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E06249: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (7.6), recounts how *Polyeuktos (soldier and martyr of Melitene, S00325), *Hilarius/Hilary (bishop of Poitiers, ob. 367, S00183) and *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) were called on to punish any offender against a pact drawn up between Merovingian kings; in Paris, in 584. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 584/594.

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posted on 2018-08-26, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 7.6

After the death of King Chilperic, his brother King Guntram marched on Paris and took up his quarters in the city. Then King Childebert, his nephew, arrived from another direction, but the Parisians refused to allow him to enter the city. He sent messengers to Guntram. They called on him to respect their treaty and grant to his nephew the part of Childebert’s kingdom which was his by right. Guntram reminded them of the pact:

Ecce pactiones, quae inter nos factae sunt, ut, quisque sine fratris voluntantem Parisius urbem ingrederetur, amitteret partem suam, essetque Polioctus martyr cum Hylario adque Martino confessoribus iudex ac retributor eius. Post haec ingressus est in ea germanus meus Sigyberthus, qui iudicio Dei interiens amisit partem suam. Similiter et Chilpericus gessit. Per has ergo transgressiones amiserunt partes suas. Ideoque ... illi iuxta Dei iudicium et maledictionibus pactionum defecerunt ...

'"Here is the pact to which we agreed," answered King Guntram. "It stipulates that, if one of us should enter the city of Paris without the prior agreement of his brother, he should thereupon forfeit his share; and it nominates Polyeuctes the martyr, with the support of Saint Hilary and Saint Martin, to judge the circumstances and to punish the offender. Not long after this my brother Sigibert entered Paris: he died by the judgement of God and so forfeited his share. Next Chilperic entered Paris. By breaking the terms of the pact they both lost their claim to a share. They both incurred the vengeance of God and the malediction promised in the pact ..."'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 329. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 391.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Polyeuktos, soldier and martyr of Melitene : S00325 Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050 Hilarius/Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, ob. 367 : S00183

Saint Name in Source

Polioctus Martinus Hylarius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tours Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Tours

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


Gregory of Tours wrote the Histories (Historiae) during his episcopate in Tours (573–594). They constitute the longest and most detailed historical work of the post-Roman West. Gregory's focus is Gaul under its Frankish kings, above all the territories of Tours and (to a lesser extent) Clermont, where he had been born and brought up. Much of his work tells of the years when, as bishop of an important see, he was himself centrally involved in Frankish politics. The Histories are often wrongly referred to as a History of the Franks. Although the work does contain a history of the rulers of Francia, it also includes much hagiographical material, and Gregory himself gave it the simple title the 'ten books of Histories' (decem libri historiarum), when he produced a list of his own writings (Histories 10.31). The Histories consist of ten books whose scope and contents differ considerably. Book 1 skims rapidly through world history, with biblical and secular material from the Creation to the death in AD 397 of Martin of Tours (Gregory’s hero and predecessor as bishop). It covers 5596 years. In Book 2, which covers 114 years, the focus moves firmly into Gaul, covering the years up to the death of Clovis in 511. Books 3 and 4, which cover 37 and 27 years respectively, then move fairly swiftly on, closing with the death of king Sigibert in 575. With Book 5, through to the final Book 10, the pace slows markedly, and the detail swells, with only between two and four years covered in each of the last six books, breaking off in 591. These books are organised in annual form, based on the regnal years of Childebert II (r. 575-595/6). There continues to be much discussion over when precisely Gregory wrote specific parts of the Histories, though there is general agreement that none of it was written before 575 and, of course, none of it after Gregory's death, which is believed to have occurred in 594. Essentially, scholars are divided over whether Gregory wrote the Histories sequentially as the years from 575 unfolded, with little or no revision thereafter, or whether he composed the whole work over the space of a few years shortly before his death and after 585 (see Murray 2015 for the arguments on both sides). For an understanding of the political history of the time, and Gregory's attitude to it, precisely when the various books were written is of great importance; but for what he wrote about the saints, the precise date of composition is of little significance, because Gregory's attitude to saints, their relics and their miracles did not change significantly during his writing-life. We have therefore chosen to date Gregory's writing of our entries only within the broadest possible parameters: with a terminus post quem of 575 for the early books of the Histories, and thereafter the year of the events described, and a terminus ante quem of 594, set by Gregory's death. (Bryan Ward-Perkins, David Lambert) For general discussions of the Histories see: Goffart, W., The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550–800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon (Princeton, 1988), 119–127. Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden and Boston, 2015), 63–101. Pizarro, J.M., "Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination: Genre, Narrative Style, Sources, and Models in the Histories," in: Murray, A Companion to Gregory of Tours, 337–374.


The pact between the brothers, and Chilperic's decision to break it, is also recounted in Histories 6.27 (E07770). The unusual choice of the eastern saint Polyeuktos to judge breakers of the agreement must have been because, according to Gregory in Glory of the Martyrs 102 (E006550), he had a particular skill at detecting and punishing perjury. Invoking an eastern saint (and a not particularly famous one at that) is, however, highly exceptional, and it may be that Gregory invented the presence of Polyeuktos, inserting him into the story as a learned literary flourish.


Edition: Krusch, B., and Levison, W., Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Libri historiarum X (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.1; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1951). Translation: Thorpe, L., Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks (Penguin Classics; London, 1974). Further reading: Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative", in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston 2015), 63-101. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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