Here begins Gregory’s first Preface
With liberal culture on the on the wane, or rather perishing in the Gallic cities, there were many deeds being done both good and evil: the heathen were raging fiercely; kings were growing more cruel; the church, attacked by heretics, was defended by Catholics; while the Christian faith was in general devoutly cherished, among some it was growing cold; the churches also were enriched by the faithful or plundered by traitors — and no grammarian skilled in the dialectic art could be found to describe these matters either in prose or verse; and many were lamenting and saying: “Woe to our day, since the pursuit of letters has perished from among us and no one can be found among the people who can set forth the deeds of the present on the written page.” Hearing continually these complaints and others like them I [have undertaken] to commemorate the past, in order that it may come to the knowledge of the future; and although my speech is rude, I have been unable to be silent as to the struggles between the wicked and the upright; and I have been especially encouraged because, to my surprise, it has often been said by men of our day, that few understand the learned words of the rhetorician but many the rude language of the common people. I have decided also that for the reckoning of the years the first book shall begin with the very beginning of the world, and I have given its chapters below.
from Book I
36. Constantine was the thirty-fourth emperor of the Romans, and he reigned prosperously for thirty years. In the eleventh year of his reign, when peace had been granted to the churches after the death of Diocletian, our blessed patron Martin was born at Sabaria, a city of Pannonia, of heathen parents, who still were not of the lowest station. This Constantine in the twentieth year of his reign caused the death of his son Crispus by poison, and of his wife Fausta by means of a hot bath, because they had plotted to betray his rule. In his time the venerated wood of the Lord’s cross was found, through the zeal of his mother Helen on the information of Judas, a Hebrew who was called Quiriacus after baptism. The historian Eusebius comes down to this period in his chronicle. The priest Jerome continues it from the twenty-first year of Constantine’s reign. He informs us that the priest Juvencus wrote the gospels in verse at the request of the emperor named above.
39. At that time our light arose and Gaul was traversed by the rays of a new lamp, that is, the most blessed Martin then began to preach in the Gauls, and he overcame the unbelief of the heathen, showing among the people by many miracles that Christ the Son of God was the true God. He destroyed heathen shrines, crushed heresy, built churches, and while he was glorious for many other miracles, he completed his title to fame by restoring three dead men to life. At Poitiers, in the fourth year of Valentinian and Valens, Saint Hilarius passed to Heaven full of sanctity and faith, a priest of many miracles; for he too is said to have raised the dead.
41. After the death of Valentinian, Valens, who succeeded to the undivided empire, gave orders that the monks be compelled to serve in the army, and commanded that those who refused should be beaten with clubs. After this the Romans fought a very fierce battle in Thrace, in which there was such slaughter that the Romans fled on foot after losing their horses, and when they were being cut to pieces by the Goths, and Valens was fleeing with an arrow wound, he entered a small hut, the enemy closely pursuing, and the little dwelling was burned over him. And he was deprived of the burial he desired. And thus the divine vengeance finally came for shedding the blood of the saints. Thus far Jerome; from this period the priest Orosius wrote at greater length.
48. In the second year of the reign of Arcadius and Honorius, Saint Martin, bishop of tours, departed this life at Candes, a village of his diocese, and passed happily to Christ in the eighty-first year of his life and the twenty-sixth of his episcopate, a man full of miracles and holiness, doing many services to the infirm. He passed away at midnight of the Lord’s day, in the consulship of Atticus and Caesarius. Many heard at his passing away the sound of psalm-singing in heaven, which I have spoken of at greater length in the first book of his Miracles. Now as soon as the saint of God fell sick at the village of Candes, as we have related, the people of Poitiers came to be present at his death, as did also the people of Tours. And when he died, a great dispute arose between the two peoples. For the people of Poitiers said: “As a monk, he is ours; as an abbot, he belonged to us; we demand that he be given to us. Let it be enough for you that when he was a bishop on earth you enjoyed his conversation, ate with him, were strengthened by his blessings and cheered by his miracles. Let all that be enough for you. Let us be permitted to carry away his dead body.” To this the people of Tours replied: “If you say that the working of his miracles is enough for us, let us tell you that while he was placed among you he worked more miracles than he did here. For, to pass over most of them, he raised two dead men for you, and one for us; and as he used often to say himself, there was more virtue in him before he was bishop than after. And so it is necessary that he complete for us after death what he did not finish in his lifetime. For he was taken away from you and given to us by God. If a custom long established is kept, a man shall have his tomb by God’s command in the city in which he was ordained. And if you desire to claim him because of the right of the monastery, let us tell you that his first monastery was at Milan.” While they were arguing in this way the sun sank and night closed in. And the body was placed in the midst, and the doors were barred and the body was guarded by both peoples, and it was going to be carried off by violence by the people of Poitiers in the morning. But omnipotent God was unwilling that the city of Tours should be deprived of its protector. Finally at midnight the whole band from Poitiers were overwhelmed with sleep and no one remained out of this multitude to keep watch. Then when the people of Tours saw that they had fallen asleep they seized on the clay of the holy body and some thrust it out the window and others received it outside, and placing it in a boat they went down the river Vienne with all their people and entered the channel of the Loire, and made their way to the city of Tours with great praises and plentiful psalm-singing, and the people of Poitiers were waked by their voices, and having no treasure to guard they returned to their own place greatly crestfallen. And if any one asks why there was only one bishop, that is, Litorius, after the death of bishop Gatianus to the time of Saint Martin, let him know that for a long time the city of Tours was without the blessing of a bishop, owing to the resistance of the heathen. For they who lived as Christians at that time celebrated the divine office secretly and in hiding. For if any Christians were found by the heathen they were punished with strips or slain by the sword.
