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Visigothic - Pair of Eagle Fibula - Walters 54421, 54422 - Group.jpg
The eagles represented on these fibulae from the 6th century were a popular symbol among the Goths. Similar fibulae have been found in Visigothic graves in Spain. [lower-alpha 1]
Gothic paganism, Arianism, Roman Catholicism,
Related ethnic groups
Ostrogoths, Crimean Goths, Gepids
Detail of the votive crown of Reccesuinth from the Treasure of Guarrazar, hanging in Madrid. The hanging letters spell [R]ECCESVINTHVS REX OFFERET [King R. offers this]. Corona de (29049230050).jpg
Detail of the votive crown of Reccesuinth from the Treasure of Guarrazar, hanging in Madrid. The hanging letters spell [R]ECCESVINTHVS REX OFFERET [King R. offers this].

The Visigoths ( /ˈvɪzɪɡɒθs/ ; Latin : Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, Wisi) were an early Germanic [lower-alpha 3] people who along with the Ostrogoths constituted the two major branches of the Goths. [2] These tribes flourished and spread throughout the late Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, or what is known as the Migration Period. The Visigoths emerged from earlier Gothic groups (possibly the Thervingi) who had invaded the Roman Empire beginning in 376 and had defeated the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. [3] Relations between the Romans and the Visigoths were variable, alternately warring with one another and making treaties when convenient. [2] The Visigoths under Alaric I invaded Italy and sacked Rome in 410. After the Visigoths sacked Rome, they began settling down, first in southern Gaul and eventually in Hispania, where they founded the Visigothic Kingdom and maintained a presence from the 5th to the 8th centuries AD. [4]


The Visigoths first settled in southern Gaul as foederati to the Romans – a relationship established in 418. However, they soon fell out with their Roman hosts (for reasons that are now obscure) and established their own kingdom with its capital at Toulouse. They next extended their authority into Hispania at the expense of the Suebi and Vandals. In 507, however, their rule in Gaul was ended by the Franks under Clovis I, who defeated them in the Battle of Vouillé. After that, the Visigoth kingdom was limited to Hispania, and they never again held territory north of the Pyrenees other than Septimania. A small, elite group of Visigoths came to dominate the governance of that region at the expense of those who had previously ruled there, particularly in the Byzantine province of Spania and the Kingdom of the Suebi.

In or around 589, the Visigoths under Reccared I converted from Arianism to Nicene Christianity, gradually adopting the culture of their Hispano-Roman subjects. [5] Their legal code, the Visigothic Code (completed in 654) abolished the longstanding practice of applying different laws for Romans and Visigoths. Once legal distinctions were no longer being made between Romani and Gothi, they became known collectively as Hispani. In the century that followed, the region was dominated by the Councils of Toledo and the episcopacy. (Little else is known about the Visigoths' history during the 7th century, since records are relatively sparse.) In 711 or 712, an invading force of Arabs and Berbers defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Guadalete. Their king, Roderic, and many members of their governing elite were killed, and their kingdom rapidly collapsed.

During their governance of Hispania, the Visigoths built several churches that survive. They also left many artifacts, which have been discovered in increasing numbers by archaeologists in recent times. The Treasure of Guarrazar of votive crowns and crosses is the most spectacular. They founded the only new cities in western Europe from the fall of the Western half of the Roman Empire until the rise of the Carolingian dynasty. Many Visigothic names are still in use in modern Spanish and Portuguese. Their most notable legacy, however, was the Visigothic Code , which served, among other things, as the basis for court procedure in most of Christian Iberia until the Late Middle Ages, centuries after the demise of the kingdom.

Nomenclature: Vesi, Ostrogothi, Tervingi, Greuthungi

Contemporaneous references to the Gothic tribes use the terms "Vesi" (Latin for Visigoths), "Ostrogothi", "Thervingi", and "Greuthungi". Most scholars have concluded that the terms "Vesi" and "Tervingi" were both used to refer to one particular tribe, while the terms "Ostrogothi" and "Greuthungi" were used to refer to another. Herwig Wolfram points out that while primary sources occasionally list all four names (as in, for example, Gruthungi, Austrogothi, Tervingi, Visi), [6] whenever they mention two different tribes, they always refer either to "the Vesi and the Ostrogothi" or to "the Tervingi and the Greuthungi", and they never pair them up in any other combination. [7] This conclusion is supported by Jordanes, [8] who identified the Visigoth (Vesi) kings from Alaric I to Alaric II as the heirs of the 4th century Tervingian king Athanaric, and the Ostrogoth kings from Theoderic the Great to Theodahad as the heirs of the Greuthungi king Ermanaric. In addition, the Notitia Dignitatum equates the Vesi with the Tervingi in a reference to the years 388–391. [6]

