12 June 2011

BRIEF OVERVIEW OF GERMANIC SPAIN

Published, edited, formatted and images added by Kenneth S. Doig

People
Iberian Peninsula c. 500 AD

Ethnic groups  

Spain has been invaded and inhabited by many different peoples. The peninsula was originally settled by groups from North Africa and western Europe, including the Iberians, Celts, and Basques. Throughout antiquity it was a constant point of attraction for the civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean. From c. 1100 bc the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Carthaginians began to establish settlements and trading posts, especially on the eastern and southern coasts. These outsiders found a mosaic of peoples, collectively known as the Iberians, who did not have a single culture or even share a single language. A kingdom called Tartessus, which flourished between 800 and 550 bc, ruled much of the valley of the Guadalquivir. Elsewhere political organization was less sophisticated, consisting of a number of city-states in the coastal regions and of clans in the interior and the northwest.

The Romans

The Phoenician and Greek presence was limited to small coastal regions. The Carthaginians were the first to move inland; late in the 3rd century bc they set out to conquer as much of the peninsula as they could. Yet their success led to intervention in Iberia from the Romans, who quickly drove out the Carthaginians and conquered much of the peninsula. The Romans, however, had to deal with a number of revolts, and it was only in 19 bc, after almost 200 years of warfare, that they secured their rule over all of Iberia. The Romans brought Iberia under a single political authority for the first time but did not try to impose a single culture on the inhabitants. Nevertheless, much of the indigenous elite adopted Roman culture and became Roman citizens, particularly in the south and east, where the Roman presence was strongest.

The Visigoths (Germanic peoples originally of Scandinavian origin)

Roman power in Spain collapsed during the 5th century ad when a number of Germanic peoples—the Suebi, the Alani, the Vandals, and finally the Visigoths—invaded the peninsula. At the end of the 6th century, King Leovigild brought all of Spain under Visigothic rule, and his son Reccared imposed a single religion, Catholic Christianity, on the country.

The Muslims

Visigothic rule did not last long. In 711 Muslim Arabs invaded Spain from North Africa and defeated the Visigothic ruler, King Roderick. They quickly conquered almost the entire peninsula and established Muslim states in Spain that were to last until 1492.

Phoenicians

Venerable historical traditions recount the Phoenician voyages to found new cities. Utica, on the Tunisian coast of North Africa, was reputedly founded in 1178 bc, and by 1100 bc the Phoenician city of Tyre supposedly had a Spanish colony at Gadir (Cadiz). Although intriguing, these historical traditions are unsupported by evidence. Excavations confirm that the Phoenicians settled in southern Spain after 800 bc, shortly after the traditional founding of the greatest Phoenician colony, Carthage (now in Tunisia). Their search for new commodities led them ever farther westward and was the reason for their interest in southern Spain’s mineral wealth. The untapped lodes of silver and alluvial deposits of tin and gold provided essential raw materials with which to meet the increasing Assyrian demands for tribute. By 700 bc silver exported from the Río Tinto mines was so abundant that it depressed the value of silver bullion in the Assyrian world. This is the background for Phoenician interest in the far west.
Phoenician commerce was conducted by family firms of shipowners and manufacturers who had their base in Tyre or Byblos and placed their representatives abroad. This accounts for the rich tombs of Phoenician pattern found at Almuñécar, Trayamar, and Villaricos, equipped with metropolitan goods such as alabaster wine jars, imported Greek pottery, and delicate gold jewelry. Maritime bases from the Balearic Islands to Cadiz on the Atlantic were set up to sustain commerce in salted fish, dyes, and textiles. Early Phoenician settlements are known from Morro de Mezquitilla, Toscanos, and Guadalhorce and shrines from Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar and the Temple of Melqart on the island of Sancti Petri near Cadiz. After the fall of Tyre to the Babylonians in 573 bc and the subjugation of Phoenicia, the early prosperity faded until the 4th century. Many colonies survived, however, and Abdera (Adra), Baria (Villaricos), Carmona (Carmo), Gadir (Cadiz), Malaca (Málaga), and Sexi (Almuñécar) thrived under the trading system established by Carthage for the central and western Mediterranean. Eivissa (Ibiza) became a major Carthaginian colony, and the island produced dye, salt, fish sauce, and wool. A shrine with offerings to the goddess Tanit was established in the cave at Es Cuyram, and the Balearic Islands entered Eivissa’s commercial orbit after 400 bc. In 237 bc, shortly after its defeat in the First Punic War, Carthage launched its conquest of southern Spain under Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal’s father, and founded a new capital at Cartago Nova (Cartagena) in 228 bc. After the death of Hamilcar, Hannibal continued Carthaginian expansion in Spain, reaching the Ebro River—the limit imposed by Rome in the settlement of the First Punic War. A diplomatic dispute over Seguntum, a Roman ally in Carthaginian Spain, led to the outbreak of the Second Punic War in 218 bc. Despite Hannibal’s invasion of Italy and near victory there, Carthage suffered a crushing defeat in Spain in 206 at the hands of Publius Cornelius Scipio (Scipio Africanus the Elder) and ultimately lost the war.

Greeks

Greeks from Phocaea reached Spain’s shores, but by 575 bc they had established only two small colonies as offshoots of Massilia (Marseille) in the extreme northeast, at Emporion (Ampurias) and Rhode (Rosas). There was, however, an older Archaic Greek commerce in olive oil, perfumes, fine pottery, bronze jugs, armour, and figurines carried past the Strait of Gibraltar by the Phoenicians. It developed between 800 and 550 bc, peaking sharply from 600 to 550, and was directed along the southern coast in precisely the areas of most intense Phoenician influence and settlement.
Connected with this early commerce in the late 7th century are the stories collected by Herodotus about the kingdom of Tartessos (Tartessus) and its ruler, King Arganthonios, who befriended the Greek captain Kolaios after his vessel was blown off course. Tartessos was portrayed as a mineral emporium where Kolaios exchanged his merchandise for a fortune in silver bullion. The Greeks remembered this kingdom as a legendary world beyond their reach. Tartessos, in fact, was the late Bronze Age society in southwestern Spain that included the mines of the Tinto River in its territory; it flourished between 800 and 550 bc.
After 450 bc there was renewed Greek interest in Spain, although directed to the eastern peninsula rather than to the west and south. Greek objects were widely traded by Carthaginian middlemen, as the shipwreck at El Sec (Palma de Mallorca) suggests. The vessel sank with a mixed cargo including millstones, ingots, and decorated Greek pottery, some scratched with personal Punic names such as “Slave of Melqart” (MLQRT’BD) or “Baal is Merciful” (B’HLM).

Iberians

The indigenous Bronze Age societies reacted vigorously to the culture of the Phoenicians and then the Greeks, adopting eastern Mediterranean values and technologies. At first the process of assimilation was exclusive, affecting few people; then it gathered pace and volume, drawing entire societies into the transformation. Everywhere the process of change was rapid and intense, lasting a few generations between 700 and 550 bc. As old patterns of patronage were overturned with the arrival of new prestige goods outside the control of the former rulers, new adventurers came onto the scene. Their traces can be seen in rich tombs around Carmona at cemeteries such as El Acebuchal, Setefilla, and in Huelva at the cemetery of La Joya. Princely wealth from La Joya included a chariot of walnut wood, an ivory casket with silver hinges, bronze mirrors, tiered incense burners, and ornate libation jugs. Gold jewelry is known from many spectacular treasures in southern Spain, of which the regalia from El Carambolo (Sevilla) and the mixture of jewels, engraved scarabs, and tableware of silver and glass from Aliseda (Cáceres) are good examples. Glass and ivory were imported, but the impressive goldwork of filigree and granulation was probably western Phoenician craftsmanship.


By 550 bc a distinctive Iberian culture can be recognized throughout the entire south and east of the peninsula. The name Iberian was the one used by Classical writers, although it referred to a culture having an ethnic and linguistic diversity that remained politically distinctive until its incorporation into the Roman Empire. Iberian civilization had an urban base, and indigenous cities arose after 600 bc, imitating aspects of the Phoenician and Greek colonies. They were especially large and numerous in western Andalusia (Andalucía), at Ategua, Cástulo, Ibros, Osuna, Tejada la Vieja, and Torreparedones, and, somewhat later, also at the other end of the Iberian world, in northeastern Spain at Calaceite (Teruel), Olérdola, Tivissa (Tarragona), and Ullastret (Girona). Cities were political centres with territories; while some joined into confederacies, others were independent city-states. The urban heartland in western Andalusia prospered uninterruptedly from 550 bc, but many towns in southern and eastern Spain were destroyed in the middle of the 4th century amid political turbulence attributed to Carthaginian influence.


