I have said above that among peo­ples who do not till the land mar­ria­ges were much less fixed, and that it was usual to take seve­ral wives. “The Germans were almost the only ones of all the bar­ba­rians who were content with just one wife,” says Tacitus,1 “if we except a few per­sons who, not out of dis­so­lu­te­ness but because of their nobi­lity, had more than one.”2

That explains how the kings of the first dynasty had so many wives. Those mar­ria­ges were less a sign of unres­trai­ned libido than an attri­bute of dignity : to make them lose such a pre­ro­ga­tive would have woun­ded them in a very sen­si­tive place.3 That explains why the exam­ple of the kings was not fol­lo­wed by the sub­jects.

Prope soli barbarorum singulis uxoribus contenti sunt (De moribus Germanorum).

Exceptis admodum paucis qui non libidine, sed ob nobilitatem, plurimis nuptiis ambiuntur (ibid.).

See Chronicle of Fredegar for the year 628.