Home Middle Ages The Goths The Visigoths in Hispania, Kingdom of Toledo (555-633 AD)

The Visigoths in Hispania, Kingdom of Toledo (555-633 AD)

Statue of Luivigild in Madrid. Photograph:Luis Garcia

The Visigoths were mostly pushed out of Gaul by the mid-6th century, and their interest shifted to the Iberian Peninsula. The peninsula was inhabited by the Suebi in the north-west, the south was owned by the Byzantines and the Cantabrian hillside was controlled by the Basques. The Visigoth king Agila (549 – 554), failed in his attempt to conquer the south of the Peninsula. Agila was defeated near Cordoba, and the unsatisfied aristocracy removed him from the throne. Athanagild (c. 554 – 567) was successful in the conflict for the throne after the dethronement of Agila, and he was supported by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (527 – 565). Athanagild ceded Baetica to the Byzantines after he was enthroned, obviously in agreement with Justinian. The capital was moved from Barcelona to Toledo around 555 AD, which marked the creation of the Kingdom of Toledo.

Liuvigild (568 – 586)

The reign of Liuvigild or Leovigild was marked by a new escalation in the conflict between the Arians and the Catholics. In an attempt to end the conflict, Liuvigild called for a council of the spiritual and worldly leaders in Toledo (580). But no agreement was reached and the persecution of the Catholics continued. Liuvigild’s older son Hermenegild was married to a Byzantine princess; also, he was a supporter of the Catholic faction. He rebelled against his father with the support of the Suebi, Basques and Byzantines. Hermenegild was captured and executed by his father. Liuvigild destroyed the kingdom of the Suebi by 585; he defeated the Basques and pushed back the Franks, who attacked to avenge the death of Hermenegild and his wife. Liuvigild made a copy of the codex of king Euric, and codified another code of law which merged the Gothic customary with Roman law. He established the “personalization of law”; that means the Romans were judged by Roman laws, while the Goths were judged by Gothic customary law. Luivigild was succeeded by his younger son Reccared.

Reccared (586 – 601)

New king of Visigoths Reccared realized that the ongoing conflict between the Arians and Catholics presented a danger to the whole kingdom. He called a second council in Toledo (589) where he spoke in favor of the Catholic faction, and many of the Visigoths supported these decision. But the conflict was reignited after his death.

Sisebut (612 – 621)

A temporary peace was established under Sisebut, who supported the Catholics. He was a Catholic; therefore the Christian sources speak of him as a good and merciful ruler. The truth is that there was a harsher persecution of Jews from the time of Sisebut. Sisebut was a learned ruler, he wrote poetry in Latin. Isidore of Seville dedicated his book De natura rerum or On the nature of things to him. This was a medieval encyclopedia of natural sciences which quoted Christian and Antique authors. Sisebut was an able warrior; he used the preoccupation of Byzantium to conquer the majority of the south.

Suintila (621 – 631)

The son of Sisebut was supposed to succeed, but he was dethroned by Suintila. He was the first Visigoth king, who in 200 years in which the Visigoths were present on the Iberian peninsula, ruled all of Spain. He was deposed in 631 by the aristocracy. The fourth council of Toledo was held in 633; it was decided that kingship would be elective, thus the state was an elective monarchy.

In 711 the Visigoth kingdom was invaded and conquered by the Arabs.

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