Famous Men of the Middle Ages
King from 481-511 A.D.
While the power of the Roman Empire was declining there dwelt on the banks of the
River Rhine a number of savage Teuton tribes called Franks. The word Frank means
FREE, and those tribes took pride in being known as Franks or freemen.
The Franks occupied the east bank of the Rhine for about two hundred years. Then many
of the tribes crossed the river in search of new homes. The region west of the river was at
that time called Gaul. Here the Franks established themselves and became a powerful
people. From their name the country was afterwards called FRANCE.
Each tribe of the Franks had its own king. The greatest of all these kings was Chlodwig,
or Clovis, as we call him, who became ruler of his tribe in the year 481, just six years
after Theodoric became king of the Ostrogoths. Clovis was then only sixteen years of
age. But though he was so young he proved in a very short time that he could govern as
well as older men. He was intelligent and brave. No one ever knew him to be afraid of
anything even when he was but a child. His father, who was named Childeric (chil'-der-
ic), often took him to wars which the Franks had with neighboring tribes, and he was very
proud of his son's bravery. The young man was also a bold and skillful horseman. He
could tame and ride the most fiery horse.
When Clovis became king of the Franks a great part of Gaul still belonged to Rome. This
part was then governed by a Roman general, named Syagrius (sy-ag'-ri-us). Clovis
resolved to drive the Romans out of the country, and he talked over the matter with the
head men of his army.
"My desire," said he, "is that the Franks shall have possession of every part of this fair
land. I shall drive the Romans and their friends away and make Gaul the empire of the
At this time the Romans had a great army in Gaul. It was encamped near the city of
Soissons (swah-son') and was commanded by Syagrius. Clovis resolved to attack it and
led his army at once to Soissons. When he came near the city he summoned Syagrius to
surrender. Syagrius refused and asked for an interview with the commander of the
Franks. Clovis consented to meet him, and an arrangement was made that the meeting
should take place in the open space between the two armies. When Clovis stepped out in
front of his own army, accompanied by some of his savage warriors, Syagrius also came
forward. But the moment he saw the king of the Franks he laughed loudly and exclaimed: