Delenda Est Carthago

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Tuesday's totally random history!

Let's head back to Merovingian times for today's installment of Totally Random History, shall we? Flipping open my copy of Late Merovingian France: History and Hagiography 640-720 by Paul Fouracre and Richard A. Gerberding,¹ we come upon the Acta Aunemundi - the Deeds of Aunemund. More context after the excerpt:


Then spoke the bishop, "I will come with you unafraid, just as you have said." With a smile on his face he was taken in hand by his enemies, and speaking bravely he demanded of their leaders that two priests and the same number of deacons and clergy should accompany him. On a different day, when they came to the town of Macon, the man of God wanted to visit and pray at the churches of the saints and to pay his due respects to Aganus, bishop of that town, but he was prevented by the commander and his associates. Moreover, when the commander saw that Abbot Waldebert, beloved of God, was constantly comforting him in Christ and carefully shielding him from the harm of his enemies, the dukes spoke to him in the following way, "If you wish to accompany the bishop, that will be difficult for us and hinder our journey, for we have been ordered that he be led in and delivered up having been deprived by our efforts of the comfort of priests and the conversation of friends." But he [Waldebert] replied, "My coming along does not hurt or hinder you at all. But I do see that chance to destroy him which you have made up your minds to seek." All of them together said to him, "This fate which you fear, let it befall us here or in the future if we fail to deliver him up into the presence of the king. So you leave today: at least let this be done - travel any other path along which you want to go."

"The bishop" referred to here is Aunemund, Bishop of Lyons, which was one of the most important positions in the Frankish Church in the mid-seventh century. His brother was the secular ruler of Lyons, and his family was very powerful, but that didn't help when his rivals at court killed both his brother and him. Aunemund was the godfather of King Chlothar III (r. 657-673), but his power made others jealous and he was charged with treason against the king.² The excerpt presented here details the army that was sent to fetch him to court to answer the charges. Not surprisingly, when Waldebert went away, he lost his protection and he was murdered in the night at Chalon-sur-Saône. Naturally, a cult developed around his tomb and he was acclaimed as a saint (back when communities could still make someone a saint on their own, without appealing to the Vatican).

There's an interesting account of Aunemund in the Life of Bishop Wilfrid of Ripon, by Eddius Stephanus. Wilfrid, as any good medievalist knows, was a ridiculously crucial figure in the history of the English Church. His defense of Roman Catholicism at the Synod of Whitby in 664 ensured that Celtic Christianity would go the way of the dodo. However, he spent some time in France, and his vita sheds some interesting light on Merovingian history. According to Stephanus, Queen Balthild ordered Aunemund's execution. Balthild is a fascinating figure in mid-seventh century France, and she was probably acting as regent for her son, Chlothar, who was only around 10 years old at the time. Merovingian queens in the seventh century enjoyed a great deal of power (the famous Brunhild is the epitome of this), and Balthild probably had a lot to do with Aunemund's death. His martyrdom shows that bishops in the seventh century were very involved in power politics and that there was a very strong "court-vs.-periphery" struggle going on in Merovingian France at the time. Aunemund is not the only example of this.

¹ It was published in 1996 by the Manchester University Press, but it's probably out of print. You can find it on Amazon for $150, which is a little steep. Or you can go here an access the documents yourself - although you do need to register.
² The same king whose godfather he was! Oh, it's like a soap opera! It's definitely Chlothar III, not only because the Acta tells us so, but because we have a charter that Aunemund signed that dates from 660.


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