Clovis I

Clovis I was the first Frank King to unite all Frankish tribes under one authority. Before him, Frankish tribes were independently ruled by several tribal chieftains. Clovis successfully secured their allegiance. He is one of the most prominent figures of the late 5th and early 6th century.

Clovis is also considered responsible for spread of Christianity in Frankish Kingdom (France and Germany) and subsequent birth of Holy Roman Empire. He strengthened his rule and left his heirs a well functioning state which was ruled by his dynastic successors for over two hundred years after his death. He lived at a time when the Roman Empire was turning into Europe.


Early Life: Clovis was born in 466 AD in the town of La Marne in present day France. His father, Childeric I was a Salian Frank King. He belonged to the Merovingian sub branch of the western tribes of Franks. Clovis’ mother was an influential woman named Basina. She was the Queen of Thuringia (a small state in the present day Germany).

Basina played an important role in the upbringing of her son. In fact she was the one who named him Chlodovich after his birth, a rarity in those days when male children were named after a male ancestor. However, He is better known as Clovis, his Latinized name. Clovis I was tutored in the military arts and affairs of state from an early age. In 481, when he was only fifteen years old he took over as the King of Salian Franks after his father’s death.

Clovis’ Reign: Clovis succeeded his father Childeric I in 481 at an age of just fifteen. Soon after his accession, he started to consolidate his territory by subduing neighboring Frankish tribes. In 486, Clovis defeated the Western Roman Empire’s forces in the Battle of Soissons. This victory effectively ended Western Roman Empire outside Italy.

Clovis then went on a long and successful campaign to subdue neighboring Frankish tribes and other groups like Thuringians. He forged alliances with others influential rulers and kept consolidating his territorial holdings. In 496 AD, he secured a major victory against Alamanni in Battle of Tolbiac. Clovis then made Paris his capital and constructed an abbey dedicated to saints Paul and Peter along the banks of Seine River. In 500 AD, he waged an unsuccessful campaign against the Burgundian Kingdom of Dijon.

In 507 AD, he defeated Visigothic Kingdom of Toulouse in the Battle of Vouille. The Visigothic King Alaric II also died in this battle. After this victory, a large area of Aquitaine region was added to Clovis’ territory. His influence and military prowess elevated him to the position of the closest ally of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I. Clovis’ wife Clotilde was a Burgundian princess. She was a Catholic Christian and influenced Clovis’ into converting to Catholicism. Clovis I was baptized on the Christmas Day in 496 AD.

This conversion proved to be an important event as it led to widespread conversion among Franks. It also shaped the future of Europe. His conversion subsequently gave birth to the early Holy Roman Empire.

Later Life and Death: Clovis died after a brief illness on 28th November, 511. However, some historians believe that he lived till 513 AD. Before his death, Clovis divided his holdings between his sons, Theuderic, Chlodomer, Childebert and Clotaire.

This division gave rise to disunity among Franks which continued for a long time. Clovis invaded most of Roman Gaul and parts of Western Germany. He is credited for the founding of France by French which bolsters his legacy. His decision to divide his empire among his sons however; led to discord and disunity which subsequently resulted in the fall of his dynasty’s rule.