Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors]

inflamed the ambition of Attila; and the designs of JEtius and Theodoric were prevented by the invasion of Gaul.*

The Franks, whose monarchy was still confined to the neighbourhood of the Lower Rhine, had wisely established the right of hereditary succession in the noble family of the Merovingians.f These princes were elevated on a buckler, the symbol of military command,J and the royal fashion of long hair was the ensign of their birth and dignity. Their flaxen locks, which they combed and dressed with singular care, hung down in flowing ringlets on their back and shoulders; while the rest of the nation were obliged, either by law or custom, to shave the hinder part of their head, to comb their hair over the forehead, and to content themselves with the ornament of two small whiskers.§ The

* Our authorities for the reign of Theodoric L are, Jornandea de Rebus Geticis, c. 34. 36, and the Chronicles of Idatius, and the two Prospers, inserted in the Historians of France, tom, i, p. 612—640. To these we may add Salvian de Gubernatione Dei, 1 . 7, p. 243—245, and the Panegyric of Avitus, by Sidonius.

+ Reges Crinitos se creavisse de prima, et ut ita dicam nobilioro suorum familia. (Greg. Turon. 1. 2, c. 9, p. 166 of the second volume of the Historians of France.) Gregory himself does not mention the Merovingian name, which may be traced, however, to the beginning of the seventh century, as the distinctive appellation of the royal family, and even of the French monarchy. An ingenious critic has deduced the Merovingians from the great Maroboduus; and he has clearly proved, that the prince, who gave his name to the first race, was more ancient than the father of Childeric. See the Me'moires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xx, p. 52—90; tom. xxx, p. 557—587. [This " ingenious critic" was the Due de Nivernois. The hereditary right of a family to sovereignty has been already seen (ch. 31) as a very ancient Gothic custom or law. It is, therefore, probable that it existed among the Franks as early as the time of Maroboduus. But it was so modified among them, that the territories of a deceased monarch were equally divided among all his sons. Gibbon's observations on this subject in another note (see p. 12), may be compared with those of Mr. Hallam (vol. i, p. 5), which are to the same effect. The quarrel between Meroveus and his brother was probably about the extent of thenrespective shares.—Ed.] X This German custom, which may be traced from Tacitus to Gregory of Tours, was at length adopted by the emperors of Constantinople. From a MS. of the tenth century, Montfaucon has delineated the representation of a similar ceremony, which the ignorance of the age had applied to king David. See Monumens de la Monarchic Francoise, tom, i, Discours Preliminaire. § Csesaries prolixa . . . crinium flagellis per terga dimissis, &c. See the preface to the third volume of the Historians of France, and the Abbe' le Bceuf. (Dissertat. tom, iii, p. 47— 79.) This peculiar fashion of the Merovingians has been remarked by

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

lofty stature of the Franks, and their blue eyes, denoted a Germanic origin; their close apparel accurately expressed the figure of their limbs; a weighty sword was suspended from a broad belt; their bodies were protected by a largo shield: and these warlike barbarians were trained, from their earliest youth, to run, to leap, to swim; to dart the javelin or battle-axe with unerring aim; to advance without hesitation against a superior enemy; and to maintain, either in life or death, the invincible reputation of their ancestors.* Clodion, the first of their long-haired kings, whose name and actions are mentioned in authentic history, held his residence at Dispargum,t a village or fortress, whose place may be assigned between Louvain and Brussels. Prom the report of his spies, the king of the Franks was informed that the defenceless state of the second Belgic must yield, on the slightest attack, to the valour of his subjects. He boldly penetrated through the thickets and morasses of the Carbonarian forest,J occupied Tournay and Cambray, the only cities which existed in the fifth century, and extended his conquests as far as the river Sommo, over a desolate country, whose cultivation and populousness are the effects of more recent industry.§ While Clodion lay encamped in the plains of Artois,lf and celebrated, with vain and ostentatious security, the marriage, perhaps of his son,

natives and strangers; by Priscus (tom. i, p. 608), by Agathias (tom. ii, p. 49), and by Gregory of Tours (1 . 3. 18. 6. 24. 8. 10, tom. ii, p. 196. 278. 316). * See an original picture of the figure, dress,

arms, and temper of the ancient Franks in Sidonius Apollinaris (Panegyr. Majorian. 238—254); and such pictures, though coarsely drawn, have a real and intrinsic value. Father Daniel (Hist. do la Milice Francoise, tom. i, p. 2—7) has illustrated the description.

+ Dubos, Hist. Critique, &c. tom. i, p. 271, 272. Some geographers have placed Dispargum on the German side of the Ehine. See a note of the Benedictine editors to the Historians of France, tom. ii, p. 166.

J The Carbonarian wood was that part of the great forest of the Ardennes, which lay between the Escaut, or Scheldt, and the Meuse. "Vales. Notit. Gall. p. 126. § Gregor Turon. 1 . 2, c. 9, in tom. ii,

p. 166, 167. Fredegar. Epitom. c. 9, p. 395. Gesta Reg. Francor. c. 5, in tom. ii, p. 544. Vit. St. Remig. ab Hincmar, in tom, iii, p. 373.

U Francus qua Cloio patentes

Atrebatum terras pervaserat

Panegyr. Majorian. 212. The precise spot was a town, or village, called Vicus Selena, and both the name and the place are discovered by modern geographers at Lens. See Vales. Notit. Gal1 . p. 246. Longuerue, Description de la France, tom. ii, p. 8£.

A.D. 420-451.] MEBOVOGIAN KINGS.

11

the nuptial feast was interrupted by the unexpected and unwelcome presence of ^Etius, who had passed the Somme at the head of his light cavalry. The tables, which had been spread under the shelter of a hill, along the banks of a pleasant stream, were rudely overturned; the Franks were oppressed before they could recover their arms, or their ranks; and their unavailing valour was fatal only to themselves. The loaded wagons which had followed their march, afforded a rich booty; and the virgin bride, with her female attendants, submitted to the new lovers who were imposed on them by the chance of war. This advantage, which had been obtained by the skill and activity of ^Etius, might reflect some disgrace on the military prudence of Clodion; but the king of the Franks soon regained his strength and reputation, and still maintained the possession of his Gallic kingdom from the Rhine to the Somme.* Under his reign, and most probably from the enterprising spirit of his subjects, the three capitals, Mentz, Treves, and Cologne, experienced the effects of hostile cruelty and avarice. The distress of Cologne was prolonged by the perpetual dominion of the same barbarians, who evacuated the ruins of Treves; and Treves, which in the space of forty years had been four times besieged and pillaged, was disposed to lose the memory of her afflictions in the vain amusements of the Circus.f The death of Clodion, after a reign of twenty years, exposed his kingdom

* See a vague account of the action in Sidonius, Panegyr. Majorian. 212—230. The French critics, impatient to establish their monarchy in Gaul, have drawn a strong argument from the silence of Sidonius, who dares not insinuate, that the vanquished Franks were compelled to repass the Rhine. Dubos, tom, i, p. 322. + Salvian (de

Gubernat. Dei, 1 . 6), has expressed, in vague and declamatory language, the misfortunes of these three cities, which are distinctly ascertained by the learned Mascou, Hist, of the Ancient Germans, 9. 21. [Treves had been the residence of emperors, and had probably more to lose in such disastrous visitations, than other towns. If it experienced four such, in the space of forty years, it must have recovered rapidly from each, or it would have afforded no cause for repeated attacks. That it still possessed a Circus and the means of paying for the amusements exhibited there, is not very convincing evidence of its rum, which becomes more questionable, when we find that it was one of the places, which by ineffectual resistance, attempted to arrest the course of Attila. (Schmidt, 1. 175.) For an account of the ancient splendour of Treves, see Wyttenbach's Roman antiquities of the city of Treves, by Dawson Turner, 8vo. Lond. 1839.—Ed.]

