chapter  XII
xii the fief
Pages 13

IN the Frankish period, the majority of those who commended themselves sought from their new master something more than protection. Since this powerful man was at the same time a wealthy man, they also expected him to contribute to their support. From St. Augustine, who in the closing decades of the Western Empire describes the poor in search of a patron who would provide them with ‘the wherewithal to eat’, to the Merovingian formula which we have more than once cited, we hear the same importunate cry-that of the empty stomach. The lord, for his part, was not influenced solely by the ambition to exercise authority over men; through their agency he often sought to lay hold of property. From the outset, in short, protective relationships had their economic aspect-vassalage as well as the others. The liberality of the chief towards his war-companions seemed so essential a part of the bond between them that frequently, in the Carolingian age, the bestowal of a few gifts-a horse, arms, jewels-was an almost invariable complement to the gesture of personal submission. One of the capitularies forbids the breaking of the tie by the vassal if he has already received from his lord the value of a golden solidus. The only true master was he who had given presents to his dependants.