of whom Gregory discarded the name of Georgius Florentinus which he had received from his father. Entering on a clerical career with such powerful connections he was at the same time gratifying his ambitions and obeying the most strongly felt impulse of his time.
   In spite of all these advantages, under the externals of Christianity Gregory was almost as superstitious as a savage. His superstition came to him straight from his father and mother and from his whole social environment. He tells us that his father, when expecting in 534 to go as hostage to king Theodobert's court, went to "a certain bishop" and asked for relics to protect him. These were furnished to him in the shape of dust or " sacred ashes " and he put them in a little gold case the shape of a pea­pod and wore hem about his neck, although he never knew the names of ­ the saints whose relics they were. According to Gregory's account the miraculous assistance given to his father by these relics was a common subject of family conversation. After his death the relics passed to Gregory's mother, who on one occasion extinguished by their help a great fire that had got started in the straw stacks on the family estate near Clermont. While on a horseback journey from Burgundy to Auvergne Gregory himself happened to be wearing these same relics. A fearful thunderstorm threatened the party, but Gregory "drew the beloved relics from his breast and lifted them up against the cloud, which at once separated into two parts and passed on the right and left, and after that did no harm to them or any one else." In spite of himself Gregory could not help being somewhat elated at the incident and he hinted to his companions that his own merit must have had something to do with it. "No sooner were the words spoken than my horse shied suddenly and threw me heavily on the ground; and I was so shaken that I could scarcely get up. I understood that my vanity was the cause of it, and it was a lesson to me to be on my guard against the spur of pride. And if thereafter I happened to have the merit merely to behold miracles of the saints I would say distinctly that they had been worked by God's grace through faith in the saints." [6]
   The number of miracles at which Gregory " assisted " was great. A picturesque and significant one is the following: "It happened once that I was journeying to visit my aged mother in Burgundy. And when passing through the woods on the other side of the river Bèbre we came upon highwaymen. They cut us off from escape and were going to rob and kill us. Then I resorted to my usual means of assistance and called on St. Martin for help. And he came to my help at once and efficiently, and so terrified them that they could do nothing against us. And instead of causing fear they were afraid, and were beginning to flee as fast as they could. But I remembered the apostle's words that our enemies ought to be supplied with food and drink, and told my people to offer them drink. They wouldn't wait at all, but fled at top speed. One would think that they were being clubbed along or were being hurled along involuntarily faster than their horses could possibly go." [7]
   The reality of this incident need not be doubted. The highwaymen were as superstitious as Gregory, probably more so. When they found what they had against them they fled in a panic. The peculiar wording of the last sentence makes it seem likely that Gregory for his part thought that the highwaymen had demons to help them and that these in their urgent flight before the superior " virtue " of St. Martin were responsible for the appearance he describes.

   Of Gregory's education and literary training we receive scanty details. At the age of eight he was beginning to learn to read. [8] The books he read were naturally the Scriptures and works of Christian writers and his contact with pagan literature of the classical period must have been slight; he appears to have read Virgil and Sallust's Catiline but probably did not go beyond these. [9] His attitude toward pagan literature was the conventional one of his age,-fear of the demonic influences embodied in it; [10] he expresses it thus: "We ought not to relate their lying fables lest we fall under sentence of eternal death." [11] Among Christian writers Sulpicius Severus, Prudentius, Sidonius Apollonaris, and Fortunatus were the only ones to exercise a genuine influence on his style.
   The question has been much discussed whether sixth­century education in Gaul included a knowledge of the liberal arts. Gregory gives us no definite information on the point. It is true that he is explicit as to his own case. He says, " I was not trained in grammar or instructed in the finished style of the heathen writers, but the influence of the blessed father Avitus, bishop of Auvergne, turned me solely to the writings of the church." [12] Gregory does indeed mention Martianus Capella's work on the seven liberal arts and seems to have had some notion of the scope of each one, [13] but in the face of his repeated confessions of ignorance of the most elementary of them as well as the actual proof of ignorance which he constantly gives, the conclusion must be that they were not included in his education. As to the general situation the only evidence is furnished by Gregory's famous preface in which he declares that "liberal learning is declining or rather perishing in the Gallic cities," and no one could be found sufficiently versed in the liberal arts to write the History of the Franks as it ought to be written. We may feel certain that Gregory's idea of the qualifications for historical writing were not high; correct spelling, knowledge of the rules of grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic as laid down in the text­books would be sufficient. But, as he tells us, no person so qualified could be found to undertake the task. Again we hear of bishops who were illiterate. It is plain that the trend of the evidence is all in one direction, namely that in Gaul by this time the liberal arts had disappeared from education.