The economy continued to be based on agriculture, though supplemented with cultivated grapes and olives of eastern origin. Ironworking was introduced by the Phoenicians, and iron was available everywhere for basic agricultural tools by 400 bc; forging inlaid and damascened weapons brought the blacksmiths’ art to a peak. The fast potter’s wheel allowed mass production of crockery and storage vessels. There were many regional centres of production, and the artistic repertoire grew from geometric designs in the early stages to complex figurative compositions after 300 bc. Important centres arose at Archena, Elx (Elche), Liria, and Azaila, whose artisans depicted scenes from Iberian myth and legend. Mining for silver continued at the Tinto River, expanding up the Guadalquivir valley to the area around Cástulo and to the coast around Cartagena. The scale of extraction at the Tinto River was enormous, and the Phoenician and Iberian workings built up more than six million tons of silver slag. Silver was abundant in Iberian society and was widely used for tableware among the upper class. An outstanding treasure from Tivissa has dishes engraved with religious themes.


Figurative stone sculpture shows Greek influence in the sophisticated modeling of human forms—especially in the friezes from Porcuna—and of animals. Sculptures of deer, griffins, horses, and lions were used as emblems to decorate tombs and were either placed on top of freestanding columns, as at Monforte de Cid, or displayed on tiered monuments. There are sphinxes from Agost and Salobral and a tower tomb from Pozo Moro (Albacete), built by 500 bc, which is decorated with bas reliefs of the Lord of the Underworld in a style reminiscent of 8th-century sculpture from northern Syria. Temples at the Cerro de los Santos (Albacete) and Cigarralejo (Murcia) yielded hundreds of stone human and horse figurines, respectively, while bronze was favoured for statuettes at the sanctuary of Despeñaperros (Jaén). Striking funerary sculptures of enthroned ladies, bejeweled and robed, from Elx and Baza represent the Carthaginian goddess Astarte; the throne had a side cavity to receive cremations.
Celtic tribes in ancient Iberia
Three native writing systems developed in Iberia. An alphabet derived from Phoenician signs was used in the southwest by 650 bc, and alphabets based on Greek models arose in the southeast and in Catalonia after 425 bc. Many inscriptions exist, including letters inscribed on rolled-up lead sheets found in houses at Mogente (Valencia) and Ullastret, but they cannot be read. Only the names of places and some personal names can be recognized. The Iberian writing systems remained in use until the Roman conquest.

Celts (the first major incursion and settlement of Indo-Europeans into the Iberian Peninsula)

(While the Greeks were Indo-Europeans, they tended to colonize only coastal areas. Their cities were colonial trading-outposts for their home city-state back in Greece. Their interest was not in conquering or mixing with any other peoples. I'd assume they left virtually zero genetic trace in Spain. K. Doig)


Inland Spain followed a different course. To the west and north developed a world that has been described as Celtic. Iron was known from 700 bc, and agricultural and herding economies were practiced by people who lived in small villages or, in the northwest, in fortified compounds called castros. The people spoke Indo-European languages (Celtic, Lusitanian) but were divided culturally and politically into dozens of independent tribes and territories; they left behind hundreds of place-names. Celts, living on the central mesetas in direct contact with the Iberians, adopted many Iberian cultural fashions, including wheel-made pottery, rough stone sculptures of pigs and bulls, and the eastern Iberian alphabet (inscriptions on coins and on the bronze plaque from Botorrita [Zaragoza]), but they did not organize themselves into urban settlements until the 2nd century bc. Metalworking flourished, and distinctive neck rings (torques) of silver or gold, along with brooches and bangles, attest to their technical skills. The Mediterranean way of life reached the interior only after the Romans conquered Numantia in 133 bc and Asturias in 19 bc.

