Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Reign of Gundobad

Under Gundobad, the Burgundian kingdom reached its greatest height. Theoderic and Gundobad had prevented Clovis from conquering Provence and denied him access to the Mediterranean. Yet, the alliances shifted quickly in this era and, after fighting with Clovis in A.D. 500, Gundobad joined him to fight against the Visigoths at Poitiers in A.D. 507. Theoderic did not participate in this war, perhaps because of the complications inherent in siding with one relative against others.

On the field of Vouillé, near Poitiers, Alaric fell and Aquitaine was annexed to the dominion of the Franks in A.D. 507. The Franks and the Burgundians had also burned Toulouse, and Gundobad sacked Barcelona. Theodoric had warned Gundobad that an alliance with Clovis would be suicide, but the territorial gains had been apparently too attractive to turn down. Unfortunately, as the weaker partner in the Frankish-Burgundian alliance, they were the easier mark for Theodoric, who also made devastating forays into their lands. In the next few years, Theoderic conducted campaigns in Gaul in which he succeeded in rescuing Arles and in saving Narbonensis for the Visigothic kingdom. He also captured Provence from Burgundy and annexed it to Italy. From A.D. 507-509, the Burgundians lost all of their earlier gains.

Despite this territorial setback, Gundobad reigned for sixteen years as sole king of the Burgundians. Under him, the Burgundian kingdom was ruled on the administrative model of Rome even while the military maintained its Germanic characteristics.

Most of the Roman-barbarian kingdoms operated with two governmental constants. The first was the executive power in the form of the martial barbarian king and the second was a Roman bureaucracy with a strong emphasis on law. Gundobad sought advice from both Burgundian generals and Gallo-Roman aristocrats and each administrative district included a dualistic judicial system overseen by both a Burgundian comes who judged Germans and his Roman counterpart who judged Romans. This system is confirmed in the character of Gundobad’s greatest achievement, the Lex Gundobada, or Burgundian Code.

UP NEXT: The Burgundian Code - Outline


Drew, Burgundian Code.
Wallace-Hadrill, Barbarian West.
Chronicle of 511 in Murray, Merovingian Gaul.
Bury, Roman Empire.
Wolfram, Germanic Peoples.
Musset, Germanic Invasions.

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