The earliest sources for each of the four names are roughly contemporaneous. The first recorded reference to "the Tervingi" is in a eulogy of the emperor Maximian (285–305), delivered in or shortly after 291 (perhaps at Trier on 20 April 292) [lower-alpha 4] and traditionally ascribed to Claudius Mamertinus. [lower-alpha 5] It says that the "Tervingi, another division of the Goths" (Tervingi pars alia Gothorum), joined with the Taifali to attack the Vandals and Gepidae. (The term "Vandals" may have been a mistaken reference to the "Victohali", since around 360 the historian Eutropius reports that Dacia was currently inhabited by Taifali, Victohali, and Tervingi.) [lower-alpha 6] The first recorded reference to "the Greuthungi" is by Ammianus Marcellinus, writing no earlier than 392 and perhaps later than 395, recounting the words of a Tervingian chieftain who is attested as early as 376. [6] The first known use of the term "Ostrogoths" is in a document dated September 392 from Milan. [6] (Claudian mentions that they, together with the Gruthungi, inhabit Phrygia.) [9]

Gutthiuda Gutthiuda.jpg

Wolfram notes that "Vesi" and "Ostrogothi" were terms each tribe used to boastfully describe itself and argues that "Tervingi" and "Greuthungi" were geographical identifiers each tribe used to describe the other. [7] This would explain why the latter terms dropped out of use shortly after 400, when the Goths were displaced by the Hunnic invasions. [6] As an example of this geographical naming practice, Wolfram cites an account by Zosimus of a group of people living north of the Danube who called themselves "the Scythians" but were called "the Greutungi" by members of a different tribe living north of the Ister. [10] Wolfram believes that the people Zosimus describes were those Tervingi who had remained behind after the Hunnic conquest. [10] For the most part, all of the terms discriminating between different Gothic tribes gradually disappeared after they moved into the Roman Empire. [7] The last indication that the Goths whose king reigned at Toulouse thought of themselves as "Vesi" is found in a panegyric on Avitus by Sidonius Apollinaris dated 1 January 456. [7]

Most recent scholars (notably Peter Heather) have concluded that Visigothic group identity emerged only within the Roman Empire. [11] Roger Collins believes that the Visigothic identity emerged from the Gothic War of 376–382 when a collection of Tervingi, Greuthungi, and other "barbarian" contingents banded together in multiethnic foederati (Wolfram's "federate armies") under Alaric I in the eastern Balkans, since they had become a multi ethnic group and could no longer claim to be exclusively Tervingian. [12]

The term "Visigoth" was an invention of the 6th century. Cassiodorus, a Roman in the service of Theodoric the Great, invented the term "Visigothic" to match that of "Ostrogothic", terms he thought of as signifying "western Goths" and "eastern Goths" respectively. [7] The western–eastern division was a simplification (and a literary device) of 6th century historians; political realities were more complex. [13] Further, Cassiodorus used the term "Goths" to refer only to the Ostrogoths, whom he served, and reserved the geographical term "Visigoths" for the Gallo-Spanish Goths. This usage, however, was adopted by the Visigoths themselves in their communications with the Byzantine Empire and was still in use in the 7th century. [13]

Other names for other Gothic divisions abounded. A "Germanic" Byzantine or Italian author referred to one of the two peoples as the Valagothi, meaning "Roman Goths", and in 469 the Visigoths were called the "Alaric Goths". [13]

Etymology of Tervingi and Vesi/Visigothi

The name Tervingi may mean "forest people". [7] This is supported by evidence that geographic descriptors were commonly used to distinguish people living north of the Black Sea both before and after Gothic settlement there, by evidence of forest-related names among the Tervingi, and by the lack of evidence for an earlier date for the name pair Tervingi–Greuthungi than the late 3rd century. [14] That the name Tervingi has pre-Pontic, possibly Scandinavian, origins still has support today. [15]

The Visigoths are called Wesi or Wisi by Trebellius Pollio, Claudian, and Sidonius Apollinaris. [16] The word is Gothic for "good", implying the "good or worthy people", [7] related to Gothic iusiza "better" and a reflex of Indo-European *wesu "good", akin to Welsh gwiw "excellent", Greek eus "good", Sanskrit vásu-ş "id.". Jordanes relates the tribe's name to a river, though this is most likely a folk etymology or legend like his similar story about the Greuthung name. [15]


Migrations of the main column of the Visigoths Visigoth migrations.jpg
Migrations of the main column of the Visigoths

Early origins

The Visigoths emerged from the Gothic tribes, most likely a derivative name for the Gutones, a people believed to have their origins in Scandinavia and who migrated southeastwards into eastern Europe. [17] Such understanding of their origins is largely the result of Gothic traditions and their true genesis as a people is as obscure as that of the Franks and Alamanni. [18] The Visigoths spoke an eastern Germanic language that was distinct by the 4th century. Eventually the Gothic language died as a result of contact with other European people during the Middle Ages. [19]

Long struggles between the neighboring Vandili and Lugii people with the Goths may have contributed to their earlier exodus into mainland Europe. The vast majority of them settled between the Oder and Vistula rivers until overpopulation (according to Gothic legends or tribal sagas) forced them to move south and east, where they settled just north of the Black Sea. [20] However, this legend is not supported by archaeological evidence so its validity is disputable. Historian Malcolm Todd contends that while this large en masse migration is possible, the movement of Gothic peoples south-east was more likely the result of warrior bands moving closer to the wealth of Ukraine and the cities of the Black Sea coast. Perhaps what is most notable about the Gothic people in this regard was that by the middle of the 3rd century AD, they were "the most formidable military power beyond the lower Danube frontier". [21] [22]

Contact with Rome

The Pietroasele Treasure discovered in Romania, attributed to the Visigoths Tezaurul de la Pietroasele Closca MNIR Tezaur.JPG
The Pietroasele Treasure discovered in Romania, attributed to the Visigoths

Throughout the third and fourth centuries there were numerous conflicts and exchanges of varying types between the Goths and their neighbors. After the Romans withdrew from the territory of Dacia, the local population was subjected to constant invasions by the migratory tribes, among the first being the Goths. [24] In 238, the Goths invaded across the Danube into the Roman province of Moesia, pillaging and exacting payment through hostage taking. During the war with the Persians that year, Goths also appeared in the Roman armies of Gordian III. [25] When subsidies to the Goths were stopped, the Goths organized and in 250 joined a major barbarian invasion led by the Germanic king, Kniva. [25] Success on the battlefield against the Romans inspired additional invasions into the northern Balkans and deeper into Anatolia. [26] Starting in approximately 255, the Goths added a new dimension to their attacks by taking to the sea and invading harbors which brought them into conflict with the Greeks as well. When the city of Pityus fell to the Goths in 256, the Goths were further emboldened. Sometime between 266–267, the Goths raided Greece but when they attempted to move into the Bosporus straits to attack Byzantium, they were repulsed. Along with other Germanic tribes, they attacked further into Anatolia, assaulting Crete and Cyprus on the way; shortly thereafter, they pillaged Troy and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. [27] Throughout the reign of emperor Constantine the Great, the Visigoths continued to conduct raids on Roman territory south of the Danube River. [19] By 332, relations between the Goths and Romans were stabilized by a treaty but this was not to last. [28]

War with Rome (376–382)

The Goths remained in Dacia until 376, when one of their leaders, Fritigern, appealed to the Roman emperor Valens to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. Here, they hoped to find refuge from the Huns. [29] Valens permitted this, as he saw in them "a splendid recruiting ground for his army". [30] However, a famine broke out and Rome was unwilling to supply them with either the food they were promised or the land. Generally, the Goths were abused by the Romans, [31] who began forcing the now starving Goths to trade away their children so as to stave off starvation. [32] Open revolt ensued, leading to 6 years of plundering throughout the Balkans, the death of a Roman Emperor and a disastrous defeat of the Roman army. [33]

The Battle of Adrianople in 378 was the decisive moment of the war. The Roman forces were slaughtered and the Emperor Valens was killed during the fighting. [34] Precisely how Valens fell remains uncertain but Gothic legend tells of how the emperor was taken to a farmhouse, which was set on fire above his head, a tale made more popular by its symbolic representation of a heretical emperor receiving hell's torment. [35] Many of Rome's leading officers and some of their most elite fighting men died during the battle which struck a major blow to Roman prestige and the Empire's military capabilities. [36] Adrianople shocked the Roman world and eventually forced the Romans to negotiate with and settle the tribe within the empire's boundaries, a development with far-reaching consequences for the eventual fall of Rome. Fourth-century Roman soldier and historian Ammianus Marcellinus ended his chronology of Roman history with this battle. [37]

Despite the severe consequences for Rome, Adrianople was not nearly as productive overall for the Visigoths and their gains were short-lived. Still confined to a small and relatively impoverished province of the Empire, another Roman army was being gathered against them, an army which also had amid its ranks other disaffected Goths. [38] Intense campaigns against the Visigoths followed their victory at Adrianople for upwards of three years. Approach routes across the Danube provinces were effectively sealed off by concerted Roman efforts, and while there was no decisive victory to claim, it was essentially a Roman triumph ending in a treaty in 382. The treaty struck with the Goths was to be the first foedus on imperial Roman soil. It required these semi-autonomous Germanic tribes to raise troops for the Roman army in exchange for arable land and freedom from Roman legal structures within the Empire. [39] [lower-alpha 7]

Reign of Alaric I

An illustration of Alaric entering Athens in 395 Alaric entering Athens.jpg
An illustration of Alaric entering Athens in 395

The new emperor, Theodosius I, made peace with the rebels, and this peace held essentially unbroken until Theodosius died in 395. [41] In that year, the Visigoths' most famous king, Alaric I, made a bid for the throne, but controversy and intrigue erupted between the East and West, as General Stilicho tried to maintain his position in the empire. [42] Theodosius was succeeded by his incompetent sons: Arcadius in the east and Honorius in the west. In 397, Alaric was named military commander of the eastern Illyrian prefecture by Arcadius. [31]