   Gregory's Latin presents many problems. Its relation to sixth-century linguistic development is not well understood although it has been closely scrutinized. Gregory's vocabulary does not show the decadence that might be expected. It is extremely rich and varied and contains a moderate number of Celtic, Germanic, and Hunnish additions. Old Latin words, however, often have new and unexpected meanings. In the field of grammar the situation is different. Judged by anything like a classical standard Gregory is guilty of almost every conceivable barbarity. He spells incorrectly, blunders in the use of the inflections, confuses genders, and often uses the wrong case with the preposition. In addition he is very awkward in handling the Latin verb: the different voices, tenses, and modes are apt to look alike to him. His constructions too, are frequently incorrect. In all this he seems very erratic, he may use the correct form ten times and then give us something entirely different. No method has so far been traced in his vagaries.
   Gregory's literary style is as peculiar as his language. It is often vigorous and direct, giving realistic and picturesque delineations of events. Within his limitations he well understood the complexity of human motives and actions, and now and then he shows a trace of humor. However, offending elements often appear; sometimes his realism verges on a brutal plainness. He is also by no means free from literary affectation; indeed by his choice of expressions, his repetitions and unnatural arrangement of words, he is almost always striving for effect. In his day the tradition of literary workmanship was quite dead but it would seem as if its ghost tortured Gregory. On the whole his literary style is uncouth, awkward, and full of rude surprises.
   There are well­marked variations in the style. At times we have the conventionalized jargon of the church, in which Gregory was proficient and which was always in the back of his mind ready to issue forth when other inspiration failed. At the opposite extreme from this is the easy, clear narrative in which the popular tales, both Frankish and Roman, are often recited. It is believed that in some of these we have a version of epic recitals of Frankish adventures. Then there are the passages, like the baptism of Clovis [14] or the tale of the two lovers, which Gregory labored to make striking. These do not offend; they are so naïvely overdone that they are merely amusing.
  In the light of these conclusions, objectively reached, [15] as to Gregory's language and style, how shall we interpret the confessions in regard to them which he repeatedly makes? In these confessions there are two leading notions: first, that he is without qualifications to write in the literary style; second, that the popular language can be more widely understood. The inference is always therefore that Gregory writes in the language of the day. This, however, cannot be so. A language spoken by the people would have something organic about it, and it would not defy as Gregory's does the efforts of scholars to find its usages. It would be simpler than the literary language and probably as uniform in its constructions. We must decide then that Gregory's self-analysis is a mistaken one, correct in the first part but not in the second. He knew he could not write the literary language but in spite of this he made the attempt, and the result is what we have, a sort of hybrid, halfway between the popular speech and the formally correct literary language.

   In the Epilogue of the History of the Franks written in 594, the year of Gregory's death, he gives us a list of his works: "I have written ten books of History, seven of Miracles, one on the Lives of the Fathers, a commentary in one book on the Psalms, and one book on the Church Services." [16] These works represent two sides of Gregory's experience,-his profession, and his relations with the Merovingian state.
   In the former sphere the overshadowing interest was the miraculous. We have eight books devoted to miracles and it may be said that as a churchman Gregory never got very far away from them. It is idle to discuss the question whether he believed in them or not. It is more to the point to attempt to appreciate the part they played in the thought and life of the time. They were considered as the most significant of phenomena. They seemed a guarantee that the relations were right between the supernatural powers on the one hand and on the other the men who possessed the "sanctity" to work miracles and those who had the faith or merit to be cured or rescued by them. Gregory's eight books of Miracles were thus a register of the chief interest of his day, with an eye of course to its promotion, and it is much more remarkable that he wrote a History of the Franks than that he compiled this usually wearisome array of impossibilities.
