Honors College Theses

Publication Date



History (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. James Todesca


During the fifth century, many Germanic peoples in Roman service assumed control over vast swathes of the Western Empire. Among these peoples were the Franks, who lend their name to the modern European nation of France. Thus, a question arises regarding how this came to be: how did illiterate tribes from Germania create a culture of their own that supplanted the Romans? Through an analysis of Frankish legal texts like the Lex Salica and the Capitularies of Charlemagne, this paper argues that the Franks forged their own identity by first formalizing their Germanic customs in the early sixth century and then by imposing more sweeping laws in the eighth and ninth centuries that portrayed them as champions of Christianity. Ultimately, through the use of these institutions, the Franks instilled in themselves and their neighbors the idea of what it meant to be Frankish and established arguably the greatest successor state in the western Roman provinces.

Thesis Summary

The Germanic Franks of the fifth century assumed control of Gaul, and through their writing of customary tribal law of the Lex Salica, and later the capitularies of Charlemagne that extended over all the peoples they conquered, they created an identity based on the Christian faith.