– Đuropali –
Francus & Vassus
A reconstruction based upon the “duropal/duropell/dorpil” in the Salic Law concerning De Chrenecruda. De Chrenecruda was in short a means of “casting” a debt onto one’s relatives if the offender was already made destitute by the heavy fine. The offender would gather dust from the four corners of their home, stand at the threshold of the home, turn, cast the dirt onto their male relatives (whoever received the dirt, owned part of the debt)… then the offender vaulted their hedge nude and never returned (in theory). Hendrik Kern theorized that the “duropal” was derived from the Old Frankish *ðuro (door) and OFrk *pâl (pile, pale), the latter from the Latin palus (spike) and ultimately from the PIE *peh₂ǵ- (to affix). It was the opinion of Grimm that the threshold was a place of swearing oaths.
His name is eponymously that of the Frankish people. The word “frank” is believed to derive from the Latin “francus”, meaning “free, noble, brave” and itself having originally come from the Germanic “frankô” (javeline). This being ultimately from the PIE *prAng- (pole, stalk). Other sources give it the root PGmc *frekaz (rude), though this is less certain. Many theories abound on the relation between “free, noble, brave” and “javeline”, (conjecture) perhaps the “upright, straight, adroit” relation between the noble attitude and a straight pole/javelin is of note.
It should appear apparent that a relation can be drawn between the word “vassal” and the name/title of Vassus. Vassal is derived from the Latin “vassallus” (servant, retainer), which came from the earlier Gaulish *wassos (young man, squire). This can be further traced ultimately to the Proto-Celtic *wastos (servant).
As articulated above, the Đuropali or “door-pales” are found in the Lex Salica title “De Chrenecruda” (LVIII) – most codices – and is not found beyond this entry. That said, it is found in a very regular form from codex to codex and is often well developed and so appears to have been an important title to maintain.
He is found in Aethici Philosophi Scythae Cosmographia (attributed to Jerome, hereafter APSC), where a developed narrative pairs him with Vassus as they wage a military campaign against Romulus:
“Not long afterwards the grandsons [Romulus and Remus] were quarrelling by turns with their grandfather. Romulus rose up against his grandfather, slew Numitor and shrewdly and impudently usurped the kingdom. He expanded the walls and fortifications of Evander’s city and called this very city Rome after his own name. The same man after his grandfather became a fratricide and slew Remus; a mad and wicked womanizer, he was given to every kind of filth and debauchery. Taking to himself his grandfather’s cruelty and rousing the Roman army, he savagely defeated the Lacedemonians, devastated Pannonia, crossed the Simois, and came against Troy as a second butcher after its first destruction. He waged a struggle against Francus and Vassus, who were survivors of the royal line, and after beating them and capturing Ilium again returned to the capital.
Francus and Vassus concluded a treaty with the Albanians, with each side dispatching its army against Romulus. Crossing the mountains of Istria they pitched their tents; Romulus established a camp facing them. Before waging renewed war against Francus and Vassus, he hastened to the sacred mountain and the most famous altars of Jupiter. The hostile armies contending against each other prepare for battle. As he had brought forward the largest army, Romulus was victorious and defeated those warring [against him] after a most bloody slaughter. Seeing that their army had been cut down, Francus and Vassus slipped away and fled with the few who had remained standing. After being beaten and laid low, those of the Albanians who were able to escape from the tremendous slaughter returned to their own territory. Francus and Vassus, as we said, seeing themselves defeated and their land ruined, devastated and reduced to a desert, abandoning their territory with a few companions, yet the readiest men, driven from their homeland, straightaway invaded Rhetia and reached the pathless and uninhabited parts of Germany. And descending to the Maeotian swamps on the left, and living in the piratical and deceitful manner of raiders and thieves, they construct a city and name it Sicambria in their barbarous tongue, which means ‘the sword and the bow’, situating [it] in the manner of brigands and aliens. (Yavuz, 2015)”
If Francus can be equated with Francio:
“The Franks, after careful consideration, chose a king, who, as before, had the distinction of having long hair, from the family of Priam, Friga, and Francio; His name was Theudomer, son of Richimer who was killed by the Romans in the battle of which I have just spoken. He was succeeded by his son Chlodio, the strongest man of his people. […] It is said that Chlodio one time in summer had gone with his wife to the seashore; When his wife went out to bathe in the sea at noon, she had been attacked by a sea monster with a bull’s head. Whether she received from the beast or from her husband, she later bore a son named Meroveus, after whom the kings of the Franks were called Merovingians. (Chronicle of Fredegar, Book 3 – Section 9, Gardenstone translated from Andreas Küsternich, p. 89,91)”
Although much later, Nennius’ Historiae Brittorum mentions an eponymous founder of the Franks and ties him into the mythos ultimately provided by Tacitus (Isto, Ingo, Irmino, here as Hisicion, Neugio, Armenon):
“I have learned another account of this Brutus from the ancient books of our ancestors. After the deluge, the three sons of Noah severally occupied three different parts of the earth: Shem extended his borders into Asia, Ham into Africa, and Japheth into Europe.
