The Visigothic Kingdom or Kingdom of the Visigoths (Latin: Regnum Visgothorum) was a kingdom that occupied what is now southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to the 8th centuries. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of Gallia Aquitania in southwest Gaul by the Roman government and then extended by conquest over all of Hispania. The Kingdom maintained independence from the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the attempts of which to re-establish Roman authority in Hispania were only partially successful and short-lived. The Visigoths were romanized central Europeans who had moved west from the Danube Valley. The Visigoths became Foederati of Rome, and wanted to restore the Roman order against the hordes of Vandals, Alans and Suebi. The Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD; therefore, the Visigoths believed they had the right to take the territories that Rome had promised in Hispania in exchange for restoring the Roman order.
Under King Euric—who eliminated the status of Foederati—a triumphal advance of the Visigoths began. Alarmed at Visigoth expansion from Aquitania after victory over the British army at Déols in 469, Western Emperor Anthemius sent a fresh army across the Alps against Euric, who was besieging Arles. The Roman army was crushed in battle nearby and Euric then captured Arles and secured much of southern Gaul.
Sometimes referred to as the regnum Tolosanum or Kingdom of Toulouse after its capital Toulouse in modern historiography, the kingdom lost much of its territory in Gaul to the Franks in the early 6th century, save the narrow coastal strip of Septimania. The kingdom of the 6th and 7th centuries is sometimes called the regnum Toletanum after the new capital of Toledo. A civil war starting in 549 resulted in an invitation from the Visigoth Athanagild, who had usurped the kingship, to the Byzantine emperor Justinian I to send soldiers to his assistance. Athanagild won his war, but the Byzantines took over Cartagena and a good deal of southern Hispania and could not be dislodged. Starting in the 570s Athanagild's brother Liuvigild compensated for this loss by conquering the Kingdom of the Suebi (roughly modern Portugal) and annexing it, and by repeated campaigns against the Basques.
The ethnic distinction between the indigenous Hispano-Roman population and the Visigoths had largely disappeared by this time (the Gothic language lost its last and probably already declining function as a church language when the Visigoths converted to Catholicism in 589). This newfound unity found expression in increasingly severe persecution of outsiders, especially the Jews. The Visigothic Code (completed in 654) abolished the old tradition of having different laws for Romans and for Visigoths. The 7th century saw many civil wars between factions of the aristocracy. Despite good records left by contemporary bishops, such as Isidore and Leander of Seville, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish Goths from Latins, as the two became inextricably intertwined. Despite these civil wars, by 625 AD the Visigoths had succeeded in expelling the Byzantines from Hispania and had established a foothold at the port of Ceuta in Africa. Most of the Visigothic Kingdom was conquered by Umayyad troops from North Africa in 711 AD, with only the northern reaches of Hispania remaining in Christian hands. These gave birth to the medieval Kingdom of Asturias when a local landlord called Pelayo, most likely of Gothic origin, was elected Princeps by the Astures.
The Visigoths and their early kings were Arians and came into conflict with the Catholic Church, but after they converted to Nicene Christianity, the Church exerted an enormous influence on secular affairs through the Councils of Toledo. The Visigoths also developed the highly influential law code known in Western Europe as the Visigothic Code (Liber Iudiciorum), which would become the basis for Spanish law throughout the Middle Ages.
Kingdom of the Visigoths
Greatest extent of the Visigothic Kingdom, c. 500 (Total extension shown in orange. Territory lost after Battle of Vouillé shown in light orange).
|Common languages||Vulgar Latin|
Gothic (spoken among elite)
|Religion||Germanic Paganism (Initially)|
|Theoderic the Great|
• 714–c. 721
• Annexation of the Suebic Kingdom
• Umayyad occupation of
|718 or 722|
|580||600,000 km2 (230,000 sq mi)|
From 407 to 409 AD, an alliance of Germanic Vandals, Iranian Alans and Germanic Suebi crossed the frozen Rhine and swept across modern France and into the Iberian peninsula. For their part, the Visigoths under Alaric famously sacked Rome in 410, capturing Galla Placidia, the sister of Western Roman emperor Honorius.
Ataulf (King of the Visigoths from 410 to 415) spent the next few years operating in the Gallic and Hispanic countrysides, diplomatically playing competing factions of Germanic and Roman commanders against one another to skillful effect, and taking over cities such as Narbonne and Toulouse (in 413). After he married Placidia, the Emperor Honorius enlisted him to provide Visigothic assistance in regaining nominal Roman control of Hispania from the Vandals, Alans and Suebi.
In 418, Honorius rewarded his Visigothic federates under King Wallia (reigned 415–419) by giving them land in the Garonne valley of Gallia Aquitania on which to settle. This probably took place under the system of hospitalitas. It seems likely that at first the Visigoths were not given a large amount of land estates in the region (as previously believed), but that they acquired the taxes of the region, with the local Gallic aristocrats now paying their taxes to the Visigoths instead of to the Roman government.
The Visigoths with their capital at Toulouse, remained de facto independent, and soon began expanding into Roman territory at the expense of the feeble Western empire. Under Theodoric I (418–451), the Visigoths attacked Arles (in 425 and 430) and Narbonne (436), but were checked by Flavius Aetius using Hunnic mercenaries, and Theodoric was defeated in 438. By 451, the situation had reversed and the Huns had invaded Gaul; now Theodoric fought under Aetius against Attila the Hun in the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains. Attila was driven back, but Theodoric was killed in the battle.
