The Visigoths (/ˈvɪzɪɡɒθs/; 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.
Contemporaneous references to the Gothic tribes use the terms "Vesi" (Latin for Visigoths), "Ostrogothi", "Thervingi", and "Greuthungi". Most scholars have concluded that the terms "Vesi" and "Tervingi" were both used to refer to one particular tribe, while the terms "Ostrogothi" and "Greuthungi" were used to refer to another. Herwig Wolfram points out that while primary sources occasionally list all four names (as in, for example, Gruthungi, Austrogothi, Tervingi, Visi), whenever they mention two different tribes, they always refer either to "the Vesi and the Ostrogothi" or to "the Tervingi and the Greuthungi", and they never pair them up in any other combination. This conclusion is supported by Jordanes, who identified the Visigoth (Vesi) kings from Alaric I to Alaric II as the heirs of the 4th century Tervingian king Athanaric, and the Ostrogoth kings from Theoderic the Great to Theodahad as the heirs of the Greuthungi king Ermanaric. In addition, the Notitia Dignitatum equates the Vesi with the Tervingi in a reference to the years 388–391.
The earliest sources for each of the four names are roughly contemporaneous. The first recorded reference to "the Tervingi" is in a eulogy of the emperor Maximian (285–305), delivered in or shortly after 291 (perhaps at Trier on 20 April 292)[c] and traditionally ascribed to Claudius Mamertinus.[d] It says that the "Tervingi, another division of the Goths" (Tervingi pars alia Gothorum), joined with the Taifali to attack the Vandals and Gepidae. (The term "Vandals" may have been a mistaken reference to the "Victohali", since around 360 the historian Eutropius reports that Dacia was currently inhabited by Taifali, Victohali, and Tervingi.)[e] The first recorded reference to "the Greuthungi" is by Ammianus Marcellinus, writing no earlier than 392 and perhaps later than 395, recounting the words of a Tervingian chieftain who is attested as early as 376. The first known use of the term "Ostrogoths" is in a document dated September 392 from Milan. (Claudian mentions that they, together with the Gruthungi, inhabit Phrygia.)
Wolfram notes that "Vesi" and "Ostrogothi" were terms each tribe used to boastfully describe itself and argues that "Tervingi" and "Greuthungi" were geographical identifiers each tribe used to describe the other. This would explain why the latter terms dropped out of use shortly after 400, when the Goths were displaced by the Hunnic invasions. As an example of this geographical naming practice, Wolfram cites an account by Zosimus of a group of people living north of the Danube who called themselves "the Scythians" but were called "the Greutungi" by members of a different tribe living north of the Ister. Wolfram believes that the people Zosimus describes were those Tervingi who had remained behind after the Hunnic conquest. For the most part, all of the terms discriminating between different Gothic tribes gradually disappeared after they moved into the Roman Empire. The last indication that the Goths whose king reigned at Toulouse thought of themselves as "Vesi" is found in a panegyric on Avitus by Sidonius Apollinaris dated 1 January 456.
Most recent scholars (notably Peter Heather) have concluded that Visigothic group identity emerged only within the Roman Empire. Roger Collins believes that the Visigothic identity emerged from the Gothic War of 376–382 when a collection of Tervingi, Greuthungi, and other "barbarian" contingents banded together in multiethnic foederati (Wolfram's "federate armies") under Alaric I in the eastern Balkans, since they had become a multi ethnic group and could no longer claim to be exclusively Tervingian.
The term "Visigoth" was an invention of the 6th century. Cassiodorus, a Roman in the service of Theodoric the Great, invented the term "Visigothic" to match that of "Ostrogothic", terms he thought of as signifying "western Goths" and "eastern Goths" respectively. The western–eastern division was a simplification (and a literary device) of 6th century historians; political realities were more complex. Further, Cassiodorus used the term "Goths" to refer only to the Ostrogoths, whom he served, and reserved the geographical term "Visigoths" for the Gallo-Spanish Goths. This usage, however, was adopted by the Visigoths themselves in their communications with the Byzantine Empire and was still in use in the 7th century.
Other names for other Gothic divisions abounded. A "Germanic" Byzantine or Italian author referred to one of the two peoples as the Valagothi, meaning "Roman Goths", and in 469 the Visigoths were called the "Alaric Goths".
The name Tervingi may mean "forest people". This is supported by evidence that geographic descriptors were commonly used to distinguish people living north of the Black Sea both before and after Gothic settlement there, by evidence of forest-related names among the Tervingi, and by the lack of evidence for an earlier date for the name pair Tervingi–Greuthungi than the late 3rd century. That the name Tervingi has pre-Pontic, possibly Scandinavian, origins still has support today.
