Gundobad

(d. 516)
   Important king of the Burgundians (r. c. 480-516) and leading figure in the early post-Roman world, Gundobad was a lawgiver and frequently involved with the major kings of his day. He was the nephew of the Roman general and power behind the throne, Ricimer, and was involved in Roman service for a while. As king of the Burgundians, Gundobad was involved with the Franks and Ostrogoths, concluding marriage alliances with the kings of those peoples. He also, according to the sixth-century historian Gregory of Tours, considered converting from Arian Christianity to Catholic Christianity, and even if he did not convert, the Catholic faith was an important tradition in his family, as demonstrated by his niece Clothild.
   One of several brothers of the royal family, Gundobad was also a high-ranking figure in the Roman military and a strong supporter of his uncle Ricimer, the leading figure in the Western Empire. He fought with his uncle against the Vandals and succeeded him as the chief military officer of the Western Empire from 472 to 474. He fell from favor when a new emperor took the throne in the west, and fled north to his family's homeland, where he became king by about 480 and shared rule with his three brothers for the next decade. By the early 490s, two of his brothers had died, and according to Gregory, Gundobad murdered one of his Chilperic II, the father of Clothild. Although he may not have killed Chilperic, who may have died of natural causes, Gundobad was a leading power; he invaded Italy while Theodoric the Great was at war with Odovacar, the Germanic king who deposed the last Roman emporer in the West, in order to seize some territory. Theodoric was forced to expel the Burgundians and make territorial concessions to them. To improve their relationship, Theodoric and Gundobad forged a marriage alliance, in which one of Theodoric's daughters married Gundobad's son Sigismund in 496 or 497. Despite the marriage, the relationship between the two kings remained tense, in part because of the alliance that existed between the Burgundians and the Franks.
   The relationship between the Burgundians and the Merovingian Franks, however, was also one that was often strained because of the ambitions of the two kings, Gundobad and Clovis. According to Gregory, a source of the tension between them came from Clothild, the wife of Clovis and niece of Gundobad. Gregory notes that Gundobad killed Clothild's father, but granted permission for her to marry the Frankish king, and she ultimately convinced her sons to avenge her father's death. Clovis himself made war on Gundobad. According to the historian of the Franks, Clovis was invited by Gundobad's brother Godigisel to join him against Gundobad about the year 500. When Clovis invaded, Gundobad called on his brother, who arrived but switched to Clovis's side during the battle, which forced Gundobad to flee. Unable to capture Gundobad, Clovis withdrew and left a detachment to support Godigisel, who was then defeated by an alliance of Gundobad and the Visigoths from Spain. Gundobad grew stronger and stopped payment of tribute to Clovis, who was forced to maintain his alliance with the Burgundian because of the threat of the Alemanni to the Franks. Indeed, Gundobad joined with Clovis against the Alemanni and the Visigoths when Clovis went to war against them and suffered because of this alliance. In the settlement of these contests, which drew the attention of Theodoric, Gundobad lost territory and weakened the kingdom.
   Although he was not the most successful military leader, Gundobad was an important lawgiver. Around the year 500, Gundobad codified the laws of the Burgundians in the Lex Gundobada, or Liber constitutionem (Book of Constitutions). The law was a compilation of traditional Burgundian tribal laws in Latin that applied to Gundobad's Burgundian subjects, issued in its final form by Gundobad's son Sigismund in 517. It included important sections on settlement patterns and distribution of land to the Burgundians and also contained a number of royal edicts. When issued by Sigismund it was joined by a collection of laws that concerned the Roman subjects of the Burgundian kings. The Lex Gundobada remained an important and influential legal code long after the destruction of the Burgundian kingdom, lasting into the ninth century, and is Gundobad's most important legacy.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Drew, Katherine Fisher, trans. The Burgundian Code: The Book of Constitutions or Law of Gundobad and Additional Enactments. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972.
 ♦ Gregory of Tours. History of the Franks. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1974.
 ♦ Randers-Pehrson, Justine Davis. Barbarians and Romans: The Birth Struggle of Europe, a.d. 400-700. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983.
 ♦ Wolfram, Herwig. The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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