Page images

the westernmost bulwark of the African province, and he himself returned to Spain with his military reputation wrecked in his extreme old age. Four years later he was murdered at Seville by an unknown assassin, who either was, or feigned to be, insane (548). The Visigothic chiefs then elected as their king, Theudigisel, the general who had beaten the Franks at Saragossa in 542, and had ever since been reckoned the best warrior of their race. But the new king was brutal and debauched; his excesses provoked the anger of the nobles, and only seventeen months after his accession he was murdered. “While he sat at supper with his friends, and waxed merry over the wine, the lamps were extinguished, and he was slain on his couch by the sword of his enemies.’ The majority of the Visigoths then chose Agila as their ruler, but, though he was acknowledged as king at Toledo and Barcelona, the counts of the South refused to recognise him. When he invaded Andalusia he suffered a fearful defeat in front of Cordova, and saw his son and heir slain before his eyes. But he still held all Spain north of the Sierra Morena, and seemed so strong that the chief of the rebels, count Athanagild, resolved to call in to his aid the arms of the East-Romans. Justinian embraced with joy this opportunity of getting a footing in Spain, and by his orders Liberius, governor of Africa, crossed the Straits, and landed at Cadiz. Many towns at once opened their gates to the Roman troops, for the oppressed provincials thought that Liberius would deliver them for ever from the Goths, and restore the imperial authority in the whole peninsula. Roused to desperation, Agila summoned up all his forces, crossed the The Romans Sierra Morena for a second time, and engaged land in Spain. the armies of Athanagild and Liberius in front of Seville. Again he suffered a disastrous defeat, and was constrained to fly to Merida. Then his soldiery, seeing that the Gothic race was ruining itself by fratricidal strife, while the Romans were occupying town after town, suddenly ended the civil war by murdering their chief, and saluting the rebel Athanagild as king of the Visigoths. For, as a Frankish chronicler observed, ‘the Goths have long had the evil custom of slaying with the sword any king who does not please them, and of choosing in his stead some one who better suits their inclination.’ The Franks, on the other hand, boasted of their unshaken fidelity to the house of Chlodovech, outside whose limits they never looked when a king had to be chosen. Athanagild was now king of Spain, but he soon found that by calling in the Romans he had raised up a demon whom he was not strong enough to control. The generals of Justinian utterly refused to evacuate the towns they had seized during the civil war. They were in possession of the majority of the harbours of the south coast of the peninsula, on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, from the promontory of St. Vincent on the Atlantic to the mouth of the Sucre on the Mediterranean. And not only were Cadiz, Malaga, and Carthagena in their hands, but also many of the inland towns of Andalusia, including the great city of Cordova. Athanagild never succeeded in evicting them from these conquests; for thirty years the Constantinopolitan Caesars were acknowledged as rulers at Cordova and Granada, and it was fully sixty years before the sea-coast towns were all won back by the Goths. Although defeated in the open field by Athanagild, the generals of Justinian clung successfully to their walled towns, till at last the Gothic king was forced to make a truce with them, and leave them unsubdued. Although Athanagild maintained himself on the throne for thirteen years, and died a natural death—unlike his five predecessors on the Visigothic throne—he does not seem to Athanagild, have been a very powerful or successful monarch. 555-568. The scanty annals of the century preserve few facts about him, and he is best remembered as the father of the two unhappy sisters, Brunhildis and Galswintha, “the pearls of Spain,’ whom he gave in marriage to the Frankish kings, Sigibert and Chilperich. These alliances were founded on political needs; the marriage of Brunhildis—the first wed of the two princesses—was destined to secure the aid of the king of Austrasia against any attempts of his brothers of Paris, Soissons, and Burgundy against Spain. The same of the beauty and wealth of Brunhildis then led the wicked Chilperich of Soissons to ask and obtain her sister's hand, which Athanagild granted in order to secure another ally. Luckily for himself the old Gothic king died soon after, before he had time to hear of