The Visigoths are called Wesi or Wisi by Trebellius Pollio, Claudian, and Sidonius Apollinaris. The word is Gothic for "good", implying the "good or worthy people", related to Gothic iusiza "better" and a reflex of Indo-European *wesu "good", akin to Welsh gwiw "excellent", Greek eus "good", Sanskrit vásu-ş "id.". Jordanes relates the tribe's name to a river, though this is most likely a folk etymology or legend like his similar story about the Greuthung name.
The Visigoths emerged from the Gothic tribes, most likely a derivative name for the Gutones, a people believed to have their origins in Scandinavia and who migrated southeastwards into eastern Europe. Such understanding of their origins is largely the result of Gothic traditions and their true genesis as a people is as obscure as that of the Franks and Alamanni. The Visigoths spoke an eastern Germanic language that was distinct by the 4th century. Eventually the Gothic language died as a result of contact with other European people during the Middle Ages.
Long struggles between the neighboring Vandili and Lugii people with the Goths may have contributed to their earlier exodus into mainland Europe. The vast majority of them settled between the Oder and Vistula rivers until overpopulation (according to Gothic legends or tribal sagas) forced them to move south and east, where they settled just north of the Black Sea. However, this legend is not supported by archaeological evidence so its validity is disputable. Historian Malcolm Todd contends that while this large en masse migration is possible, the movement of Gothic peoples south-east was more likely the result of warrior bands moving closer to the wealth of Ukraine and the cities of the Black Sea coast. Perhaps what is most notable about the Gothic people in this regard was that by the middle of the 3rd century AD, they were "the most formidable military power beyond the lower Danube frontier".
Throughout the third and fourth centuries there were numerous conflicts and exchanges of varying types between the Goths and their neighbors. After the Romans withdrew from the territory of Dacia, the local population was subjected to constant invasions by the migratory tribes, among the first being the Goths. In 238, the Goths invaded across the Danube into the Roman province of Moesia, pillaging and exacting payment through hostage taking. During the war with the Persians that year, Goths also appeared in the Roman armies of Gordian III. When subsidies to the Goths were stopped, the Goths organized and in 250 joined a major barbarian invasion led by the Germanic king, Kniva. Success on the battlefield against the Romans inspired additional invasions into the northern Balkans and deeper into Anatolia. Starting in approximately 255, the Goths added a new dimension to their attacks by taking to the sea and invading harbors which brought them into conflict with the Greeks as well. When the city of Pityus fell to the Goths in 256, the Goths were further emboldened. Sometime between 266–267, the Goths raided Greece but when they attempted to move into the Bosporus straits to attack Byzantium, they were repulsed. Along with other Germanic tribes, they attacked further into Anatolia, assaulting Crete and Cyprus on the way; shortly thereafter, they pillaged Troy and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Throughout the reign of emperor Constantine the Great, the Visigoths continued to conduct raids on Roman territory south of the Danube River. By 332, relations between the Goths and Romans were stabilized by a treaty but this was not to last.
The Goths remained in Dacia until 376, when one of their leaders, Fritigern, appealed to the Roman emperor Valens to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. Here, they hoped to find refuge from the Huns. Valens permitted this, as he saw in them "a splendid recruiting ground for his army". However, a famine broke out and Rome was unwilling to supply them with either the food they were promised or the land. Generally, the Goths were abused by the Romans, who began forcing the now starving Goths to trade away their children so as to stave off starvation. Open revolt ensued, leading to 6 years of plundering throughout the Balkans, the death of a Roman Emperor and a disastrous defeat of the Roman army.
The Battle of Adrianople in 378 was the decisive moment of the war. The Roman forces were slaughtered and the Emperor Valens was killed during the fighting. Precisely how Valens fell remains uncertain but Gothic legend tells of how the emperor was taken to a farmhouse, which was set on fire above his head, a tale made more popular by its symbolic representation of a heretical emperor receiving hell's torment. Many of Rome's leading officers and some of their most elite fighting men died during the battle which struck a major blow to Roman prestige and the Empire's military capabilities. Adrianople shocked the Roman world and eventually forced the Romans to negotiate with and settle the tribe within the empire's boundaries, a development with far-reaching consequences for the eventual fall of Rome. Fourth-century Roman soldier and historian Ammianus Marcellinus ended his chronology of Roman history with this battle.
Despite the severe consequences for Rome, Adrianople was not nearly as productive overall for the Visigoths and their gains were short-lived. Still confined to a small and relatively impoverished province of the Empire, another Roman army was being gathered against them, an army which also had amid its ranks other disaffected Goths. Intense campaigns against the Visigoths followed their victory at Adrianople for upwards of three years. Approach routes across the Danube provinces were effectively sealed off by concerted Roman efforts, and while there was no decisive victory to claim, it was essentially a Roman triumph ending in a treaty in 382. The treaty struck with the Goths was to be the first foedus on imperial Roman soil. It required these semi-autonomous Germanic tribes to raise troops for the Roman army in exchange for arable land and freedom from Roman legal structures within the Empire.[f]
The new emperor, Theodosius I, made peace with the rebels, and this peace held essentially unbroken until Theodosius died in 395. In that year, the Visigoths' most famous king, Alaric I, made a bid for the throne, but controversy and intrigue erupted between the East and West, as General Stilicho tried to maintain his position in the empire. Theodosius was succeeded by his incapable sons: Arcadius in the east and Honorius in the west. In 397, Alaric was named military commander of the eastern Illyrian prefecture by Arcadius.