The first man that dwelt in Europe was Alanus, with his three sons, Hisicion, Armenon, and Neugio. Hisicion had four sons, Francus, Romanus, Alamanus, and Bruttus. Armenon had five sons, Gothus, Valagothus, Cibidus, Burgundus, and Longobardus. Neugio had three sons, Vandalus, Saxo, and Boganus. From Hisicion arose four nations__the Franks, the Latins, the Germans, and Britons: from Armenon, the Gothi, Valagothi, Cibidi, Burgundi, and Longobardi:: from Neugio, the Bogari, Vandali, Saxones, and Tarincgi. The whole of Europe was subdivided into these tribes. (17, https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/nennius-full.asp)”
Only mentioned in Aethici Philosophi Scythae Cosmographia (above).
While we fully admit that Francus (Francio) and Vassus may be long-standing literary characters, it is the belief of TFA that there is more to these ancient warrior-kings than simple fiction. In nearly all PIE derived cultures we find instances of the “Divine Horse Twins”. The most famous of these in Classical sources are the Dioscuri, the Romanized Castor and Pollux. We also have the founders of Rome themselves, Remus and Romulus. In Gremanic sources we find the Anglo-Saxon Hengist and Horsa, the Alcis (Tacitus), Langobardic Ybor and Agio, etc. It has been put forward that these “Divine Horse Twins” may be derived from a common source related to the Hindu Ashvins, who represent variously the sunrise and sunset. It is intriguing that a treaty was sworn between the Hittites and Mittani and one of the deity (pairs) who were invoked were the Nasatya (a name related to the Ashvins – or – the name of one of the brothers).
Here we have a connection between the swearing of oaths and treaties among a distant PIE set of “Divine Horse Twins” and the depiction of Francus with Vassus (APSC) formulating a treaty with the Albanians (more on them later…) as well as the relation to the Đuropali, where a peace-fine was divinely attributed at the threshold of the home between two “door-piles”.
Regarding the swearing of oaths, in Carolingian times (built upon earlier Merovingian custom) there was the homage of being made a vassel of the King. This was done through a formal oath taken either at a Church or some royal demesne in the presence of the King or his Missio. Charles Odegaard in “Carolingian Oaths of Fidelity (1941)” he concludes:
“If one class of royal servants would make a promise of service over and above mere loyalty, it is not unreasonable to suppose that other royal servants made similar promises to the Merovingian king. A distinction between the content of the subjects’ oath and that of the servants’ oath would have been thoroughly compatible with the difference in status between ordinary subjects and magnates in Merovingian as well as in Carolingian times”
In short, that between a “Frank” (noble, freeman?) and the servant (vassal) there is a bond greater than loyalty which was divinely ordained. It can be argued that this was a later Christian innovation, however we can find many examples in earlier pagan (all PIE) where the power imbalance between servant and lord was at least observed by the gods. The same was expanded between dominant cultures and their clients:
“II. Oaths taken in transactions with foreign nations in the name of the republic. The most ancient form of an oath of this kind is recorded by Livy (I.24), in a treaty between the Romans and Albans. The pater patruus pronounced the oath in the name of his country, and struck the victim with a flint-stone, calling on Jupiter to destroy the Roman nation in like manner, as he (the pater patruus) destroyed the animal, if the people should violate their oath. The chiefs or priests of the other nation then swore in a similar manner by their own gods. The ceremony was sometimes different, inasmuch as the fetialis cast away the stone from his hands, saying, Si sciens fallo, tum me Diespiter salva urbe arceque bonis ejiciat, uti ego hunc lapidem. (Festus, s.v. Lapidem.) Owing to the prominent part which the stone (lapis silex) played in this act, Jupiter himself was called Jupiter Lapis (Polyb. III.25), and hence it was in aftertimes not uncommon among the Romans in ordinary conversation to swear by Jupiter Lapis (Gellius, I.21; Cic. ad Fam. VII.1, 12; Plut. Sulla, 10). (William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.)”
