The story

The Carolingian Empire

With the breakdown of the Roman Empire and the organization of feudal society, numerous kingdoms were formed. From now on, we will know a little more about the Empire of the Franks.

Remember that the Romans called all peoples who lived beyond their borders barbarians. This is because they speak a different language and have very different customs from their own.

Nevertheless, the Romans allowed many of the barbarian peoples to occupy part of their territory. As allies, they helped defend the borders against enemy invasions and cultivated the land and raised animals.


The presence of invading peoples in the Roman Empire would increase with the arrival of the Huns in Europe. Frightened by the Huns, the peoples who inhabited the region near the borders would now occupy Roman territory not always peacefully.

With the time and breakdown of the Western Roman Empire, these initial occupations would begin independent kingdoms. Inside would be present both Roman customs and the invading peoples.

Formed in Gaul (present-day France), the Franco kingdom was the most enduring of these kingdoms. By studying it we can see this process of formation of feudal society, as well as the consolidation over the sixth to ninth centuries.

The Franks had to face several battles to settle in Gaul. The illustration above shows free soldiers. They fought with spears and hand-to-hand combat, using wide-bladed swords.


Gaul, conquered by Roman general Julius Caesar in the first century BC, was a largely populated region. Its inhabitants, the Gauls, were skilled farmers. They became known for their iron-coated wheeled carts, which avoided the wear and tear of wood, material used at the time.

Arriving in Gaul, the Romans built great roads connecting the main villages. These pathways favored the development of commerce and crafts. It was also the Romans who introduced in the region techniques of vine cultivation and winemaking.

For a long time, the Roman-dominated region was protected from invasion. However, in the early fifth century, a Germanic people crossed the Rhine and entered Gaul. It was the Franks. They conquered much of the territory, settling in the north and above all in the northeast.

The Frankish Kingdom

The first Frankish kings descended from Meroveus. That's why the kings of this dynasty are called Merovingians.

Meroveus, in the middle of the fifth century, fought alongside the Romans against the Hun invaders.

Clovis, grandson of Meroveus, defeated the Alamanos, the Burgundians, and the Visigoths, widening the kingdom's borders. By the end of the fifth century, the Franks already dominated much of central Europe.

Clovis's importance increased when he converted to Christianity in 496 after defeating the alamanos. With the conversion, he gained the full support of Christian counts and bishops of Gaul.

With the death of Clovis in 511, the Frankish Kingdom was divided between his four sons, causing rivalries and disputes between them. Finally, in 628, Dagobert ascended the throne and established that henceforth the Frankish kings would have a single successor.

After Dagoberto's reign came the lazy kings, so-called for not fulfilling their administrative functions. The mayor of the palace, a kind of prime minister, was the one who effectively administered the kingdom.

One of these mayors, Pepino de Heristal, made the office hereditary and passed it on to his son Carlos Martel. Carlos Martel was noted for beating the Arabs in 732 at the Battle of Poitiers, stopping the Muslim invasion of central Europe.

In 743, the last Merovingian king, Childeric III, was crowned.

Carlos Martel's son Pepino the Brief, encouraged by Pope Zechariah, deposed Childeric III, took the throne and made himself acclaimed king. With this, a new dynasty began, that of Carolingian, name derived from Carolus (Carlos, in Latin). Pepino's successor Breve was his son Charlemagne.

Charlemagne being crowned by Pope Leo III (year 800)