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Chlodomer's dominion comprised the whole valley of the Loire from source to mouth, and Western Aquitaine, including Bordeaux and Toulouse. Childebert had a smaller share— the Seine valley and the coasts of the Channel from the mouth of the Somme westward.
The four brother kings were all worthy sons of their wicked father—daring unscrupulous men of war, destitute of natural affection, cruel, lustful, and treacherous. But they were eminently suited to extend, by the same means that Chlodovech had used, the realms that he had left them. The times, too, were propitious, for during their lives was removed the single bar that hindered the progress of the Franks, the power of the strong Gothic realm that obeyed Theodoric the Great.
Although the sons of Chlodovech not unfrequently plotted each other's deposition or murder, yet they generally turned their arms against external enemies, and even on occasion joined to aid each other. The object which each set before himself was the subjection of the nearest independent state. Theuderich therefore looked towards inner Germany and the kingdom of the Thuringians, on the Saal and upper Weser; Childebert and Chlodomer turned their attention towards their southern neighbours the Burgundians.
Both these states were destined to fall before the sons of Chlodovech, but neither of them without a hardly fought struggle. Theuderich was distracted from his first attempts against Thuringia by a great piratical invasion of the Lower Rhineland by predatory bands from Scandinavia, led by the Danish king Hygelac (Chrocholaicus), who is mainly remembered as the brother of that Beowulf whom the earliest Anglo-Saxon epic celebrates (515). The son of Theuderich the king of the Ripuarians slew the pirate, and conquers next year the Thuringian war began. It did not Thuring'aterminate till 531, when Theuderich, calling in the aid of his brother Chlothar, utterly destroyed the Thuringian realm, and made it tributary to himself. The Frank celebrated his victory first by an unsuccessful attempt to murder his brother
Period I. H
and helper Chlothar, who was fain to fly home in haste, and next by the treacherous murder of Hermanfrid, the vanquished Thuringian king, who had surrendered on promise of life. Theuderich led him in conversation around the walls of the city of Zulpich, and suddenly bade his servants push him over the rampart, so that his neck was broken. Southern Thuringia, the region on the Werra and Unstrut, was for the future a tributary province of the Franks. Northern Thuringia, between Elbe and Werra, was overrun by the Saxons, and never came under Theuderich's power.
While the king of Ripuaria was warring in Germany, his younger brothers had assaulted Burgundy. In 523 Childebert and Chlodomer attacked the unpopular king Sigismund, the slayer of his own son, as we have elsewhere related.1 They beat him in battle, took him prisoner, and threw him with his wife and son down a well. But Gondomar, brother of SigisFrankish mund, restored the fortune of war in the next year, invasion of and routed the Franks at Vese'ronce, in a battle Burgundy. wnere Chlodomer was slain (524). Before pursuing the Burgundian war the brothers of the dead man resolved to plunder his realm. The king of Orleans had only left infant children, so Childebert and Chlothar found no difficulty in overrunning his lands on the Loire. The three young boys, to whom the realm should have fallen, were captured and brought before their uncles. Childebert, the ruffian, who was of a milder mood, proposed to spare their lives, but Chlothar actually dragged them away while they clung to his brother's knees, and cut the throats of the two eldest with his own hands. The youngest was snatched up and hidden by a faithful servant, and lived to become a monk, and leave his name to the 'monastery of Chlodovald' (St. Cloud).
Of Chlodomer's realm Childebert took the lands on the upper Loire and the capital city Orleans, Chlothar the Loiremouth and the part of Aquitaine south of it. Hearing a false 1 See p. 27.
report that his eldest brother, Theuderich had fallen in battle with the Thuringians, Childebert now invaded East Aquitaine, a part of his brother's heritage. But Theuderich returned in wrath, and the king of Paris and Orleans resolved to go instead against the Visigoths, and to drive them from the land between the Cevennes and the Pyrenees. The great Theodoric was just dead, so no help from Italy could be expected by the Visigothic king Amalric, the grandson of the departed hero. Childebert found his pretext in the complaint that his sister Chrotechildis, the wife of Amalric, had been debarred from the exercise of the Catholic religion and cruelly ill treated by her Arian husband. With this holy plea as his cams belli he marched against Narbonne, defeated war with the Amalric in battle, and drove him over the Pyrenees visigoths.53i. to the gates of Barcelona. There he was slain, either by the sword of the pursuing Franks, or by the Visigothic army, enraged at the cowardice which he had displayed in the struggle. On his death the Goths raised on the shield and saluted as king the aged count Theudis, the regent who had ruled Spain for Theodoric the Great during the minority of Amalric. Thus ended the race of the Baltings as rulers of the Visigoths; their succeeding kings were not of the old royal house. Theudis, who was suspected of having had some hand in his late pupil's murder, soon justified the choice of the Goths, by recovering Narbonne and the other cities of Septimania from the Franks. Childebert had turned off to another quest, and the old Visigothic possessions north of the Pyrenees were retaken without much trouble (531).