Now from the suffering of the Lord to the passing of Saint Martin, 412 years are included.
Here ends the First Book Containing 5597 Years which are Reckoned from the Beginning of the World to the Death of the Holy Bishop Martin.
from Book II: The life, career, and conversion of Clovis
27. After these events Childeric died and Clovis his son reigned in his stead. In the fifth year of his reign Siagrius, king of the Romans, son of Egidius, had his seat in the city of Soissons which Egidius, who has been mentioned before, once held. And Clovis came against him with Ragnachar, his kinsman, because he used to possess the kingdom, and demanded that they make ready a battle-field. And Siagrius did not delay nor was he afraid to resist. And so they fought against each other and Siagrius, seeing his army crushed, turned his back and fled swiftly to king Alaric at Toulouse. And Clovis sent to Alaric to send him back, otherwise he was to know that Clovis would make war on him for his refusal. And Alaric was afraid that he would incur the anger of the Franks on account of Siagrius, seeing it is the fashion of the Goths to be terrified, and he surrendered him in chains to Clovis’ envoys. And Clovis took him and gave orders to put him under guard, and when he had got his kingdom he directed that he be executed secretly. At that time many churches were despoiled by Clovis’ army, since he was as yet involved in heathen error. Now the army had taken from a certain church a vase of wonderful size and beauty, along with the remainder of the utensils for the service of the church. And the bishop of the church sent messengers to the king asking that the vase at least be returned, if he could not get back any more of the sacred dishes. On hearing this the king said to the messenger: “Follow us as far as Soissons, because all that has been taken is to be divided there and when the lot assigns me that dish I will do what the father asks.” Then when he came to Soissons and all the booty was set in their midst, the king said: “I ask of you, brave warriors, not to refuse to grant me in addition to my share, yonder dish,” that is, he was speaking of the vase just mentioned. In answer to the speech of the king those of more sense replied: “Glorious king, all that we see is yours, and we ourselves are subject to your rule. Now do what seems well-pleasing to you; for no one is able to resist your power.” When they said this a foolish, envious and excitable fellow lifted his battle-ax and struck the vase, and cried in a loud voice: “You shall get nothing here except what the lot fairly bestows on you.” At this all were stupefied, but the king endured the insult with the gentleness of patience, and taking the vase he handed it over to the messenger of the church, nursing the wound deep in his heart. And at the end of the year he ordered the whole army to come with their equipment of armor, to show the brightness of their arms on the field of March. And when he was reviewing them all carefully, he came to the man who struck the vase, and said to him: “No one has brought armor so carelessly kept as you; for neither your spear nor sword nor ax is in serviceable condition.” And seizing his ax he cast it to the earth, and when the other had bent over somewhat to pick it up, the king raised his hands and drove his own ax into the man’s head. “This,” said he, “is what you did at Soissons to the vase.” Upon the death of this man, he ordered the rest to depart, raising great dread of himself by this action. He made many wars and gained many victories. In the tenth year of his reign he made war on the Thuringi and brought them under his dominion.
28. Now the king of the Burgundians was Gundevech, of the family of king Athanaric the persecutor, whom we have mentioned before. He had four sons; Gundobad, Godegisel, Chilperic and Gundomar. Gundobad killed his brother Chilperic with the sword, and sank his wife in water with a stone tied to her neck. His two daughters he condemned to exile; the older of these, who became a nun, was called Chrona, and the younger Clotilda. And as Clovis often sent embassies to Burgundy, the maiden Clotilda was found by his envoys. And when they saw that she was of good bearing and wise, and learned that she was of the family of the king, they reported this to King Clovis, and he sent an embassy to Gundobad without delay asking her in marriage. And Gundobad was afraid to refuse, and surrendered her to the men, and they took the girl and brought her swiftly to the king. The king was very glad when he saw her, and married her, having already by a concubine a son named Theodoric.