Over the next 15 years, an uneasy peace was broken by occasional conflicts between Alaric and the powerful Germanic generals who commanded the Roman armies in the east and west, wielding the real power of the empire. Finally, after the western general Stilicho was executed by Honorius in 408 and the Roman legions massacred the families of thousands of barbarian soldiers who were trying to assimilate into the Roman empire, Alaric decided to march on Rome. After two defeats in Northern Italy and a siege of Rome ended by a negotiated pay-off, Alaric was cheated by another Roman faction. He resolved to cut the city off by capturing its port. On August 24, 410, however, Alaric's troops entered Rome through the Salarian Gate, and sacked the city. However, Rome, while still the official capital, was no longer the de facto seat of the government of the Western Roman Empire. From the late 370s up to 402, Milan was the seat of government, but after the siege of Milan the Imperial Court moved to Ravenna in 402. Honorius visited Rome often, and after his death in 423 the emperors resided mostly there. Rome's fall severely shook the Empire's confidence, especially in the West. Loaded with booty, Alaric and the Visigoths extracted as much as they could with the intention of leaving Italy from Basilicata to northern Africa. Alaric died before the disembarkation and was buried supposedly near the ruins of Croton. He was succeeded by his wife's brother.
The Visigothic Kingdom was a Western European power in the 5th to 7th centuries, created in Gaul when the Romans lost their control of the western half of their empire. For a brief period, the Visigoths controlled the strongest kingdom in Western Europe. In response to the invasion of Roman Hispania of 409 by the Vandals, Alans and Suebi, Honorius, the emperor in the West, enlisted the aid of the Visigoths to regain control of the territory. From 408 to 410 the Visigoths caused so much damage to Rome and the immediate periphery that nearly a decade later, the provinces in and around the city were only able to contribute one-seventh of their previous tax shares.
In 418, Honorius rewarded his Visigothic federates by giving them land in Gallia Aquitania on which to settle after they had attacked the four tribes – Sueves, Asding and Siling Vandala and Alans – who had crossed the Rhine near Mainz the last day of 409 and eventually were invited into Spain by a Roman usurper in the Fall of 409 (the latter two tribes were devastated). This was probably done under hospitalitas, the rules for billeting army soldiers. The settlement formed the nucleus of the future Visigothic kingdom that would eventually expand across the Pyrenees and onto the Iberian peninsula. That Visigothic settlement proved paramount to Europe's future as had it not been for the Visigothic warriors who fought side-by-side with the Roman troops under general Flavius Aetius, it is perhaps possible that Attila would have seized control of Gaul, rather than the Romans being able to retain dominance.
The Visigoths' second great king, Euric, unified the various quarreling factions among the Visigoths and, in 475, forced the Roman government to come to terms, but the emperor did not legally recognize Gothic sovereignty; instead the emperor was content to be called a friend (amicus) to the Visigoths, while requiring them to address him as lord (dominus). Between 471–476, Euric captured most of southern Gaul. According to historian J. B. Bury, Euric was probably the "greatest of the Visigothic kings" for he managed to secure territorial gains denied to his predecessors and even acquired access to the Mediterranean Sea. At his death, the Visigoths were the most powerful of the successor states to the Western Roman Empire and were at the very height of their power. Not only had Euric secured significant territory, he and his son, Alaric II, who succeeded him, adopted Roman administrative and bureaucratic governance, including Rome's tax gathering policies and legal codes.
At this point, the Visigoths were also the dominant power in the Iberian Peninsula, quickly crushing the Alans and forcing the Vandals into north Africa. By 500, the Visigothic Kingdom, centred at Toulouse, controlled Aquitania and Gallia Narbonensis and most of Hispania with the exception of the Kingdom of the Suebi in the northwest and small areas controlled by the Basques and Cantabrians. Any survey of western Europe taken during this moment would have led one to conclude that the very future of Europe itself "depended on the Visigoths". However, in 507, the Franks under Clovis I defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Vouillé and wrested control of Aquitaine. King Alaric II was killed in battle. French national myths romanticize this moment as the time when a previously divided Gaul morphed into the united kingdom of Francia under Clovis.
Visigothic power throughout Gaul was not lost in its entirety due to the support from the powerful Ostrogothic king in Italy, Theodoric the Great, whose forces pushed Clovis I and his armies out of Visigothic territories. Theodoric the Great's assistance was not some expression of ethnic altruism, but formed part of his plan to extend his power across Spain and its associated lands.
