Session 1 – Maintaining and changing identities
Moderator: Bethan Morris, University of Edinburgh
A: Richard Broome
Approaches to the Frankish Community in the Chronicle of Fredegar and Liber Historiae Francorum
This paper will attempt to assess attitudes towards and understanding of the early-medieval Frankish community during the seventh century by providing a direct comparison between two important but often under-appreciated historical texts; the so-called ‘Chronicle of Fredegar’ (c.660) and the anonymous Liber Historiae Francorum (727). Building on the work of scholars such as Paul Fouracre, Richard Gerberding and Ian Wood, the present paper will examine several key aspects of how the two authors portrayed the community of which they thought themselves a part. Who or what did they understand by the term ‘Franks’? For the author of LHF, this seems to have referred specifically the Neustrians, whereas Fredegar presents a more ‘pan-Frankish’ history. What were the origins of the community and its rulers? Both traced these origins back to the Trojan War – unlike their historian-predecessor Gregory of Tours – but each told a slightly different version of the story, while Fredegar also narrated the mysterious story about Merovech’s alleged descent from the monstrous Quinotaur. How important were kings to their respective visions of community, and what role did they have? Both saw kings as central, but the author of LHF portrayed a world where consensus depended on dynastic stability, while Fredegar explored the idea of Merovingian decline and fallibility more explicitly despite having written earlier. In order to properly contextualise these comparisons and understand their significance it will also be necessary to refer to the authors’ contemporary texts, particularly seventh-century works of hagiography, but also to earlier and later authors – Gregory of Tours in the former case, and, for example, the early Carolingian annalists in the latter. By doing this we will be able to provide a greater understanding of how seventh-century visions of community compared to earlier and later visions, and whether we can talk about a ‘long eighth century’ when examining this issue.
Response: Roger Collins
B: Soléna Cheny
The question of the seventh century is really relevant for the Maghreb. In Europe, the Barbarian invasions opened a new era while North of Africa was in a transition period. The Berber world had experienced the appetite of the powers of the Mediterranean, from the Phoenicians to the Byzantines. Cultures, languages, political tutelage shaped the land and its people. The Vandal invasion, although very short (430 to 533) allowed the Berber tribes to take control of the territory of the provinces and build autonomous political entities comprising tribal, Romanized and Christianized Africans and descendants of Roman colonists. The Byzantine reconquest found it difficult to establish the mythologized Roman model when Muslim troops entered from the east, destroying the structures in place before moving quickly to cross the Strait of Gibraltar and enter the Iberian Peninsula. A new tutelage was then installed with its codes, its laws and its civilization. Thereafter, African identity would never be the same, Islam leaving a profound mark. This long seventh century, which could stretch from 533 (the Byzantine invasion) to 711 (when the Muslims invaded Spain), more than tipping in the medieval era, is for the Maghreb, the basis of its current identity.
Response: Thomas J. MacMaster
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