29. He had a first-born son by queen Clotilda, and as his wife wished to consecrate him in baptism, she tried unceasingly to persuade her husband, saying: “The gods you worship are nothing, and they will be unable to help themselves or any one else. For they are graven out of stone or wood or some metal. And the names you have given them are names of men and not of gods, as Saturn, who is declared to have fled in fear of being banished from his kingdom by his son; as Jove himself, the foul perpetrator of all shameful crimes, committing incest with men, mocking at his kinswomen, not able to refrain from intercourse with his own sister as she herself says: Jovisque et soror et conjunx (And of Jove both sister and wife. - Vergil Aen. I). What could Mars or Mercury do? They are endowed rather with the magic arts than with the power of the divine name. But he ought rather to be worshipped who created by his word heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is out of a state of nothingness, who made the sun shine, and adorned the heavens with stars, who filled the waters with creeping things, the earth with living things and the air with creatures that fly, and whose nod the earth is decked with growing crops, the trees with fruit, the vines with grapes, by whose hand mankind was created, by whose generosity all that creation serves and helps man whom he created as his own.” But though the queen said this the spirit of the king was by no means moved to belief, and he said: “It was at the command of our gods that all things were created and came forth, and it is plain that your God has no power and, what is more, he is proven not to belong to the family of the gods.” Meantime the faithful queen made her son ready for baptism; she gave command to adorn the church with hangings and curtains, in order that he who could not be moved by persuasion might be urged to belief by this mystery. The boy, whom they named Ingomer, died after being baptized, still wearing the white garments in which he became regenerate. At this the king was violently angry, and reproached the queen harshly, saying: “If the boy had been dedicated in the name of my gods he would certainly have lived; but as it is, since he was baptized in the name of your God, he could not live at all.” To this the queen said: “I give thanks to the omnipotent God, creator of all, who has judged me not wholly unworthy, that he should deign to take to his kingdom one born from my womb. My soul is not stricken with grief for his sake, because I know that, summoned from this world as he was in his baptismal garments, he will be fed by the vision of God.”
After this she bore another son, whom she named Chlodomer at baptism; and when he fell sick, the king said: “It is impossible that anything else should happen to him than happened to his brother, namely, that being baptized in the name of your Christ, he should die at once.” But through the prayers of his mother, and the Lord’s command, he became well.
30. The queen did not cease to urge him to recognize the true God and cease worshipping idols. But he could not be influenced in any way to this belief, until at last a war arose with the Alamanni, in which he was driven by necessity to confess what before he had of his free will denied. It came about that as the two armies were fighting fiercely, there was much slaughter, and Clovis’s army began to be in danger of destruction. He saw it and raised his eyes to heaven, and with remorse in his heart he burst into tears and cried: “Jesus Christ, whom Clotilda asserts to be the son of the living God, who art said to give aid to those in distress, and to bestow victory on those who hope in thee, I beseech the glory of thy aid, and the vow that if thou wilt grant me victory over these enemies, and I shall know that power which she says that people dedicated in thy name have had from thee, I will believe in thee and be baptized in thy name. For I have invoked my own gods, but, as I find, they have withdrawn from aiding me; and therefore I believe that they possess no power, since they do not help those who obey them. I now call upon the, I desire to believe the, only let me be rescued from my adversaries.” And when he said this, the Alamanni turned their backs, and began to disperse in flight. And when they saw that their king was killed, they submitted to the dominion of Clovis, saying: “Let not the people perish further, we pray; we are yours now.” And he stopped the fighting, and after encouraging his men, retired in peace and told the queen how he had had merit to win the victory by calling on the name of Christ. This happened in the fifteenth year of his reign.
31. Then the queen asked saint Remi, bishop of Rheims, to summon Clovis secretly, urging him to introduce the king to the word of salvation. And the bishop sent for him secretly and began to urge him to believe in the true God, maker of heaven and earth, and to cease worshipping idols, which could help neither themselves nor any one else. But the king said: “I gladly hear you, most holy father; but there remains one thing: the people who follow me cannot endure to abandon their gods; but I shall go and speak to them according to your words.” He met with his followers, but before he could speak the power of God anticipated him, and all the people cried out together, “O pious king, we reject our mortal gods, and we are ready to follow the immortal God whom Remi preaches.” This was reported to the bishop, who was greatly rejoiced, and bade them get ready the baptismal font. The squares were shaded with tapestried canopies, the churches adorned with white curtains, the baptistery set in order, the aroma of incense spread, candles of fragrant odor burned brightly, and the whole shrine of the baptistery was filled with a divine fragrance: and the Lord gave such grace to those who stood by that they thought they were placed amid the odors of paradise. And the king was the first to ask to be baptized by the bishop. Another Constantine advanced to the baptismal font, to terminate the disease of ancient leprosy and wash away with fresh water the foul spots that had long been borne. And when he entered to be baptized, the saint to God began with ready speech: “Gently bend your neck, Sigamber; worship what you burned; burn what you worshipped.” The holy bishop Remi was a man of excellent wisdom and especially trained in rhetorical studies, and of such surpassing holiness that he equaled the miracles of Silvester. For there is extant a book of his life which tells that he raised a dead man. And so the king confessed all-powerful God in the Trinity, and was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit, and was anointed with the holy ointment with the sign of the cross of Christ. And of his army more than 3000 were baptized. His sister also, Albofled, was baptized, who not long after passed to the Lord. And when the king was in mourning for her, the holy Remi sent a letter of consolation which began in this way: “The reason of your mourning pains me, and pains me greatly, that Albofled your sister, of good memory, has passed away. But I can give you this comfort, that her departure from the world was such that she ought to be envied rather than mourned.” Another sister also was converted, Lanthechild by name, who had fallen into the heresy of the Arians, and she confessed that the Son and the holy Spirit were equal to the Father, and was anointed.
