The Franks or Frankish people were West Germanic tribes first identified in the 3rd century as an ethnic group living north and east of the Lower Rhine. Under the Merovingian dynasty, they founded one of the Germanic monarchies which replaced the Western Roman Empire from the 5th century. The Frankish state consolidated its hold over large parts of western Europe by the end of the eighth century and the Carolingian Empire and its successor states were Frankish. The Salian political elite were one of the most active forces in spreading Christianity over western Europe.
Contemporary definitions of the ethnicity of the Franks vary by period and point of view. It is often unclear whether people referred to as Franks referred to themselves as such. Within Francia, the Franks were initially a distinct group with their own culture.
From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops. Only the Salians formed a kingdom on Roman soil that was acknowledged by the Romans after 357. In the climate of the collapse of imperial authority in the West, the Frankish tribes were united under the Merovingians and conquered all of Gaul save Septimania in the 6th century.