HOW THE FRANKS CAME INTO GAUL
THE Romans ruled over Gaul nearly five hundred years.
During the first two centuries the people improved, and
the country prospered greatly, for the Romans thought
of their good and worked hard to secure it. But the bad
example set by many Emperors, and by the rich men at
Rome, was in time followed by most of their countrymen,
who became lazy and selfish.
As they needed more and more money and slaves, they
laid always heavier taxes upon the Gauls, who had been
happy and industrious as long as they were fairly
treated, but who now became poor and sullen, and were
finally so discouraged that many of them ceased to
work. Peasants, who had lost all ambition, forsook
their fields and wandered aimlessly around, stealing
whenever they were hungry, and hating any and every one
who was better off then they.
A mob of such angry peasants began a revolt in the
fourth century, and although these people were soon
brought to order, other revolts like this frequently
took place in Gaul during the next three hundred years.
Orderly people suffered much from such violence as well
as from the inroads of the barbarians, who often
crossed the Rhine when the roman army began to weaken.
In fact, the state of affairs in Gaul was so
 that Julian was sent there by the Emperor in 355 A.D. to
restore order. After putting down a peasant revolt, he
spent one winter in Paris, where he built a palace for
himself, the ruins of which can still be seen there in
a park. Next, Julian defeated seven barbarian chiefs
near Strass'-burg. There, he first met the Franks, a
tribe of brave German warriors who had already often
crossed the Rhine to raid northern Gaul, and from whom,
later, were to come the names France and French. Julian
made friends with this tribe, took some of its warriors
into his own army, and allowed the rest to settle
between the Rhine and the Meuse, on condition that they
should not permit any other German nations to cross the
Julian had scarcely finished this arrangement when he
was made Emperor in his turn. Not long after his death,
the vast Roman Empire was divided into two parts, and
governed by Emperors of the East and of the West.
During this time, while the Romans were growing weaker
and weaker, the Franks kept growing stronger and
stronger, until they became to daring that one of them
actually killed a Roman Emperor in 392 A.D. and set up
another in his place.
These Franks were heathen; their name meant "bold
fearless, open"; but they were so grasping that the
Gauls used to say, "Take a Frank for a friend, but
never for a neighbor!" Very little is known about their
origin, except that they belonged to the German branch
of the great human family. Later on, however, when
people learned to read the old Greek and Latin poems,
and everybody talked about the siege of Troy, a story
was invented as follows: One of the Trojan heroes,
Hector, had a son
 named Francus, who escaped from the burning city and
lived to become the father of a family, the Franks,
which in time formed a great nation.
At the yearly meeting, which was called the Field of
March or May, the Franks elected a chief, whom they
them raised upon a shield, and carried several times
around the assembly on their shoulders. They also made
laws for all the people of the tribe.
Some Frankish laws provided that if one man killed
another, on purpose or by accident, he should atone for
it by paying a fine. The amount depended on the rank of
the person slain; while a large fine was paid for
killing a chief, a slave's life was held to be worth
even less than that of a horse or cow! Any Frank
accused of a crime could be called before the assembly.
If a certain number of persons did not appear to swear
to his innocence, he was obliged to submit to a test,
or ordeal, to decide whether he was guilty or not.
There were different kinds of ordeals. The accused was
sometimes bound hand and foot and cast into the water.
If he floated, he was considered guilty, and punished;
but if he sank, he was held to be innocent. Often this
did not do him much good, for by the time the judges
were quite sure he would not float, and pulled him out
of the water, he might be dead! Sometimes the accused
was forced to dip his hand into boiling water or oil.
If his burns healed quickly, he was acquitted; but if
his recovery proved slow, he was punished as guilty.
Some of the accused were compelled to walk blindfold
over red-hot plowshares placed at short intervals along
the ground. If they managed to avoid touching these,
they were allowed
 to go free; but if they were burned, they were declared
The Franks were great warriors, and loved fighting, but
even they were frightened when they heard that two
hundred thousand barbarians, the Vandals and
Burgundians, were nearing the Rhine (406). They made a
desperate effort to check the advance of these foes,
and killed some twenty thousand, but the rest managed
to cross the Rhine on the ice, swept over a great part
of the country, and destroyed so much that their names
became a by-word; we still speak of reckless
destruction as an act of "vandalism."
Many of these barbarians passed over into Spain, but
the Burgundians settled in eastern Gaul. These people
became very skillful manufacturers of all sorts of
tools, ornaments, ad playthings, for they were born
carpenters and wood carvers, and their descendants
still excel in this kind of work.
Meantime, another great host of fierce barbarians, the
Vis'igoths, took possession of northern Spain and
southwestern Gaul. They quickly adopted Roman ways, and
their realm in Gaul, stretching from the Pyrenees to
the river Loire (lwär), bore the old Roman name of Aquitania. Their capitol was Toulouse (too-looz'), where their king settled
down with his newly won bride, a sister of the Roman
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