The precursor of the thegn was the gesith, the companion of the king or great lord, the member of his comitatus, and the word thegn began to be used to describe a military gesith.
The custom was for the king to get a fixed sum from the sheriff of each county, this being called the firma comitatus, and for the sheriff to collect this as best he could.
He enjoyed a triple wergeld, but had no definite salary, being remunerated by the receipt of certain revenues, a system which contained the germs of discord, on account of the confusion of his public and private 1 The changing language of this epoch speaks of civitates, subsequently of pagi, and later of comitatus (counties).
The 8th century the term comitatus begins to denote a geographical area, though there was little difference in its extent under the Merovingian kings and the early Carolings.
About the end of the 9th century Fezensac (comitatus Fedentiacus), in circumstances of which no trustworthy record remains, was erected into an hereditary countship. This latter was in its turn divided, the south-western portion becoming, about 960, the countship of Armagnac (pages Armaniacus).