The ‘Prehistory’ of Gregory of Tours: An Analysis of Books I-IV of Gregory’s Histories
MPhil, University of York, History Department September (2010)
This thesis is concerned with the structure and agenda of the first four books of Gregory of Tours’ Histories. Building on the idea that it was the death of Gregory’s patron, king Sigibert, at the end of Book IV, that stimulated the writing of the Histories, I argue that the agenda of the first four books, the ‘Prehistory’, relates directly to the events that brought about the Civil War that resulted in Sigibert’s death. This focus has previously gone unrecognised. I suggest that there is a strong structural framework to this section of the Histories, designed to promote the author’s agenda. This confirms that Books I-IV were conceived as one unit, and also heightens the level at which modern scholarship should view Gregory’s literary achievement. This in turn should illuminate the state of Merovingian education and society as a whole.
The message behind Gregory’s carefully structured ‘Prehistory’ is an expansion of the Preface to Book V, in which Gregory pleads with his audience, his contemporary kings, to follow the path of God, like their ancestor, Clovis. This will bring peace and an end to greed and Civil War. This path, continually espoused by the agents of the Lord, His bishops, would lead to a successful reign and a healthy kingdom. Failure to listen to Gregory and his colleagues, would lead only to ruin, a message reiterated throughout the Prehistory, and highlighted in the death of king Sigibert.