Interestingly we can see a derivative of the later Carolingian oath of fidelity and that of military service. It is not unreasonable to suspect that the Merovingians exacted oaths of their servants for purposes of martial service, not unlike the sacramentum militare. If we note above the witnessing of Romulus, through his pious offerings to Jupiter or the god himself, then the same is not inconceivable for the later Merovingians who remained pagan at the highest social order.
Now, we know from Gregory of Tours that Jupiter was a god presumed to have been worshipped by Clovis. Whether this is interpretatio romana is unknown, as Romanesque religious devotion is not improbable for those times in Gaul. We also know that Francus and Vassus were considered descendant of the “royal line” (Troy), which would have made him of divine descent. This renders them as near analogues to Remus and Romulus, as they too establish their own great city, Sicambria (as opposed to Rome). They also concluded a treaty with the Albanians, as did the Romans. As we can see, Francus and Vassus are portrayed as the perfectly balanced opposition to Remus and Romulus. If one digs deeper, it is made clear through various contemporary sources that the Franks descended from Antenor, while the Romans from the line of Aeneas.
Concerning the “tents” erected by the brothers, it is possible that the door-way was supported by door-posts with Ašviniai-like terminals, which was not uncommon in style. For an example of such you may explore the Gokstad Ship tent replicas.
There is a possible relation to the Hindu Dvarapala or “door guards” as well as the Chinese “Menshen” who guard the martial doorway. Many other examples can be shown from a variety of world cultures (alive and dead) which should tell us that “door-pale/post” gods were a common feature.
Taking into consideration the many votive sites throughout the Rhineland, we find a number of Jupiter Columns, Tauroctonies and Dolichenae. These iconographic scenes usually depict images of the Dioscuri – Castor to one side, Pollux to the other – in their day-night configurations. If we consider that monuments tend to outlast the developing regional attitudes towards the divine and their manifestations, it is possible that the vernacular milieu provided the early Frank with either a model to represent their own indigenous “Divine Horse Twins” or rather, their indigenous mythic imaginary became influenced and conflated with the Dioscuri to eventually lead to the ideas expressed in the APSC of Jerome. Francus and Vassus, the Freeman and the Bonded, where the sum total expression of loyalty, support and confidence are entwined in the divine threshold of that space between “door-piles” (Đuropali).
It is the belief of TFA that the Đuropali are representative of the Ašviniai-style architectural feature. As it is often stated in the literary sources, as well as various archaeological sources, much of the material cultural forms of the Merovingian age came from or were inspired by the East (Hunnic influences, etc.). Childeric’s grave-horse sacrifices are a clear example of a specific sacral usage of horses as offerings.
It is also the belief that Francus and Vassus represent the pre-feudal bonds between the lord (Gravio) and follower (Litus), as well as greater expressions of the oath-web. The space between the Đuropali, literally/figuratively/mythic is a place of divine liminality. The threshold of the home (Hêm) being of great importance and must be maintained sacred.
Within the home is where one finds the oath-web (Farbond), beyond the threshold is the place of the foreign peoples (Walahleodi) and, therefor danger and incertitude. By breaking bonds formulated at the threshold (marriage, etc.) is to invite an upheaval “between the brothers” or “between door-posts”, such an instability can be cataclysmic to the home, in structure as well as harmony.
When Francus and Vassus concluded a treaty with the Albanians, the goal was to overthrow Romulus. The gods intervened on the side of the Romans and as a result, the brothers were devastated. They then moved to other lands and rebuilt a home, Sicambria, and re-confirmed their stability.