According to Gregory, Clotilda asked her sons to avenge her father’s death on the sons of Gundobad. In 523, Clovis’s son Clodomir, marched against the Burgundians and defeated them. Despite any technical alliance with Byzantium, the reality was that the Burgundians simply didn’t have the military might to ward off their enemies. Memories of Roman titles may have been pleasant, but they were of no practical help. Godomar escaped, but while Sigismund and his family tried to seek refuge in the monastery of Agaune, Clodomir captured and held them hostage.
According to another source, some Burgundians had given Sigismund to the Franks. This may be more accurate. Many Burgundians, outraged at his past actions, willingly turned Sigismund over. Meanwhile, Godomar reassembled his forces and won back at least a portion of the kingdom. Clodomir prepared to attack Godomar and decided to kill Sigismund, apparently to rid himself of the distraction. Despite the pleas of Avitus, he ordered Sigismund and his entire family thrown down a well.
Marius of Avenches wrote that, in A.D. 524, “Godomar, the brother of Sigismund, was appointed king of the Burgundians.” Clodomir then summoned his brother Theuderic, who agreed to march in support of Clodomir against Godomar. They marched to Vezeronce and fought Godomar, who fled with his army. Clodomir followed in close pursuit, but raced too far in front of his troops. Godomar’s men killed him and put his head on a stake as a grisly trophy. Clodomir’s Franks saw this, rallied and harried Godomar out of his lands again.
Godomar had not been fighting only the Franks. Sigismund’s murder of Sigeric had enraged the child’s grandfather, Theoderic, who invaded southern Burgundy at the same time, with much Burgundian support. It was at this time that Theoderic made his famous agreement with the sons of Clovis whereby he acquired half of the lands of Burgundy for the loss of no blood and only a little treasure. Meanwhile, Godomar returned yet again and retook Burgundy, if only temporarily. (Documented by Gregory almost as a one line afterthought in The History of the Franks: “Godomar won back his kingdom a third time”).
After Theoderic died in A.D. 526, and after a conquest in Spain to return their sister, Clotilda II, home, Lothar and Childebert decided to attack Burgundy again. Theuderic refused to join them, but his men, who desired loot, threatened to desert if he did not take part. He promised them all of the Burgundian loot they could carry as long as they did not to join his brothers. His men agreed and they marched into Clermont and brought as much as they could, both goods and people, away from the city. While Theuderic and his men were looting and capturing slaves, Lothar and Childebert besieged Autun in A.D. 534 and forced Godomar to flee Burgundy a fourth and final time.
Godomar may have also overestimated his position. In A.D. 530, he had made a treaty with Amalasuintha, the Ostrogothic queen and regent. It called for mutual assistance between the two kingdoms. This had provided Godomar with some additional military might, so he thought, in exchange for the cessation of the territory north of the Durance to the young Ostrogothic king. However, when attacked by the Franks again in A.D. 532, the Ostrogothic army only fought to reestablish its former borders.
Finally, in A.D. 534, the Ostrogothic army offered no aid and left Godomar to his fate. According to Gregory of Tours and Marius of Avenches, he disappeared forever and so did Burgundian rule in Burgundy. Procopius recounted that the Franks captured Godomar and kept him in a fortress while they subjugated his people and forced them to fight with the Franks in battle. The aristocracy continued to operate and at least some members, or descendents, of the former royal family survived until 613. However, the last significant act by a group of Burgundians would be that of a band of warriors, who, by the direction of the new ruler, had a final curtain call on the stage of history.
In A.D. 539, during the early years of Emperor Justinian’s invasion of Italy, the newly-crowned Ostrogoth king Vittigis sought to bolster his defense against the Imperial forces led by Belisarius. He requested the assistance of Theudibert (A.D. 533-48), the Frankish king of Burgundy, who agreed to send aid and did so in the form of 10,000 Burgundians.
This enabled Theudibert to claim that he was doing nothing to hurt the Emperor’s cause as the Burgundians acted on their own accord and not by his command. The Burgundians assisted the Goths in the siege of the weakly garrisoned city of Milan. Attempts to relieve the city were mishandled, and while reinforcements dallied, the siege was having its desired affect. Milan was on the verge of famine.
The Burgundians and Goths sent envoys to Mundilas, the Milan garrison commander, and asked him to surrender the city. Mundilas attempted to extract from the barbarians a promise to cause no harm to the inhabitants of the city. However, according to Procopius, “the enemy, though ready to give pledges to Mundilas and the soldiers, were moved by furious passion against the Ligurians and were evidently going to destroy all.” Despite the entreaties of Mundilas, all of his soldiers chose surrender over honorable death. The barbarians left the soldiers alone, “but the city they razed to the ground, killing all the males of every age to the number of not less than three hundred thousand,” according to Procopius. The Burgundians received the women as slaves as repayment for their alliance, and seemed to disappear. This was the final act of a distinctly Burgundian army. After this brief episode, they simply became another group assimilated into Merovingian France and vanished into the mist of history.
UP NEXT: Historiographical Question: Gregory on Clotilda and her Sons--Documenting Historical Vengeance or Creating Political Propoganda?
Wolfram, Germanic Peoples.
Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks.
Marius of Avenches in Murray, Merovingian Gaul.
Avitus of Vienne.
Procopious of Caesarea, De Bello Gothico, Bonn ed. in Dill, Roman Society.
Procopius, History of the Wars, Books V and VI, trans. by H.B. Dewing in Procopius. Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953).