The Roman conquest

The Romans became interested in Spain after the conquest of much of the region by Carthage, which had lost control of Sicily and Sardinia after the First Punic War. A dispute over Saguntum, which Hannibal had seized, led to a second war between Rome and Carthage.
Although the Romans had originally intended to take the war to Spain on their own initiative, they were forced to do so defensively to prevent Carthaginian reinforcements from reaching Hannibal after his rapid invasion of Italy. Roman generals, however, had great success, conquering large sections of Spain before a disastrous defeat in 211 bc forced them back to the Ebro River. In 210 Scipio Africanus resumed Rome’s effort to remove the Carthaginians from Spain, which was achieved following the defeat of the Carthaginian armies at Baecula (Bailén) in 208 and Ilipa (Alcalá del Río, near Sevilla) in 207. Scipio returned to Rome, where he held the consulship in 205, and went on to defeat Hannibal at Zama in northern Africa in 202.
After the expulsion of the Carthaginians from Spain, the Romans controlled only that part of the peninsula which had been affected by the war: the eastern seaboard and the valley of the river Baetis (Guadalquivir). Although over the next 30 years the Romans fought almost continuously, chiefly against Iberian tribes of the northeast, against the Celtiberians in the northeastern Meseta, and against the Lusitanians in the west, there is little sign that this opposition to Roman rule was coordinated, and, although the area under Roman control increased in size, it did so only slowly. The region was divided into the two military areas (provinciae) of Nearer and Further Spain (Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior) in 197, after which elected magistrates (praetors) were sent out, usually for two-year periods, to command the armies; the Romans, however, were more interested in winning victories over Spanish tribes (and so gaining the accolade of a triumph—a ceremonial victory march through the city of Rome) than in establishing any organized administration. After the campaigns of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (father of the famous tribune of the same name) and Lucius Postumius Albinus in 180–178, treaties were arranged with the Celtiberians and probably with other tribes, as a result of which Roman taxation seems to have become more regular.
In the middle of the 2nd century, during a period when Rome was not otherwise occupied by fighting in the eastern Mediterranean or Africa, large-scale wars broke out in Celtiberia in the northern part of the Meseta and in Lusitania, which resulted in a series of consuls (senior magistrates) being sent to Spain. These struggles continued sporadically for the next two decades, during which Roman armies were defeated on several occasions, notably in 137 when an entire army commanded by the consul Gaius Hostilius Mancinus was forced to surrender to the Celtiberians. The war against the Lusitanians was ended only by the assassination of their leader, Viriathus, in 139, and the Celtiberians were finally subdued in 133 by the capture of their main town, Numantia (near modern Soria), after a prolonged siege conducted by Publius Scipio Aemilianus (Scipio Africanus the Younger), the grandson by adoption of Hannibal’s opponent.


In the 1st century bc Spain was involved in the civil wars afflicting the Roman world. In 82 bc, after Lucius Cornelius Sulla captured Rome from the supporters of Gaius Marius (who had died four years earlier), the Marian governor of Nearer Spain, Quintus Sertorius, relying partly on his good relations with local Spanish communities, successfully frustrated the attempts of two Roman commanders, Quintus Metellus Pius and the young Pompey, to regain control of the peninsula, until Sertorius’s assassination in 72 resulted in the collapse of his cause. During the wars between Julius Caesar and Pompey, Caesar rapidly secured Spain by a victory over the Pompeians at Ilerda (Lleida); but after Pompey’s murder in Egypt in 48 his sons, Gnaeus and Sextus Pompey, raised the south of the peninsula and posed a serious threat until Caesar himself defeated Gnaeus at the Battle of Munda (in present-day Sevilla province) in 45. Not until the reign of Augustus, who, after the defeat of Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31, became master of the entire Roman Empire, was the military conquest of the peninsula complete. The last area, the Cantabrian Mountains in the north, took from 26 to 19 bc to subdue and required the attention of Augustus himself in 26 and 25 and of his best general, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, in 19. It was probably after this that the peninsula was divided into three provinces: Baetica, with its provincial capital at Corduba (Córdoba); Lusitania, with its capital at Emerita Augusta (Mérida); and Tarraconensis (still called Hispania Citerior in inscriptions), based on Tarraco (Tarragona).

Romanization

Spain in the time of Augustus.
[Credit: Adapted from J.S. Richardson, The University of Edinburgh]It does not seem that the Romans pursued a policy of deliberate “Romanization” of their Spanish provinces, at least for the first two centuries of their presence there. Scipio left some of his wounded veterans at Italica (Santiponce, near Sevilla) in 206; the Roman Senate allowed a settlement of 4,000 offspring of Roman soldiers and native women to be established at Carteia (near Algeciras) in 171; and further veteran settlements were probably placed at Corduba and Valentia (Valencia) during the 2nd century bc. There had certainly been migration from Italy to the silver-mining areas in the south during this period, and in Catalonia Roman villas, whose owners were producing wine for export, appeared at Baetulo (Badalona) before the end of the 2nd century. It was not until the period of Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus, however, that full-scale Roman-style foundations (coloniae) were established for the benefit of Roman legionary veterans, some on already-existing native towns (as at Tarraco), some on sites where there was relatively small-scale habitation previously, as at Emerita Augusta. By the early 1st century ad there were nine such foundations in Baetica, eight in Tarraconensis, and five in Lusitania. An inscription from one of these colonies, the colonia Genetiva Iulia at Urso (Osuna), which contains material from the time of its foundation under Julius Caesar, shows a community of Roman citizens with their own magistrates and religious officials, a town council, and common land assigned to the town.


