The Year That Was - 561 (S1: E14)

Thugs and Miracles: A History of France

08-03-2020 • 35 mins

I normally start out with a story of some sort, but today we’re going to recap our history a little and then take a look around the European world of the year 561. If you remember back to our earliest episodes, we started our history around 451 with the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains between Aetius and the Romans and Attila and his Huns. Well, 110 years later, it’s safe to say that a lot has changed! The Western Roman Empire stopped being a thing, the Franks went from being a small tribe in the north of Gaul to being the hottest new kids on the block, and the Goths went from looking like a sure bet to be the next source of power in the region… until they weren’t. In the midst of all of this we have seen four generations of Frankish kings, a timely conversion to Catholicism on the part of Clovis, the first appearances of the Vikings, the beginnings of cross-Channel troubles between the groups in Brittia and the groups on the Continent, and we’ve seen more infighting, backstabbing, double-crossing, sea-bull loving, nephew killing and just general silliness than you see in most “normal” histories. Honestly, if I presented all of this as a script to a movie producer, they would tell me that there’s no way this could have happened. But I think we’ve established that most of these stories are true, or at a minimum, at least based in a cohesive cultural and historical narrative.

Everything has brought us here, to the precipice of a new, fifth generation of Merovingians getting ready to ascend to the Frankish throne. We’ll take a good long look at them starting in the next episode, but for now I want us to turn our attention outward, to those who they were fighting with in this early medieval period for power, influence and control. Some of these players – and in particular, the Armoricans – will be small but fiercely proud, unwilling to fall under the yoke of the Franks. Other groups, such as the Angles and Saxons, will compete directly with the Franks, but will seek out new lands to conquer as well when it becomes apparent that they won’t be able to expand any further to the west. In the case of the Goths, we’ll see how this once proud group – a faction who any betting person at the beginning of our history would have gladly laid money on to become the next rulers of Gaul – stumbled, divided and then fell. And finally, we’ll look at those members of the Roman Empire who didn’t stop considering themselves Roman simply because they had moved capitals, changed languages, and lost control of, you know, Rome: the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantines.

Thanks to all of the following sites and podcasts that helped out and inspired this past week:

The Year That Was:

The History Files:

The History of Rome:


The Fall of Rome:

History of Byzantium:

The History of the British Isles:

British History Podcast:

Our Fake History:

Hardcore History: