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Kingdom of Burgundy [410-1547]

The name of Burgundy has borne endless meanings, both within the Empire and beyond it. The greater part of Gaul was at the end of the fifth century, divided between the Franks in the north and the West-Goths in the south. But, early in the fifth century, a third Teutonic power grew up in southeastern Gaul. The Burgundians, a people who, in the course of the Wandering of the Nations, seem to have made their way from the shores of the Baltic, established themselves in the lauds between the Ehone and the Alps, where they formed a kingdom which bore their name.

The strength of Aurelian [r. 270-275] had crushed on every side the enemies of Rome. After his death they seemed to revive with an increase of fury and of numbers. They were again vanquished by the active vigour of Probus [r. 276-282], who, in a short reign of about six years, (6) equalled the fame of ancient heroes, and restored peace and order to every province of the Roman world. The most important service which Probus rendered to the republic, was the deliverance of Gaul, and the recovery of seventy flourishing cities oppressed by the barbarians of Germany, who, since the death of Aurelian, had ravaged that great province with impunity. He vanquished the Burgundians, a considerable people of the Vandalic race. They had wandered in quest of booty from the banks of the Oder to those of the Seine. They esteemed themselves sufficiently fortunate to purchase, by the restitution of all their booty, the permission of an undisturbed retreat. They attempted to elude that article of the treaty. Their punishment was immediate and terrible. In 277 AD the Vandals and Burgundians who had crossed the Rhine to invade the Roman empire were defeated by Emperor Probus. Beaten and almost annihilated by the Goths, they at last placed themselves entirely under the protection of Rome and received settlements in Pannonia

The Burgundians had in AD 410, stopped at the foot of the Alps, and occupied the valleys of Helvetia and the Rhone, while their fierce companions, the Vandals, pushed on to Spain. The Burgundians were the most humane and civilized of the barbarian tribes that settled in the Roman provinces. The cities in Burgundy were flourishing. Janua (Geneva) on Lake Leman.- Besontio (Besanqon) on the Dubis (Doubs).-Caeilonum (Cha1ans) on the Arar (Sa&ne)-the capital and the finest city of Burgundy during the period of its independence.-Vienna (Vienne), on the left bank of the Rhone.-Avenio (Avignon), more south, celebrated for its brave resistance against the victorious Clovis, who was forced to raise the siege on the approach of the Ostrogoths. The Burgundians had concluded a compact with the native Romans, by which the latter agreed to surrender to the victors two-thirds of their estates, the half of their forests, gardens, and houses, and a third of the whole number of their slaves. During fifty years, every freeman obtained this allodium (lot) from his Burgundian lord. The estates were hereditary. Pasture and agriculture were the business of freemen, while all mechanical employments, including arts, belonged to the servile class. Thus the ancient Germanic manners of the Burgundians were long maintained in their primitive simplicity. Wives were purchased, and they might be dismissed in case of poisoning or witcheraft.

Their dominion in Gaul may be said to have been more lasting than that of the Goths, less lasting than that of the Franks. Burgundy is still a recognized name ; but no name in geography has so often shifted its place and meaning, and it has for some centuries settled itself on a very small part of the ancient kingdom of the Burgundians.

At the end of the fifth century the Rhone was a Burgundian river; Autun, Besanqon, Lyons, and Vienne were Burgundian cities; but the sea coast, the original Roman Province, the land which had so steadily kept that name, though it fell for a moment under the Burgundian power, followed at this time, as became the first Roman land beyond the Alps.

Clovis had attempted their subjection, but the Burgundian power did not sink until his sons repeated the blow in 584, when the Burgundian states were divided among the Frankish princes, and the Ostrogoths, under Theodoric, possessed themselves of the coast-lands of Provence. The crimes of the Burgundian dynasty hastened the overthrow of the nation. The Franks, to revenge their queen Chlotilda, laid waste Burgundy with fire and sword. When Gondemar fell in 584, the kingdom became extinct, and the family of Clovis governed Burgundy by a duke, and the country on both slopes of Mount Jura by a patrician.

