• Diocese of Gaul
  • Kingdom of the Romans
  • Dioecesis Galliarum
  • Regnum Romanorum
457–486
The Kingdom of Soissons in 476[1]
The Kingdom of Soissons in 476[1]
StatusRump state of the Western Roman Empire
CapitalNoviodunum (modern-day Soissons)
Common languagesLatin, Gaulish
Religion
Christianity, Gallo-Roman paganism and Germanic paganism
GovernmentMilitary government under a hereditary monarchy
Ruler 
• 457–464
Aegidius
• 464–486
Syagrius
Historical eraLate Antiquity
• Established
457
• Disestablished
486
Area
• Total
50,000[note 1] km2 (19,000 sq mi)
CurrencyRoman currency
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Western Roman Empire
Neustria
Today part ofFrance

The Kingdom or Domain of Soissons[2] is the historiographical name[3] for the ethnically Roman,[2] de facto independent remnant of the Western Roman Empire's Diocese of Gaul, which existed during Late Antiquity as an initially nominal enclave and later rump state of the Empire until its conquest by the Franks in AD 486. Its capital was at Noviodunum, today the town of Soissons in France. The rulers of the rump state, notably its final ruler Syagrius, were referred to as "kings of the Romans" (Latin: rex Romanorum) by the Germanic peoples surrounding Soissons, with the polity itself being identified as the Regnum Romanorum, "Kingdom of the Romans", by the Gallo-Roman historian Gregory of Tours. Whether the title of king was used by Syagrius himself or was applied to him by the barbarians surrounding his realm (in a similar way to how they referred to their own leaders as kings) is unknown.[4]

The emergence of a visibly autonomous Roman polity based around Noviodunum can be traced back to the appointment of Aegidius as magister militum of Roman Gaul by Emperor Majorian. When Majorian was killed on the orders of Ricimer in 461, Aegidius maintained his own power in the remnants of Roman Gaul against Franks to his east and Visigoths to his south.

Aegidius died in 464 or 465. His son Syagrius succeeded to the rule. In 486, Syagrius lost the Battle of Soissons to the Frankish king Clovis I and the domain was thereafter under the control of the Franks.

History

Domain of Syagrius (North-West) within the Western Roman Empire (blue)

The Kingdom of Soissons originated in the reign of the Western Emperor Majorian (457–461). Majorian appointed Aegidius to be magister militum of the Gallic provinces. The remaining Roman territory in Gaul in the northwest was connected with the Roman possessions in the Auvergne, Provence and Languedoc which connected these to Italy. During Majorian's reign, that corridor was annexed by the Germanic tribes now occupying Gaul, thus effectively cutting off Aegidius and his citizens from the Empire.[5] Majorian and Aegidius had recovered the Roman position in most of Gaul, but with the death of Majorian in 461 the Roman position in the center and south deteriorated. These provinces were annexed by the Visigoths and Burgundians in the years 462–477, which left the remaining Roman territories in Gaul isolated.

Aegidius was allied with the Alans, and with Childeric I, king of the Salian Franks of Tournai, and helped them defeat the Visigoths at Orléans in 463. According to Gregory of Tours, Aegidius even ruled the Franks during Childeric's banishment, but Childeric later returned from exile. It is possible that the Groans of the Britons, referring to a Romano-British request for military assistance after the Roman departure from Britain, may have been addressed to Aegidius.

Aegidius continued to govern until his death in 464. His comes, Paulus of Angers, was killed shortly afterwards, possibly on the same campaign. At that point Aegidius's son, Syagrius, took his place as ruler. Syagrius governed using the title of dux (a provincial military commander), but the neighboring Germanic tribes referred to him as "King of the Romans"; hence one of the nicknames of his enclave.[6] In 476, under the rule of Syagrius, the Kingdom of Soissons failed to accept the new rule of Odoacer who had dethroned the Western Emperor earlier that year. While both Syagrius and Odoacer sent messengers to the Eastern Roman Empire, the Eastern emperor Zeno chose to offer legitimacy to Odoacer instead of Syagrius. The Kingdom of Soissons cut all ties with Italy and had no further recorded contact with the Eastern Roman Empire. Even after 476, Syagrius continued to maintain that he was merely governing a Roman province. The Domain of Soissons was in fact an independent region.[5]