The Vandals completed the conquest of North Africa when they took Carthage on October 19, 439 and the Suebi had taken most of Hispania. The Roman emperor Avitus now sent the Visigoths into Hispania. Theodoric II (453–466) invaded and defeated the King of the Suebi, Rechiarius, at the battle on the river Órbigo in 456 near Asturica Augusta (Astorga) and then sacked Bracara Augusta (Braga), the Suebi capital. The Goths sacked the cities in Spain quite brutally: they massacred a portion of the population and even attacked some holy places, probably due to the clergy's support of the Suebi. Theoderic took control over Hispania Baetica, Carthaginiensis and southern Lusitania. In 461, the Goths received the city of Narbonne from the emperor Libius Severus in exchange for their support. This led to a revolt by the army and by Gallo-Romans under Aegidius; as a result, Romans under Severus and the Visigoths fought other Roman troops, and the revolt ended only in 465.
In 466, Euric, who was the youngest son of Theodoric I, came to the Visigothic throne. He is infamous for murdering his elder brother Theodoric II who had himself become king by murdering his elder brother Thorismund. Under Euric (466–484), the Visigoths began expanding in Gaul and consolidating their presence in the Iberian peninsula. Euric fought a series of wars with the Suebi who retained some influence in Lusitania, and brought most of this region under Visigothic power, taking Emerita Augusta (Mérida) in 469. Euric also attacked the Western Roman Empire, capturing Hispania Tarraconensis in 472, the last bastion of Roman rule in Spain. By 476, he had extended his rule to the Rhone and the Loire rivers which comprised most of southern Gaul. He also occupied the key Roman cities of Arles and Marseilles. In his campaigns, Euric had counted on a portion of the Gallo-Roman and Hispano-Roman aristocracy who served under him as generals and governors. The Visigothic Kingdom was formally recognized when the Western emperor Julius Nepos (473–480) signed an alliance with Euric, granting him the lands south of the Loire and west of the Rhone in exchange for military service and the lands in Provence (including Arles and Marseilles). The lands in Hispania remained under de facto Visigothic control. After Odoacer deposed the last Roman emperor in the West, Romulus Augustulus, Euric quickly recaptured Provence, a fact which Odoacer formally accepted in a treaty.
By 500, the Visigothic Kingdom, centered at Toulouse, controlled Gallia Aquitania and Gallia Narbonensis and most of Hispania with the exception of the Suebic Kingdom of Galicia in the northwest and small areas controlled by independent Iberian peoples, such as the Basques and the Cantabrians. Euric's son Alaric II (484–507) issued a new body of laws, the Breviarium Alarici and held a church council at Agde.
The Visigoths now came into conflict with the Franks under their King Clovis I, who had conquered northern Gaul. Following a brief war with the Franks, Alaric was forced to put down a rebellion in Tarraconensis, probably caused by recent Visigoth immigration to Hispania due to pressure from the Franks. In 507, the Franks attacked again, this time allied with the Burgundians. Alaric II was killed at the battle of Campus Vogladensis (Vouillé) near Poitiers, and Toulouse was sacked. By 508, the Visigoths had lost most of their Gallic holdings save Septimania in the south.
After Alaric II's death, his illegitimate son Gesalec took power until he was deposed by Theodoric the Great, ruler of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, who invaded and defeated him at Barcelona. Gesalic fled and regrouped, but was defeated again at Barcelona, and was captured and killed. Theodoric then installed his grandson Amalaric (511–531), the son of Alaric II, as king. Amalaric, however, was still a child and power in Spain remained under the Ostrogothic general and regent, Theudis. Only after Theoderic's death (526) did Amalaric obtain control of his kingdom. His rule did not last long, as in 531, Amalaric was defeated by the Frankish king Childebert I and then murdered at Barcelona. Afterwards, Theudis (531–548) became king. He expanded Visigothic control over the southern regions, but he was also murdered after a failed invasion of Africa. Visigothic Spain suffered a civil war under King Agila I (549–554), which prompted the Roman/Byzantine emperor Justinian I to send an army and carve out the small province of Spania for the Byzantine Empire along the coast of southern Spain. Agila was eventually killed, and his enemy Athanagild (552–568) became the new king. He attacked the Byzantines, but he was unable to dislodge them from southern Spain, and was obliged to formally acknowledge the suzerainty of the Empire.
The next Visigothic king was Liuvigild (569 – April 21, 586). He was an effective military leader and consolidated Visigothic power in Spain. Liuvigild campaigned against the Romans in the south in the 570s and he took back Cordova after another revolt. He also fought in the north against the Suebi and various small independent states, including the Basques and the Cantabrians. He pacified northern Spain, but was unable to completely conquer these peoples. When Liuvigild established his son Hermenegild as joint ruler, a civil war ensued between them. Hermenegild became the first Visigothic king to convert to Nicene Christianity due to his ties with the Romans, but he was defeated in 584 and killed in 585. By the end of his reign, Liuvigild had united the entire Iberian peninsula, including the Suebic Kingdom which he conquered in 585 during a Suebi civil war that ensued after the death of King Miro. Liuvigild established amicable terms with the Franks through royal marriages, and they remained at peace throughout most of his reign. Liuvigild also founded new cities, such as Reccopolis and Victoriacum (Vitoria), the first barbarian king to do so.
On becoming King, Liuvigild's son Reccared I (586–601) converted from Arian to Chalcedonian Christianity. This led to some unrest in the kingdom, notably a revolt by the Arian bishop of Mérida which was put down; he also beat back another Frankish offensive in the north. Reccared then oversaw the Third Council of Toledo in 589, where he announced his faith in the Nicene creed and denounced Arian. He adopted the name Flavius, the family name of the Constantinian dynasty, and styled himself as the successor to the Roman emperors. Reccared also fought the Byzantines in Hispania Baetica after they had begun a new offensive.
Reccared's son Liuva II became king in 601, but was deposed by the Visigothic noble Witteric (603–610), ending the short-lived dynasty. There were various Visigothic Kings between 610 and 631, and this period saw constant regicide. This period also saw the definitive conquest of the Byzantine territories in the south. War continued in the north against the Basques and Asturians, as indeed it would continue for the rest of the Visigothic Kingdom's existence. These Kings also worked on religious legislature, especially King Sisebut (612–621), who passed several harsh laws against Jews and forced many Jews to convert to Christianity. Sisebut was also successful against the Byzantines, taking several of their cities, including Málaga. The Byzantines were finally defeated by Suintila (621–631), who had captured all of their Spanish holdings by 625. Suinthila was deposed by the Franks and replaced by Sisinand.
The instability of this period can be attributed to the power struggle between the kings and the nobility. Religious unification strengthened the political power of the church, which it exercised through church councils at Toledo along with the nobles. The fourth council, held during the brief reign of Sisinand in 633, excommunicated and exiled the king, replacing him with Chintila (636–639). The church councils were now the most powerful institution in the Visigothic state; they took the role of regulating the process of succession to the kingship by election of the king by Gothic noble 'senators' and the church officials. They also decided to meet on a regular basis to discuss ecclesiastical and political matters affecting the Church. Finally, they decided the kings should die in peace, and declared their persons sacred, seeking to end the violence and regicides of the past. Despite all this, another coup took place and Chintila was deposed in 639, and King Tulga took his place; he was also deposed in the third year of his reign and the council elected the noble Chindasuinth as king.
The reigns of Chindasuinth and his son Recceswinth saw the compilation of the most important Visigothic law book, the Liber Iudiciorum (completed in 654). The code included old laws by past kings, such as Alaric II in his Breviarium Alarici, and Leovigild, but many were also new laws. The code was based almost wholly on Roman law, with some influence of Germanic law in rare cases. The new laws applied to both Gothic and Spanish populations who had been under different laws in the past, and it replaced all older codes of law. Among the eliminated old laws were the harsh laws against Jews. The Liber showed the old system of military and civil divisions in administration was changing, and dukes (duces provinciae) and counts (comites civitatis) had begun taking more responsibilities outside their original military and civil duties. The servants or slaves of the king became very prominent in the bureaucracy and exercised wide administrative powers. With the Visigoth law codes, women could inherit land and title and manage it independently from their husbands or male relations, dispose of their property in legal wills if they had no heirs, and could represent themselves and bear witness in court by age 14 and arrange for their own marriages by age 20. Chindasuinth (642–653) strengthened the monarchy at the expense of the nobility, he executed some 700 nobles, forced dignitaries to swear oaths, and in the seventh council of Toledo laid down his right to excommunicate clergy who acted against the government. He was also able to maneuver his son Recceswinth on the throne, sparking a rebellion by a gothic noble who allied with the Basques, but was put down. Reccesuinth (653–672) held another council of Toledo, which reduced sentences for treason and affirmed the power of the councils to elect kings.
Following Reccesuinth, King Wamba (672–680) was elected king. He had to deal with initial revolts in Tarraconensis, and because of this, he felt a need to reform the army. He passed a law declaring all dukes, counts and other military leaders, as well as bishops, had to come to the aid of the kingdom once danger became known or risk harsh punishment. Wamba was eventually deposed in a bloodless coup. King Ervig (680–687) held further church councils and repealed the previous harsh laws of Wamba, though he still made provisions for the army. Ervig had his son-in-law Egica made king. Despite a rebellion by the bishop of Toledo, the 16th council, held in 693, denounced the bishop's revolt. The 17th council in 694 passed harsh laws against the Jews, citing a conspiracy, and many were enslaved, especially those who had converted from Christianity. Egica also raised his son Wittiza as coruler in 698. Not much is known about his reign, but a period of civil war quickly ensued between his sons (Achila and Ardo) and King Roderic, who had seized Toledo.
In 711, Tariq ibn Ziyad, a Muslim Berber client of Musa bin Nusair, the governor of Islamic Africa, invaded Spain with about 7,000 Berber men, while Roderic was in the north fighting the Basques. The tale that Julian, Count of Ceuta, facilitated the invasion, because one of his daughters had been dishonored by Roderic, is both late and mythical. By late July, a battle took place at the Guadalete River in the province of Cádiz. Roderic was betrayed by his troops, who sided with his enemies, and the king was killed in battle. The Muslims then took much of southern Spain with little resistance, and went on to capture Toledo, where they executed several Visigothic nobles. In 712, Musa, the governor of Ifriqiya, arrived with another army of 18,000, with large Arab contingents. He took Mérida in 713 and invaded the north, taking Saragossa and León, which were still under King Ardo, in 714. After being recalled by the Caliph, Musa left his son Abd al-‘Aziz in command. By 716, most of the Iberian Peninsula was under Islamic rule, with Septimania taken between 721 and 725. The only effective resistance was in Asturias, where a local or Visigothic nobleman named Pelagius (Pelayo) revolted in 718, and defeated the Muslims at the battle of Covadonga. Resistance also continued in the regions around the Pyrenees with the establishment of the Marca Hispanica from 760 to 785. The Berbers settled in the south and the Meseta Central in Castile. Initially, the Muslims generally left the Christians alone to practise their religion, although non-Muslims were subject to Islamic law and treated as second-class citizens.
Visigothic settlements were concentrated along the Garonne River between Bordeaux and Toulouse in Aquitaine, and later in Spain and Portugal around the Ebro River, around the city of Mérida, between the upper reaches of the Douro River, in Tierra de Campos, also known as Campi Gothorum, in Central Castile and León, Asturias and Toledo, and along the Tagus River north of Lisbon. Little Visigothic settlement occurred elsewhere in the kingdom.
The Visigoths founded the only new cities in Western Europe between the fifth and eighth centuries. It is certain (through contemporary Spanish accounts) that they founded four, and a possible fifth city is ascribed to them by a later Arabic source. All of these cities were founded for military purposes and three of them in celebration of victory.
The first, Reccopolis, was founded by Liuvigild in 578 after his victory over the Franks, near what is today the tiny village of Zorita de los Canes. He named it after his son Reccared and built it with Byzantine imitations, containing a palace complex and mint, but it lay in ruins by the 9th century (after the Arab conquest).
At a slightly later date, Liuvigild founded a city he named Victoriacum after his victory over the Basques. Though it is often supposed to survive as the city of Vitoria, contemporary 12th-century sources refer to the latter city's foundation by Sancho VI of Navarre.
Liuvigild's son and namesake of the first Visigothic city founded his own sometime around 600. It is referred to by Isidore of Seville as Lugo id est Luceo in the Asturias, built after a victory over the Asturians or Cantabri.
The fourth and possibly final city of the Goths was Ologicus (perhaps Ologitis), founded using Basque labour in 621 by Suintila as a fortification against the recently subjected Basques. It is to be identified with modern Olite.
The Visigothic rule has often been attributed to be a part of the so-called Dark Ages, a time of cultural and scientific decay reversed only by Muslim Andalusia. Through the course of their existence the Visigoths supposedly remained "men of the woods never strayed too far from there", as Thomas F. Glick puts it.
However, in fact, the Visigoths were preservers of the classical culture. The bathing culture of Andalusia, for example, often said to be a Muslim invention, is a direct continuation of Romano-Visigothic traditions. Visigothic Merida housed baths supplied with water by aqueducts, and such aqueducts are also attested in Cordoba, Cadiz and Recopolis. Excavations confirm that Recopolis and Toledo, the Visigothic capital, were heavily influenced by the contemporary Byzantine architecture. When the Muslims looted Spain during their conquest they were amazed by the fine and innumerable Visigothic treasures. A few of these treasures were preserved as they were buried during the invasion – e.g., the votive crowns from the treasure of Guarrazar. While only the senior monks were allowed to read books of non-Christian or heretic authors this did not prevent the rise of intellectuals like, most prominently, Isidore of Seville, one of the most quoted scholars of the Middle Ages, Eugenius I of Toledo, an expert in mathematics and astronomy, or Theodulf of Orléans, a theologian and poet who, after he had fled to the Frankish kingdom, participated in the Carolingian Renaissance. A Muslim source referred to Visigothic Seville as the "abode of the sciences". The Institutionum disciplinae from the mid seventh/early eight century confirms that Visigothic nobles were not only taught in reading and writing, but also in medicine, law and philosophy. An example of a highly educated nobleman was king Sisebut, who was a patron of learning and writer of poems, one of them about astronomy.
Emirate · Caliphate
Medieval · Modern
These kings and leaders – with the exception of Fritigern and possibly Alavivus – were pagans.
The Visigothic monarchy took on a completely elective character with the fall of the Balti, but the monarchy remained Arian until Reccared I converted in 587 (Hermenegild had also converted earlier). Only a few sons succeeded their fathers to the throne in this period.
Ardo (or Ardonus, possibly short for Ardabastus; died 720/721) is attested as the last of all Visigothic kings of Hispania, reigning from 713 or likely 714 until his death. The Visigothic Kingdom was already severely reduced in power and area at the time he succeeded Achila II, and his dominions probably did not extend beyond Septimania and present-day Catalonia, due to the Arab conquests of the previous three years.
Ardo is only recorded in one Visigothic regnal list as reigning for seven years. As of 716 the Arabs crossed over the Pyrenees and invaded Narbonensis, the last province under Gothic control. Over the next three years Ardo probably defended what remained of the Visigothic kingdom and he "may have gone down fighting like his predecessor" after the Arabs took Narbonne and before they conquered all that remained of the old kingdom.Balt dynasty
The Balt dynasty or Balth dynasty (Latin: Balti or Balthi, Balts) was the first ruling family of the Visigoths from 395 until 531. They led the Visigoths into the Western Roman Empire in its declining years.
