Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winter Reading: Halsall's Genesis of the Frankish Aristrocracy

While I don't have much to add directly to my thoughts on the Roman/Frankish armies operating within the Loire region of Gaul in the mid-5th Century, I do recommend that you take some time to read Guy Halsall's s four-part series on "The Genesis of the Frankish Aristocracy" over at Historian on the Edge (link takes you to Part One).
If I recall correctly, Halsall has advised he will not keep the series up indefinitely, so don't wait.

What does this socio-economic-military piece have to with wargaming the period? Well, lots if you are trying to put the Roman and 'Barbarian' factions into a proper context of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries AD. It certainly made me wonder how much the Franks serving as bodies of imperial military forces might have considered themselves as Roman as the state they fought for. Could one really tell the difference between one Roman army composed of Franks and another that was not, especially if both purchased clothing and equipment from the same kinds of imperial sources (whether government-issued or otherwise)?

How do you interpret that for the tabletop? I would imagine it means predominantly using late imperial figures, mixing in more 'Frankish' elements the further away from 460 you get. If nothing else, I'm not convinced the stereotypical Frankish warrior images - top-knots, throwing axe, round shield - are necessarily applicable to what was going on inside mid-Fifth Century Gaul.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Paul. The piece has some repercussions for how you envisage the early Merovingian army, but not always ones that impact directly on the wargames table. For instance, it does seem to have been able to function as a royal force, giving the early Merovingian realm an effective coercive force.
    Anyway, the francisca is actually perfectly compatible with what you're saying, because actually the francisca is never actually associated with Franks outside the Roman Empire, before their settlement in Gaul. Its distribution is essentially northern Gallic and I have suggested that it is in fact a late imperial weapon used by Franks (and others) in the 5th-century Roman army (a cheap but effective throwing weapon). What would be nice would be troops in Roman garb but with top-knots. After all Sidonius describes the top-knot in fifth-century Gaul, and it might have been a part of showing your identity as a Frank within the army.