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The Burgundians


The Burgundians, East German tribesmen, were great allies of Rome. In the Battle of Chalons (451 AD), they fought on the side of Aetius, a Roman war hero, the Visigoths, and other Germanic peoples against Attila and the Huns. So much the Roman allies, the Burgundian kings were given the title of Master of the Soldiers. Burgundians sought their place in history through military alliances. The rise of the Franks under Clovis committed the Burgundians as allies to the Franks in which they helped Clovis to defeat the Visigoths in 507 AD

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It was twice that the Burgundians faced destruction, the second time being fatal. The Huns attacked in 456 AD; with the aid of Aetus, the Burgundians narrowly escaped destruction. The few survivors fled to the territory surrounding Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Later, after repeated invasions, they moved to the valley of the Rhine River where they occupied eastern Gaul. Lyon became the capital of the Burgundian Kingdom. They gave their name to the region that still remains today as the region Burgundy. But later in 554 AD, the Burgundians were attacked by the Franks, their former allies, and their kingdom was annexed.

The greatest of the Burgundian kings was Gundobad, who reigned from 473 to 517 AD, his greatest contribution being Burgundian law. In 484, he formulated a law code for his Burgundian subjects, the Lex Gundobada, or Lex Burgundionum. Years later, he sponsored a more significant law code, the Lex Romana Burgundinum, this time benefit of his Roman subjects, "[w]hich applied also to cases in which both Romans and Burgundians were involved," (Jones, p.22). Finally, the Burgundians, like many other Germanic tribesmen, were Arian Christians. However, in 493 AD, Clotilda, the Burgundian princess, married Clovis, and having embraced the Roman Rite herself, helped convert Clovis to Roman Christianity.


England, L.A.J., France and Burgundy in the Fifteenth Century. (London: The Hambledon Press, 1983).

Calmette, Joseph. The Golden Age of Burgundy: The Magnificent Dukes and Their Courts. (France: Aes Grands Dues de Bourgogne, 1949).

Cartellier, Otto. The Court of Burgundy. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1929).

Drew, Katherine Fischer. The Burgundian Code: Book of Constitutions or Laws of Gundobad, Additional Enactments. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949).

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