According to the historian Ablabius, as reported by the historian Jordanes, the Visigoths had been ruled by the Balti since ancient times. Jordanes, however, says that all the Goths were formerly ruled by the Amal dynasty. Relying on Cassiodorus, Jordanes says that the Balts were "second" after the Ostrogothic Amals. He claims that the family was named from long ago for its daring: "Baltha, which [in Gothic] means bold" (Baltha, qui est audax). Historian Herwig Wolfram theorizes that the name may derive from Pliny the Elder's island of Baltia (i.e., isle of the Balts), which he also calls Basilia (i.e., royal land).The Visigoths as a nation were formed under the rule of Alaric I, the first named Balt, only in 395. He famously sacked Rome in 410. His descendants continued to rule down to 531, when on the death of Amalaric the line went extinct. In 507, the Visigoths were defeated by the Franks at the Battle of Vouillé and lost most of their kingdom. In 511, the Ostrogothic king Theoderic the Great intervened to depose the Balt king Gesalec. He ruled himself until his death in 526, when Amalaric succeded him. Theoderic's intervention is often credited with saving the Visigothic kingdom, but it ended the Balt dynasty.The private wealth (res privata) of the Balt kings, which had been a foundation of their legitimacy, was transformed into the royal treasury (thesaurus regalis) and became state property after 531. The dynastic principle was abandoned and kings were chosen by election until the fall of the Visigothic kingdom in711.Brazen bull
The brazen bull, bronze bull, or Sicilian bull, was allegedly a torture and execution device designed in ancient Greece. According to Diodorus Siculus, recounting the story in Bibliotheca historica, Perillos of Athens invented and proposed it to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, as a new means of executing criminals. The bull was said to be made entirely out of bronze, hollow, with a door in one side. According to legends the brazen bull was designed in the form and size of an actual bull and had an acoustic apparatus that converted screams into the sound of a bull. The condemned were locked inside the device, and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until the person inside was roasted to death. Some modern scholars question if the brazen bull ever really existed, attributing reports of the invention to early propaganda.Breviary of Alaric
The Breviary of Alaric (Breviarium Alaricianum or Lex Romana Visigothorum) is a collection of Roman law, compiled by unknown writers and approved by referendary Anianus on the order of Alaric II, King of the Visigoths, with the advice of his bishops and nobles. It was promulgated on 2 February 506, the 22nd year of his reign. It applied, not to the Visigothic nobles under their own law, which had been formulated by Euric, but to the Hispano-Roman and Gallo-Roman population, living under Visigoth rule south of the Loire and, in Book 16, to the members of the Trinitarian Catholic Church. (The Visigoths were Arian and maintained their own clergy.)Duchy of Cantabria
The Duchy of Cantabria (Spanish: Ducado de Cantabria, Cantabrian: Ducáu de Cantabria) was a march created by the Visigoths in northern Spain to watch their border with the Cantabrians and Basques. Its precise extension is unclear in the different periods, but seems likely that it included Cantabria, parts of Northern Castile, La Rioja, and probably western areas of Biscay and Álava.
The two main towns of Cantabria before its conquest by the Goths were Amaya (in northern Burgos) and the City of Cantabria, believed to have been near modern Logroño. Both towns were destroyed in 574 by Liuvigild, who massacred many of their inhabitants. The legend of this destruction remained for long in the memory of the affected peoples. Bishop Braulio of Zaragoza (631-651) wrote in his Life of St. Emilianus how the saint prophesied the destruction of Cantabria because of their alleged sins. It is held in popular belief that the converted refugees from the City of Cantabria founded the monastery of Our Lady of Codés in Navarre.
A Senate of Cantabria mentioned in the Saint Aemilianus' work bears witness to a local nobility and a governing diet that may have been of the last independent Hispano-Roman provincial authorities. Some names are provided too, such as autochthonous Sicorius or Tuentius, with no clear ethnic affiliation, and Latin names Honorius and Nepotianus.In 581, right before major Frankish expeditions against the Basques and the establishment of the Duchy of Vasconia under Frank suzerainty, the count of Bordeaux Galactorius is cited by the poet Venantius Fortunatus as fighting both the Basques and the Cantabrians, while the Chronicle of Fredegar brings up a shadowy Francio duke of Cantabria ruling for a long period some time before Sisebut's successful campaigns against Basques and Cantabrians. Archaeological discoveries in the last decades around the millennium have brought to light that the cultural and economic influences, and even small groups of people in the near Basque territory once part of the duchy or limiting with it, came from way beyond the Pyrenees during this time gap of political vacuum or at the best, uncertain authority.In the late Visigothic period, at a second stage after the 6th century Cantabrian defeat, the Duchy of Cantabria is attested as being a buffer zone bearing witness to continuous fighting between Visigoths and Basques. In 670, the Visigothic king Wamba was campaigning there against the Basques when he heard of a rebellion in Septimania. Notice of a certain duke Peter of Cantabria, father of Alfonso I of Asturias, is attested on 9th century Asturian documents for the first years of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania.Eighth Council of Toledo
The Eighth Council of Toledo commenced on 16 December 653 in the church of the Holy Apostles in Toledo. It was attended by fifty two bishops personally – including the aged Gavinio of Calahorra, who had assisted at the Fourth Council – and another ten by delegation, ten abbots, and the archpriest and primicerius of the Cathedral. Also, for the first time, saecular officials, sixteen counts palatine, participated in the discussion, voting, and affirmation of the council's acts. It was the second of King Chindasuinth's two councils, held under the names of both he and his co-reigning son, Reccesuinth.