After Alaric II's death, Visigothic nobles spirited his heir, the child-king Amalaric, first to Narbonne, which was the last Gothic outpost in Gaul, and further across the Pyrenees into Hispania. The center of Visigothic rule shifted first to Barcelona, then inland and south to Toledo. From 511 to 526, the Visigoths were ruled by Theoderic the Great of the Ostrogoths as de jure regent for the young Amalaric. Theodoric's death in 526, however, enabled the Visigoths to restore their royal line and re-partition the Visigothic kingdom through Amalaric, who incidentally, was more than just Alaric II's son; he was also the grandson of Theodoric the Great through his daughter Theodegotho. Amalaric reigned independently for five years. Following Amalaric's assassination in 531, another Ostrogothic ruler, Theudis took his place. For the next seventeen years, Theudis held the Visigothic throne.
Sometime in 549, the Visigoth Athanagild sought military assistance from Justinian I and while this aide helped Athanagild win his wars, the Romans had much more in mind. Granada and southernmost Baetica were lost to representatives of the Byzantine Empire (to form the province of Spania) who had been invited in to help settle this Visigothic dynastic struggle, but who stayed on, as a hoped-for spearhead to a "Reconquest" of the far west envisaged by emperor Justinian I. Imperial Roman armies took advantage of Visigothic rivalries and established a government at Córdoba.
The last Arian Visigothic king, Liuvigild, conquered most of the northern regions (Cantabria) in 574, the Suevic kingdom in 584, and regained part of the southern areas lost to the Byzantines, which King Suintila recovered in 624. The kingdom survived until 711, when King Roderic (Rodrigo) was killed while opposing an invasion from the south by the Umayyad Caliphate in the Battle of Guadalete. This marked the beginning of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, when most of Spain came under Islamic rule in the early 8th century.
A Visigothic nobleman, Pelayo, is credited with beginning the Christian Reconquista of Iberia in 718, when he defeated the Umayyad forces in the Battle of Covadonga and established the Kingdom of Asturias in the northern part of the peninsula. Other Visigoths who refused to adopt the Muslim faith or live under their rule, fled north to the kingdom of the Franks, and Visigoths played key roles in the empire of Charlemagne a few generations later. In the early years of the Emirate of Córdoba, a group of Visigoths who remained under Muslim dominance constituted the personal bodyguard of the Emir, al-Haras.
During their long reign in Spain, the Visigoths were responsible for the only new cities founded in Western Europe between the 5th and 8th centuries. It is certain (through contemporary Spanish accounts) that they founded four: Reccopolis, Victoriacum (modern Vitoria-Gasteiz, though perhaps Iruña-Veleia), Luceo, and Olite. There is also a possible fifth city ascribed to them by a later Arabic source: Baiyara (perhaps modern Montoro). All of these cities were founded for military purposes and three of them in celebration of victory. Oddly enough, despite that the Visigoths reigned in Spain for upwards of 250 years, there are a only few remnants of the Gothic language borrowed into Spanish.[g][h] The Visigoths as heirs of the Roman empire lost their language and intermarried with the Hispano-Roman population of Spain.
The Visigothic Code of Law (forum judicum), which had been part of aristocratic oral tradition, was set in writing in the early 7th century and survives in two separate codices preserved at el Escorial. It goes into more detail than a modern constitution commonly does and reveals a great deal about Visigothic social structure.
One of the greatest contributions of the Visigoths to family law was their protection of the property rights of married women, which was continued by Spanish law and ultimately evolved into the community property system now in force throughout the majority of western Europe.
Before the Middle Ages, the Visigoths, as well as other Germanic peoples, followed what is now referred to as Germanic paganism. While the Germanic peoples were slowly converted to Christianity by varying means, many elements of the pre-Christian culture and indigenous beliefs remained firmly in place after the conversion process, particularly in the more rural and distant regions.
The Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Vandals were Christianized while they were still outside the bounds of the Roman Empire; however, they converted to Arianism rather than to the Nicene version (Trinitarianism) followed by most Romans, who considered them heretics. There was a religious gulf between the Visigoths, who had for a long time adhered to Arianism, and their Catholic subjects in Hispania. There were also deep sectarian splits among the Catholic population of the peninsula which contributed to the toleration of the Arian Visigoths on the peninsula. The Visigoths scorned to interfere among Catholics but were interested in decorum and public order.[i] King Luivigild (568–586), attempted to restore political unity between the Visigothic-Arian elite and the Hispano-Roman Nicene Catholic population through a doctrinal settlement of compromise on matters of faith, but this failed. Sources indicate that the Iberian Visigoths maintained their Christian Arianism, especially the Visigothic elite until the end of Liuvigild's reign.. When Recarred I converted to Catholicism, he sought to unify the kingdom under a single faith.
