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Wars and Warriors in Gregory of Tours’ Histories I-IV

Wars and Warriors in Gregory of Tours’ Histories I-IV

Wars and Warriors in Gregory of Tours’ Histories I-IV

By Phillip Wynn

Francia, v.28 (2001)

Introduction: In his book on Gregory of Tours’ Histories, Martin Heinzelmann showed how Gregory interpreted events and stylized his narrative according to a scheme of Biblically-based typological situations and persons. An appreciation of this figurative aspect can be extended in analyzing some of the work’s dynamics. The Histories’ characters are not static Biblical archetypes, but are enmeshed in a purposeful, driven narrative, a view best illuminated by Gregory’s thread on war, war’s actors, and the conceptual settings and dramatic framework of the wars depicted in the well-established unit of Books I-IV.

Here Gregory contrasts his contemporary kings with Clovis, who is portrayed as the founder of a divinely-legitimated dynasty and thereby the exemplar of Christian royalty to his successors. Gregory’s narratives on war not only have characters based on Biblical types but are driven as well by a generalized Biblical metaphor. The resulting interpretation allows a glimpse of the author’s ideology and worldview as much as any insight into fifth- or sixth-century Gallic history.

The best guide to Gregory’s intentions in the first four books is Book V’s preface, more epilogue than prologue. He adopts the stance of Deuteronomistic prophecy, which warns the kings of Israel against having “many wives, lest they seduce his heart, nor shall he possess an immensity of gold and silver.” The case fit well the polygamous Merovingians, whose store-rooms and treasure-houses were “overflowing with wine, wheat, and olive oil, and piled high with silver and gold”


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