   A brief glance at the practical situation that lay back of the four books which Gregory devotes to the miracles wrought by St. Martin will be enlightening. The cult of St. Martin was a great organized enterprise at the head of which Gregory was placed. In the sixth century St. Martin's tomb was a center toward which the crippled, the sick, and those possessed by demons flowed as if by gravity from a large territory around Tours. The cures wrought there did much " to strengthen the faith." They passed from mouth to mouth and brought greater numbers to the shrine and it was to aid this process that the four books of St. Martin's miracles were written. Gregory is here a promoter and advertiser. To get at the practical side of the situation we have only to remember that St. Martin's tomb was the chief place of healing among the shrines of Gaul, and that the shrines of the sixth century stood for the physicians, hospitals, drugs, patent medicines, and other healing enterprises of the twentieth.
   The History of the Franks is Gregory's chief work. It was written in three parts. The first, comprising books I­IV, begins with the creation, and after a brief outline of events enters into more detail with the introduction of Christianity into Gaul. Then follow the appearance of the Franks on the scene of history, their conversion, the conquest of Gaul under Clovis, and the detailed history of the Frankish kings down to the death of Sigibert in 575. At this date Gregory had been bishop of Tours two years. The second part comprises books V and VI and closes with Chilperic's death in 584. During these years Chilperic held Tours and the relations between him and Gregory were as a rule unfriendly. The most eloquent passage in the History of the Franks is the closing chapter of book VI, in which Chilperic's character is unsympathetical1y summed up. The third part comprises books VII­X. It comes down to the year 591 and the epilogue was written in 594, the year of Gregory's death. The earlier part of the work does not stand as it was first written; Gregory revised it and added a number of chapters. It will be noticed that from the middle of the third book on, Gregory was writing of events within his own lifetime, and in the last six books, which are of especial value, of those that took place after he became bishop. For the earlier part of the work he depended on various chronicles, histories and local annals [17], and also on oral tradition.
   For the task undertaken by Gregory in the History of the Franks no one else was so well qualified. His family connections were such as to afford him every opportunity of knowing the occurrences of central Gaul, while his position as bishop of Tours with all that it entailed brought him into touch with almost every person and matter of interest throughout the country. His frequent journeys and wide acquaintance, his leadership among the bishops, and his personal relations with four kings, Sigibert, Chilperic, Gunthram,and Childebert and also with most of the leading Franks, gave him unsurpassed opportunities for learning what was going on. Perhaps his most realistic notions of the working of Frankish society were obtained in dealing with the political refugees who sought- refuge in St. Martin's church. Though these people must have always been interesting to talk with, they were the cause of some of Gregory's most harrowing and at the same time informing experiences. This varied contact with the world about him made Gregory what every reader feels him to be, a vivid and faithful delineator of his time.
   The History of the Franks must not be looked upon as a secular history. The old title, Ecclesiastical History of the Franks, is a better one descriptively. It is written not from the point of view of the Gallo­Roman or the Frank, but solely from that of the churchman, almost that of the bishop. Gregory does not take a tone of loyalty to the Frankish kings, much less of inferiority. His attitude toward them is cold unless they are zealous supporters of the church, and he speaks with the utmost disgust of their civil wars, which seemed to him absolute madness in view of the greater war between the good and evil supernatural powers. [18] On the other hand his loyalty to his worthy fellow­bishops is often proved. No doubt the words he quotes from Paulinus expressed his own feelings: "Whatever evils there may be in the world, you will doubtless see the worthiest men as guardians of all faith and religion." [19] Everywhere we can read in the lines and between the lines Gregory's single-minded devotion to the church and above all to the cult of St. Martin.

   The great value of Gregory's writings is that we get in them an intimate view of sixth­century ideas. At first sight, perhaps, we seem to have incongruous elements which from the modern viewpoint we cannot bring into harmony with one another. Credulity and hardheaded judgment appear side by side. How could Gregory be so shrewd and worldly­minded in his struggle with Chilperic and at the same time show such an appetite for the miraculous? How could he find it necessary to preface his history, as no other historian has done, with an exact statement of his creed? And how could he relate Clovis's atrocities and then go on to say, "Every day God kept laying his enemies low before him and enlarging his kingdom because he walked with right heart before him and did what was pleasing in his eyes"? These apparently glaring incongruities must have some explanation.
