Danger from beneath in Gaul. During the period of the invasions themselves, the aristocrats had more to fear from their own kinsmen of the lower classes than from the Germans. Not conquest but internal disorder caused most widespread fear in the upper classes in the century of the fall of Rome. Dill states: 4Next Page
The country districts suffered more from brigands than even from German bands on the warpath or from German spies . . . . The great noble in his strong house, surrounded by troops of clients and serfs, could protect himself against the attacks of these desperadoes; but the sufferings of the meaner sort may be inferred . . . .
With all available documents at his disposal, Dill summarizes as follows: 5
Yet it is probable that the Gallo-Roman nobles had little to fear from any open assault of German forces in regular war. The real danger was from irregular bands or from gangs of brigands, which were as often recruited from the wreck of Roman society as from the invaders. But all the evidence goes to show that the great Roman families suffered little in the invasions either from violence or from confiscation.
This last sentence expresses the exact opposite view of that given by Sorokin, and the difference here is one of documented study as over against deductive reasoning.
Rome, religion, and the bishops. In this age religion did not languish. It maintained, instead, a steady growth. Its power spread; its hold on life increased. And it was Roman to the core. Hulme shows the relation of the church to the Gallo-Roman aristocracy of this era: 6
Still more powerful was the fusing influence of the church. This was due largely to its organization . . . . From the pope downward, through the archbishops and bishops, to the parish priests in the remotest districts the papal power extended . . . . Civil jurisdiction had passed very largely into the hands of the bishops. Those prelates were chosen almost without exception from the Roman landed nobility.
Because of the language problem, because the church came to be the patron of formal learning, and because of the desire of many aristocrats to flee from the crudities of the barbarians and withdraw into monasteries, the natural tendency was for this powerful social institution, religion, to fall into and remain in the hands of Roman families. The higher offices were taken over by the higher and better educated classes.
Roman society in the Merovingian age. The senatorial families, instead of being ruined and disappearing, during the century of invasion, retained the gains they had made during the first stages of political disintegration. One reads: 7
Meanwhile, ordinary Gallo-Roman life probably went on as it had done for generations before the Visigoths appeared at Toulouse, or the Franks at Cambrai, and Church life was even less disturbed by the great upheaval. We can see or infer that the great landholders and senators, although they may have had to share their estates with a Gothic or Bergundian guest, on the whole maintained their rank and wealth.
The new German governments came but without "taking the place of imperial functionaries." 8 "The aristocrat at those times easily and often became the prince bishop . . . . " 9 The German king "in carrying out his new task of administration was obliged to use the trained skill of Roman lawyers and administrators." 10
As if to contradict completely the whole theory of cultural and racial antagonism, a part of the conquest theory of invasion, Dill states: 11
The kingly power, which was the only power in the sixth century, was exerted equally over both races . . . . there is hardly a trace of hatred and friction in the social relations of the two races . . . . The German kings, even such masterful rulers and Euric or Theodoric, had to rely on Roman advisers in the problems of administration. And we may be sure that Clovis had also to do so . . . . Some great Romans in the perilous period of invasion may have retired for safety to strongly fortified castles. But in this time of Clovis and his sons they seem to have taken part in public life, both in Church and State. The great Churchmen, from the first, were generally of Roman race. And Roman names appear with growing frequency in the great offices of state.
The Germans were far outnumbered by the natives, and instead of the civilized population being conquered by the uncivilized, in the social class sphere there was much to show that (except for purges of German nobles by Clovis) the upper classes in each society held their positions relatively secure, the Romans exerting tremeandous influence upon affairs of state, church, and society generally. Roman influence was made even greater by the internal strife among the upper class Germans.
4. Samuel Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire (London, 1925) p. 379.
5. Ibid., pp. 374 - 375.
6. Edward Maslin Hulme, The Middle Ages (New York, 1938) pp. 204 - 205.
7. Samuel Dill, Roman Society in Gaul in the Merovingian Age (London, 1926) p. 25.
8. Ibid., p. 29.
9. Ibid., p. 39.
10. Ibid., p. 41.
11. Ibid., p. 81.