What Happened in A.D. 508?

Most history books say very little about the year 508. Yet one significant event stands out.

"In Europe, one of the major events that year was the conclusion of the war between Clovis, king of the Franks (later France), and the Visigoths, whom he defeated and pushed into Spain." William H. Shea, Bible Amplifier - Daniel 7-12, p. 220.

Before we discuss the year 508 further, we must go back to the year 496. In that year Clovis, king of the Salian or Merovingian Franks, became the first of the pagan barbarians to adopt Catholicism. The Anglo-Saxons were still pagan, but all the other Germanic kingdoms had accepted the Arian form of Christianity. In the conversion of Clovis, the Catholic Church acquired a champion upon whose military might would hang the theological future of Europe.

"With the conversion of Clovis, there was at least one barbarian leader with whom the Bishop of Rome could negotiate as with a faithful son of the Church. It is from the orthodox Gregory of Tours that most of our knowledge of Clovis and his successors is derived. In Gregory's famous History of the Franks, the cruel and unscrupulous king appears as God's chosen instrument for the extension of the Catholic faith. Certainly Clovis quickly learned to combine his own interests with those of the Church, and the alliance between the pope and the Frankish kings was destined to have a great influence upon the history of western Europe." James Harvey Robinson, An Introduction to the History of Western Europe, pp. 35, 36.

"It is evident, from the language of Gregory of Tours, that this conflict between the Franks and the Visigoths was regarded by the orthodox party of his own and preceding ages as a religious war, on which, humanly speaking, the prevalence of the Catholic or the Arian creed in western Europe depended." Walter Copland Perry, The Franks, from their first appearance in history to the death of King Pepin, p. 85.

It is necessary at this point to clarify what was the so-called "Arianism" which was held by the Goths and the other Germanic peoples.

"Although the Goths refused to believe as the church of Rome did, and as a consequence have been branded as Arians, Romanism actually meant little to them. In fact, it meant little to Ulfilas, their great leader. The Goths refused to go along with the mounting innovations being introduced into the church of the caesars, which church quickly branded any competitor as Arian." Benjamin Wilkinson, Truth Triumphant, p. 141.

"Since his ancestors were from Asia Minor (the province where the apostle Peter had been especially instructed by God to plant the gospel), Ulfilas was undoubtedly influenced by the doctrines of the apostle to the Jews; and he rejected the liberal and unscriptural teachings which had flooded many western churches. He was a believer in the divine revelation of the Old Testament, as well as that of the New Testament. He impressed upon the Gothic people a simple, democratic Christianity. Like Patrick and Columba, he apparently kept the seventh day as the Sabbath." Ibid., p. 143.

In actuality, by the year 508, it had been more than a century since the term "Arian" meant a follower of Arius. At this point "Arian" simply meant "non-trinitarian."

So the year 508 brings us to a showdown between Trinitarianism and non-Trinitarianism.

"For the first time the diffusion of belief in the nature of the Godhead became the avowed pretext for the invasion of a neighboring territory." Henry Hart Milman, History of Latin Christianity, p.353.

It was in the year 507 that Clovis and his Frankish army met the army of the Visigoths under their king, Alaric II. Alaric, realizing his weakness, tried to delay the confrontation, hoping help would come from Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths. But no help came, and soon the Visigoths were in flight, and Alaric was slain.

"The victorious Franks pursued them as far as Bordeaux, where Clovis passed the winter, while Theoderic, his son, was overrunning Auvergne, Quincy, and Rovergne. The Goths, whose new king was a minor, made no further resistance; and in the following year the Salian chief took possession of the royal treasure at Toulouse. He also took the town of Angouleme." Walter C. Perry, The Franks, p. 87.

"A. D. 508. A short time after these events, Clovis received the titles and dignity of Roman Patricius and Consul from the Greek Emperor Anastasius." Walter C. Perry, The Franks, p. 88.

"In 508 Clovis received at Tours the insignia of the consulship from the eastern emperor Anastasius." Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., art. "Clovis," Vol. VI, p. 563.

Historians who give only brief treatment to this war generally focus on the year 507, during which Alaric was killed. Yet, as the above references correctly indicate, the Franks continued their conquest of Visigothic territory until well into the year 508. The conclusion of the war, and the imperial recognition of it, occurred in the year 508.

"Nor was his a temporary conquest. The kingdom of the West Goths and the Burgundians had become the kingdom of the Franks. The invaders had at length arrived, who were to remain. It was decided that the Franks, and not the Goths, were to direct the future destinies of Gaul and Germany, and that the Catholic faith, and not Arianism, was to be the religion of these great realms." Richard W. Church, The Beginning of the Middle Ages, pp. 38, 39.

"Thus in A.D. 508 terminated united resistance to the development of the papacy. The question of supremacy between Frank and Goth, between the Catholic and Arian religions, had then been settled in favor of the Catholics." Daniel and the Revelation, 1944 ed., p. 330.

"Thus when Clovis and the Franks defeated the Arian Visigoths and drove them into Spain, it was also a theological victory for the bishop of Rome." William H. Shea, Bible Amplifier - Daniel 7-12, p. 220.

"Thus was the bloody course of Clovis glorified by the Catholic writers, as the triumph of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity over Arianism." A. T. Jones, The Two Republics, p. 528.

The Story of Clovis

More from Benjamin Wilkinson on the significance of Clovis' victory

How did the triumph of Catholicism take away the "daily?"