   The reason why they have usually passed as incongruities is perhaps that it is difficult for us to take an unprejudiced view of religious and moral phenomena that are in the direct line of our cultural descent. If we could regard the Franks and Gallo­Romans as if they were alien to us, living, let us say, on an island of the southern Pacific, and believing and practising a religion adapted to their general situation, the task of understanding the History of the Franks would become easier. It is really a primitive society with a primitive interpretation of life and the universe with which we have to deal.
   Look at the conception of religion held by Gregory. It seems most explicable, not by the creed he thrusts at us or by any traditional elements interpreted in a traditional sense, but by the living attitude toward the supernatural which he held. Two words are always recurring in his writings; sanctus and virtus, [20] the first meaning sacred or holy, and the second the mystic potency emanating from the person or thing that is sacred. These words have in themselves no ethical meaning and no humane implications whatever. They are the key­words of a religious technique and their content is wholly supernatural. In a practical way the second word is the more important. It describes the uncanny, mysterious power emanating from the supernatural and affecting the natural. The manifestation of this power may be thought of as a contact between the natural and the supernatural in which the former, being an inferior reality, of course yielded. These points of contact and yielding are the miracles we continually hear of. The quality of sacredness and the mystic potency belong to spirits, in varying degrees to the faithful, and to inanimate objects. They are possessed by spirits, acquired by the faithful, and transmitted to objects.
   There was also a false mystic potency. It emanated from spirits who were conceived of as alien and hostile, and, while it was not strong as the true "virtue," natural phenomena yielded before it and it had its own miracles, which however were always deceitful and malignant in purpose. This "virtue" is associated with the devil, demons, soothsayers, magicians, pagans and pagan gods, and heretics, and through them is continually engaged in aggressive warfare on the true " virtue." [21]
   For the attainment of the true mystic potency asceticism was the method. This was not a withdrawal from lower activities of life to gain more power for higher activities, but it was undertaken in contempt of life, and in the more thoroughgoing cases the only restraint was the desire to avoid self­destruction, which was forbidden. Almost every known method of self­denial and self mortification was practised. Humility of mind was insisted on as an always necessary element. Fasting was part of the prescribed method. The strength of the motive behind asceticism may be judged from the practice of immuring, [22] several specimens of which are related by Gregory. In this the ascetic was shut in a cell and the door walled up and only a narrow opening left to hand in a scanty supply of food. Here he was to remain until he died. Such men were regarded as having the true "virtue" in the highest degree. In reality their life must have made them distinctly inferior in all the ordinary virtues of a natural existence. [23]
   As asceticism was the method by which mystic potency was attained, so miracles were the product, and the proof that it had been acquired. Of course in theory the main object of the mystic was to assimilate himself to the supernatural and not expressly to work miracles. Still to society in general the miracles were the important thing. In the first place they served the immediate purpose for which a miracle might be needed, healing the sick or driving out a demon or something of the sort; in the second place they encouraged society by evidencing the fact that things in general were right and that their spiritual leaders had the right "medicine." Incredulity is not to be expected in such a situation. The miracle played an integral part in the life-theory of the time. It was the proof of religion and it did not need to be proved itself. Furthermore many miracles were real; for example, the cessation of a pain or natural recovery from a sickness would be regarded as a miracle.
   Some mention should be made of the transmissibility of the mystic potency. The case of St. Martin is a good example. During his lifetime he acquired this power in a large degree. When he died on November 8, 397, at a village half­way between Tours and Poitiers, the inhabitants of these cities were all ready to fight for his body, when the people of Tours managed to secure it by stealth. This was because of the sanctity and mystic "virtue" inherent in it. It was carried to Tours and buried there and proved the greatest asset of the city. The mystic potency resided in the tomb and the area about it, and was transmitted to the dust accumulated on it, the wine and oil placed on it for the purpose, and was carried in these portable forms to all parts of Gaul. Gregory himself, for example, carried relics of St. Martin on his journeys and records that they kept his boat from sinking in the river Rhine.
