Dr. Greg Halfond

title.none: Settipani, La Noblesse du Midi (Dr. Greg Halfond)

identifier.other: baj9928.0803.004 08.03.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Dr. Greg Halfond, Framingham State College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Settipani, Christian. La Noblesse du Midi carolingien: Etudes sur quelques grandes familles d'Aquitaine et du Languedoc du IXe au XIe siècles, Toulousain, Périgord, Limousin, Poitou, Auvergne. Prosopographica et Genealogica, vol. 5. Linacre College, Oxford: Occasional Publications of the Unit for Prosopographical Research, 2004. Pp. 388. ISBN: $55.00 (pb) 1-900934-04-3.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.03.04

Settipani, Christian. La Noblesse du Midi carolingien: Etudes sur quelques grandes familles d'Aquitaine et du Languedoc du IXe au XIe siècles, Toulousain, Périgord, Limousin, Poitou, Auvergne. Prosopographica et Genealogica, vol. 5. Linacre College, Oxford: Occasional Publications of the Unit for Prosopographical Research, 2004. Pp. 388. ISBN: $55.00 (pb) 1-900934-04-3.

Reviewed by:

Dr. Greg Halfond
Framingham State College

Christian Settipani's La Noblesse du Midi carolingien: Etudes sur quelques grandes familles d'Aquitaine et du Languedoc du IXe au XIe siècles, is the fifth volume of Prosopographica et Genealogica, a series of monographs and article collections published under the aegis of the Unit for Prosopographical Research at Linacre College, Oxford. Settipani's contribution to the series--his third--falls squarely under the heading of Genealogica. K. F. Werner famously contrasted genealogical research with prosopographical, noting that "the latter does not, as a discipline, aim at the reconstruction of the genealogies of particular families, still less of their male lines; it serves as a tool of social history and the study of political structures, hence ultimately of constitutional history...Certainly, genealogical reconstructions, if really reliable, can be welcomed as valuable material, but only as such." [1] Werner further warned that for genealogical work to be acceptable as legitimate scholarship, it could not be detached from the historical realities of the period under consideration. Settipani, the author of genealogical studies on, among other medieval families, the counts of Autun, Nevers, and Anjou, the viscounts de Châteaudun, and the royal lines of the Merovingians, Carolingians, Capetians, and Conradians, makes every effort to reconstruct noble stirpes within their historical contexts. Thus, he is aware of, but provides his readers with little information on, contemporary socio-political realities. Settipani's aim in establishing lineages for several important aristocratic families of Carolingian Aquitaine and Languedoc is simply that; he draws no broader conclusions from his familial reconstructions. Therefore, his work must be judged according to the merits of its genre, i.e. its reliability and usefulness for historians interested in the social and political history of Carolingian Francia.

Settipani's study is divided into five chapters: (1) the counts of Toulouse and their alliances; (2) the counts of the March and Périgord; (3) the viscounts of Limousin; (4) the viscounts of Poitou; and (5) several noble families of the Auvergne. Unfortunately, Settipani chooses not to include any substantial discussion of his methodology, allocating but a single footnote (1, note 2) to emphasize--without any substantial justification--his faith in the use of onomastic evidence for establishing family connections. Certainly, many genealogists and prosopographers share Settipani's faith in "leading names" (leitnamen) as evidence for a common lineage between individuals with identical or similar names. However, as Werner, among others, has emphasized, leitnamen alone are not sure proof, but rather "clues" requiring confirmation. [2] Nevertheless, in many instances they are the only evidence available, and Settipani constructs elaborate genealogies based on little more than onomastic similarities and probability. Certainly, he draws upon biographical, chronological, and landowning evidence when available, but the majority of his reconstructions of familial relations are hypotheses, which, to his credit, he explicitly acknowledges both in his analysis and in his genealogical charts. Still, one can never be sure whether the "families" he reconstructs would have been identified as such by their supposed members, who may very well have had their own unique understanding of which individuals were to be included among their kinsmen. [3]

Thus, readers will find themselves nodding in agreement with some of Settipani's identifications and scratching their heads at others. Most, however, will have little trouble accepting his underlying assumption--never adequately elaborated upon--that biological continuities in noble lineages prevailed between the ninth and eleventh centuries. However, as R. Le Jan has noted, biological continuity does not necessarily imply ideological or institutional continuity. [4] However, such issues are beyond the scope of Settipani's study.