Over the next 15 years, an uneasy peace was broken by occasional conflicts between Alaric and the powerful Germanic generals who commanded the Roman armies in the east and west, wielding the real power of the empire. [43] Finally, after the western general Stilicho was executed by Honorius in 408 and the Roman legions massacred the families of thousands of barbarian soldiers who were trying to assimilate into the Roman empire, Alaric decided to march on Rome. [44] After two defeats in Northern Italy and a siege of Rome ended by a negotiated pay-off, Alaric was cheated by another Roman faction. He resolved to cut the city off by capturing its port. On August 24, 410, however, Alaric's troops entered Rome through the Salarian Gate, and sacked the city. [45] However, Rome, while still the official capital, was no longer the de facto seat of the government of the Western Roman Empire. From the late 370s up to 402, Milan was the seat of government, but after the siege of Milan the Imperial Court moved to Ravenna in 402. Honorius visited Rome often, and after his death in 423 the emperors resided mostly there. Rome's fall severely shook the Empire's confidence, especially in the West. Loaded with booty, Alaric and the Visigoths extracted as much as they could with the intention of leaving Italy from Basilicata to northern Africa. Alaric died before the disembarkation and was buried supposedly near the ruins of Croton. He was succeeded by his wife's brother. [46]

Visigothic Kingdom

Europe at the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD Europe and the Near East at 476 AD.png
Europe at the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD

The Visigothic Kingdom was a Western European power in the 5th to 7th centuries, created in Gaul when the Romans lost their control of the western half of their empire. For a brief period, the Visigoths controlled the strongest kingdom in Western Europe. [47] In response to the invasion of Roman Hispania of 409 by the Vandals, Alans and Suebi, Honorius, the emperor in the West, enlisted the aid of the Visigoths to regain control of the territory. From 408 to 410 the Visigoths caused so much damage to Rome and the immediate periphery that nearly a decade later, the provinces in and around the city were only able to contribute one-seventh of their previous tax shares. [48]

In 418, Honorius rewarded his Visigothic federates by giving them land in Gallia Aquitania on which to settle after they had attacked the four tribes – Sueves, Asding and Siling Vandala and Alans – who had crossed the Rhine near Mainz the last day of 409 and eventually were invited into Spain by a Roman usurper in the Fall of 409 (the latter two tribes were devastated). This was probably done under hospitalitas, the rules for billeting army soldiers. [49] The settlement formed the nucleus of the future Visigothic kingdom that would eventually expand across the Pyrenees and onto the Iberian peninsula. That Visigothic settlement proved paramount to Europe's future as had it not been for the Visigothic warriors who fought side-by-side with the Roman troops under general Flavius Aetius, it is perhaps possible that Attila would have seized control of Gaul, rather than the Romans being able to retain dominance. [50]

The Visigoths' second great king, Euric, unified the various quarreling factions among the Visigoths and, in 475, forced the Roman government to come to terms, but the emperor did not legally recognize Gothic sovereignty; instead the emperor was content to be called a friend (amicus) to the Visigoths, while requiring them to address him as lord (dominus). [51] Between 471–476, Euric captured most of southern Gaul. [52] According to historian J. B. Bury, Euric was probably the "greatest of the Visigothic kings" for he managed to secure territorial gains denied to his predecessors and even acquired access to the Mediterranean Sea. [53] At his death, the Visigoths were the most powerful of the successor states to the Western Roman Empire and were at the very height of their power. [54] Not only had Euric secured significant territory, he and his son, Alaric II, who succeeded him, adopted Roman administrative and bureaucratic governance, including Rome's tax gathering policies and legal codes. [55]

Greatest extent of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in light and dark orange, c. 500. From 585 to 711 Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo in dark orange, green, and white (Hispania). Visigothic Kingdom.png
Greatest extent of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in light and dark orange, c. 500. From 585 to 711 Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo in dark orange, green, and white (Hispania).

At this point, the Visigoths were also the dominant power in the Iberian Peninsula, quickly crushing the Alans and forcing the Vandals into north Africa. [56] By 500, the Visigothic Kingdom, centred at Toulouse, controlled Aquitania and Gallia Narbonensis and most of Hispania with the exception of the Kingdom of the Suebi in the northwest and small areas controlled by the Basques and Cantabrians. [57] Any survey of western Europe taken during this moment would have led one to conclude that the very future of Europe itself "depended on the Visigoths". [58] However, in 507, the Franks under Clovis I defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Vouillé and wrested control of Aquitaine. [59] King Alaric II was killed in battle. [54] French national myths romanticize this moment as the time when a previously divided Gaul morphed into the united kingdom of Francia under Clovis. [60]

Visigothic power throughout Gaul was not lost in its entirety due to the support from the powerful Ostrogothic king in Italy, Theodoric the Great, whose forces pushed Clovis I and his armies out of Visigothic territories. [59] Theodoric the Great's assistance was not some expression of ethnic altruism, but formed part of his plan to extend his power across Spain and its associated lands. [59]

After Alaric II's death, Visigothic nobles spirited his heir, the child-king Amalaric, first to Narbonne, which was the last Gothic outpost in Gaul, and further across the Pyrenees into Hispania. The center of Visigothic rule shifted first to Barcelona, then inland and south to Toledo. [61] From 511 to 526, the Visigoths were ruled by Theoderic the Great of the Ostrogoths as de jure regent for the young Amalaric. Theodoric's death in 526, however, enabled the Visigoths to restore their royal line and re-partition the Visigothic kingdom through Amalaric, who incidentally, was more than just Alaric II's son; he was also the grandson of Theodoric the Great through his daughter Theodegotho. [62] Amalaric reigned independently for five years. [63] Following Amalaric's assassination in 531, another Ostrogothic ruler, Theudis took his place. [56] For the next seventeen years, Theudis held the Visigothic throne. [64]

Sometime in 549, the Visigoth Athanagild sought military assistance from Justinian I and while this aide helped Athanagild win his wars, the Romans had much more in mind. [56] Granada and southernmost Baetica were lost to representatives of the Byzantine Empire (to form the province of Spania) who had been invited in to help settle this Visigothic dynastic struggle, but who stayed on, as a hoped-for spearhead to a "Reconquest" of the far west envisaged by emperor Justinian I. [65] Imperial Roman armies took advantage of Visigothic rivalries and established a government at Córdoba. [66]

Visigothic Hispania and its regional divisions in 700, before the Muslim conquest Hispania 700 AD.PNG
Visigothic Hispania and its regional divisions in 700, before the Muslim conquest

The last Arian Visigothic king, Liuvigild, conquered most of the northern regions (Cantabria) in 574, the Suevic kingdom in 584, and regained part of the southern areas lost to the Byzantines, [67] which King Suintila recovered in 624. [68] The kingdom survived until 711, when King Roderic (Rodrigo) was killed while opposing an invasion from the south by the Umayyad Caliphate in the Battle of Guadalete. This marked the beginning of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, when most of Spain came under Islamic rule in the early 8th century. [69]

A Visigothic nobleman, Pelayo, is credited with beginning the Christian Reconquista of Iberia in 718, when he defeated the Umayyad forces in the Battle of Covadonga and established the Kingdom of Asturias in the northern part of the peninsula. [70] Other Visigoths who refused to adopt the Muslim faith or live under their rule, fled north to the kingdom of the Franks, and Visigoths played key roles in the empire of Charlemagne a few generations later. In the early years of the Emirate of Córdoba, a group of Visigoths who remained under Muslim dominance constituted the personal bodyguard of the Emir, al-Haras. [71]

During their long reign in Spain, the Visigoths were responsible for the only new cities founded in Western Europe between the 5th and 8th centuries. It is certain (through contemporary Spanish accounts) that they founded four: Reccopolis, Victoriacum (modern Vitoria-Gasteiz, though perhaps Iruña-Veleia), Luceo, and Olite. There is also a possible fifth city ascribed to them by a later Arabic source: Baiyara (perhaps modern Montoro). All of these cities were founded for military purposes and three of them in celebration of victory. Despite the fact that the Visigoths reigned in Spain for upwards of 250 years, there are few remnants of the Gothic language borrowed into Spanish. [72] [lower-alpha 8] [lower-alpha 9] The Visigoths as heirs of the Roman empire lost their language and intermarried with the Hispano-Roman population of Spain. [74]


Belt buckle, from circa 550-600, made of copper alloy with garnets, glass, lapis lazuli and cuttlefish bone, overall: 13.6 x 6 x 2.9 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City) Belt Buckle MET h1 1988.305a,b.jpg
Belt buckle, from circa 550–600, made of copper alloy with garnets, glass, lapis lazuli and cuttlefish bone, overall: 13.6 x 6 x 2.9 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)


The Visigothic Code of Law (forum judicum), which had been part of aristocratic oral tradition, was set in writing in the early 7th century and survives in two separate codices preserved at el Escorial. It goes into more detail than a modern constitution commonly does and reveals a great deal about Visigothic social structure. [75]

One of the greatest contributions of the Visigoths to family law was their protection of the property rights of married women, which was continued by Spanish law and ultimately evolved into the community property system now in force throughout the majority of western Europe. [76]


Before the Middle Ages, the Visigoths, as well as other Germanic peoples, followed what is now referred to as Germanic paganism. [77] While the Germanic peoples were slowly converted to Christianity by varying means, many elements of the pre-Christian culture and indigenous beliefs remained firmly in place after the conversion process, particularly in the more rural and distant regions. [78]

The Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Vandals were Christianized while they were still outside the bounds of the Roman Empire; however, they converted to Arianism rather than to the Nicene version (Trinitarianism) followed by most Romans, who considered them heretics. [79] There was a religious gulf between the Visigoths, who had for a long time adhered to Arianism, and their Catholic subjects in Hispania. There were also deep sectarian splits among the Catholic population of the peninsula which contributed to the toleration of the Arian Visigoths on the peninsula. The Visigoths scorned to interfere among Catholics but were interested in decorum and public order. [lower-alpha 10] King Liuvigild (568–586), attempted to restore political unity between the Visigothic-Arian elite and the Hispano-Roman Nicene Catholic population through a doctrinal settlement of compromise on matters of faith, but this failed. [80] Sources indicate that the Iberian Visigoths maintained their Christian Arianism, especially the Visigothic elite until the end of Liuvigild's reign. [81] When Reccared I converted to Catholicism, he sought to unify the kingdom under a single faith. [82] [83]

Capital from the Visigothic church of San Pedro de la Nave, province of Zamora Wisi San Pedro de la Nave e chapiteau a.jpg
Capital from the Visigothic church of San Pedro de la Nave, province of Zamora