During the reign of Augustus and through the period up to the overthrow of the emperor Nero in ad 68, native communities also began to model themselves on the Roman pattern, setting up public buildings (including a forum, buildings for local government, temples, and bathhouses); some acquired the status of municipium, by which the inhabitants gained the so-called Latin right, which afforded privileges under Roman law and allowed the magistrates of the town to become Roman citizens. This process was advanced rapidly during the reign of the Flavian emperors—Vespasian (ad 69–79), Titus (ad 79–81), and Domitian (ad 81–96). Vespasian is said to have granted the Latin right to all the communities of Spain, and, although this is almost certainly an exaggeration, epigraphic evidence from towns in Baetica (especially a long inscription on six bronze tablets from Irni [near Algámitas, Sevilla] unearthed in 1981) reveals the existence of a general charter for these Latin municipia issued in the reign of Domitian, requiring them to adopt the forms of Roman law and to organize themselves on lines not unlike those used by the coloniae of Roman citizens. It is likely that this particular interest in Spain resulted from the support given by Spanish communities to Servius Sulpicius Galba, who, while governor of Tarraconensis in ad 68, had participated in the uprising against Nero and had been emperor for a few months in 68–69.


The extent to which the upper classes in the towns and cities of Spain, of both immigrant and native stock, were part of the elite of the Roman Empire as a whole in the 1st century ad can be seen by the appearance of men of Spanish origin in the life of Rome itself. These include the philosopher and writer Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 bcad 65) from Corduba, who was the tutor and subsequent adviser to Nero, and the poet Martial (c. ad 38–c. 103), born at Bilbilis (near Calatayud)—a municipium since the time of Augustus—who was active in Rome under the Flavian emperors. A growing number of Roman senators were natives of Spain, including Trajan and Hadrian, who later became emperors (ad 98–117 and 117–138, respectively); both came from Italica.
The same period saw a progressive reduction in the number of Roman troops stationed in the peninsula. During the Cantabrian War under Augustus the number of legions had risen to seven or eight, but these were reduced to three by the reign of his successor, Tiberius, and to one by the time of Galba’s accession. From Vespasian’s time to the end of the empire the legionary force in Spain was limited to the VII Gemina Felix legion, stationed at Legio (León) in the north. Both this legion and the other auxiliary units in Spain seem to have been recruited increasingly from the peninsula itself, and recruits from Spain served throughout the Roman world, from Britain to Syria. From the time of Vespasian onward, military activity in Spain itself was restricted in scope and occasional, such as the repulsion of an attack by the Mauri (probably Imazighen [Berbers]) from Africa in the 170s and raids by barbarians during the chaotic period of the later 3rd century, which, according to some late sources, involved the sack of Tarraco. It seems probable that the legion VII Gemina was split in the late 3rd or 4th century, with one part being transferred to the comitatenses, the mobile army that accompanied the emperor. Certainly the remaining forces in Spain, further reduced by the removal of soldiers to fight in the civil war that followed the attempt by the usurper Constantine to seize power from the emperor Honorius in 406, were unable to provide much resistance to the Vandals, Suebi, and Alani, who swept across the Pyrenees in 409.

Administration

From the time of Augustus, the work of the provincial governors, who under the Roman Republic had been commanders in military areas, became more focused on the administration of their provinces. Baetica, the most thoroughly pacified of the three Augustan provinces, was governed by a proconsul chosen by the Senate in Rome, while Tarraconensis and Lusitania had governors appointed directly by the emperor (legati Augusti). These provincial divisions continued to be used down to the time of the emperor Diocletian (ad 284–305), who subdivided Tarraconensis into three sections—Gallaecia, Tarraconensis, and Carthaginiensis. In Baetica, financial matters were handled by another magistrate (quaestor), as had been the case under the republic, while in Augustus’s provinces this work was done by imperial agents (procuratores Augusti). The administration of law, which had always been the responsibility of the provincial commanders, was undertaken at a number of centres, each of which had a district (conventus) attached to it: in Baetica these were Corduba, which was the provincial capital, Astigi (Ecija), Gades (Cadiz), and Hispalis (Sevilla); in Tarraconensis, Tarraco itself, Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza), Nova Carthago (Cartagena), Clunia (Peñalba de Castro), Asturica (Astorga), Lucus Augusti (Lugo), and Bracara Augusta (Braga); and, in Lusitania, Scallabis (Santarém), Pax Iulia (Beja), and the provincial capital, Emerita Augusta. The larger number in Tarraconensis, the result of the larger geographic size of that province, led to the appointment of an additional official (the legatus iuridicus) to help with the work, at least from the time of the emperor Tiberius (ad 14–37) onward. The extent to which the governor was regarded as the source of law in the province can be seen from the requirement set forth in the charters issued to municipia that local magistrates should post, at the place where they dispensed justice, a copy of the governor’s edict specifying which categories of legal suits he was prepared to hear.

