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Essay on Gregory of Tours’ Clovis' Conversion to Orthodox Christianity

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Gregory of Tours’ Clovis' Conversion to Orthodox Christianity


In The History of the Franks, Gregory of Tours portrayed Clovis as a leader who, although his conversion to Christianity appeared to be genuine, nonetheless, used his conversion to realize his political aspirations. By converting to Christianity, Clovis, according to Gregory of Tours’ narrative, was able to garner the support of Christian leaders such as Saint Remigius and, consequently, gain powerful political allies. Moreover, as a result of his conversion, Clovis became a king who was more attractive to orthodox Christians. Furthermore, Clovis’ conversion provided him with a reason for conquering territories that were not ruled by orthodox Christians. Thus, Clovis was able to bring additional territories under his command without resistance from local orthodox Christian leaders and with a degree of approval from the orthodox Christian masses as he, in essence, took on the Christ-like role of savior and liberator who relieved the orthodox Christian masses of flawed leadership from “false” Christians, pagans, or the morally inept. Interestingly, it seems that Clovis’ alleged behavior was not entirely unique as parallels and discrepancies exist between Gregory of Tour’s account of Clovis’ conversion to orthodox Christianity, his depiction of Gundobad’s conversion, and Eusebius’ description of Constantine’s conversion.

Eusebius’ account of Constantine’s conversion is comparable to Gregory of Tours’ accounts of Clovis’ and Gundobad’s conversions to Christianity, in the sense that they all initially called upon the “Christ-God” (albeit Gundobad perhaps indirectly) to come to their aid, which he did, during periods of military crisis. The si...


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...ore, the ultimate political success of these leaders appears inevitable considering the position allotted orthodox Christianity, subordinating paganism and Arianism, by the authors, as a result of their religious preferences. While Clovis and Constantine used their conversions to boost their political might, Gundobad clearly did not. Moreover, it seems likely that the military triumphs of Clovis and Constantine contributed at least as much to their political successes as their conversions did. Perhaps Christianity benefited more from them than they from it since the relatively unified Christian kingdoms they forged provided a fertile bed from which Christianity could grow. Furthermore, it appears that, taking into account their actions following their conversions, Constantine and Gundobad, like Clovis, were relatively genuine in their dedication to Christianity.


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