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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Tue 30 Aug, 2011 11:54 pm    Post subject: Any mail fragments from Childeric's gravesite?         Reply with quote

I was just watching a documentary on the early Franks and several precious objects recovered from King Childeric's gravesite were being discussed. Does anyone know if mail fragments have been recovered from the site? I have never heard of mail being found on that site, however being an important king, Childeric was no doubt buried in mail.
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2011 7:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a book which has a detailed list and description of the tomb:
"Le tombeau de Childéric Ier: roi des Francs, restitué à l'aide de l'archéologie et des découvertes récentes faites en France, en Belgique, en Suisse, en Allemagne et en Angleterre" by Jean Benoît Désiré Cochet.

http://books.google.com/books?id=Z3Y-AAAAYAAJ...CCwQ6AEwAA

As far as I saw (my French is far from perfect and I didn't read all of it), mail is not mentioned. Nor is a helmet.

It appears that he was buried with his weapons, but otherwise in civilian dress.
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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2011 1:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the link. Its quite surprising that he wasnt buried in any armour whatsoever. According to Agathias who wrote in the early 6th century, the Franks did not make use of mail or greaves. But I always expected that the king would be the exception.

In Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks, there are a few mentions of mail armour being worn. King Clovis himself is said to have been saved by a coat of mail he wore to battle against King Alaric of the goths "Now when the king had put the Goths to flight and slain king Alaric, two of the enemy suddenly appeared and struck at him with their lances, one on each side. But he was saved from death by the help of his coat of mail as well as by his fast horse".

Is it possible that mail began to see use by the Franks in the aftermath of the battle of Soissons, when no doubt many Roman mail coats were captured? This would conflict with Agathias' account but it would certainly make sense.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2011 4:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahmad Tabari wrote:
In Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks, there are a few mentions of mail armour being worn. King Clovis himself is said to have been saved by a coat of mail he wore to battle against King Alaric of the goths "Now when the king had put the Goths to flight and slain king Alaric, two of the enemy suddenly appeared and struck at him with their lances, one on each side. But he was saved from death by the help of his coat of mail as well as by his fast horse".

Do you have a citation for this? I'd like to add it to my list.

Quote:
Is it possible that mail began to see use by the Franks in the aftermath of the battle of Soissons, when no doubt many Roman mail coats were captured? This would conflict with Agathias' account but it would certainly make sense.

It is certainly possible, even likely, but without evidence we have empty speculation.
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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2011 4:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Do you have a citation for this? I'd like to add it to my list.

I got it from Fordham which has an abridged translation of the work made by Earnest Brehaut

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/gregory-hist.asp
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2011 6:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahmad Tabari wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Do you have a citation for this? I'd like to add it to my list.

I got it from Fordham which has an abridged translation of the work made by Earnest Brehaut

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/gregory-hist.asp


We'd need to know what the original latin term was. If Gregory simply used lorica then there is no way to know what type of armour Clovis was wearing.
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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2011 8:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Ahmad Tabari wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Do you have a citation for this? I'd like to add it to my list.

I got it from Fordham which has an abridged translation of the work made by Earnest Brehaut

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/gregory-hist.asp


We'd need to know what the original latin term was. If Gregory simply used lorica then there is no way to know what type of armour Clovis was wearing.

Yes the original latin text would be very useful and I am trying to find it. I personally think that it was mail because throughout the translation the word "armor" was used in most occasions without any emphasis on what kind of armour was being worn. This in my opinion was a translation of the general term lorica. But the fact that the translator used the term "mail" rather than just "armor" for what Clovis was wearing implies that the original text used a term different than lorica for the armour Clovis was wearing. Does that make any sense?

But I agree we definitly need the original latin text to find out for sure what type of armour Clovis was wearing in that incident.
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Andrew W




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Sep, 2011 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahmad Tabari wrote:
Thank you for the link. Its quite surprising that he wasnt buried in any armour whatsoever. According to Agathias who wrote in the early 6th century, the Franks did not make use of mail or greaves. But I always expected that the king would be the exception.


