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An Introduction to the Franks.

Updated on July 28, 2015
A Statue of Charlemagne in Frankfurt.
A Statue of Charlemagne in Frankfurt. | Source

The Germanic tribe the Franks emerged from the rubble of the Roman Empire and set Europe on it's destiny. Strong ruler's expanded the lands of the Frank's by conquest and strategic alliances. The Frank's are notable for giving the country of France it's name and in securing the lead role in the reconstruction of Dark Age Europe. The most famous Frankish Kings are Clovis and Charlemagne, both set pagan Europe on a course towards accepting Christianity over the ancient religions of the continent. King Charlemagne gained great prestige for his Kingdom and was the first King to become the leader of the Holy Roman Empire. Europe's attempt of recapturing the power and legend of the Empire of the Roman's. This ambitious tribe almost replaced the might of the Roman Empire in Europe.

Origin's of the Frankish tribe.

The Frank's had to compete with other European and encroaching Asiatic tribes for the spoil's of the Roman Empire's lands. As Europe was carved up, many old Kingdom's reappeared and were annexed by the Germanic tribes eager for their own lands. The period is often described in Historical texts as the "Great Migration".

Europe in the Fifth Century AD was a crumbling network of old Roman provinces either in the hands of ailing Governer's or swamped with huge numbers of nomadic tribes. There was no effective Roman Legion to enforce border's and defend the lengthy frontier. In Rome's obvious weakness there was real opportunity for the many tribes who had either been servile to Rome's wishes or banished from their ancestral lands.

The Frank's were a tribe that originated from the mid-Rhine region of Europe, their true name can only be speculated on and the term "Frank's" came from the Roman's. The Frank's were known to the Roman's and were mentioned in Roman Maps of their Empire by 350 AD. The Frank's were settled near modern day Belgium by the Roman's but the Frank's desired territory to the South of the Rhine, perhaps this was their native land. The tribe was known as a sometime enemy of the Empire and also at points in time an ally. This was due to the tribe been split by Geography, Politic's and military duties. One part of the tribe was content to serve as Auxiliaries to the Roman Legion as it offered certain advantage's. This kind of arrangement was known as becoming "Foederati ", this was while the second group chose to be more aggressive to the Roman Empire and undertook pirate activities from their lands along the Belgium/ Netherlands coastline.

By the year 450 AD the Germanic tribes were causing all manner of problems for the crumbling Roman Empire. Soon the Germanic tribes would be at arm's in an attempt to claim their own Kingdoms. King Clovis ( 466-511 AD ) was the King who managed to unite the Frankish people's and establish a Kingdom in much of modern day France. He succeeded in reducing the strength of the tribal Chieftan's and expanding the borders of his Empire by the sword. King Clovis I was also the first Christian King of the Frank's and he spread the influence of Christianity throughout his fledgling Europe. This cause was continued and championed by the Frankish Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Great, also known as Charlemagne.

Tomb of Clovis the First, Merovingian King of the Frank's.
Tomb of Clovis the First, Merovingian King of the Frank's. | Source

Frankish Kings since 679- 840 AD

Theuderic III
679-691 AD
Clovis IV
691-695 AD
Childebert III
695-711 AD
Dagobert III
711-715 AD
Chilperic II
715-720 AD
Theuderic IV
720-737 AD
Childeric III
743-752 AD
752-768 AD
768- 814 AD
Louis the Pious
814- 840 AD
Before 679 AD, the Kingdom was continually split between the Frankish King's Sons.

Christianity and Charlemagne

King Clovis converted to Christianity as he saw as a means to legitimize his rule and utilize the power of the Holy Church of Rome. The Roman Empire's power had dissolved but the Church of Rome was increasing in power, Christianity had the numbers to demand obedience. If a King was able to gain Papal approval he could further his ambitions in the name of God Almighty. The established lines of succession helped King Clovis and his successors, A King was now appointed by a Christian God and the need for warfare to press a claim was almost seen as blasphemy.

King Clovis was the first of the Merovingian monarchs and the line would continue passing within the same family until 751 AD when Pepin the Short and Pope Zachary deposed the King with the support of the nobility. This brought about the start of the Carolingian Empire and Pepin the Short was succeeded by his son Charles the Great ( Charlemagne ).Charlemagne would change the face of Europe in a way not seen since the Roman's.

Charlemagne knew that Christianity gave his regime legitimacy and heritage, the power of his Kingdom was linked to the prosperity of the Catholic Church. As Charlemagne's power grew in Europe, so did his favour and influence in the Papal state. The Pope could excommunicate a Christian who waged war on another Christian Kingdom, especially when barbarian's threatened the Church from the wild's of the Eurasian Steppes.

A Saxon warrior
A Saxon warrior

Relation's with other tribe's

The Frank's rose to European supremacy by slowly taking the land from other Germanic tribes. The rule of the Merovingian and Carolingian lines gave the people's of Europe a solid and organized rule after the near anarchy of the Western Roman Empires decline. The Frank's fought campaigns against the Visigoth's in Southern France, the Frisian's along the North Sea coast and the Saxon's in the Northern parts of modern Germany.

Charlemagne imposed Christianity on his Saxon rival's with a religious frenzy which bordered on zealotry. He ordered that defeated Saxon's were forced at the end of a sword to convert to the Christian faith. The Saxon's in the Eighth century where still more pagan than their British counterparts, and to accept Christianity was not an option for the loyal follower's of Woden/Odin .Those who failed to accept Charlemagne's brand of Christianity often had their head removed from their body. Charlemagne also ordered all pagan place's of worship to be desecrated and destroyed throughout Europe. His other Royal commands were to have all the Saxon's pagan ancestors converted to Christianity, and for the Frisian's Charlemagne demanded that they form a proper code of law or face slaughter.

Had the Frank's not conquered Europe, who do you think would have taken control of the continent?

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Charlemagne's Empire

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Evolution of the Empire

The death of Charlemagne was a great loss to the Frankish Empire and due to the size of the area it covered, the only real answer was to break up the region's into Kingdom's so his Son's could rule. This also allowed Charlemagne's successors to rule with the support of family. The family dynamic's of the dynasty meant that friction and personal agenda's would appear over time. Less than Thirty years after Charlemagne's death, his Empire was effectively split into Three. All dynasties must come to an end and the creation of the Three Kingdoms of France, Germany and Italy laid the foundations for the modern Europe we see today.

The Frank's have left a great legacy still visible in Europe even today, they implemented rules of law and financed the building of grand Christian Cathedrals. They made a collection of disjointed and wandering tribe's into nation's of the European continent. The Frank's were defender's of the Roman Catholic Church and prevented the spread of other religions into their European Empire. The modern royal families of Continental Europe can trace their lineage back to the Frankish Empire. The people of the middle and lower Rhine area offered stability and a unifying force in a time of massive movement and upheaval. Had the Frank's not established their their Empire, the face of Europe would look very different to the one we see today.


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