By Ralph W. Mathisen
Polis: Revista de ideas y formas políticas de la Antigüedad Clásica, Vol. 6 (1994)
Abstract: During the fifth century, with the arrival of the barbarians and the rise of the Christian church, aristocratic society in Gaul was sorely threatened. This study argues that Gallic aristocrats responded by making common cause. They compensated for their fewness in numbers and fostered their own survival by using Christian ideologies to créate a new sense of aristocratic community. In Gaul, this period saw a reconciliation of apparent inconsistencies. Laymen could act like monks, and monks like laymen. Monks could became bishops, and bishops could act like monks. And all were equally approprieate occupations for aristocrats. As a result of their ability to resolve the potential inconsistencies among these spheres of activity, the Gauls were able to meet the changes in their world with a unified front, and as were able to maintain an influential presence on into the Middle Ages.
Introduction: The fifth century was a time of great change in the Mediterranean world. The classical, pagan world was being replaced by a new Christian one. And, in the west, there was a new barbarían presence to be dealt with as well. The élite classes around the empire dealt with these changes in different ways. In Gaul, aristocratic society carne under siege during the fifth century. The barbarían settlement in particular caused a crísis for Gallic aristocrats. The barbaríans competed with Gauls for social status, economic influence, and political office. Another problem for the Gauls was that there just were not very many of them. They were scattered far and wide, each focused on his own local interests.