Food, Drink, and the Expression of Clerical Identity

  • Bonnie Effros
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In the Merovingian kingdoms, just as in late antiquity and the later Middle Ages, sworn friendship or amicitia contributed in important ways to the formation of political relationships among military equals, and between lords and their followers. Fourth- and fifth-century Gallo- Roman aristocrats depended upon office-holding and networks of clients to bolster their authority;1 similarly, early medieval elites were known to formalize and maintain agreements amongst themselves through the exchange of treasure as well as the hosting of feasts and the provision of hospitality to guests.2 Rather than functioning as a merely symbolic expression of generosity, gift-giving and the mutual consumption of food and drink helped members of the Merovingian nobility to ritualize and thereby regulate both personal and political ties, especially in unsettled times. The initial bonds thus established and commemorated, if successful, might be honored by descendants and followers over the course of subsequent generations.3 Although some have seen these relationships as symptomatic of the triumph of Frankish over Roman cultural traditions in Gaul,4 such practices had Roman, Christian, and Frankish precedents and demonstrate the deep-rooted significance of such activities.


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Notes to Chapter 2

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