When the Visigoths took over Spain, Jews constituted a large and ancient proportion of the population. Many were farmers, but they worked in a wide range of occupations, and were a major component of the urbanized population of the larger towns particularly of eastern Spain. During the period in which the Visigoths adhered to Arianism, the situation of the Jews seems to have remained relatively good. Previous Roman and Byzantine law determined their status, and it already sharply discriminated against them, but royal jurisdiction was in any case quite limited: local lords and populations related to Jews as they saw fit. We read of rabbis being asked by non-Jews to bless their fields, for example. [84] Historian Jane Gerber relates that some of the Jews "held ranking posts in the government or the army; others were recruited and organized for garrison service; still others continued to hold senatorial rank". [85] In general, then, they were well respected and well-treated by the Visigothic kings, that is, until their transition from Arianism to Catholicism. [86]

Catholic conversion across Visigothic society reduced much of the friction between their people and the native Spanish population. [87] One chief purpose of this conversion was to unify the realm under the Church, and one of the key complaints of the Church had long been that Jews had too much status, prosperity and influence. Local nobles relied on their Jewish and non-Jewish sectors of the population to enhance the local economy and the noble's independent power. Visigothic political structure had traditionally given extensive powers to local nobles (who even elected their kings), so the king was in many ways merely 'the first amongst equals,' and central authority was weak. The status of the Jews therefore impacted local aristocrats both symbolically and politically.

King Reccared convened the Third Council of Toledo to settle religious disputations related to the religious conversion from Arianism to Catholicism. [88] The discriminatory laws passed at this Council seem not to have been universally enforced, however, as indicated by several more Councils of Toledo that repeated these laws and extended their stringency. These entered canon law and became legal precedents in other parts of Europe as well. The culmination of this process occurred under King Sisibut, who decreed a forced Christian conversion upon all Jews in Spain. [89] This mandate apparently achieved only partial success: similar decrees were repeated by later kings as central power was consolidated. These laws either prescribed forcible baptism of the Jews or forbade circumcision, Jewish rites, and the observance of the Sabbath and other festivals. Throughout the seventh century, Jews were flogged, executed, had their property confiscated, were subjected to ruinous taxes, forbidden to trade and, at times, dragged to the baptismal font. Many were obliged to accept Christianity but continued privately to observe the Jewish religion and practices. [90] The decree of 613 set off a century of torment for Spanish Jewry, which was only ended by the Muslim conquest. [lower-alpha 11]

The political aspects of the imposition of Church power cannot be ignored in these matters. With the conversion of the Visigothic kings to Chalcedonian Christianity, the bishops increased their power, until, at the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633, they selected a king from among the royal family, a practice previously reserved for nobles. This was the same synod that declared that all Jews must be baptised. As far as the Visigoths were concerned, the time for religious pluralism "was past". [91] By the end of the 7th century, Catholic conversion made the Visigoths less distinguishable from the indigenous Roman citizens of the Iberian peninsula; when the last Visigothic strongholds fell to the Muslim armies, whose subsequent invasions transformed Spain from the beginning of the 8th century, their Gothic identity faded. [92]

In the eighth through 11th centuries, the muwallad clan of the Banu Qasi claimed descent from the Visigothic Count Cassius. [93]

See also

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Alaric I was the first king of the Visigoths from 395–410, son of chieftain Rothestes. He is best known for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Western Roman Empire.

Alaric II 5th and 6th-century Visigothic king

Alaric II was the King of the Visigoths in 484–507. He succeeded his father Euric as king of the Visigoths in Toulouse on December 28, 484; he was the great-grandson of the more famous Alaric I, who sacked Rome in 410. He established his capital at Aire-sur-l'Adour in Aquitaine. His dominions included not only the majority of Hispania but also Gallia Aquitania and the greater part of an as-yet undivided Gallia Narbonensis.

Goths East Germanic ethnolinguistic group

The Goths were a group of Germanic-speaking peoples people, who were the dominant people in what is now Ukraine, from at least the third century AD until the Hunnish incursion and eventual defeat. Many of them settled in the Roman empire, where they became an important part of the Roman military, and later during the wars of Attila Gothic peoples joined his alliance also, meaning that Gothic armies fought on both sides. Two Gothic peoples that were built-up within the Roman empire itself, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played important roles in the fall of the Western Roman Empire, both eventually became kingdoms, presaging a new political form that would become typical throughout Medieval Europe.


The Ostrogoths were an early Germanic people, who constituted a major branch of the Goths. The Ostrogoths traced their origins to the Greutungi – a branch of the Goths who had migrated southward from the Baltic Sea and established a kingdom north of the Black Sea, during the 3rd and 4th centuries. By some accounts, their empire stretched from the Black Sea to the Baltic. The Ostrogoths were probably literate in the 3rd century, and their trade with the Romans was highly developed. Their Danubian kingdom reached its zenith under King Ermanaric, who is said to have committed suicide at an old age when the Huns attacked his people and subjugated them in about 370.

Theodoric the Great King of the Ostrogoths

Theodoric the Great, also spelled Theoderic or called Theodoric the Amal, was king of the Ostrogoths (471–526), and ruler of the independent Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy between 493–526, regent of the Visigoths (511–526), and a patrician of the Roman Empire. As ruler of the combined Gothic realms, Theodoric controlled an empire stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Adriatic Sea.

