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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Visigothic administration


[Sidenote:

Visigothic administration.]

For a long time the Visigoths and the Hispano-Romans had different laws governing their personal relations, although in political matters the same law applied to both. In the case of litigation between Visigoths and Hispano-Romans the law of the former applied, with modifications which approximated it somewhat to the principles of the Roman law. In the eyes of the law these differences disappeared after the legislation of Chindaswinth and Recceswinth, but many of them in fact remained as a result of the force of custom and the weakness of the central authority. In general administration the Visigoths followed the Roman model from the first. The land was divided into provinces ruled by officials called dukes, while the cities were governed by counts.[15] Each had much the same authority under the king as the kings had over the land. The Roman provincial and municipal councils were retained, and their position bettered, since they were not made responsible for the taxes as in the last days of the empire. Complex as was this system and admirable as it was in theory there was little real security for justice, for in the general disorder of the times the will of the more powerful was the usual law. Taxes were less in amount than in the days of the empire, but only the Hispano-Romans were subject to them.

[Sidenote: The church in Visigothic times.]

The

church became very influential after the time of Reccared, but lost in independence, since the kings not only appointed the higher church officers, but also intervened in matters of ecclesiastical administration, though rarely in those of doctrine. Churchmen had certain privileges, though fewer than in the last century of Roman rule and much fewer than they were to acquire at a later time. Their intervention in political affairs was very great, however, due not only to their influence with the masses, but even more to their prestige as the most learned men of the time. Monasteries increased greatly in number; at this time they were subject to the secular arm of the clergy, for the bishops gave them their rule and appointed their abbots. Religious ceremonies were celebrated by what was called the Gothic rite, and not after the fashion of Rome, although the pope was recognized as head of the church. As regards heresies the church had to oppose the powerful Arian sect throughout the period and to uproot the remnants of indigenous and pagan faiths.

[Sidenote: Economic backwardness.]

An agricultural and military people like the Visigoths, in an age of war, could not be expected to do much to develop industry and commerce. Such as there was of both was carried on by some Hispano-Romans and by Greeks and Jews. Spain dropped far behind in economic wealth in this era. Roman methods were used, however, even in the agriculture of the Visigoths.

[Sidenote: Intellectual decline.]


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