Page 1076

1076 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

into Gaul. Of this union was born the

prince Khlodwig, or Clovis, who is regarded

as the founder of the Frankish monarchy.

In the year 481 he succeeded his father in the

government, being then fifteen years old.

Clovis was a warrior from his youth. In

one of his earlier campaigns he captured the

cathedral of Rheims and despoiled the altar

of its treasures. Among the rich booty was

a marvelous vase of great size and value.

When it came to a division of the spoil, the

king-against that usage of the German race

which required that all the spoils of war

should be divided by lot-sought the vase for

himself. For the bishop of Rheims had sent

to him a request for a return of the priceless trophy, and Clovis would fain make

friends with the Christian nobleman. But

one of the Frankish chiefs struck the vase

with his battle ax and destroyed it.

Clovis was greatly angered, but for a while

concealed his wrath. In the course of time

there was-a military inspection of the Franks,

and when the king came to examine the arms

of him who had broken the vase he found

them rusty and unfit for use. He wrenched

the battle ax out of the hands of the chief

and threw it on the ground, and when the

owner stooped to recover it dashed his own

ponderous weapon into the skull of the stooping warrior. "Thus," said he, "didst thou

to the vase at Soissons."

At the time of the accession of Clovis the

kingdom of the Franks embraced only the

provinces of Tournay and Arras, and the

number of Clovis's warriors did not, perhaps,

exceed five thousand. It was, however, a

part of the freedom of the German tribes to

attach themselves to what chieftain so ever appeared most worthy to be their leader.

At first Clovis was a soldier of fortune. In

his earlier expeditions and conquests the

spoils of battle were divided among his followers. Discipline, however, was the law of

his army, and justice the motto of his government. His ascendancy over the Franks and

other German tribes soon became the most

marked of any thus far witnessed since the

beginning of the barbarian invasion. Soon

after his accession to authority, Clovis was obliged to contend for his rights with the

Roman Syagrius, who claimed to be master general of Gaul. That element in Gaulish

society, however, which was represented by

Syagrius had so greatly declined in numbers

and influence that Clovis gained an easy victory.

The next conflict of the king of the Franks

was with the Alemanni. This strong confederation of tribes claimed jurisdiction over the

Rhine from its sources to the Moselle. Their

aggressions in the kingdom of Cologne brought

them into conflict with Clovis, and the latter

defeated them in a great battle fought in the

plain of Tolbiac. The king of the Alemanni

was slain, and his followers were obliged to

submit to the conqueror. The result of this

conflict was so far reaching that Theodoric

the Great sent his congratulations.

In the year 496 Clovis was converted from

paganism to Christianity. In the mean time

he had married Clotilda, a Catholic princess,

niece of the king of Burgundy. It was

through her instrumentality that the king's

mind was gradually won from the superstitions of the North. The tradition exists that

in the crisis of the battle of Tolbiac, when

the kingdom as well as the life of Clovis was

hanging in the balance, he prayed aloud to

the "God of Clotilda," whereupon victory

declared in his favor. The pious warrior

could do no less than recognize his obligation

by accepting the religious faith of his queen.

It appears, moreover, that the doctrines of

Christianity had already diffused themselves

not a little among the chiefs of the Frankish

nation. Though it was anticipated that the

conversion of Clovis would be poorly received

by his people, yet the opposite was true. The

chiefs of the Franks applauded his course and

followed his example. In the year 496 Clovis

was publicly baptized. Three thousand of

the principal Franks were likewise baptized

into the new faith. It could not be truthfully claimed, however, that the lives and characters of the

Frankish king and his subjects were much