Pagans, Rebels and Merovingians: otherness in the early Carolingian world
Early Carolingian authors appear to have been acutely aware of ethnic and regional identities, and the sources of the late-eighth and early-ninth centuries contain many references to non-Franks. These ethnic terms alone, however, do not imply a sense of 'otherness'. The incorporation of these non-Frankish peripheral peoples into a consolidated Frankish empire was one of the key political policies of Charles Martel and his descendants. We do get a sense of 'otherness', though, from the ways in
... from the ways in which these peoples were portrayed as being opposed in some way to the concepts which Frankish society was thought to stand for. In contrast to Frankish loyalty, unity and Christian orthodoxy, we find peripheral groups labeled or described as 'rebellious' or 'pagan'. While peripheral groups could be incorporated into the Frankish empire, there was no place for rebels or pagans in the society that was being created by the Carolingians, and so such concepts were 'other' in a way that ethnic labels were not. Likewise, the later members of the Merovingian dynasty were 'other' because they were presented as useless kings, and such kings had no place in the Frankish community. We can see that in the eighth and early-ninth centuries authors had a common pool of language, signs and symbols upon which to draw when depicting 'others', but this does not mean all did so in the same way, and so we must consider how and why each author presented his vision of 'otherness'. At the same time, we can see that it was only those closest in time or space to the contemporary Frankish community who were targeted by this discourse, with more distant peoples being depicted more ambivalently by our authors. These trends show there was a clear gap between the ideal presented by the authors and the reality of the eighth century. But authors were determined to create a sense of dichotomy in their texts which allowed them to understand the past in a way that allowed for continuity at a time of change.