History Files


Western Europe

Kings of the Franks

Compiled by Peter Kessler, 1999. Updated 4 October 2009



Pharamond (c.370-426)

Considered to be the first king of the Salian Franks from AD 409, Pharamond is scarcely known to history, living on the fringes of the Roman empire as he did. His parentage is unknown, but he could have been a son or son-in-law of Marcomer.

Contemporary historian Prosper Tiro wrote about Pharamond. In 420, he reportedly led his people across the River Rhine to head into the Roman Empire. This movement effectively separated his tribe from the majority of the Ripuarian Franks who had settled near Cologne. However, there were certainly Franks already settled on the west bank of the Rhine in 407, possibly Sicambrian Franks, so perhaps Pharamond was leading the first group of Salian Franks to arrive.

Pharamond was eventually succeeded by his son Clodio. His wife was Argotta. A Pharamond appears as the king of France in the prose Tristan and later Arthurian works; he was clearly inspired by the historical leader.


Clodio / Clodian VI (426-447/8)

Clodio was the king of the Salian Franks around Cambrai. According to legend his father was Pharamond, the first king of the Salian Franks after the departure of Roman administration from much of northern Gaul.

Clodio's semi-legendary son Merovech (who succeeded him at Cambrai), was the founder of the Merovingian kings, and was called 'the Long Hair' or 'the Hairy' because of the length of his hair. From then on the Merovingians were called the 'Long Haired Kings' and the cutting of a king's hair represented his loss of royal power.

In history, Clodio was probably real. He lived in Thuringian territory, and ruled at the same time as the semi-legendary kings Theudemer and Richemer. All that is known of his reign is that he took the town of Cambrai from the Romans. The suggestion here is that both he and Pharamond migrated from Thuringian territory, crossed the Rhine in 420, and it was left to Clodio to take Cambrai after 426.

Although Merovech and Clodio are considered by some to be semi-legendary, Merovech's son, Childeric I, was very real and cannot be considered fictional.



Text copyright the original author(s). An original feature for the History Files.