The eighth council was unique in its calling in that Chindasuinth had written a tomus to the bishops describing the issues he wished them to address.Fifth Council of Toledo
The Fifth Council of Toledo was convoked by King Chintila and opened on 30 June 636 in the church of Saint Leocadia in Toledo. It was attended by twenty two bishops and two episcopal representatives. The bishops of Narbonensis were absent for political reasons. It primarily dealt with political matters.
The council's first act was to grant special protection to the persons of the king and his family. As to this and royal elections the council made the following decrees:
Only the higher nobility (with military functions) and the Visigothic palatine officials could participate in royal elections.
The descendants of the king had the right to enjoy properties justly acquired by the king and willed to them. Anathema was pronounced on those who molested or injured the king. The closest councillors of the king were also protected in their possession of properties granted them by their royal patron.
Those who consulted seers to know the future of the king, who cursed the king, or who plotted or conspired to place another on the throne would be excommunicated. Those who aspired to the throne without due election were also anathematised.
The council established three days of litanies between 13 and 15 December each year.The councils decrees, however, failed in their chief political aim of securing the king on his throne and putting an end to internal intrigues. Chintila continued to have to fight dissenters while Spain was otherwise at peace with the outside world. In 638, Chintila was forced to convoke the Sixth Council of Toledo.Fourth Council of Toledo
The Fourth Council of Toledo occurred in 633. It was held at the church of Saint Leocadia in Toledo.
Probably under the presidency of the noted Isidore of Seville, the council regulated many matters of discipline, decreed uniformity of liturgy throughout the Visigothic kingdom and took stringent measures against baptized Jews who had relapsed into their former faith.
At this council, begun 5 December 633, all the bishops of Iberian Kingdoms were in attendance. Isidore, though elderly, presided over its deliberations, and was the originator of most of its enactments.
The council probably expressed with tolerable accuracy the mind and influence of Isidore. The position and deference granted to the king is remarkable. The church is free and independent, yet bound in solemn allegiance to the acknowledged king: nothing is said of allegiance to the bishop of Rome.
It was at the Fourth National Council of Toledo and through his influence that a decree was promulgated commanding and requiring all bishops to establish seminaries in their cathedral cities, along the lines of the school associated with Isidore already existing at Seville. Within his own jurisdiction he had availed himself of the resources of education to counteract the growing influence of Gothic barbarism. His was the quickening spirit that animated the educational movement of which Seville was the centre. The study of Greek and Hebrew as well as the liberal arts, was prescribed. Interest in law and medicine was also encouraged. Through the authority of the fourth council this policy of education was made obligatory upon all the bishops of the kingdom.Protofeudalism
Protofeudalism (Spanish: protofeudalismo / feudalismo prematuro) is a concept in medieval history, most especially the history of Spain, according to which the direct precursors of feudalism can be found at the height of the Middle Ages. Spanish historiography relies heavily on the concept and projects it onto the late Visigothic Kingdom, but its usage is generally deprecated in the English-language historiography of Spain (or anywhere else). The current tendency in English scholarship to downplay feudalism and reduce the usage of related terminology, especially its application to the Early Middle Ages, is in direct conflict with recent trends in Spanish historiography to push the start of feudalism back into the Visigothic period, sometimes seen as part of a tendency to "Europeanise" Spanish history.
Interest was renewed in the history of a united Visigothic Spain during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in the mid-20th century. The perennial need to explain the rapid downfall of the Visigothic kingdom in the face of Arab invasions led some scholars to postulate the increased privatisation of public authority in the hands of regional, landed nobility: twin tendencies, called "protofeudalism" (privatisation) and "particularism" (regionalism).Typically, the protofeudal phenomenon is dated to the late 7th century, but sometimes earlier. In 1967, the Spanish historian Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz traced the protofeudalisation (protofeudalización) of the Visigothic army at least to the legislation of Erwig and Wamba. A description in English of the general phenomenon is given by Payne in his general history of Iberia in two volumes:
Decentralization was unavoidable, and power became a matter of personal relationship and example. The chief lieutenants of the crown were rewarded for their services by salaries or stipendia in the form of overlordship of land or temporary assignment of income from land held in precarium, that is, on a nominally revocable basis. This system was actually first used by the church to support local establishments, and by the seventh century was widely employed by the crown and also by the magnates (the high aristocracy) to pay their chief supporters and military retainers. The process of protofeudalization inevitably carried with it a splintering of juridical and economic sovereignty that further weakened political unity.
