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THE STATE OF THE FRANCS UNDER THE TWO FIRST DYNASTIES
a. The period of the Merovingian and the crisis in the state of the
The most important “ barbaric” state in Western Europe was the Christian
state of the Francs that was founded by Chlodovicus. His successors however
did not have his abilities and they led the state to civil wars. The state
was politically divided. The crisis influenced both the civilization and the
economy of the Francs. There was no commerce or industry, the roads were
destroyed and the cities lost their power. Thus the political system founded
by this first dynasty reached a dead end. Change in all levels was in need,
whereas the church had a lot of power if not the only power.
b. The second dynasty and the peak of the power for the state of the
In the state of the Francs the office of majordomos was very important and
it became even more important when Carolus Martello won the Arabs in the
battle at Poitiers on 732. He became the founder of a new dynasty that came
into power under the following circumstances: The Pope, threatened by the
Lombardi that were ready to invade Rome, was forced to abandon Byzantium and
ask for help by the Francs. He crowned the son of Carolus Martello, Pipinus,
king of the Francs. The blessing given by the pope was of great moral value
for the Francs and from that point the idea of the king representative of
god dominated in Europe.
Pipinus as an exchange donated the area from Ravenna to Rome to the Pope.
Pipinus and his sons were nominated patricians of the Romans a title that
obliged them to protect Rome. Thus the bond between the western church and
the Francs became very tight, whereas the gap between East and West caused
by the battle against the icons became wider.
When Pipinus died the kingdom of the Francs included France and a part of
Germany. His successor Carolus the Great conquered a lot of new territories
and made his state even bigger.
In order to organize his state Carolus took the following measures:
- He divided its state in 200 provinces with a
count in charge. The counts along with the bishops had the political and
military administration, they collected the taxes and were judges.
- He sent royal representatives in all the state
to secure that all the laws and orders were kept.
- He reformed the church that became a factor of
c. The problem of the two empires
Carolus’s interference in Italy begun when he abolished the state of the
Lombardi. After that its state became the most powerful of the German states.
The Byzantine Empire tried at the beginning to approach diplomatically the
new opponent by asking in marriage Carolus’s daughter Rotroude with the
successor in the Byzantine throne. The marriage was cancelled dew to a
crisis between the two states. After a while internal problems forced the
Pope to ask for help, promising to crown Carolus emperor. Carolus accepted
After his nomination on Christmas of the year 800 in the Church of Saint
Peter in Rome, Carolus chose Ashen as his capital and built there a huge
His nomination as an emperor had as a result the existence of two empires
one in the East and one in the West. Carolus’s coronation was considered a
scandal by the Byzantines. They considered themselves as the only heirs in
the heritage of the Roman state. The gap between East and West became
political and the known world was divided into two opposite worlds.
Even though the Byzantines thought that Carolus was going to submit the
eastern empire, he achieved a compromise with the Byzantine emperor after
long and difficult negotiations.
d. The division of Carolus’s empire.
This dynasty managed to unite the larger part of the Western world. When
Carolus died however the unity of the state collapsed. His son Ludovicus
made serious mistakes that obliged his sons to share his heritage with the
treaty of Virden (843). The first son took the areas on the eastern side of
Rhine, the second areas in France, and the third a zone from Belgium to
These three territorial unities became the basis for the formation of three
of the largest states in Modern Europe: France, Italy and Germany.
Growth of Frankish Power 481-814
Shepherd, p. 53
Europe at the Death of Charles the Great
Large JPEG (234K) from The Public Schools Historical Atlas, edited by C. Colbeck,
published by Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905, made available online at the Perry-Castañeda
Library, UT Austin.