THE GAULS AND THE FRANKS
 THE great and famous land of France takes its name from a powerful tribe of Northmen, the Franks, who
began to overrun the country about three hundred years after the birth of Christ. Before the day of
the Franks the land was known as Gaul, and its people, the Gauls, were a Celtic race of the same
blood as the ancient Britons. Like the Britons, they, too, were compelled to bow their necks to the
yoke of Rome, and to submit to the great Roman General, Julius Caesar. It was from Gaul that Caesar
sailed to attack Britain, and it was of Gaul and its conquest that he wrote in his famous work which
is still read by all who study the Latin tongue.
The Gauls had lived in the land for many centuries before they were attacked by Rome. In early days
they had been a very wild, fierce people, clad in skins, living by the chase, and divided into
tribes which were always at war with each other.
 As time went on they learned to grow crops, to work metals, to build houses, to wear clothes and
ornaments, and to gather wealth. In religion they worshipped many gods who were supposed to dwell in
the hearth-fire, in glades, rocks, and rivers. Their priests were called Druids, and had great
authority, not only in religious matters, but in the affairs of everyday life. The Druids were the
priests, the judges, the doctors, and the poets of the race. Few dared dispute the decree of the
Druids. One who did so was at once cut off from his fellow-tribesmen. The Druids ordered that no one
should help him or befriend him in any way, not even speak to him. This terrible punishment soon
broke down the disobedience of the most stubborn.
The Gauls were men of great size, with long, yellow hair, and fierce blue eyes and powerful limbs.
In battle they were famous for the fury of their onset, but, if once beaten back, they rarely made a
second assault with equal power. A Roman soldier who fought against them says; "All the Gauls are of
very high stature. They are white, golden-haired, terrible in the fierceness of their eyes, greedy
of quarrels, bragging, and insolent. A band of strangers could not resist one of them in a brawl,
assisted by his strong, blue-eyed wife, especially when she begins—gnashing her teeth, her
neck swollen, brandishing her vast and snowy arms, and kicking with her heels at the same
time—to deliver her fisticuffs, like bolts
 from the twisted strings of a catapult. The voices of many are threatening and formidable. They are
quick to anger, but quickly appeased. All are clean in their persons; nor among them is ever seen
any man or woman, as elsewhere, squalid in ragged garments. At all ages they are apt for military
service. The old man goes forth to the fight with equal strength of breast, with limbs as hardened
by cold and constant labour, and as careless of all dangers, as the young. Not one of them—as
in Italy is often the case—was ever known to cut off his thumbs to avoid becoming a soldier."
A GALLIC VILLAGE
For three hundred years the Gauls lived under Roman rule, and during this time they made many
changes in their manners, their dress, their speech, and their dwellings. They gave up their old
wild ways of life, and learned much from their new masters. They adopted the Roman dress and the
Roman speech; they built fine houses, made good roads, set up schools and colleges, and advanced a
long way in many peaceful pursuits. They gave up the worship of their old heathen gods and became
Christians, and each large city had its Bishop, and its temples were changed to churches.
But as time went on a great danger threatened Gaul from the North. Great hordes of savage warriors
swept from the vast forests of Germany, and came into Gaul to plunder the land and destroy the
people. These fierce tribes did not fear the
 Roman legions, for the power of Rome was fast dying, and the Gauls had to depend upon themselves to
beat off these terrible enemies.
It was about A.D. 300 when these Northmen marched from their fastnesses beyond the Rhine, and began
to assail Gaul in search of booty. There were many tribes of them, bearing many names, but all were
Teutons, and all had, in a large degree, the same mode of life, the same customs, and the same
religion. They were men of the woods and the fields, not lovers of towns—hardy, bold, fierce,
and still holding to an ancient pagan faith. They loved battle, and their favourite gods and heroes
were all famous for great deeds of prowess.
Their chief deity was Odin, the God of War. Next to Odin came Thor, the God of the Air, who launched
the thunder, and whose darts were the flashes of lightning. Their heaven was Valhalla, and to this
place none was admitted save the valiant warrior who fell in battle. He who died a peaceful death
went to Niflheim, the place of punishment. The maidens who attended upon the God of War were held in
high honour by the wild Northmen. These were the famous Valkyrie, whose duty it was to ride the air
when battle threatened, and urge the warriors to fiercer and yet fiercer deeds of valour and
bloodshed. When the fight was over captives were often offered up in sacrifice, and human blood
stained the altars of Odin.
The Gauls fought hard to resist the onset of these
 terrible warriors, but they fought in vain. Little by little their land fell into the hands of the
Northmen, and the country was seized by three great tribes—the Franks, the Burgundians, and
the Goths—and from the Franks came the name of France. The Franks settled in the north-eastern
part of Gaul; the Burgundians in the south-east; the Goths in the south-west, whence they spread
The first great Frankish King was Clovis, who reigned from 481 to 511. He destroyed the last remains
of Roman power in Gaul, and beat the Burgundians and the Goths, so that he came to be looked upon as
the true founder of the Frankish kingdom.
When Clovis came to the throne he was a heathen, but his wife was a Christian, and strove her utmost
to convert her husband. But Clovis still clung to the old faith, until there came a day of fierce
battle with a German army, and the Franks were being beaten and driven back. Then Clovis called out
to the God of the Christians for help, and vowed that he, too, would become a Christian if victory
were given to his men. And in a wonderful way the tide of battle suddenly turned, and the Franks won
a great victory. Clovis called his followers together and told them that he meant to become a
Christian. They agreed to follow him, and all were baptized at Rheims. For this reason Rheims was
looked upon as a sacred city for many centuries, and the Kings of France were crowned there and
anointed with oil at a magnificent ceremony called the "Consecration of the King."
 Although Clovis became a Christian, he remained at heart the wild, fierce Frank he had always been.
He was a man who knew not pity, and he slew both friend and enemy, relation and stranger, if he
thought that these stood in his way or were likely to do him harm. In the latter years of his reign
he took up his abode at a spot which was to see the rise of one of the most famous cities of the
world. It was a little walled town on an island in the River Seine. The Romans had built the town,
and, as it lay in the midst of swamps, marshes, and mud-flats, they called it Lutetia, the City of
Mud. Then it was inhabited by a tribe called the Parisii, and from them the little town took the
name of Paris, and by that name it is known to this day.
When Clovis went to Paris it was already a Christian town. It had been converted by a missionary
from Rome named Dionysius, who became the first Bishop of Paris, and was known as Denis. But times
of persecution broke out, and the Bishop was seized and beheaded upon a hill about six miles from
the city. Above the grave of the martyr a splendid church was built in later days, and consecrated
in the name of St. Denis. The church became the burial-place of the Kings of France, and the name of
the martyr was the rallying cry of French chivalry. "Montjoye, Saint Denis!" was the shout which
rang from French lips over many a battle-field, and no war-cry has ever been more famous.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics