Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter v: Of the Name of the Franks, and their sundry Excursions; and what time they first began to establish a Kingdom in Gallia - An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
Return to Title Page for An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
chapter v: Of the Name of the Franks, and their sundry Excursions; and what time they first began to establish a Kingdom in Gallia - Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor 
An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor, Edited and with an Introduction by Justin Champion (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
About Liberty Fund:
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
Of the Name of the Franks, and their sundry Excursions; and what time they first began to establish a Kingdom in Gallia
But I think it requisite that we should enquire a little more carefully into this Name of Franks; which, as we told you before, is not to be found in any of the ancient Descriptions of Germany. That I may no longer detain the Reader in Suspense, it must needs be, that either the Nation of the Franks, by which such mighty things were done, was at first very obscure and mean, (as we see in Switz, an ordinary Village); yet because the first beginning of the Liberty of those Countries proceeded from thence, gave the name of Switzers to all the rest of the Cantons: Or (which seems to me most probable) this Appellation had its Original from the Occasion; viz. When those that set up for the prime Leaders and Beginners, in recovering the publick liberty, called themselves Franks; by which name the Germans understood such as were Free, and under no Servitude; as the Writers of that Nation do unanimously hold: And therefore in ordinary Speech, by a Frank was meant a Freeman, by a Franchise, an Asylum, or place of refuge; and Francisare signified to restore to liberty and freedom.69 The first Proof we shall give of this, is, what Procopius in his first Book of the Gothick Wars relates. The Franks (says he) were anciently by a general name call’d Germans; but after they exceeded their Limits, they obtain’d the name of Franks: Of the same Opinion I find Gregory of Tours, the Abbot of Ursperg, Sigibertus and Ado of Vienne, and Godfrey of Viterbo to have been; viz. That they had the Name of Franks from their freedom, and from their ferocity, (alluding to the sound of the words Francos Feroces,) because they refused to serve as Soldiers under Valentinian the Emperor, and to pay Tribute as other Nations did. A second Proof may be that of Cornelius Tacitus, who in his 20th Book, speaking of the Caninefates, whom we have formerly demonstrated to have been the very next Neighbours, if not the true Franks themselves, and of their Victory over the Romans, he has this expression: Clara ea victoria, etc. “That Victory (says he) was of great Reputation to them immediately after it, and of great Profit in the Sequel, for having by that Means got both Weapons and Ships into their Possession, which before they were in great want of; their Fame was spread over all Germany and Gaul, as being the first beginners of Liberty; Libertatis Auctores celebrabantur.”; For the Germans thereupon sent Ambassadors, offering their Assistance. May the Omen prove lucky! and may the Franks truly and properly deserve that name; who after having shaken off that Yoke of Slavery, imposed upon them by Tyrants, have thought fit to preserve to themselves a commendable liberty even under the Domination of Kings: For to obey a King is not servitude: neither are all who are govern’d by Kings, presently for that Reason to be counted Slaves, but such as submit themselves to the un-bounded Will of a Tyrant, a Thief, and Executioner, as Sheep resign themselves to the Knife of the Butcher. Such as these deserve to be called by the vile names of Servants and Slaves.
Therefore the Franks had always Kings, even at that very time when they profess’d themselves the vindicators and assertors of the publick liberty: And when they constituted Kings, they never intended they should be Tyrants or Executioners, but keepers of their Liberties,Protectors, Governors and Tutors. Such, in short, as we shall describe hereafter when we come to give an Account of the Francogallican Government.
For, as to what a certain, foolish and ignorant Monk, called John Turpin, has wrote (in his Life, or rather Romance of Charlemagn) concerning the Original, of the Word Frank, viz. That whoever contributed Money towards the Building of St. Denis’s Church, should be called Francus, that is, a Freeman; is not worthy of being remembered, no more than all the rest of his trifling Works, stuff’d full of old Wives Tales, and mere Impertinencies.
But this may be truly affirm’d, that this name of Franks, or (as Corn. Tacitus interprets it) Authors of Liberty, was an Omen so lucky and fortunate to them, that through it they gain’d almost innumerable Victories. For after the Franks had quitted their ancient Seats upon that glorious Design, they deliver’d not only Germany, their common country, but also France from the Tyranny and Oppression of the Romans; and at last (crossing the Alps) even a great part of Italy it self.
