Kingdom of Soissons

For the later Merovingian kingdom, see Neustria.
Kingdom of Soissons
Division of the Western Roman Empire
The Kingdom of Soissons in 486
Capital Noviodunum (modern-day Soissons)
Languages Latin, Gaulish
Religion Christianity and Paganism
Government Roman rump state
   457-464 Aegidius
  464-486 Syagrius
Historical era Late Antiquity
   Established 457
   Disestablished 486
Currency Roman currency
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Western Roman Empire
Today part of  France

The Kingdom of Soissons[1] was a rump state of the Western Roman Empire in northern Gaul (present day France) for some twenty-five years during Late Antiquity.

The emergence of the Kingdom of Soissons began when Emperor Majorian (457–461) appointed Aegidius as magister militum of Roman Gaul. When Majorian was killed on the orders of Ricimer in 461, Aegidius maintained his own rule in much of his province, creating a Roman remnant state that came to be known as the Kingdom of Soissons. In the chaos of contemporary Gaul, he maintained his power against Franks to his east and Visigoths to his south; his relations to the Romano-British of Brittany may have been friendly. Aegidius died in 464 or 465. His son Syagrius succeeded to the rule. In 486 Syagrius lost the Battle of Soissons to the Frankish king Clovis I and the domain was thereafter under the control of the Franks.


Kingdom of Syagrius (North-West) within the Western Roman Empire (blue)

The Kingdom of Soissons originated in the reign of the Western Emperor Majorian (457461). Majorian appointed Aegidius to be magister militum of the Gallic provinces. The remaining Roman territory in Gaul in the northwest was connected with the Roman possessions in the Auvergne, Provence and Languedoc which connected these to Italy. During Majorian's reign, that corridor was annexed by the Germanic tribes now occupying Gaul, thus effectively cutting off Aegidius and his citizens from the Empire.[2] Majorian and Aegidius had recovered the Roman position in most of Gaul, but with the death of Majorian in 461 the Roman position in the center and south deteriorated. These provinces were annexed by the Visigoths and Burgundians in the years 462-477, which left the remaining 'Roman' Kingdom of Syagrius isolated.

Aegidius was allied to Childeric I, king of the Salian Franks of Tournai, and helped him defeat the Visigoths at Orléans in 463. According to Gregory of Tours, Aegidius even ruled the Franks during Childeric's banishment, but Childeric later returned from exile. It is possible that the Groans of the Britons, referring to a Romano-British request for military assistance after the Roman departure from Britain, may have been addressed to Aegidius.

Aegidius continued to govern until his death on the Loire in 464, either by poison or by violence. He may have been murdered at the orders of one of Childeric's enemies. His Comes Paulus of Angers was killed shortly afterwards, possibly on the same campaign. At that point Aegidius's son, Syagrius, took his place as ruler. Syagrius governed using the title of dux (a provincial military commander), but the neighboring Germanic tribes referred to him as "King of the Romans"; hence the name of his enclave.[3] In 476, under the rule of Syagrius, the Kingdom of Soissons failed to accept the new rule of Odoacer who had dethroned the last Western Emperor earlier that year. While both Syagrius and Odoacer sent messengers to the Eastern Roman Empire, the Eastern emperor Zeno chose to offer legitimacy to Odoacer instead of Syagrius. The Kingdom of Soissons cut all ties with Italy and had no further recorded contact with the Eastern Roman Empire. Even after 476, Syagrius continued to maintain that he was merely governing a Roman province. The Kingdom of Soissons was in fact an independent region.[2]

Childeric died about 481, and his son Clovis I became the Frankish king. Clovis made continual war against Syagrius, and in the end took over all his territory. Syagrius lost the final battle of Soissons in 486; many historians consider this Clovis' greatest victory.[4] Syagrius fled to the Visigothic king Alaric II, but the Franks threatened war if Syagrius were not surrendered to them. Syagrius was sent back to Clovis, who had him executed in 486/7.[2][3][5]

The Kingdom of Soissons was a remnant of the Roman Empire within Gaul surrounded by newly established Germanic kingdoms.
  Kingdom of Soissons
  Early Francia

Clovis I ruled the Franks until his death in 511. When he died, the Frankish realm was divided into four kingdoms, one for each of his sons. Clotaire I received the area formerly ruled by Syagrius. (Clotaire himself had been born in Soissons a decade after Syagrius' death.) By skillful diplomacy, warmongering, and murder of his relatives, Clotaire became the king of all Gaul by 555.[3]

When Clotaire died in 561, the Frankish realm was divided into three kingdoms, one for each son. The western kingdom of Neustria continued to be governed from Soissons until all Franks were once more unified under the Neustrian king Clotaire II in 613. Except for the period of 639-673, when a division between Neustria and Austrasia occurred, the Franks remained unified until the Treaty of Verdun in 843.


Main article: Late Roman army

When Aegidius was appointed magister militum of Gaul by Emperor Majorian, he took control of the remaining Roman troops in Gaul. According to Eastern Roman writer Priscus, Aegidius and Syagrius both commanded "large forces".[2] At one point, Aegidius and/or Syagrius even threatened the Western Roman Empire with an invasion of Italy if the empire did not grant their requests. Their forces also offered effective resistance to the power of the Visigoth Kingdom, to the south and west of Soissons. There are however no figures available that make it possible to come to a judgement on the total strength of their troops.

See also

Media related to Domain of Soissons at Wikimedia Commons


  1. MacGeorge, Penny (2002). Late Roman Warlords. Oxford University Press. pp. 111–113. ISBN 0-19-925244-0. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Penny MacGeorge. Late Roman Warlords. Google Books. ISBN 978-0-19-925244-2. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  3. 1 2 3 George Muir Bussey, Thomas Gaspey and Théodose Burette. A History of France and of the French People. Google Books. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  4. Michael Frassetto. Encyclopedia of barbarian Europe. Google Books. ISBN 978-1-57607-263-9. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  5. Lucien Bély and Angela Moyon. The History of France. Google Books. ISBN 978-2-87747-563-1. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
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