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Evil LordsTheories and Representations of Tyranny from Antiquity to the Renaissance$
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Nikos Panou and Hester Schadee

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199394852

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199394852.001.0001

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Contradictory Stereotypes

Contradictory Stereotypes

‘Barbarian’ and ‘Roman’ Rulers and the Shaping of Merovingian Kingship

(p.81) 5 Contradictory Stereotypes
Evil Lords

Helmut Reimitz

Oxford University Press

Entering the postclassical world, this chapter examines what happened when Roman power structures were inhabited by so-called barbarian, do-nothing kings. Focusing in particular on the multilayered depiction of Chilperic I (c. 539–589) in the Histories of Gregory of Tours, the chapter shows that the Merovingian kings are rebuked not only for barbarous and un-Christian behaviors but also, surprisingly, for being ‘too Roman’. These critiques originate with local political and ecclesiastical elites, who feared a destabilizing displacement of their own authority and jurisdiction as the Merovingians strove to centralize their state after the model of Rome. Once again, therefore, foreignness of various kinds becomes the marker of a bad king, this time reflecting the interplay between the complex sociopolitical developments of the sixth century and the Roman imperial tradition.

Keywords:   Merovingians, Roman successor states, Chilperic I, Gregory of Tours, Chlothar I, Rome

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