Clovis

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Clovis, ('Chlodowech' in the Old Franconian language) also called Clovis I, (466 to 511 AD) was the first king of the Franks. His reign began in 481 after the death of his father and shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire ushered in a period of uncertainty in Europe.

Clovis united all of Gaul under his rule. At that time the Franks were a pagan people. Clovis's wife, Clotilda converted Clovis to Catholicism and then Clovis converted his entire army. Because of this, Clovis gained the Pope's support and became very powerful. His war and defeat of the Visigoths in 507 helped to solidify Catholicism over Arianism in western Europe.

Clovis I instituted the ban or system of compulsory military service, which reached its high point under Charlemagne.

Contested memory

The 1500th anniversary of the baptism of Clovis in 496 occasioned vitriolic debate between the right and the left in France. To conservatives, the essence of France emerged from the union of Catholicism and a uniform society; to leftists, Clovis's conversion was a minor event eclipsed by the universalist French Revolution. In the debates over the proper place of Clovis in the origins of the French nation, both sides employed historians and public officials to trumpet their positions. There was agreement only in that the central government was key to continuing French unity and that a unified, homogenous population was the basis of French existence. Muslim and other immigrant narratives were omitted entirely as their histories and presence challenge the French origin myths.

Further reading

  • Terrio, Susan J. "Crucible of the Millennium? The Clovis Affair in Contemporary France," Comparative Studies in Society & History 1999 41(3): 438-457,
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