Economy

The economy of Roman Spain, as throughout the ancient world, was primarily agricultural. In addition to the food grown for local consumption, there was a considerable export trade in agricultural products, which has been demonstrated by the investigation of shipwrecks and amphorae found in Spain and elsewhere in the Roman world. Particularly important are the amphorae from Monte Testaccio, a hill in Rome, still some 160 feet (50 m) high, that is composed mostly of the remains of amphorae in which olive oil had been carried from Baetica to Rome in the first three centuries ad. Wine from Baetica and Tarraconensis, even though not highly regarded in Rome, was shipped in quantity from the 1st century bc to the mid-2nd century ad. Spain also was famous for the production of piquant fish sauces, made especially from tuna and mackerel, of which the most reknowned was garum. Glass, fine pottery, and esparto grass (for making ropes and baskets) were also exported from Spain. Mining was another highly important economic activity; Spain was one of the most important mining centres in the Roman world.

Religion

Religion in Spain was shaped by the spread of Roman control. Along the eastern coast and in the Baetis valley the anthropomorphic deities of the Romans absorbed or replaced earlier nonanthropomorphic gods, particularly in the Romanized towns and cities. In areas of Greek and Phoenician colonization, local gods were readily identified with Roman ones, the most striking example being the cult of Hercules/Melqart at Gades. In the north and west, native deities survived longer. In the imperial period the worship of the emperor was widespread, especially in the provincial capitals, where it provided a focus for expressions of loyalty to the emperor, and priesthoods in the imperial cult were an important part of the careers of local dignitaries. Mystery religions from the eastern Mediterranean appeared in the 1st and 2nd centuries ad, particularly that of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Christianity became established in the 2nd century, and the extent of its organization is attested not only by accounts of martyrdoms during the 3rd century but also by the records of one of the earliest councils at Elvira, about 306. It is noteworthy that Hosius (Ossius; c. 257–357), bishop of Corduba, acted as religious adviser to the emperor Constantine after his conversion in 312.

Roman remains

Monumental remains of the Roman occupation can be seen throughout Spain, of which some of the most remarkable are the city walls of Tarragona and Lugo, the aqueducts at Segovia, Mérida, and Tarragona, the reservoir, theatre, and public buildings at Mérida, the bridges at Alcántara and Córdoba, and the towns of Italica and Ampurias (Emporion). Particularly fine collections of Roman art and remains can be seen in the National Archaeological Museums in Madrid and Tarragona and the provincial archaeological museums in Mérida, Sevilla, Zaragoza, and Barcelona, as well as in Conimbriga (in Portugal).