The first mention made of this illustrious name, we find in Trebellius Pollio’s Life of the Emperor Gallienus, about the 260th Year after Christ. His Words are these: “Cum, etc. Whilst Gallienus spent his time in nothing but Gluttony and shameful Practices, and govern’d the Commonwealth after so ridiculous a manner, that it was like Boy’s play, when they set up Kings in jest among themselves; the Gauls, who naturally hate luxurious Princes, elected Posthumus for their Emperor, who at that time was Gallienus’s Lieutenant in Gaul with imperial Authority, Gallienus thereupon commenced a War with Posthumus; and Posthumus being assisted by many Auxiliaries, both of the Celtae and the Franks, took the Field along with Victorinus.”70 By which Words we may plainly perceive, that the Gauls crav’d the Assistance of the Franks; that is, of these Authors or Beginners of Liberty, to enable them to shake off the Tyrant Gallienus ’s Yoke: Which same thing Zonaras hints at in his Life of Gallienus, when he says, “He fought against the Franks.”;71 We find another mention made of the same People in Flavius Vopiscus’s Life of Aurelian, in these Words: “At Metz the Tribune of the 6th Legion discomfited the Franks, who had made Incursions, and overspread all Gallia; he slew 700, and sold 300 Captives for Slaves.”; For you must not expect that our Franks, any more than other Nations in their Wars, were constantly victorious, and crown’d with Success. On the contrary, we read that Constantine, afterwards call’d the Great, took Prisoners two of their Kings, and exposed them to the Wild Beasts at the publick shews. Which Story both Eutropius in his 9th Book, and the Rhetorician in that Panegyrick so often quoted, make mention of.
And because the same Rhetorician in another place speaks of those Wars in the Confines of the Batavi, which we have shewn not to be far distant from the Franks, I will set down his Words at Length. “Multa Francorum millia, etc. He slew, drove out, and took Prisoners many thousand Franks, who had invaded Batavia, and other Territories on this side the Rhine.” And in another Place says, “He clear’d the Country of the Batavians, which had before been possess’d by several Nations and Kings of the Franks; and not satisfied with only overcoming them, he transplanted them into the Roman Territories, and forced them to lay aside their Fierceness as well as their Weapons.”72 From which place we are given to understand, not obscurely, that Constantine, (being constrain’d to do so by the Franks) granted them Lands within the Bounds of the Roman Empire. Ammianus, lib. 15. writes, that the Franks, during the Civil Wars between Constantine and Licinius, sided with Constantine, and fought very valiantly for him. And in other places of the same Book he records, that during the Reign of Constantine, the Son of Constantine, great numbers of Franks were at that Court in high favour and authority, with Caesar. “Afterwards, says he, Malarichus on a sudden got power, having gained the Franks; whereof at that time great numbers flourish’d at Court.” During the Reign of Julian, call’d the Apostate, the same Franks endeavour’d to restore the City of Cologne (which was grievously oppress’d by Roman Slavery) to its liberty: and forced it, after a long Siege, to surrender through Famine; as the same Ammianus tells us, lib. 12. And because one Band of those Franks fix’d their Habitations upon the Banks of the River Sala, they were thereupon called Salii; concerning whom he writes in the same Book, “Having prepar’d these things, he first of all march’d toward the Franks; I mean those Franks which were commonly called Salii, who had formerly with great boldness fix’d their Habitations within the Roman Territories, near a place called Toxiandria.”; Again, in his 20th Book he makes mention of that Country possess’d by the Franks beyond the Rhine, and called “Francia.” “Having on a sudden pass’d the Rhine, he entered the Country of those Franks called Attuarii, a turbulent sort of People, who at that time made great Havock on the Frontiers of Gallia.”; And in his 30th Book, where he speaks of King Macrianus, with whom Valentinian the Emperor had lately made a Peace on the Banks of the Rhine, in the Territory of Metz, “He died, says he, in Francia, whilst he was utterly wasting with Fire and Sword all before him, being kill’d in an Ambush laid for him by that valiant King Mellobaudes.”; Now of this Mellobaudes, King of the Franks, the same Author in his following Book gives this Character; “That he was brave and valiant, and upon the score of his Military Virtue constituted great Matter of the Household by the Emperor Gratianus, and Lieutenant-General (in conjunction with Nannienus) of that Army which was sent against the Lentiates, a People of Germany.”; Afterwards, by virtue of a Treaty concluded between the Franks and the Emperor Honorius, they defended the Frontiers of the Roman Gallia against Stilicon: For Orosius tells us in his last Book, “That the Nations of the Alani, Suevi and Vandali, being (together with many others) encouraged by Stilicon; pass’d the Rhine, wasted the Territories of the Franks, and invaded Gallia.”;
