The Transformation of Frontiers from Late Antiquity to the Carolingians

By Walter Pohl; Ian Wood et al. | Go to book overview

HESSE, ELBE, SAALE AND THE FRONTIERS
OF THE CAROLINGIAN EMPIRE

Matthias Hardt

Herwig Wolfram has recently directed his attention towards the organisation of Carolingian frontiers. His topic was the rise of the marches on the eastern frontier with the Slavs and Avars and the western frontier with Spain and the Bretons.1 Two additional examples of East-Frankish frontier-regions at the end of the eighth and the beginning of the ninth will be looked at here. In considering the significance of castles on the Frankish border, and the question of the use of Roman models in Frankish frontier-organisation, the following question should be raised: was there an awareness of Roman frontier-policy of the first four centuries A.D. vis-à-vis the Germanic tribes on the Rhine and Danube, in the time of Charlemagne, the first Frankish emperor?

The first region of interest is the northern part of what is today called Hesse, the country to the south-west of the city of Kassel, between Kassel and Marburg. From the letters of Boniface2 and from Willibald's Vita Bonifacii3 we know of people called the Hessi,4 who were living there at the beginning of the eighth century. It is not known when they were incorporated into the Frankish kingdom, but it may have been in the time of Clovis, or they may have been part of the gens Francorum from the beginning of the Frankish ethnogenesis.5 It is clear, however, that

1 H. Wolfram, Salzburg, Bayern, Österreich. Die Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum und
die Quellen ihrer Zeit, MIÖG, Erg. Bd. 31 (Wien and München, 1995), pp. 175–192; see
the contribution of Herwig Wolfram in this volume.

2 Bonifatius, Epistulae.

3 Willibald, Vita Bonifatii.

4 Bonifatius, Eistula 43: Gregorius papa universis optimatibus et populo provinciarum Germa-
niae, Thuringis et Hessis … (c. 738); Epistula 101: in confinia paganorum Haessonum ac Sax-
onum (732–754); Willibald, Vita Bonifatii 6: Similiter et iuxta fines Saxonum Hessorum populum
paganicis adhuc ritibus oberrantem a demoniorum euangelica praedicando mandata captivitate liberavit.

5 H. von Petrikovits, “Chatten”, RGA 4, 2nd edn. (Berlin and New York, 1981),
pp. 383 f.; R. Wenskus, Stammesbildung und Verfassung. Das Werden der frühmittelalterlichen
gentes, 2nd edn. (Köln and Wien, 1977), pp. 570–573; W. Schlesinger, Die Entstehung
der Landesherrschaft. Untersuchungen vorwiegend nach mitteldeutschen Quellen, Sächsische For-
schungen zur Geschichte 1 (Dresden 1941, repr. Darmstadt, 1964); A. Becker, Rom und
die Chatten, Quellen und Forschungen zur Hessischen Geschichte 88 (Darmstadt and
Marburg, 1992), pp. 79 f.

-219-

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