Chapter 1 is the longest in the book, taking up nearly half of the entire volume. Settipani's stated goal for this chapter is to provide a revision (which he acknowledges is "necessarily provisional") of the error-prone genealogy of the comital house of Toulouse established by the eighteenth-century Benedictine authors of the Histoire Générale de Languedoc (1). Following L. Levillain, Settipani suggests a connection between the house of Toulouse of the later-ninth century and the family of Count Bernard of Septimania (d. 844), whose father, William, was count of Toulouse in the late eighth/early ninth centuries. William's son, Herbert, Settipani suggests, had a daughter, Senegonde, who married Foucaud, a missus (and descendant of the Nibelungs), whose sons, Fredelon and Raymond, inherited the county of Toulouse in the later ninth century, thereby establishing the new dynasty (8). This dynasty intermarried with other Frankish comital houses, including that of the Auvergne, which led to the introduction of the name "Pons" into the dynasty's nomenclature. Settipani suggests that Count Raymond II of Toulouse (d. 924) married a descendant of Count Bernard of the Auvergne (d. 868). The name of their son, Raymond Pons (d. 940/4), reflected both his distinguished ancestry and his control over the counties of both Toulouse and the Auvergne (51-5). Settipani also posits a second marriage for Raymond II, this one to a certain Gunidilde, an heiress from the comital house of Barcelona.

In the second major section of the chapter, Settipani turns to the dukes of Gascony and the kings of Asturia. The scion of the ducal family of Gascony, according to Settipani, was Duke Lupus of Aquitaine (d. 676). In a highly speculative genealogical reconstruction, Settipani pieces together the lineage of the Lupi family, which counted among its distinguished members no less a distinguished personage than Bishop Remigius of Reims (74-7). Settipani argues that the ruling family of Gascony was related to the royal dynasty of Navarre through blood and marriage, and that the mother of Duke Garcia Sanche le Courbé (d. 920) was the sister of King Garsia Jimenez of Navarre (82-7). The house of Navarre, he notes, also was joined to that of the Counts of Aragon by the daughter of King Garsia Jimenez, Sancha, who married Count Galindo II of Aragon (89). Regarding the Asturian kings, S. entertains the possibility of their descent from Visigothic royalty (as well as the Lupi), but the hypothetical genealogy he constructs (129) will not likely convince the skeptical, as it assumes the existence of over a dozen otherwise-unknown individuals.

In Chapter 2, Settipani turns to the counts of the March and Périgord. According to the Chronicle of St. Maixent, Count Boson I of the March (d. 988) was the grandson of Geoffrey of Charroux (fl. ninth century), a comes whom Settipani hypothesizes was a descendant of the Sulpicii episcopal gens of Bourges (160-3). Boson married Emma (or Agina), whom Settipani argues was the daughter, rather than the sister, of Count Bernard of Périgueux (163-5). Boson and Emma had several sons, including Boson II (d. 1005/1010), who was the stem of the future counts of Périgueux. Another son, Audebert I, who also held the titles of Count of the March and Périgueux, according to Settipani, around 990 married Adalmode, the daughter of Geraud, the Viscount of Limoges. After Audebert's death, she remarried Duke William V of Aquitaine. This theory is in opposition to B. S. Bachrach, who earlier identified Adalmode as the daughter of Adelaïde of Anjou, and the wife of Boson II, who married William after Boson's death (176).

Settipani begins his discussion of the Viscounts of Limousin in Chapter 3 by acknowledging that the complex alliances between the viscomital families of the region make piecing together lineages difficult (181). He follows with modifications J. Boussard and F. Aubel's reconstruction of the origins of the viscounts of Turenne, working from the Cartulary of Beaulieu, which identifies Count Radulf of Cahors (d. 843/4) as the scion of the dynasty. In 852, the Counts of Toulouse took control of Cahors, but the local comital family continued to maintain their title, marking their origin as the counts of Turenne, although the first formally attested Count of Turenne was Bernard in 984 (182). Settipani speculates that Aiga, the wife of Count Radulf of Cahors (d. 742), was a descendant of the Pippinids, and an ancestor of Geraud of Aurillac (d. 909). This leads into a discussion of the ancestry of Geraud, whose biographer, Odo of Cluny, records that he was the son of another Geraud and his wife Adaltrude, whom Settipani identifies as a descendant of Radulf of Cahors (189). Settipani investigates Odo's further claim that Saints Aredius and Caesarius numbered among Geraud's ancestors. He tentatively suggests early family ties between the Aridii and the Caesarii, and reconstructs a genealogical chart based on the Stemma Aridii, a ninth-century work of dubious reliability, which traces that family's roots back to the Merovingian King Childebert. Settipani argues, however, that while most forged genealogies of the period are "reduced to their essences, including only useful personages in them and are, moreover, obvious forgeries, in which the names are exotic or absolutely contrary to established is clear that this document by no means corresponds to these criteria, and the obvious marks of the 11/12th century forgers do not apply" (209-10). He dismisses the geographic diversity of the Stemma as evidence for its unreliability, and argues that our ignorance of some of the names contained in the document is not good evidence for its lack of authenticity. He suggests, for example, that Childebert was a Merovingian king who ruled before Clovis, a theory lacking any solid evidence to support it (216). Additionally, Settipani's arguments regarding other otherwise-unknown individuals, e.g. Severus and Optatus of Bourges, are, on the whole, unconvincing (217-8). Nevertheless, he reconstructs a hypothetical genealogy of the families of Aredius and Caesarius based on the Stemma (as well as other sources), which culminates with a certain Adaltrude, the wife of the Count Gauslin of Le Mans (fl. eighth century), a presumed ancestor of Geraud of Aurillac (225).