32. At that time the brothers Gundobad and Godegisel were kings of the country about the Rhone and the Saone together with the province of Marseilles. And they, as well as their people, belonged to the Arian sect. And since they were fighting with each other, Godegisel, hearing of the victories of King Clovis, sent an embassy to him secretly, saying: “If you will give me aid in attacking my brother, so that I may be able to kill him in battle or drive him from the country, I will pay you every year whatever tribute you yourself wish to impose.” Clovis accepted this offer gladly, and promised aid whenever need should ask. And at a time agreed upon he marched his army against Gundobad. On hearing of this, Gundobad, who did not know of his brother’s treachery, sent to him, saying: “Come to my assistance, since the Franks are in motion against us and are coming to our country to take it. Therefore let us be united against a nation hostile to us, lest because of division we suffer in turn what other peoples have suffered.” And the other said: “I will come with my army, and will give you aid.” And these three, namely, Clovis against Gundobad and Godegisel, were marching their armies to the same point, and they came with all their warlike equipment to the stronghold named Dijon. And they fought on the river Ouche, and Goedgisel joined Clovis, and both armies crushed the people of Gundobad. And he perceived the treachery of his brother, whom he had not suspected, and turned his back and began to flee, hastening along the banks of the Rhone, and he came to the city of Avignon. And Godegisel having won the victory, promised to Clovis a part of his kingdom, and departed quietly and entered Vienne in triumph, as if he now held the whole kingdom. King Clovis increased his army further, and set off after Gundobad to drag him from his city and slay him. He heard it, and was terrified, and feared that sudden death would come to him. However he had with him Aridius, a man famed for energy and wisdom, and he sent for him and said: “Difficulties wall me in on every side, and I do not know what to do, because these barbarians have come upon us to slay us and destroy the whole country.” To this Aridius answered: “You must soften the fierceness of this man in order not to perish. Now if it is pleasing in your eyes, I will pretend to flee from you and to pass over to his side, and when I come to him, I shall prevent his harming either you or this country. Only be willing to do what he demands of you by my advice, until the Lord in his goodness deigns to make your cause successful.” And Gundobad said: “I will do whatever you direct.” When he said this, Aridius bade him good-by and departed, and going to King Clovis he said: “Behold I am your humbles servant, most pious king, I come to your protection, leaving the wretched Gundobad. And if your goodness condescends to receive me, both you and your children shall have in me a true and faithful servant.” Clovis received him very readily, and kept him by him, for he was entertaining in story-telling, ready in counsel, just in judgment, and faithful in what was put in his charge. Then when Clovis with all his army sat around the walls of the city, Aridius said: “O King, if the glory of your loftiness should kindly consent to hear the few words of my lowliness, though you do not need counsel, yet I would utter them with entire faithfulness, and they will be advantageous to you and to the cities through which you purpose to go. Why,” said he, “do you keep your army here, when your enemy sits in a very strong place? If you ravage the fields, lay waste the meadows, cut down the vineyards, lay low the olive-yards, and destroy all the produce of the country, you do not, however, succeed in doing him any harm. Send an embassy rather and impose tribute to be paid you every year, so that the country may be safe and you may rule forever over a tributary. And if he refuses, then do whatever pleases you.” The king took this advice, and commanded his army to return home. Then he sent an embassy to Gundobad, and ordered him to pay him every year a tribute. And he paid it at once and promised that he would pay it for the future.
