Chronicle of Fredegar

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Page from a manuscript of Fredegar

The Chronicle of Fredegar is the traditional name for a 7th-century Frankish chronicle that was probably written in Burgundy. The author is unknown and the attribution to Fredegar dates from the 16th century.

The chronicle ends in around 648 but some manuscripts contain additional sections written under the Carolingian dynasty that end with the death of Pepin the Short in 768. The Chronicle of Fredegar with its Continuations is one of the very few sources that provide information on the Merovingian dynasty for the period after 591 when Gregory of Tours' the Decem Libri Historiarum finishes.


None of the surviving manuscripts specify the name of the author. The name "Fredegar" (Fredegaire, modern French Frédégaire) was first used for the chronicle in 1579 by Claude Fauchet in his Recueil des antiquitez gauloises et françoises.[1][2] The question of who wrote this work has been much debated, although the historian J. M. Wallace-Hadrill admits that "Fredegar" is a genuine, if unusual, Frankish name.[3] The Vulgar Latin of this work confirms that the Chronicle was written in Gaul; beyond this, little is certain about the origin of this work. As a result, there are several theories about the authorship of this work:[4]

  • The original point of view was that this Chronicle was written by one person, which was asserted without argument as late as 1878.
  • Bruno Krusch, in his edition for the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, first proposed (1883) that this Chronicle was the creation of three authors, a theory later accepted by Theodor Mommsen, Wilhelm Levison, and Wallace-Hadrill.
  • Ferdinand Lot critiqued Krusch's theory of multiple authorship, and his protests were supported in 1928 by Marcel Bardot and Leon Levillain.
  • In 1934, Siegmund Hellmann proposed a modification of Krusch's theory, arguing that this Chronicle was the work of two authors.[5]
  • In 1963, Walter Goffart renewed the notion of a single author,[6] and this view is now generally accepted.[7]

Fredegar is usually presumed to have been a Burgundian from the region of Avenches because of his knowledge of the alternate name Wifflisburg for this locality, a name only then coming into usage. This is further confirmed by the access he had to the annals of many Burgundian churches. He also had access to court documents and could apparently interview Lombard, Visigoth, and Slavic ambassadors. His awareness of events in the Byzantine world is also usually explained by the proximity of Burgundy to Byzantine Italy.

Fredegar was alive around 660 and, within the text, references to events as late as 659 occur. Fredegar refers to his plans to treat those further but he did not continue the chronicle past 642.


The actual Chronicle is composed mainly of five prior works: Liber Conversationis of Hippolytus;[8] the chronicle of Hydatius; the Chronicle of Eusebius in Jerome's translation; the writings of Isidore of Seville; and the edition in six books of Gregory of Tours's Historiae - generally comprising the first six of the total 10 books of the 'Historiae' - down to the death of Chilperic I.[9][10]

A brief on the Chronicle

To the compilation and editing of these major prior works - and also an excerpt from the Vita Columbani by Jonas Bobiensis - Fredegar gave his own interpolations and supplements, and, noteworthy, two chronologies: A computation from Adam to Sigebert II - then in the first (and only) year of his reign (613) - and a list of popes down to Theodore.[11] But most original and very influential was his genealogy of the Frankish kings, going back to the heroes of Troy and connecting the Franks to Aeneas, Macedonia, and the Turks.

Finally there is a more contemporary section. This was initially the addition of a small set of local annals continuing Gregory to 604 and then a subsequent original work down to 613. It is often supposed that this part was written by a different person from the Fredegar who wrote the major portion of the chronicle beginning around 623. Fredegar's writing is sparse from 613 to that date, when it picks up and forms the major source for the remaining period to the death of Flaochad in 642. For those two decades, the Chronicle is a near contemporary source for the events it describes.


The Chronicle's continuation similarly relied upon other sources:

The Continuations of the Chronicle of Fredegar are based on the Liber Historiae Francorum up to the year 721 when the latter's account effectively breaks off. Thereafter the chronicle was continued up to the year 751 on the orders of Charles Martel's half brother Count Childebrand, and then Nibelung, Childebrand's son, had the work carried on to 768 when it ends.[12]

Textual transmission and printed editions[edit]

The chronicle exists in over thirty manuscripts, which Krusch and Wallace-Hadrill group into five families. The original chronicle is lost, but it exists in an uncial copy made in 714/715 by a Burgundian monk named Lucerius. This copy is in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (MS Latin 10910) and is sometimes called the Codex Claromontanus because it was once owned by the Collège de Clermont in Paris. A diplomatic edition was published by Gabriel Monod in 1885. The Codex Claromontanus was also the basis of the critical edition published by Krusch in 1888 and of the partial English translation published by Wallace-Hadrill in 1960. Most of the other surviving manuscripts were copied in Austrasia and date from the early ninth century or later.[13][14]

The first printed version, the editio princeps, was published in Basel by Flacius Illyricus in 1568,[15] who used MS Heidelberg University Palat. Lat. 864 as his text. The next published edition was Antiquae Lectiones by Canisius at Ingolstadt in 1602.


  1. ^ Collins 2007, p. 16.
  2. ^ Fauchet 1579.
  3. ^ Wallace-Hadrill 1960, p. xv.
  4. ^ Wallace-Hadrill 1960, pp. xvi–xxv.
  5. ^ Hellmann 1934.
  6. ^ Goffart 1963.
  7. ^ Goffart 2009.
  8. ^ Also called the Liber Generationis.
  9. ^ On the six-book edition, see (Reimitz 2006). On Fredegar also (Heydemann 2006), with good notes on the use of Gregory of Tour .
  10. ^ This version may also be called Historia Epistomata .[citation needed]
  11. ^ Wallace-Hadrill 1958.
  12. ^ Fouracre 2000, p. 7.
  13. ^ Wallace-Hadrill 1958, pp. 527-528.
  14. ^ "Frédégaire. Latin 10910". Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  15. ^ Wallace-Hadrill 1958, p. 529.


Further reading[edit]

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