In the relatively brief fourth chapter, Settipani examines the viscomital families of Chattellerault, Thouars, and Aulnay respectively. He accepts the arguments of K. F. Werner and J. H. Prell that the viscounts of Chattellerault originated as descendants of the viscounts of Tours at the end of the ninth century. Nevertheless, the first explicitly identified viscount of Chattellerault was Airaud I (fl. early tenth century), a descendant of the Atton I of Tours (263). Settipani suggests a marriage alliance between the viscounts of Chattellerault with other local noble families, and identifies, for example, Gerberge, the wife of Viscount Hugh II (d. 1047) as the product of a marriage alliance between the counts of Anjou and Angouleme (273). The viscomital family of Thouars had as its progenitor a certain Aimeric, a vassus dominicus who lived in the county in the mid-ninth century. His own name, as well as those of his two sons, Geoffrey (the first attested viscount of Thouars) and Savaric, whose name Settipani suggests derives from a Merovingian-era bishop of Auxerre (d. 715), became leading-names in the generations of viscounts that followed (279). The first attested viscount of Aulnay was Cadelon (late ninth-early tenth century), whose son of the same name married an heiress belonging to the viscomital family of Marcillac (284-6).

Chapter 5, like the preceding chapter, is fairly disjointed. Settipani draws heavily upon the work of C. Lauranson-Rosaz on the Auvergne, although he states that his purpose in this section is to look at particular issues not covered in the latter's work, focusing specifically on the Viscounts of Brioude, the distinguished members of the Dalmatti stirps, and the viscomital family of Clermont. Among the numerous genealogical reconstructions contained in the chapter is one based on the Cartulary of Marcigny's account of a marriage between an otherwise-unknown daughter of Dalmatius II (d. 983) and Geoffrey, the son of Joceran of Semur, whose union would produce, among other descendants, Abbot Hugh of Cluny (304-6).

Settipani's book, as should now be clear, is not aimed at a general audience, nor would it likely appeal to one. Its incongruent chapters (clearly of disparate origins), lack of summarizing conclusions, and relatively sparse references to contemporary socio-political realities, when combined with the sheer quantity of names the reader must attempt to remember, does not make for an easy read. Additionally, I found exasperating the index's unclear differentiation between individuals of the same name, and the absence in the bibliography of works cited in the footnotes, e.g. R. Mathisen (1999) and J. P. Poly (1996) (208 and 216 respectively). Where Settipani (and his publisher) do deserve commendation is in their inclusion of dozens upon dozens of genealogical charts, which not only make following the arguments contained in the text much easier, but also permit the author to show alternative theories to his own. Settipani's work will most likely appeal to those specialists interested in the Frankish local nobility, who will, no doubt, disagree with many of his conclusions, but still find ample proof in them for a fundamental connection between kinship ties and political power in the regnum Francorum.


1. Karl F. Werner, "Important Noble Families in the Kingdom of Charlemagne," in The Medieval Nobility, ed. and trans. Timothy Reuter (New York: North Holland Publishing, 1979), 150. See similarly, George Beech, "Prosopography," in Medieval Studies: An Introduction, 2nd Edition, ed. James M. Powell (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1992), 185, who writes that historians employing prosopographical methods "hope to acquire a better understanding of the power structure of medieval society."

2. Werner, "Important Noble Families in the Kingdom of Charlemagne," 149-50. See also Constance Bouchard, Those of My Blood: Constructing Noble Families in Medieval Francia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 7-10. For a thoughtful discussion of methodology, one must turn to K. F. Werner, "Liens de parenté et noms de personne: Un problème historique et méthodologique," in Famille et parenté dans l'occident médiéval, ed. Georges Duby and Jacques Le Goff (Rome: École française de Rome, 1977), 13-18 and 25-34, as well as more recently Régine Le Jan, Famille et pouvoir dans le monde franc (VIIe siècle): Essai d'anthropologie sociale (Paris, 1995), 179-223, for a discussion of early medieval aristocratic naming practices and the transmission of names through a lineage.

3. On this important point, see Bouchard, Those of My Blood, 2-3.

4. Régine Le Jan, "Continuity and Change in the Tenth-Century Nobility," in Nobles and Nobility in Medieval Europe, ed. Anne J. Duggan (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2000), 53-68.