This session considers the historical and contemporary influences of Rome/Byzantium on perceptions of community and otherness in post-Roman Gaul. Ian Wood examines the categories used by the Gibichung rulers of the Rhône valley when classifying themselves (as barbari), their subjects (as Romans, Burgundians and barbarians) and other peoples (as belonging to extraneous nations). The other two papers tackle the works of Gregory of Tours. Tamar Rotman investigates Gregory’s perception of the holy men known as stylites, both as an eastern phenomenon and – more problematically – closer to home in Trier. Sihong Lin places Gregory within a Mediterranean context, showing that while he may appear sceptical of the world outside his own Gaul, he was clearly engaged with discourses and trends taking place across this wider world.
The Gibichung rulers of the Rhône valley happily classified themselves as barbari, and they listed among their subjects Romans, Burgundians and barbarians. They did, however, classify other people as belonging to extraneous nations. They therefore present us with a very specific notion of othering, which does not follow the normal Roman/Barbarian divide. They provide an important point of entry into the classifications made by the rulers of the sub-Roman kingdoms of the barbarian West.
Several centuries before Peter Brown published his famous paper about the rise and function of the holy man in Eastern Christendom, Gregory of Tours witnessed that process and recorded it in his works. While Gregory showed great appreciation for Eastern holy men such as Simeon Stylites (GC 26), when the Eastern phenomenon of stylites reached Gaul, Gregory and his fellow bishops were not enthusiastic about it, as the story of Vulfiliac, the Stylite of Trier, shows (DLH VIII.15). This paper seeks to examine the story of Vufiliac and to exhibit through it the process of dissemination of religious and social practices from the Byzantine East and their reception in Merovingian Gaul. This examination reveals the depth of the Merovingian understanding of Byzantine matters, and leads to the conclusion that Vulfiliac was deposed because of the clergy feared from religious competition that could endanger their episcopal authority.
Gregory of Tours and his Histories loom large in any study of early Merovingian Gaul, but his work has rarely been placed into conversation with other Greek and Latin histories of the same period. Gregory had surveyed the Mediterranean world, particularly the empire that was still ruled by Constantinople, and found it wanting. However, by preaching such a radical vision for his homeland, Gregory stood outside of his contemporary Gallic context. The Frankish church and the Merovingian kings were both more aware of the Mediterranean world than the Histories portrayed them as; Gregory, far from a representative of his world, stood out as the one voice of discontent against the transnational political and intellectual tendencies of sixth-century Christendom.
Travellers and ambassadors to Gaul may be portrayed as outsiders in the Histories, yet Gregory’s words also indicate its very opposite, that the world beyond, both in matters of sanctity and in diplomacy, was welcomed and embraced, as one would expect from an elite that still searched for Roman references for their legitimacy. Indeed, the bishop of Tours had more in common with the bishops of Rome and the east than he is commonly supposed, and his work provides ample evidence of his response to the Merovingians’ ‘insider’ status in the Mediterranean world. From Clovis the ‘New Constantine’ to the historian’s cautious narration of imperial embassies, parallels with his contemporaries’ words abound in Gregory’s writings; for all his efforts at building walls, the boundary between ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ instead appears to be a rather flexible one. Beneath Gregory’s sceptical veneer, his words nonetheless still betray a deep engagement with his late antique milieu, one of shared anxieties and debate that ranged from distant Mesopotamia to the city of Tours.
This session looks at how perceptions of otherness developed as Frankish influence over and involvement with the rest of Europe changed over the course of the eighth to tenth centuries. First, Christopher Heath demonstrates how an author from the edge of the Frankish world, Paul the Deacon, used the otherness of a Frankish king, Guntramn, to discuss concepts of kingship. The other two papers consider how otherness was re-interpreted and re-written in missionary hagiography to suit new needs and contexts. Richard Broome examines the depiction of the ‘others’ who confronted St Boniface in his letter collection and the first two Lives written about him. Joanna Thornborough shows how the conversion of the Danes and renewed missions in the East in the tenth century provided the context for a new Passio of St Kilian.