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

to the discord and ambition of his two sons. Meroveus, the younger,* was persuaded to implore the protection of Rome; he was received at the imperial court as the ally of Valentinian, and the adopted son of the patrician ^Etius; and dismissed to his native country, with splendid gifts, and the strongest assurances of friendship and support. During his absence, his elder brother had solicited with equal ardour, the formidable aid of Attila; and the king of the Huns embraced an alliance, which facilitated the passage of the Rhine, and justified by a specious and honourable pretence, the invasion of Gaul.f

When Attila declared his resolution of supporting the cause of his allies, the Vandals and the Franks, at the same time, and almost in the spirit of romantic chivalry, the savage monarch professed himself the lover and the champion of the princess Honoria. The sister of Valentinian was educated in the palace of Ravenna; and as her marriage might be productive of some danger to the state, she was raised by the title of Augusta,% above the hopes of the most presumptuous subject. But the fair Honoria had no sooner attained the sixteenth year of her age, than she detested the importunate greatness which must for ever exclude her from the comforts of honourable love: in the midst of vain and unsatisfactory pomp, Honoria sighed, yielded to the impulse of nature, and threw herself into the arms of her chamberlain Eugenius. Her guilt and shame

* Priscus, in relating the contest, does not name the two brotherai; the second of whom he had seen at Eome, a beardless youth, with long flowing hair. (Historians of France, tom, i, p. 607, 608.) The Benedictine editors are inclined to believe that they were the sons of some unknown king of the Franks, who reigned on the banks of the Neckar: but the arguments of M. de Foncemague (Mem. de rAcademie, tom, viii, p. iSi,) seem to prove, that the succession of Clodion was disputed by his two sons, and that the younger was Meroveus, the father of Childerio.

"f- Under the Merovingian race, the throne was hereditary; but all the sons of the deceased monarch were equally entitled to their share of his treasures and territories. See the dissertations of M de Fonceznagne, in the sixth and eighth volumes of the Mem. de l'Academie.

X A medal is still extant which exhibits the pleasing countenance of Honoria, with the title of Augusta; and on the reverse, the improper legend of Salus Beipublicce round the monogram of Christ. See Ducange, Famil. Byzantin. p. 67. 73. [Eckhel, (8. p. 189,) condemns most vehemently the flattering inscriptions on her coins. They were probably struck when she was only three years old.—Ed.]

T.D. 420-451.] THE PBIUCESS hOJTORIA.

(such is the absurd language of imperious man) were soon betrayed by the appearances of pregnancy: but the disgrace of the royal family was published to the world by the imprudence of the empress Placidia; who dismissed her daughter, after a strict and shameful confinement, to a remote exile at Constantinople. The unhappy princess passed twelve or fourteen years in the irksome society of the sisters of Theodosius, and their chosen virgins; to whose crown Honoria could no longer aspire, and whose monastic assiduity of prayer, fasting, and vigils, she reluctantly imitated. Her impatience of long and hopeless celibacy, urged her to embrace a strange and desperate resolution. The name of Attila was familiar and formidable at Constantinople; and his frequent embassies entertained a perpetual intercourse between his camp and the imperial palace. In the pursuit of love, or rather of revenge, the daughter of Placidia sacrificed every duty and every prejudice; and offered to deliver her person into the arms of a barbarian, of whose language she was ignorant, whose figure was scarcely human, and whose religion and manners she abhorred. By the ministry of a faithful eunuch, she transmitted to Attila a ring, the pledge of her affection; and earnestly conjured him to claim her as a lawful spouse, to whom he had been secretly betrothed. These indecent advances were received however, with coldness and disdain; and the king of the Huns continued to multiply the number of his wives, till his love was awakened by the more forcible passions of ambition and avarice. The invasion of Gaul was preceded and justified, by a formal demand of the princess Honoria, with a just and equal share of the imperial patrimony. His predecessors, the ancient Tanjous, had often addressed, in the same hostile and peremptory manner, the daughters of China; and the pretensions of Attila were not less offensive to the majesty of Rome. A firm but temperate refusal was communicated to his ambassadors. The right of female succession, though it might derive a specious argument from the recent examples of Placidia and Pulcheria, was strenuously denied; and the indissoluble engagements of Honoria were opposed to the claims of her Scythian lover* On the discovery of * See Priscus, p. 39, 40. It might be fairly alleged, that if females could succeed to the throne, Valentinian himaelf, who had married the

« ForrigeFortsett »