Dill states clearly: 28Next Page
We are accustomed to think of the German kings as wielding an overwhelming power over a crushed and conquered population. But the Roman population far outnumbered the invaders, and the Roman nobility was wealthy, powerful, and above all, bound together by the closest ties of tradition and culture. That the Germans inspired fear is certain; but it is equally certain that they were very sensitive to the good or evil opinions held about them by their Roman neighbors, and especially to the opinion of an exclusive and fastidious caste.
Van Dyke also tells a different story from that of the protagonists of the conquest theory: 29
Under the long rule of the Merovingian kings, there grew up a class of nobles who made the title of count and duke, originally works of service to the king, patents of permanent family rank.
If the new nobility was formed during the Merovingian times, data provided by Dill would make it appear certain that members of the old senatorial class were at that time landowners on a large scale and officials of importance in the state, therefore merging significantly into the new nobility of western Europe.
In choosing his counts and dukes, the king was not limited with regard to race. "Even under the early Merovingians there are more counts with Roman than with Frank names in the history of Gregory of Tours," 30 says Dill, and it has already been shown that with time the number and frequency of Roman names among important officials tended to increase.
The race-conquest theory is predicated on racial antagonism and hatred, but, except for some penalties against plebeian brigands listed in the Salic code, the invaders sought to "create a system of equal rights as between the two races." The Bergundian Code is an authentic record of this effort. 31
Outright denial of race-conquest theory. Dill, who follows the lines of thought developed by Fustel de Coulagnes, and who is himself a master scholar of this period of history, gives the lie to the social class theory of conquest, in this instance, in these words: 32
The theory, born of the French Revolution, that the mass of the old Gallic people had been from the first crushed by the arrogance and exactions of the original conquerors, and by the French noblesse who were descended from them, is now seen to be a figment inspired by a political purpose and without any historical foundation . . . There is hardly a sign that the Gallo-Roman population felt themselves impoverished and oppressed.
The sociological theory of conquest does not apply to the invasion of Gaul and the formation of the French social hierarchy. In this instance the theory should be formulated to read: In general new social classes are formed out of the old, especially in the event of a civilized people being conquered by primitives whose very diversity of culture made them dependent upon the language and laws of the civilized society. Roman and Germanic leaders became French noblemen; there was some upstartism among the Franks because of the envy and suspicion of Glovis, but among the Gallo-Romans the old classes retained their positions: serfs were serfs, aristocrats were aristocrats, before and after.
Continuity in the social class structure is not completely demonstrated, but it is strongly inferred, wherever it is shown that there was continuity of Roman influence and dominance during and after the invasions, as, for instance, in the surviving towns.
In Venice, for example, it was found in a study of the "Venetian nobility" that the families which stood at the top 33
. . . looked in part back to the famous family traditions . . . in the ninth century still using the Greek particle meaning "with by-name," a custom seen often in Byzantine . . . we find ourselves in the sphere of aristocratic families (Contarenus, Mastalicus, Magistracus, etc.) who in the years after 853 were the leading persons in the history of Venice.
During the period after the migrations the Germans lived for the most part in the country, leaving the towns of southern France and northern Italy to suffer little under the conciliatory Ostrogoths or more barbarous Lombards.
28. Dill, op. cit., (7), p. 378.
29. Van Dyke, op. cit., p. 46.
30. Dill, op. cit., (7), p. 142.
31. Ibid., p. 37.
32. Ibid., p. 80.
33. M. Morores, "Der Venezianische Adel," in Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- un Wirtschaftsgeschichte, vol. XIX (Stuttgart, 1926) p. 196; translation ours.