Austrasian Letters

The Austrasian Letters is a collection of diplomatic and other correspondence from the late fifth to the early seventh centuries, compiled at the court of the Frankish kings of Austrasia in the seventh century. It appears that the collection was originally compiled as a primer to assist in the teaching of literature and in particular the complex Latin rhetoric of early medieval diplomatic correspondence.


The letters give insight into the workings of Frankish diplomacy, and life at the Austrasian court. The letters include insights into the literacy of the kings' inner circle and the way diplomacy was conducted, together with snippets of information not supplied by other sources of the period. The letters are particularly useful in illuminating the complex diplomatic relations between Austrasia and the Byzantine Empire during much of the 6th century.

Caution must be exercised however, not to draw too much from the letters. The collection is at heart a compilation of disparate letters and their replies are often not included. Without a prior understanding of the greater context surrounding the letters, their content may be mis-interpreted. Also as some of the letters cannot be reliably dated, there is debate surrounding the interpretation of certain letters, particularly letter number twenty.


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