When the Visigoths took over Spain, Jews constituted a large and ancient proportion of the population. Many were farmers, but they worked in a wide range of occupations, and were a major component of the urbanized population of the larger towns particularly of eastern Spain. During the period in which the Visigoths adhered to Arianism, the situation of the Jews seems to have remained relatively good. Previous Roman and Byzantine law determined their status, and it already sharply discriminated against them, but royal jurisdiction was in any case quite limited: local lords and populations related to Jews as they saw fit. We read of rabbis being asked by non-Jews to bless their fields, for example. Historian Jane Gerber relates that some of the Jews "held ranking posts in the government or the army; others were recruited and organized for garrison service; still others continued to hold senatorial rank". In general, then, they were well respected and well-treated by the Visigothic kings, that is, until their transition from Arianism to Catholicism.
Catholic conversion across Visigothic society reduced much of the friction between their people and the native Spanish population. One chief purpose of this conversion was to unify the realm under the Church, and one of the key complaints of the Church had long been that Jews had too much status, prosperity and influence. Local nobles relied on their Jewish and non-Jewish sectors of the population to enhance the local economy and the noble's independent power. Visigothic political structure had traditionally given extensive powers to local nobles (who even elected their kings), so the king was in many ways merely 'the first amongst equals,' and central authority was weak. The status of the Jews therefore impacted local aristocrats both symbolically and politically. King Reccared convened the Third Council of Toledo to settle religious disputations related to the religious conversion from Arianism to Catholicism. The discriminatory laws passed at this Council seem not to have been universally enforced, however, as indicated by several more Councils of Toledo that repeated these laws and extended their stringency. These entered canon law and became legal precedents in other parts of Europe as well. The culmination of this process occurred under King Sisibut, who decreed a forced Christian conversion upon all Jews in Spain. This mandate apparently achieved only partial success: similar decrees were repeated by later kings as central power was consolidated. These laws either prescribed forcible baptism of the Jews or forbade circumcision, Jewish rites, and the observance of the Sabbath and other festivals. Throughout the seventh century, Jews were flogged, executed, had their property confiscated, were subjected to ruinous taxes, forbidden to trade and, at times, dragged to the baptismal font. Many were obliged to accept Christianity but continued privately to observe the Jewish religion and practices. The decree of 613 set off a century of torment for Spanish Jewry, which was only ended by the Muslim conquest.[j]
The political aspects of the imposition of Church power cannot be ignored in these matters. With the conversion of the Visigothic kings to Chalcedonian Christianity, the bishops increased their power, until, at the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633, they selected a king from among the royal family, a practice previously reserved for nobles. This was the same synod that declared that all Jews must be baptised. As far as the Visigoths were concerned, the time for religious pluralism "was past". By the end of the 7th century, Catholic conversion made the Visigoths less distinguishable from the indigenous Roman citizens of the Iberian peninsula; when the last Visigothic strongholds fell to the Muslim armies, whose subsequent invasions transformed Spain from the beginning of the 8th century, their Gothic identity faded.
Aegidius (died 464 or 465) was ruler of the short-lived Kingdom of Soissons from 461–464/465 AD. Before his ascension, he became magister militum per Gallias (Master of the Soldiers for Gaul) serving under Aetius, in 458 AD. An ardent supporter of Majorian, Aegidius rebelled against Ricimer when he assassinated Majorian and replaced him with Libius Severus; Aegidius may have pledged his allegiance to Leo I, the Eastern Roman Emperor. Aegidius repeatedly threatened to invade Italy and dethrone Libius Severus, but never actually launched such an invasion; historians have suggested he was unwilling to launch an invasion due to the pressure of the Visigoths, or else because it would leave Gaul exposed. Aegidius launched several campaigns against the Visigoths and the Burgundians, recapturing Lyons from the Burgundians in 458, and routing the Visigoths at the Battle of Orleans. He died suddenly after a major victory against the Visigoths; ancient historians say that he was assassinated, but do not give the name of the assassin, whereas modern historians believe it is possible that he died a natural death. After his death he was succeeded by his son Syagrius, who would be the second and last ruler of the Kingdom of Soissons.Alaric I
Alaric I (; Gothic: *Alareiks, *𐌰𐌻𐌰𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃, "ruler of all"; Latin: Alaricus; 370 (or 375) – 410 AD) was the first King of the Visigoths from 395–410, son (or paternal grandson) of chieftain Rothestes. He is best known for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Western Roman Empire.
Alaric began his career under the Gothic soldier Gainas, and later joined the Roman army. He first appeared as leader of a mixed band of Goths and allied peoples, who invaded Thrace in 391 but were stopped by the half-Vandal Roman General Stilicho. In 394, he led a Gothic force of 20,000 that helped Roman Emperor Theodosius defeat the Frankish usurper Arbogast at the Battle of Frigidus. Despite sacrificing around 10,000 of his men, Alaric received little recognition from the emperor. Disappointed, he left the army, was elected reiks of the Visigoths in 395 and marched toward Constantinople until he was diverted by Roman forces. He then moved southward into Greece, where he sacked Piraeus (the port of Athens) and destroyed Corinth, Megara, Argos and Sparta. Nonetheless, the Eastern emperor Arcadius appointed Alaric magister militum ("master of the soldiers") in Illyricum.