   The system of superstition just outlined is the greater and more real part of Gregory's religion. There was the right mystery and the wrong mystery; and both were of a low order; men had to deal with capricious saints and malignant demons. It was a real, live, local religion comparable with that of savages. By the side of this and intertwined with it the elements of traditional Christianity in a more or less formalized and ritualized shape were retained. Here the great stress was laid on the creed, not, however, that it amounted to anything in Gregory's mind as a creed. He was no theologian. His acceptance of it and insistence on it was ritualistic. However, although he accepted it as he tells us with pura credulitas, [24] that is, without a critical thought, it was not mere formality. He felt, no doubt, that it was a sort of mystic formula, especially the Trinitarian part of it, for putting men into the right relation with the supernatural. If they believed in the creed they had the right "medicine"; if they did not, they had not.
   This system of superstition was not calculated to nourish delicate moral sensibilities. Life had gone too far back to the primitive word applied to the adept in this religion was sanctus and it indicated not moral excellence at all but a purely mystic quality. The "virtue" which this person possessed was mystic potency, which was not moral but a supernatural force. The orthodox of course called the saint good, but this was merely because they were on the same side, just as Cicero for example six centuries before called members of his political party the boni. Gregory's moral praise or blame is distributed in the same way. When he praises a man we must look for the service done by this man to the church, and when he blames one we must look in like manner for the opposite. Outside of the interests of the orthodox group Gregory is not morally thin­skinned; he shared in the brutality of his contemporaries, as we can see in many recitals. His portrait of Clovis throws no false light back on Gregory. Clovis was a champion and favorite of the right supernatural powers in their fight with the wrong ones, and any occasional atrocities he committed in the struggle were not only pardonable but praiseworthy. [25]

   Secular activities and the state of mind just indicated could not coexist in the same society. We have noticed already how education was desecularized. It is of interest to note also what had happened to the secular professions of medicine and law.
   The profession of medicine had almost completely disappeared. It is true indeed that we hear of a few physicians. For example when Austrechild, king Gunthram's wife, was dying, she accused her two physicians of having given her "potions" that were proving fatal, and asked the king to take an oath to have them executed. He did so and kept his word and Gregory remarks with what seems excessive moderation, " Many wise men think that this was not done without sin." [26] Again we hear of Gregory's own illness, when he sent for a physician. He soon decided that "secular means could not help the perishing," and sent for some dust from St. Martin's tomb which he put in water and drank, and was soon cured. [27] Such tales indicate the status of the medical profession.
   The truth was that the condition of the people's minds made the profession an impossibility. Disease was looked upon as supernatural. The sick man thought he had a better chance if he called the priest rather than the doctor. Gregory tells us of Vulfilaic, who was suddenly covered from head to foot with angry pimples; he rubbed himself with oil consecrated at St. Martin's tomb, and they speedily disappeared. He reasoned that if they had been driven away by St. Martin, they had plainly been sent by the devil. [28] This meant to him that the whole thing was supernatural and that the true mystic power had driven out the false which had caused the trouble.
   Perhaps this was not the reasoning in every case, but at any rate, the people went to the shrines and churches to be healed. In some cases the diagnosis was quite clear as with a patient at Limoges. The priest put holy oil on his head and " the demon went down into his finger-nail; seeing this the priest poured oil on the finger and soon the skin burst, blood flowed from the place, and the demon thus took his departure. [29]
   Such practices were not isolated or unusual, but typical. Mystical healing was adjusted to an everyday basis, as many "cases " cited by Gregory indicate. Many, like the following are found: "Charigisil, king Clothar's secretary, whose hands and feet were made helpless by a humor, came to the holy church, and devoting himself to prayer for two or three months, was visited by the blessed bishop [30] and had the merit to obtain health in his crippled limbs. He was later domesticus of the king I have mentioned, and did many kindnesses to the people of Tours and the officials of the holy church." An analysis of this record reveals the typical elements, with the exception of fasting which is usually mentioned. The miraculous properties of St. Martin were thus reinforced by change of scene, prolonged treatment, and a rigorous mental and physical regimen.
   With such a state of mind prevailing ­ no rivals of the clergy in the healing art were to be found except among those healers who used a "virtue" of another kind-the false virtue of the magicians and demons; the few physicians who remained were not real competitors.