33. Later he regained his power, and now contemptuously refused to pay the promised tribute to king Clovis, and set his army in motion against his brother Godegisel, and shut him up in the city of Vienne and besieged him. And when food began to be lacking for the common people, Godegisel was afraid that the famine would extend to himself, and gave orders that the common people be expelled from the city. When this was done, there was driven out, among the rest, the artisan who had charge of the aqueduct. And he was indignant that he had been cast out from the city with the rest, and went to Gundobad in a rage to inform him how to burst into the city and take vengeance on his brother. Under his guidance an army was led through the aqueduct, and many with iron crowbars went in front, for there was a vent in the aqueduct closed with a great stone, and when this had been pushed away with crowbars, by direction of the artisan, they entered the city, and surprised from the rear the defenders who were shooting arrows from the wall. the trumpet was sounded in the midst of the city, and the besiegers seized the gates, and opened them and entered at the same time, and when the people between these two battle lines were being slain by each army, Godegisel sought refuge in the church of the heretics, and was slain there along with the Arian bishop. Finally the Franks who were with Godegisel gathered in a tower. But Gundobad ordered that no harm should be done to a single one of them, but seized them and sent them in exile to king Alaric at Toulouse, and he slew the Burgundian senators who had conspired with Godegisel. He restored to his own dominion all the region which is now called Burgundy. He established milder laws for the Burgundians lest they should oppress the Romans.
[34. King Gundobad is converted to the doctrine of the Trinity but will not confess it in public. The writings of bishop Avitus are described.]
35. Now when Alaric, king of the Goths, saw Clovis conquering nations steadily, he sent envoys to him saying: “If my brother consents, it is the desire of my heart that with God’s favor we have a meeting.” Clovis did not spurn this proposal but went to meet him. They met in an island of the Loire which is near the village of Amboise in the territory of Tours, and they talked and ate and drank together, and plighted friendship and departed in peace. Even at that time many in the Gauls desired greatly to have the Franks as masters.
36. Whence it happened that Quintian, bishop of Rodez, was driven from his city through ill-will on this account. For they said: “It is your desire that the rule of the Franks be extended over this land.” A few days later a quarrel arose between him and the citizens, and the Goths who had dwelt in the city became suspicious when the citizens charged that he wished to submit himself to the control of the Franks; they took counsel and decided to slay him with the sword. When this was reported to the man of God he rose in the night and left the city of Rodez with his most faithful servants and went to Clermont. There he was received kindly by the holy bishop Eufrasius, who had succeeded Aprunculus of Dijon, and he kept Quintian with him, giving him houses as well as fields and vineyards, and saying: “The wealth of this church is enough to keep us both; only let the charity which the blessed apostle preaches endure among the bishops of God.” Moreover the bishop of Lyons bestowed upon him some of the possessions of the church which he had in Augergne. And the rest about the holy Quintian, both the plottings which he endured and the miracles which the Lord deigned to work through him, are written in the book of his life.
37. Now Clovis the king said to his people: “I take it very hard that these Arians hold part of the Gauls. Let us go with God’s help and conquer them and bring the land under our control.” Since these words pleased all, he set his army in motion and made for Poitiers where Alaric was at that time. But since part of the host was passing through Touraine, he issued an edict out of respect to the blessed Martin that on one should take anything from that country except grass for fodder, and water. But one from the army found a poor man’s hay and said: “Did not the king order grass only to be taken, nothing else? And this,” said he, “Is grass. We shall not be transgressing his command if we take it.” And when he had done violence to the poor man and taken his hay by force, the deed came to the king. And quicker than speech the offender was slain with the sword, and the king said: “And where shall our hope of victory be if we offend the blessed Martin? It would be better for the army to take nothing else from this country.” The king himself sent envoys to the blessed church saying: “Go, and perhaps you will receive some omen of victory from the holy temple.” Then giving them gifts to set up in the holy place, he said, “If thou, O Lord, art my helper, and hast determined to surrender this unbelieving nation, always striving against thee, into my hands, consent to reveal it propitiously at the entrance to the church of St. Martin, so that I may know that thou wilt deign to be favorable to thy servant.” Clovis’ servants went on their way according to the king’s command, and drew near to the place, and when they were about to enter the holy church, the first singer, without any prearrangement, sand this response: “Thou has girded me, O Lord, with strength unto the battle; thou has subdued under me those that rose up against me, and has made mine enemies turn their backs unto me, and thou has utterly destroyed them that hated me.” On hearing this singing they thanked the Lord, and paying their vow to the blessed confessor they joyfully made their report to the king. Moreover, when he came to the river Vienne with his army, he did not know where he ought to cross. For the river had swollen from the rains. When he had prayed to the Lord in the night to show him a ford where he could cross, in the morning by God’s will a hind of wonderful size entered the river before them, and when it passed over the people saw where they could cross. When the king came to the neighborhood of Poitiers and was encamped some distance off, he saw a ball of fire come out of the church of Saint Hilarius and pass, as it were, over him, to show that, aided by the light of the blessed confessor Hilarius, he should more boldly conquer the heretic armies, against which the same bishop had often fought for the faith. And he made it known to all the army that neither there nor on the way should they spoil any one or take any one’s property.
