Fresh out of the Press: Heiligt der Zweck alle Mittel?

The newest piece of my scholarship was just printed in the renowned Römische Quartalschrift für Christliche Altertumskunde edited by the Römische Institut der Görres-Gesellschaft and published by Herder. This paper goes back on a presentation at a conference organised by Johannes Breuer and Jochen Walter at the University of Mainz in 2019. I have still very fond memories of this meeting entitled “Religiöse (De-)Legitimationsansätze von Gewalt in der Antike” and would like to express my gratitute to the organisers also here. I very much enjoyed to dive into the (violent) world of Gregory of Tours and to explore how the bishop dealt with this – according to him – everyday experience.

The abstract: “Does the end justify all means? The Legitimation of Violence in Gregory of Tours’ Historia Francorum” – The world that Gregory of Tours (538–594) depicts in his Historia Francorum is very violent. In this world, no one is immune from the possibility of suffering physical violence, whether at the hands of God or man. Offenders are punished severely, often at the hands of God, quite regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or social or political position. Examining five representative instances of violence in his Historia, this essay analyses Gregory’s approach to physical violence and explores how he conceived of its legitimation. It argues that rather than forming a theory of physical violence or even consciously reflecting on its legitimation, Gregory set his moral compass largely according to the Old Testament notion of retributive justice and applied, and sometimes tailored, this notion to the cultural, political, and legal context of the Merovingian world. According to his model, the act of retribution was of crucial importance, but the dimensions of retribution irrelevant. Characteristically, the retribution demanded often exceeded the brutality that occasioned it in the first place.

Don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you need a copy!