Page 1080


fire, the second by water. The accused was

put to the test of handling a red-hot iron,

which if he might do with impunity he was

adjusted innocent. In the other case the

criminal was put into the water. Should he be buoyed up, the judgment was, Not Guilty;

should he sink, Guilty.

Another method of procedure in the barbarian court was that of judicial combat. In

this case the accused was expected to confront

the accuser, and to vindicate his innocence by

battle. The combatants met each other on

foot or on horseback, and fought, each according to the method of his. own countrymen;

and the court adjudged that he who fell was

the criminal. This irrational and cruel method

of deciding disputes, begotten, as it was, by

ignorance and cradled by superstition, spread

throughout all the states of Europe, and continued to prevail for many centuries. Nor

might the weak, except by the aid of a champion, hope to contend successfully with the

violence of the strong oppressor.

As far back as the days of Ariovistus, a

claim was established by the Germans upon

the lands of Gaul. At first one-third, and.

afterwards two-thirds, of the territory of the

Sequani were assigned to the warriors beyond

the Rhine. After five hundred years these

claims, once recognized, were reasserted by

the Visigoths and Burgundians, and became

the basis of the subsequent land titles of Gaul.

At the time of the Frankish invasion, the

rights of the original Gauls and Romans ceased

to be regarded. The land distribution made

by Clovis to his followers has already been

mentioned. The Merovingian princes took and

retained large domains out of the conquered

territory. They also assumed the right of conferring upon the Frankish nobles certain lands

called benefices, which were to be held in the

feudal fashion on the conditions of military

service and homage to the suzerain. Besides

the royal estates and beneficiary lands, two

other classes of title, known as the allodial and

Salic possession, were also recognized.

The system of slavery was adopted by the

Franks as well as by the Romans. The barbarians reduced to servitude the prisoners

taken in war. In general, however, the captives thus reduced to serfdom were attached to

the estates of their masters, and were henceforth regarded as belonging to the land rather

than subject to personal ownership. Still the

power of life and death was freely exercised

by the lord, and none might question his right

to treat his serfs according to the dictates of

interest, caprice, and fashion.

The consolidating and civilizing forces

which began to assert themselves during the

reign of Clovis were greatly retarded after his

death. That event occurred in Paris in the

year 511. The king was buried in the basilica

of the Holy Apostles, which had been erected

by him at the instance of Clotilda. The king

left four sons as his successors. The first,

named Theodoric, was born of a German wife,

who preceded Clotilda. The other three,

named Childebert, Clodomir, and Clotairc,

were the sons of the queen. The unfortunate

policy was adopted of dividing the kingdom

among them. Theodoric received for his portion parts of Western Germany and Aquitaine,

together with the country bounded by the

Rhine and the Mouse. Childebert reigned at

Paris; Clodomir, at Orleans; and Clotaire, at

Soissons. The last named king was destined

to unite the dominions of his brothers with

his own.

At first the three sovereigns of Gaul formed

an alliance and made a successful war on Burgundy, in the course of which Clodomir was

killed, A. D. 531. Thereupon, Clotaire and

Childebert conspired together to take his kingdom. The territory of the Orleans prince was

accordingly divided between Paris and Soissons. After this Childebert made an expedition into Spain, and achieved some success over

the Visigoths, but made no permanent conquests. Returning into France, a dispute arose

between him and Clotaire, and the brothers

undertook to settle their troubles by battle.

But before the contest was decided, Childebert

died; and by this mortal accident, the French

territories of Clovis were again consolidated

in the hands of his son. Meanwhile, the eastern part of the Frankish Empire, called Austrasia, remained under the authority of Theodoric. Two of the sons of Clodomir arose to

claim the restitution of the Orleans province