There was in these days a man of praiseworthy holiness, the abbot Maxentius, who had become a recluse in his own monastery in Poitou because of his fear of God. We have not put the name of the monastery in this account because the place is called to the present day Cellula sancti Maxentii. And when his monks saw a division of the host approaching the monastery, they prayed to the abbot to come forth from his cell to consult with them. And as he stayed, they were panic-stricken and opened the door and dragged him from his cell. And he hastened boldly to meet the enemy to ask for peace. And one of them drew out his sword to launch a stroke at his head, and when he had raised his hand to his ear it became rigid and the sword fell. And he threw himself at the feet of the blessed man, asking pardon. And the rest of them seeing this returned in great fear to the army, afraid that they should all perish together. the man’s arm the holy confessor rubbed with consecrated oil, and made over it the sign of the cross and restored it to soundness. And owing to his protection the monastery remained uninjured. He worked many other miracles also, and if any one diligently seeks for them he will find them all in reading the book of his Life. In the twenty fifth year of Clovis.
Meantime king Clovis met with Alaric, king of the Goths, in the plain of Vouillé at the tenth mile-stone from Poitiers, and while the one army was for fighting at a distance the other tried to come to close combat. And when the Goths had fled as was their custom, king Cloves won the victory by God’s aid. He had to help him the son of Sigibert the lame, named Chloderic. This Sigibert was lame from a wound in the leg, received in a battle with the Alemanni near the town of Zulpich. Now when the king had put the Goths to flight and slain king Alaric, two of the enemy suddenly appeared and struck at him with their lances, one on each side. But he was saved from death by the help of his coat of mail, as well as by his fast horse. At that time there perished a very great number of the people of Auvergne, who had come with Apollinaris and the leading senators. From this battle Amalric, son of Alaric, fled to Spain and wisely seized his father’s kingdom. Clovis sent his son Theodoric to Clermont by way of Albi and Rodez. He went, and brought under his father’s dominion the cities from the boundaries of the Goths to the limit of the Burgundians. Alaric reigned twenty-two years. When Clovis had spent the winter in Bordeaux and taken all the treasures of Alaric at Toulouse, he went to Angouleme. And the Lord gave him such grace that the walls fell down of their own accord when he gazed at them. Then he drove the Goths out and brought the city under his own dominion. Thereupon after completing his victory he returned to Tours, bringing many gifts to the holy church of the blessed Martin.
38. Clovis received an appointment to the consulship from the emperor Anastasius, and in the church of the blessed Martin he clad himself in the purple tunic and chlamys, and placed a diadem on his head. Then he mounted his horse, and in the most generous manner he gave gold and silver as he passed along the way which is between the gate of the entrance [of the church of St. Martin] and the church of the city, scattering it among the people who were there with his own hand, and from that day he was called consul or Augustus. Leaving Tours he went to Paris and there he established the seat of his kingdom. There also Theodoric came to him.
[39. Licinius was bishop of Tours at the time of Clovis’ visit. His travels.]
40. When King Clovis was dwelling at Paris he sent secretly to the son of Sigibert saying: “Behold your father has become an old man and limps in his weak foot. If he should die,” said he, “of due right his kingdom would be yours together with our friendship.” Led on by greed the son plotted to kill his father. And when his father went out from the city of Cologne and crossed the Rhine and was intending to journey through the wood Buchaw, as he slept at midday in his tent his son sent assassins in against him, and killed him there, in the idea that he would get his kingdom. but by God’s judgment he walked into the pit that he had cruelly dug for his father. He sent messengers to king Clovis to tell about his father’s death, and to say: “My father is dead, and I have his treasures in my possession, and also his kingdom. Send men to me, and I shall gladly transmit to you from his treasures whatever pleases you.” And Clovis replied: “I thank you for your good will, and I ask that you show the treasures to my men who come, and after that you shall possess all yourself.” When they came, he showed his father’s treasures. And when they were looking at the different things he said: “It was in this little chest that my father used to put his gold coins.” “Thrust in your hand,” said they, “to the bottom, and uncover the whole.” When he did so, and was much bent over, one of them lifted his hand and dashed his battle-ax against his head, and so in a shameful manner he incurred the death which he had brought on his father. Clovis heard that Sigibert and his son had been slain, and came to the place and summoned all the people, saying: “Hear what has happened. When I,” said he, “was sailing down the river Scheldt Cloderic, son of my kinsman, was in pursuit of his own father asserting that I wished him killed. And when his father was fleeing through the forest of Buchaw, he set highwaymen upon him, and gave him over to death, and slew him. And when he was opening the treasures, he was slain himself by some one or other. Now I know nothing at all of these matters. for I cannot shed the blood of my own kinsmen, which it is a crime to do. But since this has happened, I give you my advice, if it seems acceptable; turn to me, that you may be under my protection.” They listened to this, and giving applause with both shields and voices, they raised him on a shield, and made him king over them. He received Sigibert’s kingdom with his treasures, and place the people, too, under his rule. For God was laying his enemies low every day under his hand, and was increasing his kingdom, because he walked with an upright heart before him, and did what was pleasing in his eyes.