After the Emperor Honorius’s time, we have very little in History extant concerning the Frank ’s Warlike Deeds. For to those Times must be apply’d what St. Ambrose writes in his Letter (the 29th) to Theodosius the Emperor: That the Franks both in Sicily and many other Places, had overthrown Maximus the Roman General. “He (says he, speaking of Maximus) was presently beaten by the Franks and Saxons in all places of the Earth.” But in the Reign of Valentinian the 3rd, that is, about the 450th Year of Christ, ’tis plain, by the consent of all Writers, that Childeric, the Son of Meroveus, King of the Franks, completed the Deliverance of Gallia from the Roman Tyranny, after a continued Struggle of more than 200 Years; and was the first that establish’d in Gallia a firm and certain Seat of Empire: For although some reckon Pharamond and Clodiocrinitus as the first Kings of the Franks, yet without doubt there were many before them, who (like them) had cross’d the Rhine, and made Irruptions into Gallia: but none had been able to settle any peaceable Dominion within the Limits of Gallia. Now Meroveus, who is commonly reckon’d the 3rd King; though he was indeed King of the Franks, yet he was a Stranger and a Foreigner, not created King in Gallia, not King of the Francogalli; that is to say, not elected by the joynt Suffrages of both Nations united: In short, all these were Kings of the Franci, and not of the Francogalli. But Childeric, the Son of Meroveus, was (as we said before) the first that was elected by the publick Council of the associated Franks and Gauls; and he was created King of Francogallia presently after his Father Meroveus had been kill’d in a Battle against Attila, during the Reign of Valentinian the Third, a dissolute and profligate Prince. At which time the Angli and Scoti took Possession of Great Britain; the Burgundians of Burgundy,Savoy and Dauphine; the Goths of Aquitain; the Vandals of Africk and Italy, nay of Rome it self; the Hunni under their Leader Attila wasted Gallia with Fire and Sword. This Attila having an Army of about Five hundred thousand Men, over-ran all Gallia as far as Toulouse. Aetius was at that time Governor of Gallia, who fearing the Power of Attila, made a League with the Goths, and by their assistance defeated Attila in a Battle; wherein, ’tis said, they slew no fewer than a Hundred and eighty thousand Men. But the Conqueror Aetius being suspected by Valentinian of aspiring to the Empire, was afterwards, by his Command, put to Death; and within a little while after, he himself was slain by Maximus before-mention’d.
During these Transactions, Meroveus, King of the Franks, taking his Opportunity, pass’d the Rhine, with a great Army; and joyning in Confederacy with many Cities, who assisted in the common Cause of the publick Liberty, possess’d himself at length of the innermost Cities belonging to the Celtae, between the Seine and the Garonne. He being dead, and both Nations (the Gauls and Franks) united into one Commonwealth; they unanimously elected Childeric, the Son of Meroveus, for their King, placing him upon a Shield according to ancient Custom; and carrying him upon their Shoulders thrice round the place of Assembly, with great Acclamations of Joy, and universal Congratulation, saluted him King of Francogallia. Of all which particulars, Sidonius Apollinaris,Gregorius Turonensis,Otto Frising.Aimoinus, and others are Witnesses; whose Testimonies we shall further produce, when we come to treat of the Manner of the Inauguration of the King.
The Words of the same Otto, in the last Chapter but one of his 4th Book concerning their taking possession of several Cities, are these. “The Franks, after having pass’d the Rhine, in the first place put to flight the Romans, who dwelt thereabouts; afterwards they took Tournay and Cam-bray, Cities of Gallia; and from thence gaining ground, by degrees they subdued Rheims, Soissons, Orleans, Cologne and Triers.”; And thus much may briefly be said touching the first King of Francogallia. To which we shall only subjoin this Remark:73 That although the Francogallican Kingdom has lasted from that time to this, almost One thousand two hundred Years; yet during so long a space, there are but three Families reckon’d to have possess’d the Throne, viz. the Merovingians; who beginning from Meroveus, continued it to their Posterity two hundred eighty three Years. The Carolingians, who drawing their Original from Charles the Great, enjoy’d it 337 Years: And lastly, the Capetians, who being descended from Hugh Capet, now rule the Kingdom, and have done so for Five hundred and eighty Years past.
[69. ]The phrases “publick liberty” and “liberty and freedom” are expansions of the Latin originals libertatem, libertatis.
[70. ]GS Franc. identify this as Scriptores Historiae Augustae, s.v. “Gallieni” (Loeb 3:22 and 3:30).
[71. ]GS Franc. (p. 208) identify the Greek passage as Annal xii, 24.
[72. ]GS Franc. (p. 208) identify it as Panegyricus Maximiano et Constantino iv. The Panegyric Latini were a collection of twelve anonymous fourth-century Roman orations.
[73. ]Note in margin: “Hotoman’s Francogallia was written Anno 1574.”