Apocalypse Then? Living in the 'end times' of Roman Gaul, 558-614

Tutor: Guy Halsall

Module type: Special Subject

Module Code: HIS00041H

“We see the beginning of the time of sorrows that the Lord foretold…”

The fifty-six years between the short-lived unification of Frankish Gaul under King Chlothar I and its reunification by his grandson Chlothar II are important ones in French history. Crucial changes in politics, religion and the economy as well as in social structures can be traced to this period, and swept away the vestiges of Roman Gaul. For twenty-one of these years (573-594) Georgius Florentius Gregorius, known to us as Gregory, was Bishop of Tours and actively involved in politics. The turmoil of his day seems to have led Gregory to believe that he was living in a period of limbo before the Apocalypse and Second Coming. His Ten Books of Histories form the major source material for this period: one of the most complex but also most entertaining narratives in European history, as Gregory satirised the futile politicking of his contemporaries.

We will examine Gregory’s works in detail and, from there, move on to look at political. religious, economic cultural and social history. The course will give a detailed and rounded knowledge of Gaulish history during this comparatively short but important period and show that the early medieval period was not one of stagnation, as is sometimes thought, but was as dynamic as any other; a period when important changes took place and wherein the foundations of later European history were laid.

Students should be aware that this course contains scenes of sex, violence and bad language.

Thematic seminar topics are likely to include:

    • Aristocracies in 6th-century Gaul
    • Gender
    • The family
    • The life-cycle
    • Slavery
    • Holy men
    • Bishops
    • Early Merovingian kingship

Texts discussed in seminars will include:

    • Gregory of Tours’ Ten Books of Histories and Life of the Fathers
    • Fredegar’s Chronicle, Book 4
    • Gregory of Tours’ Glory of the Martyrs
    • Glory of the Confessors and Miracles of Martin 

For more information, please visit the module catalogue.