The enterprise which had called away Childebert was a new attempt to conquer Burgundy, in which his brother Chlothar had promised to join him. In the spring of 532 Burgundy the kings of Paris and Soissons united their forces, conquered, and marched up the valley of the Yonne. They 53*' laid siege to Autun, and when Gondomar the Burgundian monarch came to its relief, beat him with such decisive results that he fled into Italy and abandoned his kingdom. A few sieges put the victorious Frankish brethren in possession of the whole Burgundian realm as far as the borders of the Ostrogoths on the Alps and the Drome.
When Burgundy had been conquered, the Franks began to prepare for a new campaign against the Visigoths, in which Theuderich intended to share no less than his brothers. But this scheme was frustrated by the death of the king of Ripuaria early in the year 533. He left a son, Theudebert, already a grown man and a good warrior, but in true Merovingian fashion the uncles of the heir made a vigorous attempt to seize and divide his realm. It was only the prompt and enthusiastic way in which the Ripuarians rallied around their young king that saved him from the fate of his cousins, the princes of Orleans. Not merely, however, did Theudebert hold his own, but he compelled his uncles to give him a share of the newly-conquered Burgundy, when the partition of that country was finally made.
Theudebert was, in fact, well able to take care of himself, and soon showed that he was as unscrupulous and enterprising, if not quite so bloodthirsty, as his father and uncles. Yet he was, for a Meroving, not an unfavourable specimen of a monarch, and the chroniclers tell us that he ruled his kingdom with justice, venerated the clergy, built churches, and gave much alms to the poor. That as a politician he was shifty and treacherous was soon to be shown by his dealings with Theudebert Italv- In 535 the emperor Justinian, on the eve invades of his invasion of the Ostrogothic kingdom, bribed Italy, 535. tke three Prankish monarchs, by a gift of 50,000 solidi, to attack Italy from the rear. Uncles and nephew alike were ready to take the money and join in the plunder of the peninsula. But in the next year the Gothic king Witiges, eager to free himself from a second war, offered to cede Provence and Rhaetia to the Franks if they would make peace with him, and grant him the aid of their arms. The three kings gladly agreed, and lent him an auxiliary force of 10,000 men, who joined the Goths in recovering Milan. Theudebert and Childebert are said to have cheated Chlothar of his third of the gains, the former having got the money and the latter the land which Witiges made over.
In 539 Witiges and Belisarius were locked in such deadly conflict that the Franks thought it a good opportunity to endeavour to invade Italy on their own behalf. Theudebert came over the Alps in person, with an army of 100,000 men, all footmen armed with lance and axe, save 300 nobles who rode around the king with shield and spear. First falling on his friends the Goths, then attacking the East-Romans in turn, Theudebert drove across the north of Italy, sacking Genoa, and wasting all the valley of the Po as far as Venetia. All the open country was in his hands, and the Goths and Romans had to shut themselves up in their fortresses. But a disease brought on by foul living fell upon the Franks, and so thinned their ranks that Theudebert had to retire homeward, relinquishing all he had gained save the possession of the passes of the Cottian Alps. It was, however, with his Italian plunder that he struck the first gold money which any barbarian king coined in his own name. Instead of placing the head of the emperor on his solidi, as had hitherto been the practice of Goth, Frank, and Burgundian, he represented his own image with shield and buckler, and the inscription Dominus Noster Theudebertus Victor, without any reference to Justinian as emperor or overlord. Some of the pieces make him assume the more startling title of Dominus Theudebertus Augustus, as if he had aimed at uniting Gaul and Italy, and taking the style of Western Emperor; and, strange as this design may appear, it receives some countenance from a chronicler who declares that, after his Italian conquests, Theudebert was so uplifted in spirit that he designed to march against Constantinople, and make himself lord of the world (539).
When in the next year the faithless Theudebert planned another expedition to reconquer north Italy, and had the effrontery to offer his alliance once more to king Witiges, we