A people of Scandinavian origin the name of the Baltic island of Bornholm Burgundarholm in the Middle Ages is linked to them settled in the 1st c. BC in the plains between the Oder and the Vistula. Around the mid-3rd c., during their migration south, the Burgundians clashed with the Gepidae and were then driven back by Emperor Probus and later by Emperor Maximian. At the end of the century, however, we find them established in the region of the Main and allied with the Romans against the Alamanni. In 406, after the Vandals, Suebi, Alans and other barbarian peoples, they broke through the Rhine limes and settled in Gaul, where they supported 411 the election of the Gallic nobleman Jovinus as Roman emperor and, as foederati, obtained 413 from the Romans the concession of a territory on the left bank of the Rhine, centered at Worms. According to Orosius the Burgundians converted to Catholicism during this period, but many scholars think it more likely that they converted to Arianism.
Following an attempted expansion into the province of Belgica, they were severely defeated 436–437 by Aetius and the Huns; Aetius, however, established them 443 in Sapaudia, the region around Geneva, as hospites. In 455, led by King Gundioc, they and the Gallo-Roman nobility supported the election of Avitus as emperor, whom they then followed in the military campaign in Spain against the Suebi. But then, at odds with Roman power over the deposition of Avitus and the election of Majorian, they occupied Lyons, Vienne and the surrounding regions: the provinces of Lugdunensis I and the Viennensis. After Majorian was killed, the Burgundians strengthened their position by supporting Ricimer; King Gundioc married one of Ricimer’s sisters and was named magister militum Galliarum, an office conferred also on his successors. Gundioc’s eldest son, Gundobad, the most important of the Burgundian kings, always maintained good relations with the Romans and was often their ally.
The lex Burgundiorum was promulgated during his reign 502; the most Roman of the barbarian laws, it explicitly proclaimed parity of condition between Romans and Burgundians. Gundobad, though an Arian like his father, was strongly influenced by the bishop of Vienne, Alcimus Ecdicius Avitus, and allowed his son Sigismund to convert to Catholicism. When the latter took power on the death of his father 516, Burgundy became a national Romano-Burgundian kingdom, united under the authority of a Catholic king who was a patricius of the Eastern Roman emperor Anastasius. Sigismund encouraged the spread of Catholicism in the Burgundian kingdom under the guidance of Avitus, who in 517 convoked the Council of Epaon to assert the priority of the Roman Catholic Church over the Burgundian Arian Church. In 523 the country was invaded by the Franks, and Sigismund was killed, but his brother Godomar managed to defend the kingdom. In 532 the Frankish kings finally occupied Burgundy, which was integrated into the Merovingian realm in 534.
A. Mentz, Schrift und Sprache der Burgunder: Zeit. f. deut. Alter. 85 1954 1-17; E.A. Thompson, The Settlement of the Barbarians in Southern Gaul: JRS 46 1956 65-75; M. Beck, Bemerkungen zur Geschichte des ersten Burgunderreiches: SZG 13 1963 433- 490; R. Guichard, Essai sur l’histoire du peuple burgonde, Paris 1965; O. Perrin, Les Burgondes. Leur histoire des origines à la fin du premier royaume 534, Neuchâtel 1968; L. Musset, Les invasions: les vagues germaniques, Paris 2 1969; G. Chevrier – G. Pieri, La loi romaine des Burgundes: Ius Romanum Medii Aevi, Milan 1969; E. Demougeot, La formation de l’Europe et les invasions barbares, I, Paris 1969, II, Paris 1979; S. Mazzarino, Aezio, la “Notitia Dignitatum” e i Burgundi di Worms, Atti Conv. Lincei: Conv. intern. Renania Romana April 1975, 23, Rome 1976, 297-317; B. Saitta, I Burgundi 413–534, Catania 1977; R. Soraci, Roma e i Burgundi, Atti Conv. Lincei: Conv. intern. Passaggio dal mondo antico al medioevo. Da Teodosio a s. Gregorio M. May 1977, Rome 1980, 477-513; H. Rosenberg, Bishop Avitus of Vienne c. 493–517 and the Burgundian Kingdom: Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval-Renaissance Association 3 1982 1-12; J. Favrod, Histoire politique du Royaume Burgonde 443–534, Lausanne 1997.