While the power of the Roman Empire was declining there dwelt on the banks of the River Rhine a number of savage Teuton tribes called Franks. The word Frank means FREE, and those tribes took pride in being known as Franks or freemen.
The Franks occupied the east bank of the Rhine for about two hundred years. Then many of the tribes crossed the river in search of new homes. The region west of the river was at that time called Gaul . Here the Franks established themselves and became a powerful people. From their name the country was afterwards called FRANCE .
Each tribe of the Franks had its own king. The greatest of all these kings was Chlodwig, or Clovis , as we call him, who became ruler of his tribe in the year 481, just six years after Theodoric became king of the Ostrogoths. Clovis was then only sixteen years of age. But though he was so young he proved in a very short time that he could govern as well as older men. He was intelligent and brave. No one ever knew him to be afraid of anything even when he was but a child. His father, who was named Childeric (chil'-der-ic), often took him to wars which the Franks had with neighboring tribes, and he was very proud of his son's bravery. The young man was also a bold and skillful horseman. He could tame and ride the most fiery horse.
When Clovis became king of the Franks a great part of Gaul still belonged to Rome . This part was then governed by a Roman general, named Syagrius (sy-ag'-ri-us). Clovis resolved to drive the Romans out of the country, and he talked over the matter with the head men of his army.
"My desire, " said he, "is that the Franks shall have possession of every part of this fair land. I shall drive the Romans and their friends away and make Gaul the empire of the Franks."