Migration Period Period in European history from the 4th to the 6th centuries

The Migration Period was a period that lasted from AD 375 to 568, during which there were widespread invasions of peoples within or into Europe, during and after the decline of the Western Roman Empire, mostly into Roman territory, notably the Germanic tribes and the Huns. This period has also been termed in English by the German loanword Völkerwanderung and—from the Roman and Greek perspective—the Barbarian Invasions. Many of the migrations were movements of Germanic, Hunnic, Slavic and other peoples into the territory of the then declining Roman Empire, with or without accompanying invasions or war.

This is a chronology of warfare between the Romans and various Germanic tribes between 113 BC and 596 AD. The nature of these wars varied through time between Roman conquest, Germanic uprisings and later Germanic invasions in the Roman Empire that started in the late 2nd century BC. The series of conflicts, which began in the 5th century under the Western Roman Emperor Honorius, was one of many factors which led to the ultimate downfall of the Western Roman Empire.

Theudis King of the Visigoths

Theudis, was king of the Visigoths in Hispania from 531 to 548. He was the sword-bearer of Theodoric the Great, who sent him to govern the Visigothic kingdom during the minority of Amalaric, the son of king Alaric II and Theodegotha, the daughter of king Theodoric.

The Balt dynasty or Balth dynasty was the first ruling family of the Visigoths from 395 until 531. They led the Visigoths into the Western Roman Empire in its declining years.

Farnobius was a Gothic chief who was killed in a battle with the Roman army of Frigeridus while trying to cross the mountains from Thrace into Illyricum.

Ostrogothic Kingdom former country

The Ostrogothic Kingdom, officially the Kingdom of Italy, was established by the Ostrogoths in Italy and neighbouring areas from 493 to 553.

Sack of Rome (410) Visigoth siege and looting of Rome in 410

The Sack of Rome occurred on 24 August 410 CE. The city was attacked by the Visigoths led by King Alaric. At that time, Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire, having been replaced in that position first by Mediolanum in 286 and then by Ravenna in 402. Nevertheless, the city of Rome retained a paramount position as "the eternal city" and a spiritual center of the Empire. The sack was a major shock to contemporaries, friends and foes of the Empire alike.

Gothic War (376–382) war

Between about 376 and 382 the Gothic War against the Eastern Roman Empire, and in particular the Battle of Adrianople, is commonly seen as a major turning point in the history of the Roman Empire, the first of a series of events over the next century that would see the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, although its ultimate importance to the Empire's eventual fall is still debated. It was one of the many Gothic Wars with the Roman Empire.

Peter John Heather is a British historian of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. He is chair of the Medieval History Department and Professor of Medieval History at King's College London. Heather specializes in the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Goths, on which he for decades has been considered the world's leading authority.

Thervingi Gothic tribe

The Thervingi, Tervingi, or Teruingi were a Gothic people of the Danubian plains west of the Dniester River in the 3rd and the 4th centuries. They had close contacts with the Greuthungi, another Gothic people from east of the Dniester, as well as the late Roman Empire or the early Byzantine Empire.

Greuthungi tribe

The Greuthungs, Greuthungi, or Greutungi were a Gothic people of the Pontic-Caspian steppe in the 3rd and the 4th centuries. They had close contacts with the Thervingi, another Gothic people, from west of the Dniester River. They may be the same people as the later Ostrogoths.

Odotheus was a Greuthungi king who in 386 led an incursion into the Roman Empire. He was defeated and killed by the Roman general Promotus. His surviving people settled in Phrygia.

Visigothic Kingdom State that emerged after the Visigothic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula

The Visigothic Kingdom or Kingdom of the Visigoths was a kingdom that occupied what is now southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to the 8th centuries. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of Gallia Aquitania in southwest Gaul by the Roman government and then extended by conquest over all of Hispania. The Kingdom maintained independence from the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, whose attempts to re-establish Roman authority in Hispania were only partially successful and short-lived.

Taifals historical ethnical group

The Taifals or Tayfals were a people group of Germanic or Sarmatian origin, first documented north of the lower Danube in the mid third century AD. They experienced an unsettled and fragmented history, for the most part in association with various Gothic peoples, and alternately fighting against or for the Romans. In the late fourth century some Taifali were settled within the Roman Empire, notably in western Gaul in the modern province of Poitou. They subsequently supplied mounted units to the Roman army and continued to be a significant source of cavalry for early Merovingian armies. By the sixth century their region of western Gaul had acquired a distinct identity as Thifalia.

Balamber was ostensibly a chieftain of the Huns, mentioned by Jordanes in his Getica. Jordanes simply called him "king of the Huns" and writes the story of Balamber crushing the tribes of the Ostrogoths in the 370s; somewhere between 370 and more probably 376 AD.



