EARLY FRANKISH SOCIETY AS REFLECTED IN CONTEMPORARY SOURCES, SIXTH AND SEVENTH CENTURIES
AVE LALLEMANT, W. MARJOLIJN J. DE BOER
Doctor of Philosophy
Its contemporary sources indicate that early Frankish society of the sixth and seventh centuries was a living and developing new culture--West-European civilization--founded on the customary law principles of the Germanic Frankish peoples, the Gallo-Roman traditions, and the Christian Church. The contemporary sources (the law codes of the Salic and Ripuarian Franks, records of the Concilia Galliae, the Formulae of Marculfus, and Gregory of Tours' The History of the Franks) are few in quantity and not very varied in character, but their quality is such that they provide great insight into the society they represent. Evidence provided by the law codes indicates a need for order in society and for non-violent remedies for proven criminal acts. The insistence on correct court procedures and on the integrity of court officials that the laws imply is indicative of a society that desires respect for its judicial system. The codes also indicate that individuals were encouraged to settle permanently within a community, so that they could receive the support of that community in case of necessity. Furthermore, the amount of the fines assessed for crimes that threatened the very existence of an individual indicates that society tried to realize an atmosphere conducive to a safe environment for its members through its judicial system. The contents of the synodal decrees of the sixth and seventh centuries indicate that the church set regulations for many aspects of community life and thus played an important role in early Frankish society. The church as a property owner and its administrator, the bishop, were part of the secular community, which benefited the community because the church provided many of its social services and benefited the church as an institution because the secular authorities counted on its discipline and thus protected it. It appears probable that the communities enforced their judicial decisions. The increasing importance placed on documentation and on the legality of actions, of which Marculfus' Formulae are indicative, provides further evidence that early Frankish society of the sixth and seventh centuries was a new culture, a living synthesis of Frankish and Gallo-Roman components.