41. After this he turned to Chararic. when he had fought with Siagrius this Chararic had been summoned to help Clovis, but stood at a distance, aiding neither side, but awaiting the outcome, in order to form a league of friendship with him to whom victory came. for this reason Clovis was angry, and went out against him. He entrapped and captured him and his son also, and kept them in prison, and gave them the tonsure; he gave orders to ordain Chararic priest and his son deacon. And when Chararic complained of his degradation and wept, it is said that his son remarked: “It was on green wood,” said he, “that these twigs were cut, and they are not altogether withered. They will shoot out quickly, and be able to grow; may he perish as swiftly who has done this.” This utterance was reported to the ears of Clovis, namely, that they were threatening to let their hair grow, and kill him. And he ordered them both to be put to death. When they were dead, he took their kingdom with the treasures and people.
42. Ragnachar was then king at Cambrai, a man so unrestrained in his wantonness that he scarcely had mercy for his own near relatives. He had a counsellor Farro, who defiled himself with a like vileness. And it was said that when food, or a gift, or anything whatever was brought to the king, he was wont to say that it was enough for him and his Farro. And at this thing the Franks were in a great rage. And so it happened that Clovis gave golden armlets and belts, but all only made to resemble God — for it was bronze gilded so as to deceive — these he gave to Ragnachar’s leudes to be invited to attack him. Moreover, when Clovis had set his army in motion against him, and Ragnachar was continually sending spies to get information, on the return of his messengers he used to ask how strong the force was. And they would answer: “It is a great sufficiency for you and your Farro.” Clovis came and made war on him, and he saw that his army was beaten and prepared to slip away in flight, but was seized by his army, and with his hands tied behind his back, he was taken with Ricchar his brother before Clovis. And Clovis said to him: “Why have you humiliated our family in permitting yourself to be bound? It would have been better for you to die.” And raising his ax he dashed it against his head, and he turned to his brother and said: “If you had aided your brother, he would not have been bound.” And in the same way he smote him with his ax and killed him. After their death their betrayers perceived that the gold which they had received from the king was false. When they told the king of this, it is said that he answered: “Rightly,” said he, “does he receive this kind of gold, who of his own will brings his own master to death;” it ought to suffice them that they were alive, and were not put to death, to mourn amid torments the wicked betrayal of their masters. When they heard this, they prayed for mercy, saying it was enough for them if they were allowed to live. The kings named above were kinsmen of Clovis, and their brother, Rignomer by name, was slain by Clovis’ order at the city of Mans. When they were dead Clovis received all their kingdom and treasures. And having killed many other kings and his nearest relatives, of whom he was jealous lest they take the kingdom from him, he extended his rule over all the Gauls. However he gathered his people together at one time, it is said, and spoke of the kinsmen whom he had himself destroyed. “Woe to me, who have remained as a stranger among foreigners, and have none of my kinsmen to give me aid if adversity comes.” But he said this not because of grief at their death but by way of a ruse, if perchance he should be able to find some one still to kill.
43. After all this he died at Paris, and was buried in the church of the holy apostles, which he had himself had built together with his queen Clotilda. He passed away in the fifth year after the battle of Vouílle, and all the days of his reign were thirty years, and his age was forty-five. From the death of St. Martin to the death of king Clovis, which happened in the eleventh year of the episcopate of Licinius, bishop of Tours, one hundred and twelve years are reckoned. Queen Clotilda came to Tours after the death of her husband and served there in the church of St. Martin, and dwelt in the place with the greatest chastity and kindness all the days of her life, rarely visiting Paris.
Here ends the Second Book.
from the Fourth Book:
27. Now when Sigibert saw that his brothers were taking wives unworthy of them, and to their disgrace were actually marrying slave women, he sent an embassy into Spain and with many gifts asked for Brunhilda, daughter of king Athanagild. She was a maiden beautiful in her person, lovely to look at, virtuous and well-behaved, with good sense and a pleasant address. Her father did not refuse, but sent her to the king I have named with great treasures. And the king collected his chief men, made ready a feast, and took her as his wife amid great joy and mirth. And though she was a follower of the Arian law she was converted by the preaching of the bishops and the admonition of the king himself, and she confessed the blessed Trinity in unity, and believed and was baptized. And she still remains catholic in Christ’s name.