Visigothic Spain to c. 500  

Roman rule in Spain, and elsewhere in the Western Empire, was undermined during the 5th century by the migrations of Germanic tribes that had settled along the Roman frontier and that came under pressure from expansion by the Huns. One such group, subsequently known as the Visigoths, a people that lived along the Danube River and converted to Arian Christianity, was authorized by the emperor Valens to settle in the empire in 376. Mistreatment by local officials and the failue of the empire to uphold its end of the bargain caused the Goths to revolt. In the subsequent Battle of Adrianople in 378, Valens was killed and his armies were destroyed by the Goths (Visigoths were a subdivision of Goths, same people). Despite the extent of their victory, the Goths came to terms with the emperor Theodosius I and settled in the empire as foederati (“federated allies”). Theodosius’s heirs, however, were less successful at containing the various Germanic peoples that had moved into the empire. In 406 the Ostrogoths attempted to invade Italy, and the efforts to stop them allowed the Vandals (Germanic), Alans (Iranian but still retained the original Nordic racial character of the original Persians. The Alans also became confederates of several Germanic tribes), and Suebi (Suevi, also Germanic) to enter Gaul and then Spain. After ravaging the country for two years, the Suebi and the Asding (Asdingi were one of the 2 main Vandalic tribes) Vandals settled in the northwestern province of Galicia (Gallaecia). The Siling Vandals occupied Baetica in the south, and the Alans, an Iranian people, settled in the central provinces of Lusitania and Carthaginiensis. For the time being, only Tarraconensis remained entirely under Roman control.
The Visigoths also posed difficulties for Theosodius’s heirs. The new king, Alaric, rose in rebellion soon after the death of the emperor in 395 but was kept in check by the general Stilicho. Rome’s failure to make concessions to Alaric and the massacre of barbarian soldiers in the imperial army following Stilicho’s execution in 408 led to Alaric’s invasion of Italy and sack of Rome in 410, which sent shock waves throughout the empire. Alaric died soon after, however, and was succeeded by Athaulf, who moved into southern Gaul. Failing to win recognition for his people as foederati, or allies, of the empire, he was forced into Tarraconensis, where he was assassinated in 415. Under his successor, Wallia (415–418), the Romans acknowledged the Visigoths as allies and encouraged them to campaign against the other barbarian tribes in the peninsula. Those Alans and Siling Vandals who survived Visigothic attacks sought refuge with the Asdings and the Suebi in Galicia. In 418 the Roman emperor Honorius authorized the Visigoths to settle in Gaul in the provinces of Aquitania Secunda and Narbonensis. 
The Suebi and the Asding Vandals meanwhile continued to lay waste to Spain. Led by King Gaiseric (Genseric), the Vandals crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa in 429. They subjugated that province and governed it and the Balearic Islands until the Byzantine reconquest in 534. In Spain the Suebi, initially pagans, accepted Arianism, but in the middle of the 6th century they were converted to Roman Catholic Christianity by St. Martin of Dumio, bishop of Braga. Their independent kingdom in Galicia survived until the Visigoths subdued it in 585.
The Visigoths, as allies of Rome, aided in the defense of Gaul against Attila and the Huns. However, the unchecked deterioration of the Western Empire resulted in the rupture of the fragile alliance between Rome and the Visigoths. Under the rulership of Euric (466–484), the Visigoths founded an independent kingdom in southern Gaul, centred at Toulouse. In Spain the Visigoths drove the Suebi back into Galicia and occupied Tarraconensis and part of Lusitania. For the moment the provinces of Baetica and Carthaginiensis were left to take care of themselves.
Despite the collapse of imperial rule in Spain, Roman influence remained strong. The majority of the population, probably about six million, were Hispano-Romans, as compared with 200,000 barbarians. Hispano-Romans held many administrative positions and continued to be governed by Roman law embodied in the Theodosian Code. The Codex Euricianus (“Code of Euric”), which was completed in 475 or 483 or under Euric’s son a generation later, was written in Latin and designed as the personal law of the Visigoths. It also addressed relations between Euric’s Roman and Visigothic subjects. In 506 Euric’s son Alaric II (484–507) published a legal code, known as the Breviarium Alariciarum (“Breviary of Alaric”) or the Lex Romana Visigothorum (“Roman Law of the Visigoths”), which was based on the Theodosian Code and meant to serve the needs of the Roman population.
Visigothic dominance over southern Gaul came to an end when Clovis I and the Franks defeated Alaric II at Vouillé in 507. As a consequence of Frankish expansion, the Visigoths were compelled to penetrate more deeply into Spain, where their kings eventually established themselves at Toledo (Toletum). Meanwhile, as part of his effort to reconquer the Western Empire, the Byzantine emperor Justinian took advantage of struggles among the barbarians to regain control of the southern and eastern coasts of Spain. For about 70 years the Byzantines maintained a foothold in that part of the peninsula.
Although the Visigoths had been in contact with the Roman world for more than a century before their effective settlement in Spain and had acquired a veneer of Romanization, significant legal, cultural, social, and religious differences kept them apart from the Hispano-Roman population. Aside from different languages and disparities in education, these diverse peoples were subject to distinct bodies of law. Although the Visigoths were Christian, they held to the Arian heresy against the Roman Catholic Christianity of the Hispano-Romans. The Visigothic king was theoretically ruler of only his own people, whereas the Hispano-Romans continued to profess allegiance to a rapidly vanishing imperial authority. A Roman law that prohibited intermarriage between the two peoples was, however, abolished in the late 6th century. Still, the task of bringing the two peoples together and of achieving some sort of political and cultural unity was a formidable one.

The Visigothic kingdom

The Hispano-Roman population did not easily absorb the Visigoths. Because the Suebi maintained an independent kingdom in Galicia and the Basques steadfastly opposed all attempts at subjugation, the Visigoths did not control the entire peninsula. To the great satisfaction of the Hispano-Romans, Byzantine authority was restored in the southeast early in the 6th century. However, in the second half of the century Leovigild (568–586), the most effective of the Visigothic monarchs, advanced the unification of the peninsula by conquering the Suebi and subduing the Basques. Ruling from Toledo in the centre of the peninsula, he transformed Visigothic kingship by adopting the throne and other Roman symbols of monarchy. A committed Arian Christian, Leovigild sought to unify the kingdom by encouraging conversion of the Catholic Hispano-Roman population to his faith. Despite his efforts to bring the Arian faith more in line with Catholic teaching and his emphasis on conversion rather than compulsion, Leovigild’s attempt was ultimately unsuccessful and may have contributed to the failed revolt of his son Hermenegild (later St. Hermenegild), who had accepted Roman Catholicism and hoped, perhaps, to become king. Hermenegild’s rebellion, however, may have been incidental to his conversion, and Leovigild’s policy of uniting this people through religion would be vindicated by his other son, Reccared.