French historian Céline Martin has disputed the reality of "protofeudalism" by pointing to the public nature of oaths of fidelity in the late Visigothic kingdom, where oaths were generally sworn by (local) populations and not by individual men to individual lords. Roger Collins has criticised the concept as little more than an attempt by Spanish academics to integrate Spanish history into that of Europe in general. Collins cites L. García Moreno as proclaiming "international unanimity in applying the adjective 'protofeudal' to the socio-political formation incarnated by the Kingdom of Toledo at the beginning of the eighth century". Collins, however, "thinks not". Michael Kulikowski cites the discovery of mid-7th-century trientes at El Bovalar as evidence for commercial activity in central Spain refuting the prevailing notion of "autarky" and protofeudal serfdom.Second Council of Toledo
The Second Council of Toledo was held by the bishops of the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo in the city of Toledo in 527, under the presidency of the local bishop Montanus (Montà). The chief issue with which the synod dealt was Arianism.Septimania
Septimania (French: Septimanie, IPA: [sɛptimani]; Occitan: Septimània, IPA: [septiˈmanjɔ]; Catalan: Septimània, IPA: [səptiˈmaniə]) is a historical region in modern-day south of France. It referred to the western part of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis that passed to the control of the Visigoths in 462, when Septimania was ceded to their king, Theodoric II. Under the Visigoths it was known as simply Gallia or Narbonensis. Septimania territory roughly corresponds with the former administrative region of Languedoc-Roussillon that merged into the new administrative region of Occitanie. Septimania passed briefly to the Emirate of Córdoba, which had been expanding from the south during the eighth century before its subsequent conquest by the Franks, who by the end of the ninth century termed it Gothia or the Gothic March (Marca Gothica).
Septimania became a march of the Carolingian Empire and then West Francia down to the thirteenth century, though it was culturally and politically autonomous from northern France based central royal government. The region was under the influence of the people from the count territories of Toulouse, Provence, and ancient County of Barcelona. It was part of the wider cultural and linguistic region comprising the southern third of France known as Occitania. This area was finally brought under effective control of the French kings in the early 13th century as a result of the Albigensian Crusade after which it was assigned governors. From the end of the thirteenth century Septimania evolved into the royal province of Languedoc.
The name "Septimania" may derive from part of the Roman name of the city of Béziers, Colonia Julia Septimanorum Beaterrae, which in turn alludes to the settlement of veterans of the Roman VII Legion in the city. Another possible derivation of the name is in reference to the seven cities (civitates) of the territory: Béziers, Elne, Agde, Narbonne, Lodève, Maguelonne, and Nîmes. Septimania extended to a line halfway between the Mediterranean and the Garonne River in the northwest; in the east the Rhône separated it from Provence; and to the south its boundary was formed by the Pyrenees.Seventh Council of Toledo
The Seventh Council of Toledo commenced on 18 November 646 and was attended by 41 bishops either personally or by delegation. It was the first of Chindasuinth's two councils.
The law against treason was strengthened with the addition of a penalty of excommunication on offenders. This was partially in response to the will of the king, who had recently taking vigorous actions against supposed traitors. The mass executions were upheld as just by the council. The punishments for treason were extended to clergy without distinction.
It was also determined that if any clergyman, regardless of rank, travelled to a foreign land to support activities contra the king or the Visigothic nobility or to assist a layman in doing the same, he was to be disgraced and made a permanent penitent, receiving communion only on his deathbed.Sippe
Sippe is German for "clan, kindred, extended family" (Frisian Sibbe, Norse Sifjar).
It continues a Proto-Germanic term *sebjō, which referred to a band or confederation bound by a treaty or oath, not primarily restricted to blood relations. The original character of sibb as a peace treaty is visible in Old English, e.g. in Beowulf (v. 1858):
hafast þû gefêred, þæt þâm folcum sceal,
Geáta leódum ond Gâr-Denum
sib gemæne ond sacu restan.The Sippe came to be a cognatic, extended family unit, exactly analogous to the Scottish/Irish sept.Most of the information left about the nature and role of the Sippe is found in records left by the Lombards, Alamanni, and Bavarians. One of the functions of the Sippe was regulating use of forests. The average Sippe likely contained no more than 50 families. The Sippe seems to have been absorbed into the monogamous family later on; P.D. King asserts that this was already the case among the Visigoths during the time of the Visigothic Kingdom.Sixth Council of Toledo
The Sixth Council of Toledo was the second council convoked by King Chintila and opened on 9 January 638. It was attended by fifty three bishops, including those from Narbonensis who had not participated in the prior council for political reasons. The council was thus a reunion of the whole church of Spain (of both Hispania and Gallia). Its primary purpose was to reaffirm the decrees of the Fifth Council of 636 and to restore internal peace.
Four of the nineteen canons of the council were specifically political, the rest covered Jews, monks, penitents, freedmen, holy orders, benefices, and ecclesiastical property.
The council affirmed the Fifth Council's decrees about the security of the king and his family. It also excommunicated those who fled overseas and there plotted against the king or otherwise endangered him. Anathema was pronounced on all who attacked the king or conspired to overthrow him and usurp his throne. A successor to an assassinated king was dishonoured if he did not punish the regicides.
The council confirmed the permanent possession of property given to the church by anyone and laid down punishments for simony. Finally, certain measures were first taken against the Jews, it seems to please the pope, who had demanded them in a letter.Third Council of Toledo
The Third Council of Toledo (589) marks the entry of Visigothic Spain into the Catholic Church, and known for codifying the filioque clause into Western Christianity. The council also enacted restrictions on Jews, and the conversion of the country to Catholic Christianity led to repeated conflict with the Jews.Thirteenth Council of Toledo
The Thirteenth Council of Toledo opened on 4 November 683. It was called by Erwig and consisted of 77 bishops, 5 abbots, 3 church dignitaries, and 27 palatine functionaries.The king asked for the pardon and rehabilitation of the rebels against King Wamba in 673. The bishops consented to return to the rebels and their descendants their possessions and positions. The pardon extended to all those who had been disgraced for the same reason since the reign of Chintila (636-640). Erwig desired that no vendettas should hamper his reign.
