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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Giving Galicia to the Suevians and part of the Vandals


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER IV

VISIGOTHIC SPAIN, 409-713

[Sidenote: General characteristics of the Visigothic era.]

The Roman influence in Spain did not end, even politically, in the year 409, which marked the first successful invasion of the peninsula by a Germanic people and the beginning of the Visigothic era. The Visigoths themselves did not arrive in that year, and did not establish their rule over the land until long afterward. Even then, one of the principal characteristics of the entire era was the persistence of Roman civilization. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that the Visigoths left few permanent traces of their civilization, they were influential for so long a time in the history of Spain that it is appropriate to give their name to the period elapsing from the first Germanic invasion to the beginning of the Moslem conquest. The northern peoples, of whom the Visigoths were by far the principal element, reinvigorated the peninsula, both by compelling a return to a more primitive mode of life, and also by some intermixture of blood. They introduced legal, political, and religious principles which served in the end only to strengthen the Roman civilization by reason of the very combat necessary to the ultimate Roman success. The victory of the Roman church came in this era, but that of the Roman law and government was delayed until the period from the

thirteenth to the close of the fifteenth century.

[Sidenote: Coming of the Vandals, Alans, and Suevians.]

In the opening years of the fifth century the Vandals, who had been in more or less hostile contact with the Romans during more than two centuries, left their homes within modern Hungary, and emigrated, men, women, and children, toward the Rhine. With them went the Alans, and a little later a group of the Suevians joined them. They invaded the region of what is now France, and after devastating it for several years passed into Spain in the year 409. There seems to have been no effective resistance, whereupon the conquerors divided the land, giving Galicia to the Suevians and part of the Vandals, and the southern country from Portugal to Cartagena to the Alans and another group of Vandals. A great part of Spain still remained subject to the Roman Empire, even in the regions largely dominated by the Germanic peoples. The bonds between Spain and the empire were slight, however, for the political strife in Italy had caused the withdrawal of troops and a general neglect of the province, wherefore the regions not acknowledging Germanic rule tended to become semi-independent nuclei.

[Sidenote: Wanderings of the Visigoths.]

The more important Visigothic invasion was not long in coming. The Visigoths (or the Goths of the west,--to distinguish them from their kinsmen, the Ostrogoths, or Goths of the east) had migrated in a body from Scandinavia in the second century to the region of the Black Sea, and in the year 270 established themselves north of the Danube. Pushed on by the Huns they crossed that river toward the close of the fourth century, and entered the empire, contracting with the emperors to defend it. Their long contact with the Romans had already modified their customs, and had resulted in their acceptance of Christianity. They had at first received the orthodox faith, but were later converted to the Arian form, which was not in accord with the Nicene creed. After taking up their dwelling within the empire the Visigoths got into a dispute with the emperors, and under their great leader Alaric waged war on them in the east. At length they invaded Italy, and in the year 410 captured and sacked the city of Rome, the first time such an event had occurred in eight hundred years. Alaric was succeeded by Ataulf, who led the Visigoths out of Italy into southern France. There he made peace with the empire, being allowed to remain as a dependent ally of Rome in the land he had conquered. In all of these wanderings the whole tribe, all ages and both sexes, went along. From this point as a base the Visigoths made a beginning of the organization which was to become a powerful independent state. There, too, in this very Roman part of the empire, they became more and more Romanized.


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