   The administration of justice was also affected by the same causes which brought about the disappearance of medicine There was little inducement to look for evidence when an appeal could be made to superstitious fear. Hence the importance of the oath. Gregory himself, when he was charged with slandering queen Fredegunda, had to take oath to his innocence on three altars. We have also other appeals to the supernatural in the trial by combat and the ordeal. Another interference in the domain of law was a peculiar one; holy men seemed to have a particular desire to set prisoners free. Gregory himself begs them off. We heal of one dead bishop whose body sank like lead on the street before the jail and could not be moved until all in the jail were let loose. [31] Another holy man tried to secure the pardon of a notorious criminal and falling, brought him back to life after he was executed.
   In the History of the Franks attention is given from time to time to natural phenomena. With few exceptions these passages deal with prodigies. Gregory tells for example of the prodigies of the year 587. Most of them are given from his own personal observation. [32] Mysterious marks which could not be deleted in any way appeared on dishes; vines made a new growth and bore deformed fruit in the month of October after the vintage; at the same time fresh leaves and fruits appeared on fruit trees; rays of light were seen in the north. In addition Gregory mentions from hearsay that snakes had fallen from the clouds, and that a village with its inhabitants and dwellings had disappeared entirely. He goes on to say, "Many other signs appeared such as usually announce a king's death or the destruction of a country." In the same way he tells us of the signs preceding plagues. Sometimes he relates the prodigies without giving any sequel to them. In one case he says, " I do not know what these prodigies foretold." It is evident that the idea which Gregory had of the phenomena of nature was such as to prevent his giving any intelligent attention to them. The supernatural came between him and objective realities in such a way as to prevent the latter from having a natural effect upon his mind.
   The inhibiting and paralyzing force of superstitious beliefs penetrated to every department of life, and the most primary and elementary activities of society were influenced. War, for example, was not a simple matter of a test of strength and courage, but supernatural matters had to be taken carefully into consideration. When Clovis said of the Goths in southern Gaul, "I take it hard that these Arians should hold a part of the Gauls; let us go with God's aid and conquer them and bring the land under our dominion," [33] he was not speaking in a hypocritical or arrogant manner but in real accordance with the religious sentiment of the time. What he meant was that the Goths, being heretics, were at once enemies of the true God and inferior to the orthodox Franks in their supernatural backing. Considerations of duty, strategy, and self-interest all reinforced one another in Clovis's mind. However, it was not always the orthodox side that won. We hear of a battle fought a few years before Gregory became bishop of Tours between king Sigibert and the Huns, [34] in which the Huns " by the use of magic arts caused various false appearances to arise before their enemies and overcame them decisively. " It is very plain that one exceedingly important function of the leader of a sixth­century army was to keep the right relation with the supernatural powers. Clovis is represented as heeding this necessity more than any other Frankish king. [35]
   It is clear that in the sixth­century state of mind in Gaul nothing was purely secular. As far as possible all secular elements had been expelled. Men did not meet the objective realities of society and of nature as they were; there was a superstitious interpretation for everything. The hope in such a condition of things lay only in unconscious developments which might break through the closed system of thought before the latter realized that it was on the defensive.
   The most promising element in the situation was the Frankish state. Apparently the Frankish kingship was not to any large extent a magico­religious institution, but simply a recent development arising out of the conquest. As an institution it was not grounded in the superstitious past, and the cold hostility of the bishops kept it from the development usual in a benighted society. To this chance we may perhaps attribute a momentous result; in it lay the possibility and promise of a secular state.
   In the case of King Chilperic we apparently have a premature development in this direction. We must read between the lines when Gregory speaks of him. Gregory calls him "the Nero and Herod of our time," and loads him with abuse. He ridicules his poems, and according to his own story overwhelms him with an avalanche of contempt when he ventures to state some new opinions on the Trinity. The significant thing about Chilperic was this, that he had at this time the independence of mind to make such a criticism, as well as the hard temper necessary to fight the bishops successfully. "In his reign," Gregory tells us, "very few of the clergy reached the office of bishop." Chilperic used often to say: "Behold our treasury has remained poor, our wealth has been transferred to the churches; there is no king but the bishops; my office has perished and passed over to the bishops of the cities." [36] Chilperic was thus the forerunner of the secular state in France.

