The King, the Bishop, and the Jew:
A 6th-Century Disputation; Scene: A Hunting Lodge Near Paris
THIS is a scene of the Dark Ages: when Rome had fallen for more than a century, and the rich province of Gaul was once again a wilderness ruled by wild Frankish tyrants; when all France was a battlefield and its cities were desolate; when no man was safe, but the Jew was as insecure as any. As a point in history, it is as much the beginning of modern times as the end of the classical world. For the Jew, the vast legal calm of Rome had forever disappeared; and, like the Roman, living in the midst of barbarism he became half-barbarous himself.
Sometime in the year 581 a curious religious argument took place at the royal hunting lodge of the Merovingian kings near Nogent, on the Marne, roughly ten miles east of Paris. On one side of the controversy were two of the most important figures in Europe: King Chilperic the First, a grandson of the conqueror Clovis, and ruler of the sprawling western realm of Neustria; and, assisting the king, Georgius Florentius Gregorius-Bishop Gregory of Tours-last of the great Gallo-Roman patricians, and, in these final years of the 6th century, the leading churchman in France. Their antagonist was one Priscus, a Jew, purveyor of gems and precious stuffs to the royal household.
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