In 401 Alaric invaded Italy, but was defeated by Stilicho at Pollentia (modern Pollenza) on April 6, 402. A second invasion that same year also ended in defeat at the Battle of Verona, although he did force the Roman Senate to pay a large subsidy to the Visigoths. During Radagaisus' Italian invasion in 406, he remained idle in Illyria. In 408, Western Emperor Honorius ordered the execution of Stilicho and his family, in response to rumors that the general had made a deal with Alaric. Honorius then incited the Roman population to massacre tens of thousands of wives and children of foederati Goths serving in the Roman military. The Gothic soldiers then defected to Alaric, increasing the size of his force to around 30,000 men, and joined his march on Rome to avenge their murdered families.Moving swiftly along Roman roads, Alaric sacked the cities of Aquileia and Cremona and ravaged the lands along the Adriatic Sea. The Visigothic leader thereupon laid siege to Rome in 408, but eventually the Senate granted him a substantial subsidy. In addition, he forced the Senate to liberate all 40,000 Gothic slaves in Rome. Honorius, however, refused to appoint Alaric as the commander of the Western Roman Army, and in 409 the Visigoths again surrounded Rome. Alaric lifted his blockade after proclaiming Attalus Western Emperor. Attalus appointed him magister utriusque militiae ("master of both services"), but refused to allow him to send an army into Africa. Negotiations with Honorius broke down, after which Alaric deposed Attalus in the summer of 410 and besieged Rome for the third time. Allies within the capital opened the gates for him on August 24, and for three days his troops sacked the city. Although the Visigoths plundered Rome, they treated its inhabitants humanely and burned only a few buildings. Having abandoned a plan to occupy Sicily and North Africa after the destruction of his fleet in a storm, Alaric died as the Visigoths were marching northward.Alaric II
Alaric II (Gothic: *Alareiks, *𐌰𐌻𐌰𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃, "ruler of all"; also known as Alaricus in Latin, c. 458/466 – August 507) was the King of the Visigoths in 484–507. He succeeded his father Euric as king of the Visigoths in Toulouse on December 28, 484; he was the great-grandson of the more famous Alaric I, who sacked Rome in 410. He established his capital at Aire-sur-l'Adour (Vicus Julii) in Aquitaine. His dominions included not only the majority of Hispania (excluding its northwestern corner) but also Gallia Aquitania and the greater part of an as-yet undivided Gallia Narbonensis.Avitus
Marcus Maecilius Flavius Eparchius Avitus c. 380/395 – after 17 October 456 or in 457) was Western Roman Emperor from 8 or 9 July 455 to 17 October 456. He was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.
A Gallo-Roman aristocrat, he opposed the reduction of the Western Roman Empire to Italy alone, both politically and from an administrative point of view. For this reason, as Emperor he introduced several Gallic senators in the Imperial administration; this policy, however, was opposed by the Senatorial aristocracy and by the people of Rome, who had suffered from the sack of the city by the Vandals in 455.
Avitus had a good relationship with the Visigoths, in particular with their king Theodoric II, who was a friend of his and who acclaimed Avitus Emperor. The possibility of a strong and useful alliance between the Visigoths and Romans faded, however, when Theodoric invaded Hispania at Avitus' behest, which rendered him unable to help Avitus against the rebel Roman generals who deposed him.Battle of Arelate
The Battle of Arelate was fought in 458 near Arelate (Arles) between Western Roman Emperor Majorian and Visigothic king Theodoric II. After the assassination of Flavius Aetius in 454, the Visigoths began to expand their kingdom at the expense of the crumbling Roman administration in Gaul and Hispania. When Majorian became emperor in 457, the Visigoths under king Theodoric II had just recently defeated the Suebic Kingdom in north-west Hispania and were consolidating their hold on the rest of the peninsula.Majorian, a young, capable general in his late thirties, inherited a collapsing empire consisting of only Italy, Dalmatia, and some fractured territories in northern Gaul. He decided the first step towards consolidating the empire would be to confront the Visigoths in Septimania. Traveling with his generals Aegidius and Nepotianus, Majorian encountered the Visigothic king and his army at Arelate, at the mouth of the Rhodanus river (Rhone). The ensuing battle was an overwhelming Gothic defeat. Theodoric II was forced to flee Arelate, abandon Septimania, and conclude a hasty peace treaty. The treaty returned all Visigothic territory in Hispania to the Romans, and the Visigoths were reduced to federate status.The battle allowed Majorian to campaign deeper in Gaul against the Burgundian Kingdom, and later in Hispania against the Suebic Kingdom.Battle of Déols
The Battle of Déols was a battle c. 469 when the Visigoths thwarted an attack by an alliance of Bretons or Britons of the Romano-British Riothamus and the Gauls.Battle of Pollentia
The Battle of Pollentia was fought on 6 April 402 (Easter) between the Romans under Stilicho and the Visigoths under Alaric I, during the first Gothic invasion of Italy (401–403). The Romans were victorious, and forced Alaric to retreat, though he rallied to fight again in the next year in the Battle of Verona, where he was again defeated. After this, Alaric retreated from Italy, leaving the province in peace until his second invasion in 409, after Stilicho's death.Battle of Vouillé
The Battle of Vouillé (from Latin Campus Vogladensis) — was fought in the northern marches of Visigothic territory, at Vouillé near Poitiers (Gaul), in the spring of 507 between the Franks commanded by Clovis and the Visigoths commanded by Alaric II.Clovis I
Clovis (Latin: Chlodovechus; reconstructed Frankish: *Hlōdowig; c. 466 – 27 November 511) was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries.