Burials, especially of important people, were about putting on a show and creating an image for the dead to be remembered by. Thus, the fact that he appears to have not been buried in mail needn't mean that he didn't wear mail when he was alive. It only means that he (or the people burying him) did not choose to bury him in mail. Perhaps mail wasn't necessary for communicating the message they wanted to send to the people gathered at his funeral. The older assumption among archaeologists was that men were buried with their weapons to show off the fact that they were warriors, but archaeologists like Härke have shown that many of people buried with weapons were too young, too old, or too sick to have used them when they were alive, which has led most archaeologists to conclude that the weapons buried in graves were placed there symbolically, not because they were necessarily the weapons that the dead man used when he was alive. Examining these symbolic meanings, Franz Theuws argues that spears in Frankish graves should be seen as tools for hunting (a pastime that would showcase the bearer's elite status, hunting was a very common way for the rich to showcase their wealth and social position), and that swords were wrapped up in many layers of symbolism of power, rule, protecting a community, and virility. If Childeric were buried with weapons to showcase his elite status and role in the community rather than to simply say 'this man was a warrior,' it might not have been necessary to bury him with mail, even if mail would have been part of the equipment he used when he went to war.

Or perhaps, when the grave was excavated in the 17th century, they didn't recognize or both to keep the rusted lump of mail scraps (this was long before the development of any systematic archaeological methods, and there was a lot of gold to distract them from the more boring parts of the burial).
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Sep, 2011 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahmad Tabari wrote:
Yes the original latin text would be very useful and I am trying to find it. I personally think that it was mail because throughout the translation the word "armor" was used in most occasions without any emphasis on what kind of armour was being worn. This in my opinion was a translation of the general term lorica. But the fact that the translator used the term "mail" rather than just "armor" for what Clovis was wearing implies that the original text used a term different than lorica for the armour Clovis was wearing. Does that make any sense?

That translation was done a century ago. Back then most writers used the word "mail" as a general descriptor for all types of metal armour. If the writer meant true mail then they would usually write "chainmail".
http://www.arador.com/articles/chainmail.html
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Sep, 2011 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Ahmad Tabari wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Do you have a citation for this? I'd like to add it to my list.

I got it from Fordham which has an abridged translation of the work made by Earnest Brehaut

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/gregory-hist.asp


We'd need to know what the original latin term was. If Gregory simply used lorica then there is no way to know what type of armour Clovis was wearing.

The Latin Library has it at book 2, chapter 27. "Porro rex, cum, fugatis Gothis, Alaricum regem interfecisset, duo ex adverso subito advenientes, cum contis utraque ei latera feriunt. Sed auxilio tam luricae quam velocis equi, ne periret, exemptus est." In other words, "Afterwards the king, when having put the Goths to flight he had killed king Alaric, two from the enemy army suddenly coming upon him, with their lances (conti) they strike him on both sides; but with the help of his body armour (lorica) and of the speed of his horse, he did not perish but was preserved."

Is there any evidence for any kind of armour other than mail in 6th century Gaul? I agree that there is no way to be sure.
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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Sep, 2011 8:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew W wrote:
Ahmad Tabari wrote:
Thank you for the link. Its quite surprising that he wasnt buried in any armour whatsoever. According to Agathias who wrote in the early 6th century, the Franks did not make use of mail or greaves. But I always expected that the king would be the exception.


Burials, especially of important people, were about putting on a show and creating an image for the dead to be remembered by. Thus, the fact that he appears to have not been buried in mail needn't mean that he didn't wear mail when he was alive. It only means that he (or the people burying him) did not choose to bury him in mail. Perhaps mail wasn't necessary for communicating the message they wanted to send to the people gathered at his funeral. The older assumption among archaeologists was that men were buried with their weapons to show off the fact that they were warriors, but archaeologists like Härke have shown that many of people buried with weapons were too young, too old, or too sick to have used them when they were alive, which has led most archaeologists to conclude that the weapons buried in graves were placed there symbolically, not because they were necessarily the weapons that the dead man used when he was alive. Examining these symbolic meanings, Franz Theuws argues that spears in Frankish graves should be seen as tools for hunting (a pastime that would showcase the bearer's elite status, hunting was a very common way for the rich to showcase their wealth and social position), and that swords were wrapped up in many layers of symbolism of power, rule, protecting a community, and virility. If Childeric were buried with weapons to showcase his elite status and role in the community rather than to simply say 'this man was a warrior,' it might not have been necessary to bury him with mail, even if mail would have been part of the equipment he used when he went to war.

Or perhaps, when the grave was excavated in the 17th century, they didn't recognize or both to keep the rusted lump of mail scraps (this was long before the development of any systematic archaeological methods, and there was a lot of gold to distract them from the more boring parts of the burial).

