Preamble to the Salic Law
Among the oldest extant documents of the Franks, the Salic Law is a corpus of laws pertaining to civil and criminal matters whose origin pre-dates the Frankish invasion of Gaul, then in large part legislated according to Roman law. Its first known compilation was commissioned by Clovis in the sixth century and later amended under both Merovingian and Carolingian administrations. Structured in the form of a concise delineation of rules arranged by subject, the text is introduced by a remarkable prologue featuring some of the foundational tenets of the Frankish realm and its medieval legacy. The following version is based on the French translation by J. F. A. Peyré of an edition commissioned by Charlemagne in 768.
The Franks, illustrious people, united by the hand of God, powerful in battle, wise in deliberation, observant of peace treaties, distinguished by their stature, candour and elegance of form, audacious, swift and fierce, recently converted to the Catholic faith, free as it is of any heresy; were hitherto still under the veil of barbaric rites, when, by divine inspiration, seeking the path to knowledge, desirous of piety and the defence of justice, had the Salic law dictated by wise men who were then among their governors. From the many assembled they chose four, named Wisogast, Bodogast, Salogast and Widogast, from the regions of Salehaim, Bodohaim and Widohaim, who met during three conferences, and, deliberating the origin and causes of all concerns, dealing with each of them carefully, proclaimed as law what is presently worded in this text. And when Clovis, by divine favour king of the Franks, flamboyant, handsome and illustrious, first received the Catholic baptism, and when Childebert and Clothar, under God's protection, later reached the height of their regal functions, what was then deemed less appropriate in this text was further amended by them, and declared inalienable. Long live those who honour the Franks. May Christ protect their kingdom, may he supply their rulers with the light of his grace, protect their troops, and strengthen their faith, may he grant them the joys of peace and times of happiness, Lord of lords Jesus Christ the redeemer. It is indeed this people which, while small in number and strong in valour, shook the powerful yoke of the Romans off their necks through battle. And it was the Franks who, after receiving baptism, retrieved the bodies of the saint martyrs, which the Romans had either thrown into the fire, sliced by the sword, or left to be mangled by beasts; and ornamented them with gold and precious stones.