E. B.


[1]Besides Clermont and Tours in which cities Gregory spent most of his life we hear of stays at Poitiers, Saintes, Bordeaux, Riez, Cavaillon, Vienne, Lyons, Châlon-sor­Saône, Châlons­sur­Marne, Rheims, Soissons, Metz, Coblentz, Braine, Paris, Orleans. Monod, Sources de l'histoire Mérovingienne, p. 37.
[2] Childebert the elder is represented as saying: Velim unquam Arvernam Lemanem quae tantae jocunditatis gratia refulgere dicitur, oculis cernere. H. F. III: 9.
[3] In France, including Alsace and Lorraine, there are at the present time three thousand six hundred and seventy­five churches dedicated to St. Martin, and four hundred and twenty­five villages or hamlets are named after him. C. Bayet, in Lavisse, Histoire de France, 221, p. 16
[4] C. Bayet, in Lavisse, Histoire de France, 21, pp. 13 ff.
[5] Monod, op. cit. pp. 25 ff. See pp. 13, 84, 109, 140.
[6] Gloria Martyrum, c.83
[7] De Virtut. S. Mart. I, 36.
[8] Vitae Patram, VIII, 3.
[9] Bonnet, Le Latin de Gregoire de Tours, pp. 48­76
[10] Speaking of Jupiter, Mercury, Minerva, Venus, a character in the Vitae Patrum, XVII, says, Nolite, o, viri, nolite eos invocare, non sunt enim dii isti sed daemones.
[11] Gloria Martyrum, Pref.
[12] Vitae Patrum, II, Pref.
[13] See p. 240.
[14] See p. 40.
[15] They are substantially the conclusions of Bonnet in Le Latin de Gregoire de Tours, Paris, 1890.
[16] See p. 247. In the Arndt and Brusch edition in the Monumenta Germania Historica we have all these titles included. The commentary on the Psalms however is in a fragmentary condition, and the Lives of the Fathers appears as one of eight books of Miracles. The book on Church Services is there entitled Account of the Movements of the Stars as they ought to be observed in performing the Services. It is really a brief astronomical treatise the purpose of which was in the absence of clocks to guide the church services at night.
[17] The list given by Manitius is as follows: Chronicles of Jerome Victor, Sulpicius Severus; history of Orosius; church history of Eusebius­Rufinus; Life of St. Martin by Sulpicius Severus; letters of Sidonius Apollinaris and Ferreolus writings of Avitus; histories of of Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus and Sulpicius Alexander (not elsewhere known), annals of of Arles, Angers, Burgundy. Geschichte der Lateinischen Litteratur, p. 220
[18] III, Pref, and IV Pref.
[19] H.F., II, 13. Cf. V, 11, p. 113
[20] Nunc autem cognovi quod magna est virtus eius beati Martini. Nam ingrediente me atrium domus. Vidi virum senem exhibentem arborem in manu sua, quae mox extensis ramis omne atrium texit. Ex ea emm unus me adtigit ramus, de cuius ictu turbatus corrui. VII:42
[21] See pp. 38, 162, 185, 205.
[22] For an objective account of immuring as the climax of religious practice see Vol II, chap. I, Sven Hedin's Trans­Himalaya, 1909. The following is his account of an immured monk who was brought out from his cell after a long time. "He was all bent up together and as small as a child and his body was nothing but a light­gray parchment like skin and bones. His eyes had lost their color, were quite bright and blind. His hair hung round his head in uncombed matted locks and was pure white. His body was covered only by a rag for time had eaten away his clothing and he had received no new garments. He had a thin unkempt beard, and had never washed himself all the time or cut his nails."
[23] pp, 147-150, 158, 198-199
[24] H.F. I: Pref
[25] See pp. 47-50
[26] p 130
[27] De Virtut. S. Martin, II. 1
[28] p. 196
[29] Glor. Conf. c.9
[30] St. Martin
[31] De Virtut. S. Martin., I, 21, 25.
[32] IX: 5
[33] see p. 45
[34] H.F. IV: 29
[35] pp 36­38, 40, 45, 53­54
[36] see p. 166