I normally like to start off by introducing a grand story from one of the monarchs that we’re discussing and then break that story down to better understand what was happening in the region that set the conditions for that scene to happen. This week, however, we’re going to alter that approach, just for an episode, because this week it’s my great honor to work with David Powell, an alumnus of Villanova University. David spent his graduate studies focused on the evolution of late antique and early medieval urban and suburban morphology in Western Europe - and in particular Gaul - making him the perfect person to talk to about some of the dynamics that were taking place in the late 5th and early 6th centuries.
One of his papers, edited here for length, discusses in brilliant detail the life of the common person at this time and makes for a nice understanding of the world we’re looking at from an angle other than top down. So this week, we’ll be looking up at the long-haired kings as they parade themselves in front of us, and we’ll be wondering what the arrival of Clovis in Paris really meant for a peasant – Rusticus, in this case, as David named his fictional peasant – whose life was so hyper-local that the thought of visiting the sea, even from Paris, would have seemed an unimaginable journey. This week, we’ll try to understand what it felt like for a normal person to live in a time of Thugs and Miracles.