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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

And it was six years before Leovgild prevailed



Leovgild (573-586) was the greatest ruler of the Visigoths in Spain. He was surrounded by difficulties which taxed his powers to the utmost. In Spain he was confronted by the Byzantine provinces of the south, the Suevian kingdom of the west and northwest, and the Hispano-Roman and native princelets of the north. All of these elements were Catholic, for the Suevians had recently been converted to that faith, and therefore might count in some degree on the sympathy of Leovgild's Catholic subjects. Furthermore, like kings before his time and afterward, Leovgild had to contend with his own Visigothic nobles, who, though Arian in religion, resented any increase in the royal authority, lest it in some manner diminish their own. In particular the nobility were opposed to Leovgild's project of making the monarchy hereditary instead of elective; the latter had been the Visigothic practice, and was favored by the nobles because it gave them an opportunity for personal aggrandizement. The same difficulties had to be faced in France, where the Franks were the foreign enemy to be confronted. All of these problems were attacked by Leovgild with extraordinary military and diplomatic skill. While he held back the Franks in France he conquered his enemies in Spain, until nothing was left outside his power except two small strips of Byzantine territory, one in the southwest and the other in the southeast. Internal issues were complicated by the conversion

of his son Hermenegild to Catholicism. Hermenegild accepted the leadership of the party in revolt against his father, and it was six years before Leovgild prevailed. The rebellious son was subsequently put to death, but there is no evidence that Leovgild was responsible.

[Sidenote: Reccared.]

Another son, Reccared (586-601), succeeded Leovgild, and to him is due the conversion of the Visigoths to Catholic Christianity. The mass of the people and the Hispano-Roman aristocracy were Catholic, and were a danger to the state, not only because of their numbers, but also because of their wealth and superior culture. Reccared therefore announced his conversion (in 587 or 589), and was followed in his change of faith by not a few of the Visigoths. This did not end internal difficulties of a religious nature, for the Arian sect, though less powerful than the Catholic, continued to be a factor to reckon with during the remainder of Visigothic rule. Reccared also did much of a juridical character to do away with the differences which separated the Visigoths and Hispano-Romans, in this respect following the initiative of his father. After the death of Reccared, followed by three brief reigns of which no notice need be taken, there came two kings who successfully completed the Visigothic conquest of the peninsula. Sisebut conquered the Byzantine province of the southeast, and Swinthila that of the southwest. Thus in 623 the Visigothic kings became sole rulers in the peninsula,--when already their career was nearing an end.

[Sidenote: Last century of Visigothic rule.]

The last century of the Visigothic era was one of great internal turbulence, arising mainly from two problems: the difficulties in the way of bringing about a fusion of the races; and the conflict between the king and the nobility, centring about the question of the succession to the throne. The

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