a Frankish chieftain, of whom little is known that is authentic, beyond the fact that he was the grandfather of Clovis, the real founder of the Frankish monarchy in Gaul.
The chroniclers of the middle ages augmented this little by their fables, and Meroveus figured in the lists of the kings of the Frankish nation, of which he could have been only one among many petty chiefs.
This list of French kings included Pharamundus or Pharamond, the reputed founder of the monarchy, and after him, in regular descent and succession, Clodion, Meroveus, Childericus or Childéric, and Chlodoveus or Clovis. Pharamundus is not mentioned by Gregory of Tours, the best, as well as the first in point of time, of the early historians of France. Gregory, however, does mention Clodion, or, as he writes the name, Chlogion, and states that, according to some accounts, he resided in the castle of Dispargum, on the border of the Thoringi, the locality of which is much disputed; that he surprised and took Camaracum (Caulbrai) and subdued all the country as far as the Sumina (Somme); he adds, that some affirmed that Meroveus was of the race of this Chlogion. (Greg. Turon. Histor. Francor.
The date of this conquest is not determined. Some place it before A. D. 428, in which year the Clodion who had occupied a part of Gaul was driven out by Aetius: others make this a second and later invasion, placing it as late as A. D. 445, and consider the acquisition as permanent. That Meroveus succeeded Clodion is probable, but it could scarcely have been in more than a petty chieftainship. Whether he was the son of Clodion or his nephew is very doubtful: the accounts of his descent vary; one of them, which makes him the offspring of Clodion's wife by a seamonster, is obviously of later date, but may suggest the suspicion that he was illegitimate. The Chronicon
of Ado of Vienne ascribes to the Franks under Meroveus the capture of Treven (Τρὲνες
), the burning of Mettis (Metz), and the invasion of the country as far as Aureliani or Aurelia (Orléans); but the silence of Gregory of Tours renders the account very questionable, unless we suppose that Meroveus and the Franks formed part of the army of Attila, who about that time destroyed Metz and penetrated to Orleans: but this is contrary to the opinion of Dubos, and most modern historians, who range Meroveus and his Franks on the side of Aetius. If we suppose that Meroveus was with Attila, we may perhaps adopt the supposition that he was one of the two. Frankish princes, sons of a deceased king, who according to the rhetorician Priscus (apud Excerpta de Legationibus,
p. 40, ed. Paris), disputed their father's succession, and claimed the assistance, the one of Attila, the other of Aitius.
This would sufficiently accord with the Chronicon
of Prosper Tyro, which places the commencement of Meroveus's reign in A. D. 448, but the authority of this probably interpolated chronicle is not great. Meroveus is said to have reigned ten years.
That he was the father of Childeric, and the grandfather of Clovis, appears well established; as well as that the first race of the Frankish kings of Gaul derived from him the title Merovingi or Merovinchi, Merovingian; unless we suppose with Sismondi (Hlist. des Francais,
ch. iii.) that this name was derived from an earlier Meroveus, the common ancestor of all the kings of the tribes who formed the Frankish confederacy. (Greg. Turon. l.c.;
Fredegarius Scholast. Grey. Turon. Historic Epitomata,
100.9; Priscus, l.c.; Gesta Regum Francorum ;
Ado Vienn. Chron.;
Mezerai, Le P. Daniel, Velly, Histoire de France;
Dubos, Hist. Crit. de l'Etablissement de la Monarchie Francoise;
Sismondi, Hist. des Franfais,