Clovis was the son of Childeric I, a Merovingian king of the Salian Franks, and Basina, a Thuringian princess. In 481, at the age of fifteen, Clovis succeeded his father. In what is now northern France, then northern Gaul, he took control of a rump state of the Western Roman Empire controlled by Syagrius at the Battle of Soissons (486), and by the time of his death in either 511 or 513, he had also conquered smaller Frankish kingdoms towards the northeast, the Alemanni to the east, and Visigothic kingdom of Aquitania to the south.
Clovis is important in the historiography of France as "the first king of what would become France".Clovis is also significant due to his conversion to Catholicism in 496, largely at the behest of his wife, Clotilde, who would later be venerated as a saint for this act, celebrated today in both the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. Clovis was baptized on Christmas Day in 508. The adoption by Clovis of Catholicism (as opposed to the Arianism of most other Germanic tribes) led to widespread conversion among the Frankish peoples, to religious unification across what is now modern-day France, Belgium and Germany, and three centuries later to Charlemagne's alliance with the Bishop of Rome and in the middle of the 10th century under Otto I the Great to the consequent birth of the early Holy Roman Empire.Foederati
Foederati ( in English; sing. foederatus ) were foreign states, client kingdoms, or barbarian tribes to which ancient Rome provided benefits in exchange for military assistance. The term was also used, especially under the Roman Empire for groups of "barbarian" mercenaries of various sizes, who were typically allowed to settle within the Roman Empire.Gallia Aquitania
Gallia Aquitania (; Latin pronunciation: [ˈɡalːia akᶣiːˈtaːnia]), also known as Aquitaine or Aquitaine Gaul, was a province of the Roman Empire. It lies in present-day southwest France, where it gives its name to the modern region of Aquitaine. It was bordered by the provinces of Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Narbonensis, and Hispania Tarraconensis.Goths
The Goths (Gothic: Gut-þiuda; Latin: Gothi) were an East Germanic people, two of whose branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire through the long series of Gothic Wars and in the emergence of Medieval Europe. The Goths dominated a vast area, which at its peak under the Germanic king Ermanaric and his sub-king Athanaric possibly extended all the way from the Danube to the Don, and from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.The Goths spoke the Gothic language, one of the extinct East Germanic languages.List of Asturian monarchs
This is a list of the rulers of the Kingdom of Asturias, which was a Kingdom in the Iberian peninsula. During the reign of Ordoño I, the kingdom of Asturias progressively came to be known as the Kingdom of León. The kingdom was split in 910 and Fruela received the Asturias.
For later kings, see the list of Leonese monarchs and the list of Galician monarchs. From 1388, the title Prince of Asturias has been used for the heirs to the Castillian and Spanish thrones.Ostrogoths
The Ostrogoths (Latin: Ostrogothi, Austrogothi) were the eastern branch of the older Goths (the other major branch being the Visigoths). The Ostrogoths traced their origins to the Greutungi – a branch of the Goths who had migrated southward from the Baltic Sea and established a kingdom north of the Black Sea, during the 3rd and 4th centuries. They built an empire stretching from the Black Sea to the Baltic. The Ostrogoths were probably literate in the 3rd century, and their trade with the Romans was highly developed. Their Danubian kingdom reached its zenith under King Ermanaric, who is said to have committed suicide at an old age when the Huns attacked his people and subjugated them in about 370.
After their annexation by the Huns, little is heard of the Ostrogoths for about 80 years, after which they reappear in Pannonia on the middle Danube River as federates of the Romans. After the collapse of the Hun empire after the Battle of Nedao (453), Ostrogoths migrated westwards towards Illyria and the borders of Italy, while some remained in the Crimea (where the Crimean Ostrogoths existed as a distinct people until at least the 16th century). During the late 5th and 6th centuries, under Theodoric the Great most of the Ostrogoths moved first to Moesia (c. 475–488) and later conquered the Kingdom of Italy of the Germanic warrior Odoacer. In 493, Theodoric the Great established a kingdom in Italy.