My knowledge of pagan germanic religion is basic at best, but wasnt the point of being buried with weapons and armour was that they may be used by the deceased in the many battles awaiting him in Valhala?
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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Sep, 2011 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
That translation was done a century ago. Back then most writers used the word "mail" as a general descriptor for all types of metal armour. If the writer meant true mail then they would usually write "chainmail".
http://www.arador.com/articles/chainmail.html

Good point

Quote:
The Latin Library has it at book 2, chapter 27. "Porro rex, cum, fugatis Gothis, Alaricum regem interfecisset, duo ex adverso subito advenientes, cum contis utraque ei latera feriunt. Sed auxilio tam luricae quam velocis equi, ne periret, exemptus est." In other words, "Afterwards the king, when having put the Goths to flight he had killed king Alaric, two from the enemy army suddenly coming upon him, with their lances (conti) they strike him on both sides; but with the help of his body armour (lorica) and of the speed of his horse, he did not perish but was preserved."

Is there any evidence for any kind of armour other than mail in 6th century Gaul? I agree that there is no way to be sure.

So it seems no mention was made of mail specifically. I would imagine that Roman scale armour would have still been used in 6th century Gaul. By this time mail and scale were the primary metal armours being used. Lamellar would have also been in use, though I doubt it was very popular in western Europe. Given the choice of either wearing mail or scale to battle, I have no doubt that Clovis would have worn mail. But unfortunately there is no solid written evidence to back that up.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Sep, 2011 12:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yep. Mail or scale/lamellar would both be contenders.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Sep, 2011 12:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahmad Tabari wrote:
My knowledge of pagan germanic religion is basic at best, but wasnt the point of being buried with weapons and armour was that they may be used by the deceased in the many battles awaiting him in Valhala?

It is also possible that he was buried with the equipment of a defeated foe.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Sep, 2011 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the "use your weapons in the afterlife" idea is only attested in Norse sources. Lots of graves didn't have a full weapon set. I think in most of mainland Europe weapon burials were a new feature of the migration era, and its dangerous to assume that religion in 5th century Gaul was the exact same as religion in 10th century Iceland!
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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Fri 02 Sep, 2011 10:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
I think the "use your weapons in the afterlife" idea is only attested in Norse sources. Lots of graves didn't have a full weapon set. I think in most of mainland Europe weapon burials were a new feature of the migration era, and its dangerous to assume that religion in 5th century Gaul was the exact same as religion in 10th century Iceland!

But didnt they worship the same gods (i.e. Woden, Thor, Loki, etc.)? And didnt they also share the belief that the afterlife would be spent in Valhala where endless battles await? The latter could be a distinctly Scandinavian belief. Like I said my knowledge of pagan Germanic religion is very limited. But I do agree that we should not assume the religion of 5th century Franks was identical to that of 10th century Scandinavians.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Sep, 2011 7:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahmad Tabari wrote:
Sean Manning wrote:
I think the "use your weapons in the afterlife" idea is only attested in Norse sources. Lots of graves didn't have a full weapon set. I think in most of mainland Europe weapon burials were a new feature of the migration era, and its dangerous to assume that religion in 5th century Gaul was the exact same as religion in 10th century Iceland!

But didnt they worship the same gods (i.e. Woden, Thor, Loki, etc.)? And didnt they also share the belief that the afterlife would be spent in Valhala where endless battles await? The latter could be a distinctly Scandinavian belief. Like I said my knowledge of pagan Germanic religion is very limited. But I do agree that we should not assume the religion of 5th century Franks was identical to that of 10th century Scandinavians.

Hi Ahmad,

Its not my field, but I think that we know almost nothing of religion among the peoples north of the Roman empire in the migration era. Roman writers weren't very interested, pagan northeners didn't write down their literature, and Christian northerners generally didn't use good parchment on pagan superstitions. (We almost knew more: one of the Carolingians had a collection of myths written down, but his successor had it burned in a fit of piety). Its likely that there were major changes as each people entered the old empire and its stew of gods and rites. What we do know is what Scandinavians and Icelanders believed around the time that they started to convert to Christianity, because a few Norse Christians did write down versions of the old stories.
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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Sat 03 Sep, 2011 8:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Ahmad Tabari wrote:
Sean Manning wrote:
I think the "use your weapons in the afterlife" idea is only attested in Norse sources. Lots of graves didn't have a full weapon set. I think in most of mainland Europe weapon burials were a new feature of the migration era, and its dangerous to assume that religion in 5th century Gaul was the exact same as religion in 10th century Iceland!

