Merovingian Origin Location(s)
 
by Rolf Badenhausen

 
Date: 2016-11-13
This document is appendix of
Thidreks Saga Research: Merovingians by the Svava
www.badenhausen.net/harz/svava/MerovingSvava.htm
 
When King Clovis came to be baptized after his conversion to Christianity, Bishop Remigius said to him, 'Meekly bend thy neck, Sicamber ...', as remarked by Gregory of Tours who certainly gave on this occasion an example of his more or less comprehensive knowledge of Roman-Germanic history. (Remigius' original phrase is provided by Gregory's Historiae Francorum, Book II ch 31: »Mitis depone colla, Sigamber... «) 
 
The Baptism of King Clovis.
A partial view of the altarpiece by the Master of Saint Gilles (abt 1500).
King Clovis by Saint Gilles
The Seal Ring of Childeric I
The Seal Ring of Childeric I, son of Meroveus and father of Clovis.
The Sicambri, a powerful tribe migrating formerly along the Danube and the Rhine, were dwelling along the eastern banks on the Lower Rhine in the time of Caesar. Regarding the Migration Period, however, these people also were dispersed to such an extent that Gregory of Tours might have remembered merely a 'migratory legend' somehow related to that part of land which was called Salia some hundred years later:

'Franks originally came from Pannonia and
first colonized the banks of the Rhine. Then, 
they crossed the river, marched through 
Thongeria, and set up in each country
district and each city long-haired kings 
chosen from the foremost and most noble
family of their race ...'.
                                                           .

A Germanic chief called Meroveus, forwarded as grandfather of Clovis, is believed to have been recorded in 417 for rendering heroic service to the Romans. At that time, as merited high-ranking mercenary, he was obviously rewarded with the leadership of Salia (nowadays pertaining to Dutch and Belgian territory) with that Gaulish region Toxandria we are calling now North and South Brabant. However, there is no further creditable historical information that Meroveus was of Sicambrian descent.

Karl Müllenhoff (Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum, 6, p. 433) follows Heinrich Leo (Lehrbuch der Universalgeschichte 2, 28) connecting the Merovingian location with the Dutch watercourse Merwe (Merwede). Franz Joseph Mone (Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der teuschen Heldensage, 1836, p. 47) recounts some authors who already combined likewise. Emil Rückert (Oberon von Mons und die Pipine von Nivella, 1836, p. 39) sums up accordingly:

 
Das herrschende Geschlecht der Franken wohnte an der Merwe oder Merowe, d. h. der unterhalb Löwenstein mit der Maas vereinigten Waal und hiervon empfing es den Namen Merowinger, Morowinger, welchen auch ein König aus diesem Hause, Meroväus oder Moroväus, Merwig, trug. Der Mervengau ist jenes Maurungania ad Albim (wohl Vahalim), welches der Geograph von Ravenna als früheren Aufenthalt der prima linea Francorum angibt.
 
[The ruling Frankish dynasty was dwelling on the Merwe or Merowe (today the Dutch Merwede), where the Meuse meets the Waal below Lionstone Castle (the ‘Lovensteyn’ or ‘Loevestein’); and the Merovings or Morovingians received their name from which watercourse, and also one of their kings, Meroveus, Moroveus, or Mervig, was named likewise. This district called ‘Mervengau’ is that ‘Maurungania ad Albim’ (obviously the ‘Vahalim’) (Vahal, Waal) which the Geographer ('Cosmographer') of Ravenna notes as the early location of the ‘prima linea Francorum’].
 
Eugen Ewig, eminent researcher in Frankish history, considers the earliest region of the Salians rolling out to the region of Overyssel (the former Sal-land), as marked today by Dutch towns Deventer and Kampen. Regarding archaeological exploration of Frisian and Lower Saxon lands, as Ewig remarks (Die Merowinger und das Frankenreich), the Franks holding Salland were also settling in the northern German lands up to the middle course of Weser river until 365/370. Following archaeological research, Saxon tribes extended their territory southwards at that time. Then, at the beginning of 5th century, the Franks withdrew to regions mainly on the left side of the lower Rhine.
 
Lovensteyn of 1630, painted by C.J.Visscher.

The castle was (re-?)built between 1357 and 1368 by Lord Diederick van Horne who was (nick-)named Loef (Lion). In 1385 Albrecht van Beieren took over possession of the castle and appointed his trustee Brunstijn van Herwijnen as the castle's keeper.


