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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote The family in Visigothic law


first of these was complicated

by a third element, the Jews, who had come to Spain in great numbers, and had enjoyed high consideration down to the time of Reccared, but had been badly treated thereafter. Neither in the matter of race fusion nor in that of hereditary succession were the kings successful, despite the support of the clergy. Two kings, however, took important steps with regard to the former question. Chindaswinth established a uniform code for both Visigoths and Hispano-Romans, finding a mean between the laws of both. This was revised and improved by his son and successor, Recceswinth, and it was this code, the _Lex Visigothorum_ (Law of the Visigoths), which was to exercise such an important influence in succeeding centuries under its more usual title of the _Fuero Juzgo_.[9] Nevertheless, it was this same Recceswinth who conceded to the nobility the right of electing the king. Internal disorder did not end, for the nobles continued to war with one another and with the king. The next king, Wamba (672-680), lent a dying splendor to the Visigothic rule by the brilliance of his military victories in the course of various civil wars. Still, the only real importance of his reign was that it foreshadowed the peril which was to overwhelm Spain a generation later. The Moslem Arabs had already extended their domain over northern Africa, and in Wamba's time they made an attack in force on the eastern coast of Spain, but were badly defeated by him. A later invasion in another reign likewise failed.

style="text-align: justify;">[Sidenote: The Moslem conquest.]

The last reigns of the Visigothic kings need not be chronicled, except as they relate to the entry of the Mohammedans into Spain. King Witiza endeavored to procure the throne for his son Achila without an election by the nobility, and Achila in fact succeeded, but in the ensuing civil war Roderic, the candidate of the nobility, was successful, being crowned king in the year 710. What followed has never been clearly ascertained, but it seems likely that the partisans of Achila sought aid of the Moslem power in northern Africa, and also that the Spanish Jews plotted for a Moslem invasion of Spain. At any rate the subsequent invasion found support among both of these elements. Once in 709 and again in 710 Moslem forces had effected minor landings between Algeciras and Tarifa, but in 711 the Berber chief Tarik landed with a strong army of his own people at Gibraltar,[10] and marched in the direction of C?diz. Roderic met him at the lake of Janda,[11] and would have defeated him but for the treacherous desertion of a large body of his troops who went over to the side of Tarik. Roderic was utterly beaten, and Tarik pushed on even to the point of capturing Toledo. In the next year the Arab Musa came from Africa with another army, and took M?rida after an obstinate siege which lasted a year. Up to this time the invaders had met with little popular resistance; rather they had been welcomed. With the fall of M?rida, however, it began to be clear that they had no intention of leaving the country. At the battle of Segoyuela[12] Musa and Tarik together won a complete victory, in which it is believed that Roderic was killed. Musa then proceeded to Toledo, and proclaimed the Moslem caliph as ruler of the land.

[Sidenote: The family in Visigothic law.]

There were four principal racial elements in the peninsula in the Visigothic period: the indigenous peoples of varying grades of culture; the Germanic peoples; the western Roman, which formed a numerous body, more or less completely Romanized; and the Byzantine Roman, which influenced even beyond the Byzantine territories in Spain through the support of the clergy. The two last-named elements were the most important. The Germanic tribes, especially the Visigoths, had already become modified by contact with Rome before they reached Spain, and tended to become yet more so. The Visigoths reverted to the family in the broad sense of all descended from the same trunk as the unit of society, instead of following the individualistic basis of Rome, although individuals had considerable liberty. Members of the family were supposed to aid and protect one another, and an offence against one was held to be against all. A woman could not marry without the consent of her family, which sold her to the favored candidate for her hand. She must remain faithful to her husband and subject to his will, but _he_ was allowed to have concubines. Nevertheless, she had a right to share in property earned after marriage, and to have the use of a deceased husband's estate, provided she did not marry again. A man might make a will, but must leave four-fifths of his property to his descendants. Children were subject to their parents, but the latter did not have the earlier right of life and death, and the former might acquire some property of their own.


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