Merovingian and Carolingian Empires: An Analysis of Their Strengths and Weaknesses
By Ambera Tolbert
Western Oregon University: Senior Seminar Thesis (2005)
Introduction: In this research paper I will analyze the achievements and the destruction of the Merovingian Empire to demonstrate how both provide a basic structure of government for the Carolingians to adopt. Conventionally the later Merovingian period is characterized as one of political decline, especially militarily; particularly when it is compared to the achievements of the succeeding Carolingian period that culminates in 800 with the coronation of Charlemagne as the first emperor in the west since 476 A.D. I propose to examine the strengths and weaknesses, or the differences and similarities, of the two dynasties, to see whether the view that the Merovingian were weak and without success is true. I will also be questioning whether the achievements that mark the Carolingian period imply ingenuity on their part, or if they are due, at least in part, to the preceding Merovingian period.
In my analysis I will show that the strengths of the Merovingians included the military successes of Clovis who helped shape the basic geographic structure of what would be known as the Merovingian kingdom. This kingdom would become a major source of power and influence in the Western Empire. I will assess weather the Merovingian empire had Gallo-Roman attributes in its government. I want to demonstrate a relationship between Roman and Merovingian titles of nobility and authority, as well as the use of Latin, both spoken and written. The main weakness of the Merovingian that I will analyze focuses on is their line of succession. By depicting this weakness I will be able to show that although it was destructive to the survival and longevity of the Merovingian Empire, it was also an example from which the Carolingians learned.
My analysis will show examples of how a weakness for the Merovingian usually lead to a success for the Carolingians. All of which will clearly demonstrate that although the Carolingian Empire continues long after Charlemagne, their reign would not be possible without the structure established by the Merovingians.