This article analyzes the aftermath of the Gothic War in northern Italy, particularly the battles between Eastern Roman and Frankish forces. While the initial clashes in 553–54 are well-recorded, only fragmentary information survives for the following years. Justinian’s Frankish War, for lack of a better description, can nonetheless be chronicled if we turn to texts that have rarely been discussed together. By focusing on the sources for the reigns of King Childebert I of Paris (511–58) and King Chlothar I of Soissons (511–61), it is possible to discern how their domestic priorities in Gaul were influenced by their differing relationships with Constantinople. Similarly, the letters of Pope Pelagius I (556–61) are an untapped resource for the empire’s ongoing conflict with the Franks, as his correspondence with Childebert’s kingdom, although largely concerned with the contemporary Three Chapters controversy, nonetheless suggests that the papacy had attempted to ameliorate the damage wrought by Frankish forces in Italy. As a result, although a detailed narrative of the Frankish War cannot be written today, it remains possible to trace the diplomatic and political aspects of the war in Italy and the Merovingian kingdoms. Far from an epilogue to the long-running Gothic War, Justinian’s war with the Franks in the 550s was a significant conflict in its own right, and its consequences need to be examined through a Mediterranean-wide perspective.
Justinian’s Frankish War, 552–ca. 560
The article was completed during a Government of Ireland postdoctoral fellowship, and I would like to thank the Irish Research Council for its support in the most challenging of circumstances. I am very grateful to Alexander Sarantis, Marco Cristini, and Benjamin Wheaton for sharing their research, as well as to the editors and anonymous reviewers for their generous feedback.
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Sihong Lin; Justinian’s Frankish War, 552–ca. 560. Studies in Late Antiquity 1 August 2021; 5 (3): 403–431. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sla.2021.5.3.403
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