Childeric died about 481, and his son Clovis I became the Frankish king. Clovis made continual war against Syagrius, and in the end took over all his territory. Syagrius lost the final Battle of Soissons in 486; many historians consider this Clovis' greatest victory.[7] Syagrius fled to the Visigothic king Alaric II, but the Franks threatened war if Syagrius were not surrendered to them. Syagrius was sent back to Clovis, who had him executed in 486 or 487.[5][6][8]

The Kingdom of Soissons was a remnant of the Roman Empire within Gaul surrounded by newly established Germanic kingdoms.
  Kingdom of Soissons
  Early Francia

Clovis I ruled the Franks until his death in 511. When he died, the Frankish realm was divided into four kingdoms, one for each of his sons. Clothar I received a portion centred in Soissons, where he had been born a decade after Syagrius' death. Clothar survived all his brothers and their families – in one case by murdering the sons of a deceased brother – and eventually reunited the realm in 555.[6]

When Clothar died in 561, the Frankish realm was divided into three kingdoms, one for each son. The portions centred around Soissons and Paris eventually developed into the kingdom of Neustria, which remained one of the key divisions of the Frankish realm.

Army

Main article: Late Roman army

Domain of Soissons in detail

When Aegidius was appointed magister militum of Gaul by Emperor Majorian, he took control of the remaining Roman troops in Gaul. According to Eastern Roman writer Priscus, Aegidius and Syagrius both commanded "large forces".[5] At one point, Aegidius and/or Syagrius even threatened the Western Roman Empire with an invasion of Italy if the empire did not grant their requests. Their forces also offered effective resistance to the power of the Visigoth Kingdom, to the south and west of Soissons. MacGeorge (2002) estimates that Syagrius had around 6,000 troops at his disposal as of 486.[9]

See also

References

  1. ^ Bachrach, Bernard S. (1972). Merovingian Military Organization, 481–751. University of Minnesota Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780816657001. By 481 the two peoples competing for predominance in this territory were the Visigoths in southwestern Gaul and the Burgundians in the southeast. Among the lesser groups contending for power were the Armorici (a loose confederation of Gallo-Romans, Britons, Alans, and erstwhile imperial soldiers with their families), who lived in the area between the Seine and the Loire. To the north, between the Seine and the Somme, was Syagrius's Roman kingdom of Soissons and to the east along the upper Rhine were settlements of Alamans. North of these was a small band of Thuringians. The remainder of the Rhineland and the area to the west were ruled by Frankish reguli or chieftains, who, with their warbands, were settled around Tournai, Cambrai, Cologne, and the other cities of the region.
  2. ^ a b MacGeorge, Penny (2002). Late Roman Warlords. Oxford University Press. pp. 111–113. ISBN 0-19-925244-0. Retrieved September 23, 2013. ... he and his kingdom were recognisably Roman ...
  3. ^ Gajdzis, Krystian (2022-07-25). "The Romans Who Outlasted Their Empire". The History Inquiry. Retrieved 2023-11-09. It should also be noted that the label of 'Kingdom' was a later historical invention meant to differentiate Aegidius' rump state from the remainder of the Western Roman Empire. In reality, both Aegidius and his son would never have accepted a kingly title- although centuries had passed since the days of the Roman Republic with the office of Emperor becoming increasingly autocratic in nature, the cultural stigma Romans held against kings remained strong.
  4. ^ Fanning, S. (1992). "Emperors and empires in fifth-century Gaul". In Drinkwater, John; Elton, Hugh (eds.). Fifth-Century Gaul: A Crisis of Identity?. Cambridge University Press. pp. 288–297.
  5. ^ a b c d Penny MacGeorge (5 December 2002). Late Roman Warlords. ISBN 978-0-19-925244-2. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  6. ^ a b c Bussey, George Muir; Gaspey, Thomas; Burette, Théodose (1850). A History of France and of the French People. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  7. ^ Frassetto, Michael (2003). Encyclopedia of barbarian Europe. ISBN 978-1-57607-263-9. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  8. ^ Bély, Lucien; Moyon, Angela (2001). The History of France. ISBN 978-2-87747-563-1. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  9. ^ MacGeorge, Penny (2002). Late Roman Warlords. Oxford University Press. p. 157. ISBN 9780191530913.

Notes

  1. ^ Calculated with Google Maps according to the referenced map.