28. When Chilperic saw this, although he had already too many wives, he asked for her sister Galsuenda, promising through his ambassadors that he would abandon the others if he could only obtain a wife worthy of himself and the daughter of a king. Her father accepted these promises and sent his daughter with much wealth, as he had done before. Now Galsuenda was older than Brunhilda. And coming to king Chilperic she was received with great honor, and united to him in marriage, and she was also greatly loved by him. for she had brought great treasures. But because of his love of Fredegunda whom he had had before, there arose a great scandal which divided them. Galsuenda had already been converted to the catholic law and baptized. And complaining to the king that she was continually enduring outrages and had no honor with him, she asked to leave the treasures which she had brought with her and be permitted to go free to her native land. But he made ingenious pretences and calmed her with gentle words. At length he ordered her to be strangled by a slave and found her dead on the bed. After her death God caused a great miracle to appear. For the lighted lamp which hung by a rope in front of her tomb broke the rope without being touched by anyone and dashed upon the pavement and the hard pavement yielded under it and it went down as if into some soft substance and was buried to the middle but not at all damaged. Which seemed a great miracle to all who saw it. But when the king had mourned her death a few days, he married Fredegunda again. After this action his brothers thought that the queen mentioned above had been killed at his command, and they tried to expel him from the kingdom. Chilperic at that time had three sons by his former wife Audovera, namely Theodobert, whom we have mentioned above, Merovech and Clovis. But let us return to our task.
29. The Huns were again endeavoring to make an entrance into the Gauls. Sigibert marched against them with his army, leading a great number of brave men. And when they were about to fight, the Huns, who were versed in magic arts, caused false appearances of various sorts to come before them and defeated them decisively. Sigibert’s army fled, but he himself was taken by the Huns and would have remained a prisoner if he had not overcome by his skill in making presents the men who he could not conquer in battle. He was a man of fine appearance and good address. He gave gifts and entered into an agreement with their king that all the days of their lives they should fight no battles with one another. And this incident is rightly believed to be more to his credit than otherwise. The king of the Huns also gave many gifts to king Sigibert. He was called Gaganus. All the kings of that people are called by this name.
[30. King Sigibert attempts to take Arles from his brother Gunthram but fails.]
31. Now a great prodigy appeared in the Gauls at the town of Tauredunum, situated on the river Rhone. After a sort of rumbling had continued for more than sixty days, the mountain was finally torn away and separated from another mountain near it, together with men, churches, property and houses, and fell into the river, and the banks of the river were blocked and the water flowed back. For that place was shut in on either side by mountains and the torrent flowed in a narrow way. It overflowed above and engulfed and destroyed all that was on the bank. Then the gathered water burst its way downstream and took men by surprise, as it had above, and caused a loss of life, overturned houses, destroyed beasts of burden, and overwhelmed with a sudden and violent flood all that was on the banks as far as the city of Geneva. It is told by many that the mass of water was so great that it went over the walls into the city mentioned. And there is no doubt of this tale because as we have said the Rhone flows in that region between mountains that hem it in closely, and being so closely shut in, it has no place to turn aside. It carried away the fragments of the mountain that had fallen and thus caused it to disappear wholly. And after this thirty monks came to the place where the town fell in ruins and began to dig in the ground which remained when the mountain had fallen, trying to find bronze and iron. And while engaged in this they heard a rumbling of the mountain like the former one. And while they were kept there by their greed the part of the mountain which had not yet fallen fell on them and covered and destroyed them and none of them was found. In like manner too before the plague at Clermont great prodigies terrified that region. For three or four great shining places frequently appeared about the sun and the rustics used to call them suns, saying: “Behold, three or four suns in the sky.” Once on the first of October the sun was so darkened that not a quarter of it continued bright, but it looked hideous and discolored, about like a sack. Moreover a star which certain call a comet, with a ray like a sword, appeared over that country through a whole year, and the sky seemed to be on fire and many other signs were seen. In the church at Clermont while the morning watches were being observed at a certain festival, a bird of the kind we call lark entered, flapping its wings above the lights, and so swiftly extinguished them all that one would think they had been taken by the hand of a single man and plunged into water. The bird passed under the veil into the sanctuary and attempted to put out the light there but it was prevented from doing so by the door-keepers and killed. In the church of the blessed Andrew another bird did the same with the lighted lamps. And presently the plague came, and such a carnage of the people took place through the whole district that the legions that fell could not be counted. For when sepulchers and grave-stones failed, ten or more would be buried in a single trench. three hundred dead bodies were counted on Sunday in the church of the blessed Peter alone. Death was sudden. A wound in the shape of a serpent would appear on groin or armpit and the man would be so overcome by the poison as to die on the second or third day. Moreover the power of the poison rendered the victim insensible. At that time Cato the priest died. For when many had fled from the plague he never left the place, but remained courageously burying the people and celebrating mass. He was a priest of great kindliness and a warm friend of the poor. And if he had some pride, this virtue I think counterbalanced it. But the bishop Cautinus, after running from place to place in fear of this plague, returned to the city, caught it and died on the day before Passion Sunday. At that very hour too, Tetradius his cousin died. At that time Lyons, Bourges, Cahors, and Dijon were seriously depopulated from this plague.
Read also the section at the beginning of Auerbach’s Mimesis, Ch. IV: “Sicharius and Chramnesindus”.