group of Germanic tribes that, about the middle of the 3rd
century AD, dwelt along the middle and lower Rhine River.
The Franks appeared in the Roman provinces around 253 and
soon thereafter established themselves in two principal
groups, the Salian and the Ripuarian.
The Salian Franks inhabited the territory along the lower
stretches of the Rhine, and the Ripuarian Franks lived along
the middle course of the river. The Salians were conquered
by the Roman emperor Julian in 358 and became allies of
Rome. During the early 5th century, when the Romans retired
from the Rhine, the Salians established themselves in most
of the territory north of the Loire River.
the Salian king Clovis I, founder
of the Merovingian dynasty,
the power and extent of the Frankish kingdom grew considerably.
In 486 Clovis overthrew Syagrius, the last Roman governor
in Gaul, and then successively subjugated the Alamanni,
the Burgundians, the Visigoths of Aquitania, and the Ripuarian
Franks. Ultimately, the borders of his kingdom extended
from the Pyrenees Mountains to Friesland and from the Atlantic
Ocean to the Main River. Clovis was converted to Christianity
in 496, and thus began the close connection between the
Frankish monarchy and the papacy.
the death of Clovis, the kingdom was divided among his four
sons, and for the following century it went through several
divisions and reunifications until finally consolidated
by Clotaire II in 613.
after his death, however, the kings ceased to exercise any
influence, and authority passed into the hands of the great
officers of state, most notably, the mayor of the palace
(major domus). The office of major domus existed in all
of the Frankish kingdoms. In the eastern part, Austrasia,
however, arose a powerful family, the Carolingian, which
retained exclusive possession of the palace mayoralty for
more than 100 years, ruling as monarchs in fact if not in
687 Pepin of Herstal, the Austrasian mayor of the palace,
overthrew the forces of Neustria (the western part) and
Burgundy, setting himself up as major domus of a united
Frankish kingdom. His son, Charles Martel, extended the
frontiers of the kingdom in the east and in 732 repelled
the Moors in a decisive battle fought at a site between
Tours and Poitiers.
power attained its greatest development under Charles Martel's
grandson, Charlemagne, who in his time was the most powerful
monarch in Europe. On December 25, 800, he was crowned Carolus
Augustus, emperor of the Romans, by Pope Leo III. Charlemagne's
imperial title was later borne by the Holy Roman emperors
until the early 19th century. His Frankish lands, more specifically,
developed into the kingdom of France, which is named for
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