The eighth-century Lombard historian and intellectual Paul the Deacon (c.735-c.796) is well-known for his delight in oral traditions, anecdotal detail and digressions. His final work, the Historia Langobardorum, in particular, presents a number of narrative interludes that are tangential to his main narrative. Their emplacement in the structure of the work, however, demonstrates that they attain significance beyond the obscure and (occasionally) fantastical elements presented. Consequently we can identify Paul’s own responses to his contemporaneous world, to both Carolingian Francia and to Lombard Italy. His presentation of the dream of the Frankish king Guntramn (561-93) is one significant example that has received little attention. Ostensibly a curious story of Guntramn shape-shifting into a lizard, this paper will discuss how the oneiric otherness of this episode demonstrates the importance of Frankish models of kingship and its particular culture in the formulation and construction of a model of rulership that came to fruition in the person of Liutprand (712-44) in Italy and Charlemagne (768-813) in Francia. Analysis of the story will further consider the links between the ‘otherness’ of the dream, the role of divine approval and the use and value of the treasure ‘discovered’ by Guntramn at the end of the sequence. A direct comparison will then be made to the situation in Lombard Italy in the late sixth-century where Paul was not able to identify positive features of the Lombard rulers. Occasionally an area at the periphery of the Frankish world, Lombard Italy maintained direct links with Francia and the prevalent political cultures of the Early Medieval West. Thus, we shall see why Guntramn, ‘eminent in every good quality’, could become an exemplar for Paul two centuries later.
This paper will examine the different approaches to otherness found in the letter collection of St Boniface and in the first two Lives written about him. Specifically, it will address how the authors of these texts imagined and interpreted missionary activity, and how they presented the monsters the missionaries faced beyond the safety of the borders of the orthodox Christian world. For Boniface and his contemporaries in Rome, Francia and the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the monsters were occasionally the pagan or non-orthodox inhabitants of Germania, but they were just as often heretics or worldly bishops living within the Frankish kingdoms. For Boniface’s first biographer Willibald, writing less than two decades after the saint’s death in 754, there were monsters beyond the Rhine, but they were still human: pagan and heretic persecutors trapped in error who worshipped idols and trees, and pirates who would kill a saint to satisfy their desire for treasure. The anonymous author of the second Life of Boniface, though, writing around two generations later, presented his audience with a missionary genuinely confronted by monsters; from mythological creatures lurking in the forests of Germania to battles with Goliath and Leviathan – all personifications of paganism. In this paper we shall use the changing political and religious climate of the Carolingian world from the mid-eighth to the early ninth century to contextualise and make sense of these varied presentations of what one missionary faced in his attempts to take Christianity beyond the Rhine.
In 689, an Irish missionary named Kilian was supposedly martyred on the orders of the wife of the Duke of Thuringia. Some century or so later, a short rather derivative passio of this saint was written, most likely in the episcopal community which had since been established at Würzburg. In the middle of the tenth century, this passio was re-written by an Italian scholar named Stephen of Novara. Whilst, at this stage, the days of mission to the Saxons and Frisians were over, there were still many religious battles, both metaphorical and literal, to be fought to the north and east of the East Frankish realm.
My paper will explore the context and content of the tenth-century passio and the way in which the ‘other’ formed a central part of its narrative, but may also have played a crucial role in inspiring its re-writing. The conversion of the Danish people’s to the north and the key part which a bishop of Würzburg may have played, provide a persuasive context for the Passio’s re-writing. Likewise, renewed mission to the east called for Würzburg to reposition and reassert itself as a centre of missionary activity in the changing and challenging environment brought about by the foundation and growth of the see of Magdeburg. In terms of content, the central role of the duke’s wife Geilana is given much more attention in Stephan’s narrative and she is very much cast in the role of evil pagan foil to Kilian’s good Christian missionary; in a way which draws heavily upon Biblical imagery.
Whilst mission to and conversion of pagan peoples is a well-known part of the religious narrative of the Carolingian era, my paper will argue that the image of the ‘other’ was no less potent under the Ottonians for framing communal identity.