  1. Pair of Eagle Fibula Walters Art Museum
  2. The first R is held at the Musée de Cluny, Paris
  3. "Visigoths (west Goths). Germanic tribe..." [1]
  4. Guizot, I, 357.
  5. Genethl. Max. 17, 1.
  6. Vékony, 156, citing Eutropius, Brev., 8, 2, 2.
  7. Other sources dispute the contents of the supposed "treaty" and claim it was a Gothic surrender. [40]
  8. The Words such as: werra > guerra (war), falda > falda (skirt) and skankjan > escanciar (to pour out); See: La época visigoda Susana Rodríguez Rosique (spanish) in Cervantes Virtual. Accessed 15 October 2017.
  9. The linguistic remnants of the Gothic people in Spain are sparse. A few place names and a mere handful of well-known "Spanish" first names, such as Alfonso, Fernando, Gonzalo, Elvira, and Rodrigo are of Germanic (Visigothic) origin. [73]
  10. At least one high-ranking Visigoth, Zerezindo, dux of Baetica, was a Catholic in the mid-6th century.
  11. Cf. the extensive accounts of Visigothic Jewish history by Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, Vol. 3 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1956 reprint [1894]), pp. 43–52 (on Sisibut, pp. 47–49); Salo W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, Vol. 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957), pp. 33–46 (on Sisibut pp. 37–38); N. Roth, Jews, Visigoths and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict (Leiden: Brill, 1994), pp. 7–40; Ram Ben-Shalom, "Medieval Jewry in Christendom," in M. Goodman, J. Cohen and D. Sorkin, The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 156.


  1. Howatson 2011.
  2. 1 2 Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 843.
  3. Heather 1998, pp. 52–57, 300–301.
  4. Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 843–844.
  5. Claude 1998, pp. 119–120.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Wolfram 1988, p. 24.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Wolfram 1988, p. 25.
  8. Heather 1998, pp. 300–301.
  9. Wolfram 1988, p. 387, fn52.
  10. 1 2 Wolfram 1988, p. 387, fn57.
  11. Heather 1998, pp. 52–57, 130–178, 302–309.
  12. Collins 2004, pp. 22–24.
  13. 1 2 3 Wolfram 1988, p. 26.
  14. Wolfram 1988, pp. 387–388, fn58.
  15. 1 2 Wolfram 1988, p. 387, fn58.
  16. Stevenson 1899, p. 36, fn15.
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  18. Todd 2000, p. 149.
  19. 1 2 Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 844.
  20. Wolfram 1997, p. 42–43.
  21. Todd 2000, pp. 149–150.
  22. Wolfram 1988, pp. 42–55.
  23. Odobescu 1889, p. 1-100.
  24. Georgescu 1991, p. 11.
  25. 1 2 Todd 2000, p. 150.
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  27. Todd 2000, p. 151.
  28. Todd 2000, p. 152.
  29. Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 844–845.
  30. Fuller 1998, p. 55.
  31. 1 2 Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 845.
  32. Durant 1950, p. 24.
  33. Durant 1950, pp. 24–25.
  34. Sarris 2002, p. 36.
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  36. Halsall 2007, p. 179.
  37. Katz 1955, pp. 88–89.
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  40. Halsall 2007, pp. 180–181.
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  42. Heather 2013, pp. 153–160.
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  44. Frassetto 2003, pp. 204–205.
  45. Halsall 2007, pp. 214–217.
  46. Collins 1999, pp. 63–65.
  47. Williams 2004, p. 51.
  48. Heather 2005, p. 434.
  49. Sivan 1987, pp. 759–772.
  50. Burns 2003, p. 382.
  51. Wolfram 1988, pp. 186–187.
  52. Frassetto 2003, p. 358.
  53. Bury 2000, pp. 211–212.
  54. 1 2 Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 846.
  55. Frassetto 2003, pp. 358–359.
  56. 1 2 3 Carr 2004, p. 421.
  57. Todd 2000, p. 165.
  58. Bury 2000, p. 213.
  59. 1 2 3 Frassetto 2003, p. 359.
  60. Heather 2013, p. 70.
  61. Wolfram 1988, pp. 243–245.
  62. Heather 2013, p. 93.
  63. Wolfram 1988, p. 245.
  64. Heather 2013, p. 94.
  65. Roberts 1997, pp. 82–85.
  66. Roberts 1997, p. 82.
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  68. Arce 1999, p. 4.
  69. Roberts 1997, pp. 96–100.
  70. Williams 2004, p. 60.
  71. Wolf 2014, pp. 14–15.
  72. Ostler 2006, p. 307.
  73. Todd 2000, p. 175.
  74. Nadeau & Barlow 2013, pp. 28–35.
  75. Collins 2004, pp. 6–8.
  76. Coolidge 2011, pp. 17–25.
  77. Wolfram 1997, pp. 58, 66, 72–74.
  78. James 2009, pp. 215–225.
  79. Wolfram 1997, pp. 75–79.
  80. Heather 2013, p. 325.
  81. Wolfram 1997, pp. 265–269.
  82. Frassetto 2003, p. 304.
  83. Mathisen & Sivan 1999, p. 40.
  84. Graetz 1894, p. 44.
  85. Gerber 1992, p. 9.
  86. Roth 1994, pp. 35–40.
  87. Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 847.
  88. Collins 1999, pp. 211–212.
  89. Collins 2000, p. 60.
  90. Gonzalez-Salinero 1999, pp. 140–147.
  91. Lim 1999, pp. 209–210.
  92. Collins 2000, pp. 60–62.
  93. Fletcher 2006, p. 45.