Lovensteyn Castle of 1630



This colourized old photo of Loevestein Castle was made on the eastern bank of the Waal, approximately 2 miles (3 km) from the Merwede's mouth.
Lovensteyn Castle in 20th Century
 

The Thidrek saga contributes a (con-)temporarily appearing ruler called King Nidung to the Salian-Toxandrian region whom the author has regarded to substantiate Fredegar's version of the Merovingian genesis in his publication quoted and linked above. Since the medieval scribes of the Old Norse manuscripts have apparently situated this mighty ruler in Frankish Hesbaye as well as in Jutland – mentioning him there as sovereign of Thy –, the lands around the Limfjord on the ancient 'Amber Route' (of considerable strategic importance) might be worth the effort to scrutinise there the roots of the first Meroveus. At present, there are at least two locations of interest whose former spelling and tradition seem to indicate themselves as name spending godfather: The isle of Mors with known word forms of 'Morø...' and, close to the east, Cap Salling.

Thus, referring to Fredegar's insinuation, we may wonder about Emil Rückert's successive order of Merovingian onomastics and question furthermore: Was there already any recurrently related Nordic homeland of the invading Salian founder, the name spending godfather of that dynasty which the Dutch Merwede and its contemporarily surrounding region spelled Salland or Salia seem to remember?

Reinhard Wenskus remarks that Bishop Freculf of Lisieux, formerly pupil at the scriptorium of Charlemagne's Aachen residence, claims Scandinavian origin of the Franks, cf. J. P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Seria I, latina, see col. 967:
 
Francos ... de Scanza insula ... exordium habuisse; de qua Gothi et ceterae nationes Theotiscae exierunt, quod et idioma lingua eorum testantur.
(Quot. by Reinhard Wenskus, Sachsen – Angelsachsen – Thüringer, in: Walther Lammers (Ed.), Entstehung und Verfassung des Sachsenstammes, Darmstadt 1967, see pgs 514–515.
)

Jordano's Map of Jutlandic Thy, Mors, Salling An excerpt from the Ortelius Map of Jutland outlined by M. Jordano.

We may wonder if Freculf could rate the tip of Jutland among a Scandinavian environment. Otherwise, these locations could have been the temporary seat of the migrating Merovingian eponym of the Franks.

Another etymological explanation seems to come out very intriguingly by the translators of the Old English Beowulf at its lines 2920–2921:
 
...   ús wæs á syððan
merewíoingas    milts ungyfeðe.

Karl Simrock equated these people with the Merovings (Ger. 'Merowinge(r)', cf. Beowulf, Stuttgart & Augsburg 1859, p. 147) and also Francis B. Gummere correspondingly translated this passage
 
And ever since the Merovings' favor has failed us wholly...,
 
whereas some reputable German philologists (e.g. Levin Ludwig Schücking, Martin Lehnert, Gisbert Haefs) have emended the term in question to the compound
 
mere-wícingas = 'sea-pirates, Vikings'.

The Chronicle of Fredegar provides this passage in book III, 9, as already quoted at endnote 17 of the superior article Merovingians by the Svava:
 
Fertur, super litore maris aestatis tempore Chlodeo cum uxore resedens, meridiae uxor ad mare labandum1 vadens, bistea Neptuni Quinotauri similis eam adpetisset. Cumque in continuo aut a bistea aut a viro fuisset concepta, peperit filium nomen Meroveum, per co regis Francorum post vocantur Merohingii.
 
[It is said that in the summertime at noon Chlodeo sat with his wife on the seashore, and she went to take a bath in the Labadian1 sea where a beast of Neptune which resembled a Quinotaur took possession of her. From this beast, as from her husband, she bore a son named Merovech, of whom the Frankish kings are called Merovings.]

Does this 'Greek version' allow to transfer this location to a shore of Clodeo's domain somewhere on the North Sea? And we further may ask for a compromise to all translators mentioned above:  Is there generally reason enough to contradict the derivative-based identification  mere-wícingas Merovings ?
_______________
1   Fredegar most likely means  Labadus  or Lebedus (Lebedos), one of
the twelve cities of the Ionian League located on the Aegean Sea as the
urbs Ioniæ in Asia minori, maritima in parte Australi Isthmi
peninsul
æ Ioniæ; quæ etiam Labadus dicta est...,
as explained by the author of the Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti...,
Jacobi Usserii Annales, Genev
æ MDCCXXII, Index Geographicus 'L'.