A period of instability then ensued, tempting the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian to declare war on the Ostrogoths in 535 in an effort to restore the former western provinces of the Roman Empire. Initially, the Byzantines were successful, but under the leadership of Totila, the Goths reconquered most of the lost territory until Totila's death at the Battle of Taginae. The war lasted for almost 21 years and caused enormous damage and depopulation of Italy. The remaining Ostrogoths were absorbed into the Lombards who established a kingdom in Italy in 568.Romano-Germanic culture
The term Romano-Germanic describes the conflation of Roman culture with that of various Germanic peoples in areas successively ruled by the Roman Empire and Germanic "barbarian monarchies".
These include the kingdoms of the Visigoths (in Hispania and Gallia Narbonensis), the Ostrogoths (in Italia, Sicilia, Raetia, Noricum, Pannonia, Dalmatia and Dacia), the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Sub-Roman Britain and finally the Franks who established the nucleus of the later "Holy Roman Empire" in Gallia Aquitania, Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Belgica, Germania Superior and Inferior, and parts of the previously unconquered Germania Magna. Additionally, minor Germanic tribes, like the Vandals, the Suebi, and the Visigoths established kingdoms in Hispania.
The cultural syncretism of Roman and Germanic traditions overlaid the earlier syncretism of Roman culture with the Celtic culture of the respective imperial provinces, Gallo-Roman culture in Gaul and Romano-British culture in Britain. This results in a triple fusion of Celtic-Roman-Germanic culture for France and England in particular.
Romano-Germanic cultural contact begins as early as the first Roman accounts of the Germanic peoples. Roman influence is perceptible beyond the boundaries of the empire, in the Northern European Roman Iron Age of the first centuries AD. The nature of this cultural contact changes with the decline of the Roman Empire and the beginning Migration period in the wake of the crisis of the third century: the "barbarian" peoples of Germania Magna formerly known as mercenaries and traders now came as invaders and eventually as a new ruling elite, even in Italy itself, beginning with Odoacer's rise to the rank of Dux Italiae in 476 AD.
The cultural syncretism was most pronounced in Francia. In West Francia, the nucleus of what was to become France, the Frankish language was eventually extinct, but not without leaving significant traces in the emerging Romance language. In East Francia on the other hand, the nucleus of what was to become the kingdom of Germany and ultimately German-speaking Europe, the syncretism was less pronounced since only its southernmost portion had ever been part of the Roman Empire, as Germania Superior: all territories on the right hand side of the Rhine remain Germanic-speaking. Those parts of the Germanic sphere extends along the left of the Rhine, including the Swiss plateau, the Alsace, the Rhineland and Flanders, are the parts where Romano-Germanic cultural contact remains most evident.
Early Germanic law reflects the coexistence of Roman and Germanic cultures during the Migration period in applying separate laws to Roman and Germanic individuals, notably the Lex Romana Visigothorum (506), the Lex Romana Curiensis and the Lex Romana Burgundionum. The separate cultures amalgamated after Christianization, and by the Carolingian period the distinction of Roman vs. Germanic subjects had been replaced by the feudal system of the Three Estates of the Realm.Sack of Rome (410)
The Sack of Rome occurred on 24 August 410 AD. The city was attacked by the Visigoths led by King Alaric. At that time, Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire, having been replaced in that position first by Mediolanum in 286 and then by Ravenna in 402. Nevertheless, the city of Rome retained a paramount position as "the eternal city" and a spiritual center of the Empire. The sack was a major shock to contemporaries, friends and foes of the Empire alike.
This was the first time in almost 800 years that Rome had fallen to a foreign enemy. The previous sack of Rome had been accomplished by the Gauls under their leader Brennus in 390 or 387/6 BC. The sacking of 410 is seen as a major landmark in the fall of the Western Roman Empire. St. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote; "the city which had taken the whole world was itself taken."Siege of Massilia (413)
The Siege of Massilia was made by the Visigoths against the Roman city of Massilia, Gallia Narbonensis in 413. Campaigning in southern Gaul, the Visigothic king Ataulf had taken Toulouse and Narbonne and laid siege of Massilia. The city was defended by the capable Roman general Bonifacius. Ataulf failed to take Massilia, and later made peace with Emperor Honorius. Marrying Honorius' sister Galla Placidia. Ataulf was thereafter sent to recover Hispania for the empire.Thervingi
The Thervingi, Tervingi, or Teruingi (sometimes pluralised Tervings or Thervings) were a Gothic people of the Danubian plains west of the Dniester River in the 3rd and the 4th centuries. They had close contacts with the Greuthungi, another Gothic people from east of the Dniester, as well as the late Roman Empire or the early Byzantine Empire.Visigothic Kingdom
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.
History of the Germanic peoples
Early Middle Ages)