The council also condemned forced confessions, necessitating justice without torture. They also imposed a maximum prison sentence.
Finally, the council repeated the oft-rendered prohibition on harming the royal family after the death of the monarch.Umayyad conquest of Hispania
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania was the initial expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate over Hispania (in the Iberian Peninsula) from 711 to 788. The conquest resulted in the destruction of the Visigothic Kingdom and the establishment of the independent Emirate of Córdoba under Abd ar-Rahman I (ruled 756–788), who completed the unification of the Muslim-ruled areas (known as al-Andalus). The conquest marks the westernmost expansion of both the Umayyad Caliphate and Muslim rule into Europe.
During the caliphate of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I, forces led by Tariq ibn Ziyad disembarked in early 711 in Gibraltar at the head of an army consisting of Berbers from north-western Africa.
After defeating the Visigothic usurper Roderic at the decisive Battle of Guadalete, Tariq was reinforced by an Arab force led by his superior wali Musa ibn Nusair and continued northward. By 717, the combined Arab-Berber force had crossed the Pyrenees into Septimania. They occupied further territory in Gaul until 759.Visigothic Code
The Visigothic Code (Latin: Forum Iudicum, Liber Iudiciorum; Spanish: Libro de los Jueces, Book of the Judges), also called Lex Visigothorum (English: Law of the Visigoths), is a set of laws first promulgated by king Chindasuinth (642–653 AD) of the Visigothic Kingdom in his second year of rule (642–643) that survives only in fragments. In 654 his son, king Recceswinth (649–672), published the enlarged law code, which was the first law code that applied equally to the conquering Goths and the general population, of which the majority had Roman roots, and had lived under Roman laws.
The code abolished the old tradition of having different laws for Romans (leges romanae) and Visigoths (leges barbarorum), and under which all the subjects of the Visigothic kingdom would stop being romani and gothi instead becoming hispani. In this way, all subjects of the kingdom were gathered under the same jurisdiction, eliminating social and legal differences, and allowing greater assimilation of the populations. As such, the Code marks the transition from the Roman law to Germanic law and is one of the best surviving examples of leges barbarorum. It combines elements of the Roman law, Catholic law and Germanic tribal customary law.Visigoths
The Visigoths (; Latin: Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, Wisi) were the western branches of the nomadic tribes of Germanic peoples referred to collectively as the Goths. These tribes flourished and spread throughout the late Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, or what is known as the Migration Period. The Visigoths emerged from earlier Gothic groups (possibly the Thervingi) who had invaded the Roman Empire beginning in 376 and had defeated the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. Relations between the Romans and the Visigoths were variable, alternately warring with one another and making treaties when convenient. The Visigoths invaded Italy under Alaric I and sacked Rome in 410. After the Visigoths sacked Rome, they began settling down, first in southern Gaul and eventually in Hispania, where they founded the Visigothic Kingdom and maintained a presence from the 5th to the 8th centuries AD.The Visigoths first settled in southern Gaul as foederati to the Romans – a relationship established in 418. However, they soon fell out with their Roman hosts (for reasons that are now obscure) and established their own kingdom with its capital at Toulouse. They next extended their authority into Hispania at the expense of the Suebi and Vandals. In 507, however, their rule in Gaul was ended by the Franks under Clovis I, who defeated them in the Battle of Vouillé. After that, the Visigoth kingdom was limited to Hispania, and they never again held territory north of the Pyrenees other than Septimania. A small, elite group of Visigoths came to dominate the governance of that region at the expense of those who had previously ruled there, particularly in the Byzantine province of Spania and the Kingdom of the Suebi.
In or around 589, the Visigoths under Reccared I converted from Arianism to Nicene Christianity, gradually adopting the culture of their Hispano-Roman subjects. Their legal code, the Visigothic Code (completed in 654) abolished the longstanding practice of applying different laws for Romans and Visigoths. Once legal distinctions were no longer being made between Romani and Gothi, they became known collectively as Hispani. In the century that followed, the region was dominated by the Councils of Toledo and the episcopacy. (Little else is known about the Visigoths' history during the 7th century, since records are relatively sparse.) In 711 or 712, an invading force of Arabs and Berbers defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Guadalete. Their king, Roderic, and many members of their governing elite were killed, and their kingdom rapidly collapsed.
During their governance of Hispania, the Visigoths built several churches that survive. They also left many artifacts, which have been discovered in increasing numbers by archaeologists in recent times. The Treasure of Guarrazar of votive crowns and crosses is the most spectacular. They founded the only new cities in western Europe from the fall of the Western half of the Roman Empire until the rise of the Carolingian dynasty. Many Visigothic names are still in use in modern Spanish and Portuguese. Their most notable legacy, however, was the Visigothic Code, which served, among other things, as the basis for court procedure in most of Christian Iberia until the Late Middle Ages, centuries after the demise of the kingdom.
|Kings of the Visigoths family tree|