Of all geographical names, that which has changed its meaning the greatest number of times is the name Burgundy. It is specially needful to explain its different meanings, when there were two, and sometimes more, distinct states bearing the Burgundian name. Of the older Burgundian kingdom, the north-western part, forming the land best known as the Duchy of Burgundy, was, in the divisions of the ninth century, a fief of Karolingia or the Western kingdom. This is the Burgundy which had Dijon for its capital, and which was held by more than one dynasty of dukes as vassals of the Western kings, first at Laon and then at Paris. This Burgundy, which, as the name of France came to bear its modern sense, may be distinguished as the French Duchy, must be carefully distinguished from the Royal Burgundy.

This is a state which arose out of the divisions of the ninth century, and which, sometimes as a single kingdom, sometimes as two, took in all the rest of the old Burgundian kingdom which did not form part of the French duchy. It may be roughly defined as the land between the Rhone and Saone and the Alps, though its somewhat fluctuating boundaries sometimes stretched west of the Ehone, and its eastern frontier towards Germany changed more than once. It thus took in the original Eoman province in Gaul, which may be spoken of as Provence, with its great cities, foremost among them Arelate or Aries, which was the capital of the kingdom, and from which the land was sometimes called the Kingdom of Aries. It also took in Lyons, the primatial city cities of the of Gaul, Geneva, Besancon, and other important Koman dian kingtowns. In short, from its position, it contained a greater number of the former seats of Roman power than any of the new kingdoms except Italy itself.

The division of 887 parted off from the general mass of the Frankish dominions a distinct Kingdom of the East-Franks, the acknowledged head of the Frankish kingdoms, which, as being distinguished from its fellows as the Regnum Teutonicum, may be best spoken of as a Kingdom of Germany. But the lasting acquisition of the Italian and Imperial crowns by the German kings, and their later acquisition of the kingdom of Burgundy, gradually tended to obscure the notion of a distinct German kingdom. The idea of the Kingdom was merged in the idea of the Empire of which it formed a part. Later events too tended in the same direction. The Italian kingdom gradually fell off from any practical allegiance to its nominal king the Emperor. So did the greater part of the Burgundian kingdom.

When Burgundy formed two kingdoms, the Northern or Trans-jurane Burgundy took in, speaking roughly, the lands north of Lyons, and Cis-jurane Burgundy those between Lyons and the sea. The ancient Transjurane Burgundy is in modern geography divided between France and Switzerland. The history of this Burgundian kingdom differs in one respect from that or any other ot the states which arose out of the break-up of the Frankish Empire, kingdoms. It parted off wholly from the Carolingian dominion before the division of 887. It formed no part of the reunited Empire of Charles the Fat. It may therefore be looked on as having parted off altogether from the immediately Frankish rule, though it often appears as more or less dependent on the kings of the Eastern Francia. But its time of separate being was short.

After union of about a century and a half from its foundation, the Burgundian kingdom was united under the same kings as Germany, and its later history consists of the way in which the greater part of the old Middle Kingdom was swallowed up bit by bit by the modern kingdom of France. The only part which escaped was that which now forms the western cantons of Switzerland. In truth the Swiss Confederacy may be looked on as having, in some slight degree, inherited the position of the Burgundian kingdom as a middle state.

While the Eastern and Western kingdoms of the Franks have grown into two of the greatest powers and nations in modern Europe, the Burgundian kingdom has been altogether wiped out. Not only its independence, but its very name, has passed from it. The name Burgundy has for a long time past been commonly used to express the French duchy only.

The outlying possessions of Aragon were strictly acquisitions made by the Kings of Aragon on behalf of the crown of Aragon. But the extension of Castilian between dominion over distant parts of Europe was due only to the fact that in 1504 the crown of Castile passed to an Austrian prince who had inherited the greater part of the dominions of the Dukes of Burgundy. But thereby the Netherlands and the counties of Burgundy and Charolois became appendages to Castile, and went to swell the great Spanish Monarchy.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:52:16 ZULU