Covering 1,500 years of people can get confusing, so, in an effort to help keep things straight, we present to you the Cast of Characters. The next time you think to yourself, "Who was that again?" or "I think I remember that name..."
Check in here and freshen up on who they were!
King of the Franks, 481-511
Clovis I was the first capital-K "King" of the Franks. He began his reign in 481 following the death of his father Childéric I, and reigned until 511. He was the husband of Clotilde, the grandson of Merovech, and the great grandson of Chlodio. It was during Clovis's reign that the Franks spread across most of Gaul and became the preeminent power in the land. Clovis's primary T+M episodes are Episodes Four, Five, and Six.
Gregory of Tours
Bishop of Tours, 573-594
Gregory first enters the story in Episode One, but his History of the Franks is used continually as a guide to understanding the pre-7th century Franks and the Merovingian Dynasty. While much of his "history" is not academically rigorous, his stories give us an insight into the mindset of the 6th century; additionally, Gregory had first-hand knowledge of many Frankish leaders near to the end of his life, and many of his accounts are the only first-hand information we have from this era.
King of Italy, 476-493
Odoacer was the first King of Italy, a feat he accomplished by overthrowing the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustus, in 476. Odoacer fought alongside Attila the Hun, notably at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in Episode Two, and also worked with Childéric I to fight the Alemanni in Episode Three.
Roman historian of the 1st and 2nd centuries
Tacitus, as noted in Episode 1, left some of the most vivid descriptions available of the barbarians encroaching on Rome's borders, but we should take his descriptions with a grain of salt as it’s unlikely that the Roman actually saw first-hand what he was writing about. His stories were colored by nearly two centuries of Roman warfare in Gaul, as well as those of travelers to the region. It’s more than a little possible that Tacitus was cherry-picking his facts as he wrote to spice up his descriptions.
Eastern Roman Emperor, 364-378
Valens had a run-in with the Goths in Episode One, one that would ultimately have massive impacts for Rome and the spread of barbarians across the Empire. Valens lost an "unloseable" battle in Adrianople, becoming a poster child for concepts such as tactical patience, advance scouting, and never underestimating your opponent.
Roman Emperor, 306-337
Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, reportedly after seeing "a trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, In Hoc Signo Vinces" ("with this sign, you shall win")." His conversion and subsequent disavowal of Arius in Episode One laid the groundwork for Catholicism to become prevalent in Gaul; his conversion story was likely the framework used by Gregory of Tours to describe Clovis's battlefield conversion in Episode Five.
Fourth century theologian
Arius espoused in Episode One a theory of Christian doctrine that placed him and his followers at odds with Constantine and the Roman Church. Arius stressed that God is unique and self-existent; he created Jesus, and therefore, Jesus was not self-existent and was not a part of God himself and was not co-eternal. The Roman Church said that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were all one and the same. This may sound like a fairly minor point to us today, but at the time it was a really big deal.
King of the Franks, 430-450
One of the early "long-haired kings," Chlodio was the father of Merovech, but it's possible that he was the father of Childéric. Either way, he was in the lineage of Clovis, and it was Chlodio's wife who was said to have been seduced by a sea-god/quinotaur at the beginning of Episode Two. This infusion of divinity into Chlodio's unborn child resulted in the birth of Merovech, Clovis's grandfather, and added to the notion that the Merovingian Dynasty had supernatural powers.
Mythical sea-creature, deputy of Neptune
Episode Two starts with the story of Chlodio's unnamed wife and the quinotaur, a half-bull sea-creature sent by Neptune to endow Chlodio's unborn child with god-like power. This child would be Merovech, the Frankish king whose name ultimately named the Dynasty started with his reign: the Merovingians.
7th century historian
Fredegar is a largely unknown person, best remembered in Episode Two for his writing of the eponymous Chronicle of Fredegar. He may have actually been two people who ultimately combined material for the single Chronicle. At any rate, his stories, often written about events well before his time, are a source of interest and color in a time where sources were scarce; however, much of the information put forth by Fredegar is undocumented and historically dubious.
King of the Franks, 450-458
Merovech, son of Chlodio, father of Childéric and grandfather of Clovis, is the focus of Episode Two. Merovech was reportedly imbued with divinity by the quinotaur during his pre-natal gestation, and would grow into a strong king who stood beside several other warring parties to inflict one of the few defeats ever handed to Attila the Hun when they stopped him at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains. Merovech is the namesake of the Merovingian Dynasty and integral to their founding story; the one catch, however, is that he very likely never existed.
Attila the Hun
Leader of the Huns, 434-453; "the Scourge of God"
Attila is remembered in Episode Two as being at the head of an alliance of Huns and multiple other tribes, all of whom followed him because he was considered nearly invincible in battle. Attila entered Gaul in 450 after being denied both the hand and dowry of Honoria, sister of the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III. He was stopped at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451, but continued to campaign in Italy until his death in 453.
Sister of Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III
Honoria featured in Episode Two. Honoria was married off to a Roman senator named Bassus Herculanus; not wanting to marry the senator, Honoria sent word to Attila in the spring of 450 that she could use his help to get her out of her unwanted marriage. Sources differ about what she said, but Attila apparently read it exactly how he wanted to read it. He responded to her by essentially saying “Yes, I will marry you, and I’ll also take half of the Western Empire as dowry.” This could have been Honoria’s plan, or it could have been the worst possible misreading of a letter asking for a little support, but either way, Honoria’s message essentially gave Attila the pretext he needed to invade the West.
Western Roman Emperor, 425-455
Valentinian III featured in Episode Two for his extremely poor family situation which ultimately led to the invasion of the West by Attila and the Huns (see Honoria, above). He then featured in Episode Three by being convinced to kill his military commander, Flavius Aetius (below), for fear Aetius was becoming too powerful. Despite his 30-year reign, most sources place him as characteristic of the type of wanton and ineffective leadership plaguing Rome prior to the fall of the Western Empire.
Magister Militum of the Roman Army,
Flavius Aetius was the Magister Militum of the Roman Army who stood up to and defeated Attila at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in Episode Two. Despite the glory he brought to Rome - his is considered the last great military victory for the West - he was unceremoniously executed in Episode Three by Valentinian III when the Emperor was duped into believing Aetius had become too powerful and would use that force against the Empire.