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9 The Medieval Construction of Augustine as an Authority on War and Military Service In what is today north-central France, near the modern town of Fontenoy (Yonne), at mid-morning of 25 June 841 the forces of Charles the Bald and Louis the German, allies against their brother Lothar in a civil war for rule over the Frankish realm bequeathed to them by their father Louis the Pious, crested a rise that had for the last three days separated the two opposing armies. After a number of fruitless embassies had passed between the two sides, Charles and Louis had decided to force the issue. When Lothar saw his brothers’ army approach his own at points less than two kilometers distant, the West Frankish cavalry fanning out to attack his left flank, the emperor realized the gauntlet was well and truly thrown: to retreat in the very face of the enemy was foolhardy, but to retreat at all was dishonorable.1 The ensuing battle was long remembered as a catastrophe for the Franks, Regino of Prüm two generations later writing that: In this battle Frankish power was so diminished and its famous virtue so enfeebled that not only was it forced to stop expansion, but it was even incapable of handing down to posterity what it already had.2 Although Lothar was back on the attack within months after the battle, he undoubtedly suffered a reversal at Fontenoy, and his opponents were left in possession of the field. 1. Nithard: Histoire des fils de Louis le Pieux, ed. Ph. Lauer (Paris, 1926), 2.9–10 (66–78). Some of the details of the circumstances of the battle given here are based on my reconstruction expanding on Nithard’s brief account. 2. Reginonis chronicon a. 841, MGH: srg 50, ed. F. Kurze (Hannover, 1890), 75. 297 Arguably of more long-term consequence than the battle itself was a statement issued immediately afterwards by bishops in Charles’s and Louis’s camp justifying the battle of Fontenoy and interpreting its outcome as a iudicium Dei, a sort of large-scale judicial ordeal, in which victory showed that God had judged their cause just. The bishops’ statement does not survive, though one presumes the eyewitness Nithard gives a fairly accurate account of it. After celebrating Sunday mass on the battlefield the day after the battle, burying the dead and caring for the wounded of both sides, the kings and the army, grieving over their brother Lothar and the Christian people, asked the bishops what should be done about this business. Accordingly all the bishops met in council, and it was found in public assembly that they alone had fought for justice and equity, and that this had been manifested by a judgment of God (iudicium Dei), and that because of this everyone, both he who issued commands and he who carried them out, was to be considered an instrument of God free of any sin in this business. But whoever in his conscience knew that he had ordered or done something in this campaign either out of rage or hatred or vainglory or any other vice whatsoever should confess in secret his secret offense and be judged according to the measure of his guilt. The bishops went on to recommend a three-day fast “for the remission of the offenses of their dead brethren,” and to ensure continued divine support for the brothers’ cause.3 The bishops’ statement was a salvo in the propaganda war that paralleled that on the battlefield in the Brüderkrieg, the civil war between the sons and heirs of Louis the Pious that broke out after his death in 840 and was concluded by a division of the Carolingian empire at the Treaty of Verdun three years later.4 No direct response to this statement from Lothar’s side survives, but we know something of what it was from a brief penitential written a few months after the battle by one of Lothar’s supporters, the learned Hrabanus Maurus, abbot of the monastery at Fulda in the eastern (mostly German) part of the Carolingian realm. Hrabanus at one point took direct aim at the two main assertions of the 3. Nithard 3.1 (note 1 above, 82). 4. Some of the following as noted is dependent on my forthcoming article, “Justifying the Judgment of God in Brüderkrieg Propaganda: The Capitula diversarum sententiarum pro negociis rei publice consulendis,” hereafter Wynn, “Justifying.” 298 | Augustine on War and Military...


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