But didnt they worship the same gods (i.e. Woden, Thor, Loki, etc.)? And didnt they also share the belief that the afterlife would be spent in Valhala where endless battles await? The latter could be a distinctly Scandinavian belief. Like I said my knowledge of pagan Germanic religion is very limited. But I do agree that we should not assume the religion of 5th century Franks was identical to that of 10th century Scandinavians.

Hi Ahmad,

Its not my field, but I think that we know almost nothing of religion among the peoples north of the Roman empire in the migration era. Roman writers weren't very interested, pagan northeners didn't write down their literature, and Christian northerners generally didn't use good parchment on pagan superstitions. (We almost knew more: one of the Carolingians had a collection of myths written down, but his successor had it burned in a fit of piety). Its likely that there were major changes as each people entered the old empire and its stew of gods and rites. What we do know is what Scandinavians and Icelanders believed around the time that they started to convert to Christianity, because a few Norse Christians did write down versions of the old stories.

In that case it looks like all we can do is speculate. I think Tacitus may have briefly discussed Germanic religion in Germania but I suppose his account cant be too reliable as it is written through a Roman perspective.
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Andrew W




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Sep, 2011 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

These questions are very difficult. As Sean says, we don't have good written sources for the period - the sources we have say that most of the barbarians that entered the empire were heretics (Arian Christians), but scholars don't know exactly what that means (did they follow the teachings of Arius, or was this just a label given them by Roman Christians to mark them as different from the Romans?). The Franks quickly converted to Orthodox Christianity - but that doesn't tell us what any given Frankish individual believed. This is further complicated by the question of whose beliefs were represented in a burial - the beliefs of the dead individual, the beliefs of his family (we all know examples of people who had a pastor or priest at their funeral even though they never went to church), or the beliefs of the people in charge (it's always a good idea to throw a funeral that the king will like, especially if you're important enough to invite him to the occasion). And then there's the trouble of reading beliefs from a burial: does a body with a cross have to be that of a Christian, and does a man buried with a sword have to be looking forward to Valhalla?

There have been many different answers to these questions over the past two centuries of French archaeological work. The earliest view was that cemeteries full of men with weapons were evidence of a battle (a view encouraged, I suspect, because the French didn't want to admit that there were a lot of 'Germans' living in France permanently, so they wanted the believe that the bodies were from an army on the march). Archaeologists started arguing, around the middle of the century, that these bodies were those of settlers who lived near the cemeteries; many of them were buried in stone sarcophagi, for one, which would have been difficult to carve right after a battle. Eventually, the consensus was reached that bodies with weapons were Germanic (Frankish) invaders, and bodies without were local Gallo-Romans. While scholars at first argued that weapons were meant to be taken to the afterlife, they have long realized that many of these bodies were probably those of Christians, and that the weapons could have fulfilled many other symbolic functions (such as marking the power of the conquering ethnic group ['Look at my body, in life I conquered your people' sort of thing], or showing which people were important).

Recent work has challenged many of these ideas. Guy Halsall has argued that the bodies buried with weapons were actually those of local Roman elites, not barbarian Frankish invaders. Franz Theuws has argued something similar. Both authors point out that weapon burials began in the fourth century, before the barbarians settled France, and have a lot of imagery that implies that the bodies were trying to look like Roman officials (the style of their buckles and brooches, the symbolic meaning of the weapons with which they were buried - axes as a symbol of Roman authority [the fasces], spears for hunting [the favorite Roman elite pastime]). Personally, I have no idea what to think - there are good arguments on all sides of the questions. Childeric was definitely trying to look like a barbarian when he was buried, but whether that was a political or religious statement (or both, likely as not), or just the way he liked to dress in every day life, is hard to say. I have a friend who's trying to answer some of these questions in his dissertation, but it'll be a few more years before he'll have his answer ready to throw into the discussion.

This is all somewhat tangential to the question of Childeric's armor, my apologies! The upshot of all this is, we shouldn't take the absence of body armor in Childeric's grave as evidence that he didn't wear it when he was alive, because the one thing that most archaelogists today can agree upon is that the items put in a grave were put their deliberately by the people preparing the body, and they may have decided not to bury Childeric in armor for any number of reasons more complex than whether or not he owned any.
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Sep, 2011 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A very interesting topic, though we have to guess at much of it of course.
Are there any illustrations surviving of king Childeric that might shed some at least partial light on this?

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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