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On Clovis

Gregory of Tours

From the accounts translated in J. H. Robinson, Readings in European History, (Boston: Ginn, 1905), pp. 51-55
The history of the Franks was written about a century after the time of Clovis by Gregory, bishop of Tours.
The following extracts give some notion of this valuable source, upon which a great part of our knowledge of the Merovingian period rests



The Incident of the Vase at Soissons

At this time [A.D. 486] the army of Clovis pillaged many churches, for he was still sunk in the errors of idolatry. The soldiers had borne away from a church, with all the other ornaments of the holy ministry, a vase of marvelous size and beauty. The bishop of this church sent messengers to the king, begging that if the church might not recover any other of the holy vessels, at least this one might be restored. The king, bearing these things, replied to the messenger: "Follow thou us to Soissons, for there all things that have been acquired are to be divided. If the lot shall give me this vase, I will do what the bishop desires." When be had reached Soissons, and all the booty had been placed in the midst of the army, the king pointed to this vase, and said: "I ask you, O most valiant warriors, not to refuse to me the vase in addition to my rightful part," Those of discerning mind among his men answered, "O glorious king, all things which we see are thine, and we ourselves are subject to thy power; now do what seems pleasing to thee, for none is strong enough to resist thee." When they had thus spoken one of the soldiers, impetuous, envious, and vain, raised his battle-axe aloft and ched the vase with it, crying, "Thou shalt receive nothing of this unless a just lot give it to thee." At this all were stupefied.
The king bore his injury with the calmness of patience, and when he had received the ched vase he gave it to the bishop's messenger, but be cherished a hidden wound in his breast. When a year had passed he ordered the whole army to come fully equipped to the Campus Martius and show their arms in brilliant array - But when he had reviewed them all he came to the breaker of the vase, and said to him, "No one bears his arms so clumsily as thou ; for neither thy spear, nor thy sword, nor thy ax is ready for use." And seizing his ax, he cast it on the ground. And when the soldier had bent a little to pick it up the king raised his hands and ched, his head with his own ax. "Thus," he said, "didst thou to the vase at Soissons."


The Conversion of Clovis to Christianity

[Clovis took to wife Clotilde, daughter of the king of the Burgundians. Now Clotilde was a Christian. When her first son was born] she wished to consecrate him by baptism, and begged her husband unceasingly, saying, I , The gods whom thou honorest are nothing they cannot help themselves nor others; for they are carved from stone, or from wood, or from some metal. The names which you have given them were of men, not of gods, - like Saturn, who is said to have escaped by flight, to avoid being deprived of his power by his son; and like Jupiter himself, foul perpetrator of all uncleanness. . . . What power have Mars and Mercury ever had ? They are endowed with magical arts rather than divine power. "The God who should be worshiped is he who by his word created from nothingness the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that in them is; he who made the sun to shine and adorned the sky with stars; who filled the waters with creeping things, the land with animals, the air with winged creatures; by whose bounty the earth is glad with crops, the trees with fruit, the vines with grapes; by whose hand the human race was created; whose bounty has ordained that all things should give homage and service to man, whom he created."
But when the queen had said these things, the mind of Clovis was not stirred to believe. He answered: "By the will of our gods all things are created and produced. Evidently your god can do nothing, and it is not even proved that he belongs to the race of gods."
Meantime- the faithful queen presented her son for baptism. She had the church adorned with tapestry, seeking to attract by this splendor him whom her exhortations had not moved. But the child whom they called Ingomer, after he had been born again through baptism, died in his white baptismal robe. Then the king reproached the queen bitterly. , if the child had been consecrated in the name of my gods he would be alive still. But now, because he is baptized in the name of your god, he cannot live."



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