The final session of this strand addresses the material evidence for early medieval attitudes to community and otherness and considers the ways modern historians have used and interpreted this evidence. Anna Dorofeeva takes the miscellanies in the manuscript collection of St Gallen and shows how through their diversity they could be used to create a sense of cohesion for monastic communities. James Harland shows how Guy Halsall’s Derrida-inspired approach to early Merovingian archaeology can be applied to contemporary finds from Anglo-Saxon England to illuminate the problem of applying modern concepts of otherness to the early medieval world. Thom Gobbitt analyses four law-books containing unique attestations of the Lombard law to examine how this text could be produced and utilised to suit the needs of specific communities.
This paper examines a corpus of early medieval collections of short or partial texts, known as miscellanies, written at the monastery of St Gallen. Miscellanies were perhaps the most typical product of early medieval scriptoria. These manuscripts contain a very wide variety of texts and extracts and are, as a result, perceived as more or less arbitrary collections. They have consequently very rarely received scholarly attention. Yet miscellanies share particular features which indicate that they were not arbitrarily compiled, but rather served as manuals for the organisation and acquisition of knowledge and, in particular, as books that promoted the harmonious functioning of a monastic community within the Carolingian reform programme. Practical means to unite the practices and ideas of a group of people that came from heterogeneous backgrounds were required, and were expressed in miscellanies. These books provided the basic texts for everyday liturgical and monastic use; lists of words that could be used to teach languages or for reference; short excerpts on subjects required to explain various concepts in conversation, in sermons or in letters; playful dialogues or riddles to promote debate and learning; and other useful texts. As whole books, miscellanies therefore enabled the establishment of an intellectual community on an everyday, practical level. This paper considers the precise ways in which they did this, and what a corpus of miscellanies from a single monastery reveals about their community usage over time.
‘Otherness’ is a term that in recent years has become frequently employed in a wide range of disciplines across late antique scholarship, reflecting an increasing interest in the subject in the wake of its dissemination across the wider humanities from continental philosophy and literary theory. Archaeology is no exception to this trend, but this widespread adoption of terminology has not always been accompanied by the appropriate level of critical reflection on the precise meanings and applications of this term. This problem has recently been exposed by Guy Halsall, who uses Jacques Derrida to outline the implausibility of identifying ‘otherness’ in Merovingian mortuary archaeology.
I will extend this problematisation to the early mortuary archaeology of post-Roman/early Anglo-Saxon England, viewing the mortuary material and scant documentary evidence concerning or from Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries through lens of differential ontology, as found in the works of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Through this, I will argue not only that ‘otherness’ is a category one would struggle to identify in the early Anglo-Saxon material record, but that to attempt to do so is to mischaracterise notions of self and being as they should be understood in a post-Roman British context.
This paper will comprise a comparative analysis of the scribal strategies underlying the production and use of four law-books containing copies of the Lombard laws and related texts dating from the (later) tenth to mid-eleventh centuries; namely: The Edictus Langobardorum in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Lat. 4613 (900-1000) and Paris BNF, MS Lat. 4614 (975-1025 CE), and the eleventh-century redaction of Lombard laws and Frankish and Saxon capitularies, the Liber Papiensis in Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana MSS O 53 sup & O 55 sup (1028-1050 CE), and Paris, BNF, MS Lat. 9656 (1050-1075 CE). Each of these law-books provides a unique attestation of the Lombard laws, produced in relation to contemporary understandings of the text and in response to the anticipated needs of the individual(s) or community for whom, and perhaps also by whom, they were made. Traditionally, the Liber Papiensis has been seen as a distinct, authorial redaction, marking a clear break between the older scribal contexts of the Edictus langobarodrum. In the scholarship a number of defining features for the Liber Papiensis have been identified. I shall problematise these assumptions, focusing in particular on tenth century antecedents for these features. Through this I shall explore the implications of these law-books for the communities for which each was produced, and explore continuity and innovation in approaches to the Lombard laws across this crucial period in which the intensity of Lombardist legal studies suddenly flourished.