Spain's Visigoths
Recognizing that the majority of the people adhered to the Catholic faith, Reccared (586–601) repudiated his father’s religion and announced his conversion to Catholicism. As the Gothic nobles and bishops followed his lead, a principal obstacle to the assimilation of Visigoths and Hispano-Romans was lifted. Thereafter, the Hispano-Romans, no longer expecting deliverance by Byzantium, developed a firm allegiance to the Visigothic monarchy. As a consequence, Swinthila (621–631) was able to conquer the remaining Byzantine fortresses in the peninsula and to extend Visigothic authority throughout Spain.


Not only was the conversion of the Visigoths a sign of the predominance of Hispano-Roman civilization, but it also brought the bishops into a close relationship with the monarchy. Indeed, both Hermenegild and Reccared had close ties with St. Leander of Sevilla, who was involved with their conversions and was the brother of the encyclopaedist Isidore. Kings, imitating Byzantine practice, exercised the right to appoint bishops, the natural leaders of the Hispano-Roman majority, and to summon them to the Councils of Toledo. Although the Councils of Toledo were essentially ecclesiastical assemblies, they had an exceptional impact on the government of the realm. The bishops, once they had heard a royal statement concerning current issues, enacted canons relating to church affairs, but they also touched on secular problems, such as royal elections or cases of treason. Through their councils the bishops provided essential support for the monarchy, but, in striving to achieve a peaceful and harmonious public order, the bishops sometimes compromised their independence.


The hostility of the nobility to hereditary succession and an absence of natural heirs tended to preserve the elective character of the monarchy. Because the Visigoths had a reputation for assassinating their kings, the bishops tried to safeguard the ruler by means of an anointment ceremony. The holy oil manifested to all that the king was under God’s protection and now had a sacred character. The bishops, hoping to eliminate the violence associated with a royal election, also devised the procedures to be followed. The royal household (officium palatinum), which imitated the Roman imperial model, assisted the king in governing, but when necessary the king also consulted assemblies of magnates and notables (aula regia). Dukes, counts, or judges were responsible for the administration of provinces and other territorial districts surviving from Roman times. Self-government had long since disappeared in the towns. Agriculture and animal husbandry were the mainstays of the economy. Evidence suggests that commercial and industrial activity were minimal.
The predominance of the law of the Hispano-Roman majority over that of the Visigoths was another manifestation of the ascendancy of Roman civilization. The form and content of the Liber Judiciorum, a code of law promulgated about 654 by the Visigothic king Recceswinth (649–672), was fundamentally Roman. Although Germanic elements (such as the test of innocence by the ordeal of cold water) were included, the code consistently accepted the principles of Roman law, and, unlike Germanic customary law, it was meant to have territorial rather than personal application. The Liber Judiciorum was a principal part of the Visigothic legacy received by medieval Spain.
The extraordinary cultural achievements of the 7th century also testify to the continuing impact of the Roman heritage. The most prolific author was St. Isidore, bishop of Sevilla (Hispalis) from about 600 to 636, a friend and counselor of kings. In addition to his history of the Visigoths and theological treatises, his chief contribution to medieval civilization was the Etymologiae (Etymologies), an encyclopaedic work that attempted to summarize the wisdom of the ancient world.


Toward the end of the 7th century, a critical time in Visigothic history began. The deposition, through deception, of King Wamba (672–680), a capable ruler who tried to reform the military organization, was a portent of future problems. As agitation continued, Wamba’s successors made scapegoats of the Jews, compelling them to accept the Christian religion and threatening them with slavery. After the death of Witiza (700–710), the persistent turbulence of the nobility thwarted the succession of his son and allowed Roderick, duke of Baetica (710–711), to claim the throne. Determined to oust Roderick, Witiza’s family apparently summoned the Muslims in North Africa to their aid. Subsequently, Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād, the Muslim governor of Tangier, landed at Calpe (Gibraltar) in 711 and routed King Roderick and the Visigoths near the Guadalete River on July 19. The triumphant Muslims rapidly overran Spain, meeting only feeble resistance from the leaderless Visigoths. Although the kingdom of the Visigoths vanished, its memory inspired the kings of Asturias-León-Castile to begin the reconquest of Spain.
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