CHAPTER 11

THE CAROLINGIAN COUP D' ÉTAT
AND THE VOLTE-FACE OF THE PAPACY

1. The Merovingian Decadence

Of all the States which the Germans founded in the Occident at the close of the 5th century in the basin of the Mediterranean, the two which had the most brilliant beginnings, the Vandal and Ostrogothic kingdoms, had fallen under the attacks of Justinian. In 629 the Visigoths reconquered from the Empire the scrap of territory which it still retained in the Peninsula.1 The Franks had remained intact. As for the Lombards, it seemed for a moment that they were about to reconstitute the kingdom of Italy for their own benefit. The fact that the Empire was compelled to defend itself against the Persians had favoured their enterprise; and it had been necessary, in order to cope with them, to have recourse to a Frankish alliance, which was not without its dangers. However, just as the victory of Heraclius seemed to portend a resumption of the Byzantine offensive, Islam suddenly made its irruption into the Empire.

Before this irruption the Empire finally retreated. It had lost Africa, and its Italian possessions were menaced by the Musulmans established in Sicily. The Visigoths had been annihilated. The Franks, though Islam had broken through in the South, had made a recovery at Poitiers; notwithstanding which they were cut off from the sea. The Lombards alone had not yet encountered the attacks of Islam, which, on the contrary, had actually been advantageous to them, for they had loosened the grip of Byzantium, now obliged to turn to the Eastern front; and, on the other hand, they had protected them against the Frankish peril.

It was, however, reserved for France, having checked the conti-

____________________
1
LOT, PFISTER and GANSHOF, Histoire du Moyen Age, vol. I, p. 237.

-186-

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