Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Theodebert I., king of the Franks

Theodebert (1) I., king of the Franks (534–548), the most capable and ambitious of the Merovingian line after Clovis. For the extent of the kingdom inherited from his father in 533 see THEODORICUS I. It was increased in 534 by a portion of the now finally conquered Burgundy (Marius, Chron. ad ann. 534). In 538 an army of Theodebert's Burgundian subjects entered Italy with his connivance and helped the Goths to conquer Milan (Procop. de Bell. Gotth. ii. 12; Marius, Chron. ad ann.). In 539 Theodebert, invading Italy at the head of 100,000 Franks, overran a great part of Venetia, Liguria, and the Cottian Alps, till hunger and disease drove the remnant of his army back to France (Marius, ann. 539; Marcell. Chron. ann. 539; Procop. u.s. 25). Death cut short his ambitious projects in 548.

Theodebert was perhaps the best of the Merovingian kings. Marius calls him "the Great" (Chron. ad ann. 548); and according to Gregory of Tours, when he had come to the throne "he shewed himself governing with justice, honouring the priests, doing good to the churches, succouring the poor and distributing benefits charitably and liberally " (Hist. Franc. iii. 25, 36). Instances of his good qualities appear in his liberality to the churches of the Auvergne, which his father had plundered (iii. 25), and his generosity to the impoverished city of Verdun, at the suit of their bishop (iii. 34). See, too, Aimoin, ii 25, and the letter of Aurelianus; archbp. of Arles, in Bouquet, iv. 63.