Friday, June 20, 2003

Famous Men of the Middle Ages: Clovis

By By John H. Haaren, LL.D. and A. B. Poland, Ph.D.

I have been listening to John Gormans "The King of the Romans" and was quite intrigued with one of the last of the true Roman generals, Syagrius who was eventually defeated by Clovis I. Gormans Syagrius is quite noble and courageous but I could not find out much about him in my research. His enemy, Clovis I, however, pops up all over the net. (They always say history favors the victors). I found this particular article about Clovis interesting, primarily because there appears to be distinct differences with information presented in Gormans text. In "The King of the Romans", Clovis is supported by Christian bishops who want to topple Syagris and his Romans because they are Arrian heretics. This article, in contrast, claims Clovis was an outright pagan and did not convert to Christianity until after calling upon his wifes Christian god during a battle with the Alemani tribe and delivered from defeat. (This sounds suspiciously like the Constantine tale).

"Soon after his marriage Clovis had a war with a tribe called the Alemanni. This tribe had crossed the Rhine from Germany and taken possession of some of the eastern provinces of Gaul. Clovis speedily got his warriors together and marched against them. A battle was fought at a place called Tolbiac, not far from the present city of Cologne. In this battle the Franks were nearly beaten, for the Alemanni were fierce and brave men and skillful fighters. When Clovis saw his soldiers driven back several times he began to lose hope, but at that moment he thought of his pious wife and of the powerful God of whom she had so often spoken. Then he raised his hands to heaven and earnestly prayed to that God.

"O God of Clotilde," he cried, "help me in this my hour of need. If thou wilt give me victory now I will believe in thee."

Almost immediately the course of the battle began to change in favor of the Franks. Clovis led his warriors forward once more, and this time the Alemanni fled before them in terror. The Franks gained a great victory, and they believed it was in answer to the prayer of their king.

When Clovis returned home he did not forget his promise. He told Clotilde how he had prayed to her God for help and how his prayer had been heard, and he said he was now ready to become a Christian. Clotilde was very happy on hearing this, and she arranged that her husband should be baptized in the church of Rheims on the following Christmas day.

Meanwhile Clovis issued a proclamation to his people declaring that he was a believer in Christ, and giving orders that all the images and temples of the heathen gods should be destroyed. This was immediately done, and many of the people followed his example and became Christians.
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