Galswintha's troubled wedlock and miserable end (568). . - o The death of Athanagild was followed by five months of anarchy; the Visigothic nobles could not agree to choose any king; each took arms, assaulted his neighbours, and did all that was right in his own eyes, for the “king's peace’ died with the king. At last the governors of Septimania agreed to elect Leova, duke of Narbonne, as their ruler; but the counts who dwelt south of the Pyrenees refused to accept the nominee of the Gallic province. After some fighting, however, Leova proposed to them to take as his colleague his brother Leovigild, who was well known and popular in the south, and the majority of the nobles of Spain agreed to accept him. Leova retained his kingly title and his own Septimanian realm, while Leovigild reigned in the peninsula as king of Spain. The division of the kingdom, however, only lasted four years, as Leova died without issue in 572, and his brother then united Septimania to Spain. Leovigild was the first man of mark who had reigned over the Visigoths for a hundred years; he may be styled the second founder of the Visigothic kingdom, for he dragged it out of the depths of anarchy and weakness, gave it a new organisation, and smote down its enemies to east and west. Without his strong hand it seems possible that the realm would have gone to pieces, and become the prey of the Franks and the East-Romans. For the first eight years of his reign Leovigild was forced to fight hard with enemies on all sides, before he could win a moment for repose. His first blows were struck against the Imperialists, who had gone forth from Cordova and Cadiz wars of and conquered the whole of Andalusia. After Leovigild, winning several battles in the open field, and 570-80. storming Baza and Assidonia, he drove the Romans within the walls of Cordova. This great city, defended by a strong garrison and a fanatically Catholic population, kept the king at bay for a whole year; but in 571 it was betrayed to him by its Gothic inhabitants and fell, after having been more than twenty years in the hands of the Imperialists. The East-Roman power now shrank back behind the Sierra Nevada, and comprised nothing more than the coast-strip from Lagos to Carthagena. Leovigild then turned against the Suevi, who had seized the valley of the middle Douro, and were pushing into the very heart of the peninsula. They had lately been converted to Catholicism, and were welcomed by the provincials of central Spain, who hoped to gain an orthodox instead of an Arian master. But Leovigild beat the Suevic king Theodemir in the field, stormed his fortress of Senabria, and compelled him to do homage. For two years more Leovigild was occupied in putting down sporadic rebellions of the Roman provincials in all the more remote and mountainous corners of Spain—especially in Cantabria, on the shores of the Gulf of Biscay, and among the Murcian mountains in the South. He captured and put to death Aspidius and Abundantius, the chief leaders of these revolts, and punished their followers by wholesale executions. At last, after eight years of war, the whole of the ancient Visigothic dominions, save the towns on the Andalusian coast, were once more subdued and under control (576). The hand of Leovigild was no less hard upon the factious nobility of his own nation than upon the foreign enemies of Spain. He sought out and executed, one after another, all the more unruly of the Visigothic chiefs—“all the race of men who had been wont to slay their kings,’ as a Frankish chronicler styled them. In their stead he appointed counts and dukes from among his own comitatus, whom he thought that he could trust. At last the king's mandate was obeyed through all the realm, from Nismes to Seville, as it had never been obeyed before, and it seemed likely that a strong autocratic royalty would prevail among the Visigoths as it did among the Franks. Leovigild now fixed his court permanently at Toledo, and assumed all the splendour and state of the ancient Roman Caesars—the diadem, the sceptre, the purple robe, and golden throne. Before him the kings of the Visigoths had been indistinguishable in manners and apparel from their own nobles; they only differed from them by bearing the royal name, and keeping-up, a larger body of oath-bound saiones. At the same that he fixed his seat at Toledo, Leovigild took another opportunity of asserting his power and independence. The coinage of the Visigoths had hitherto been a mere barbarous imitation of the imperial currency of Rome and Constantinople, but from henceforth the name of the Gothic king was placed upon all the gold tremisses of Spain. For a few years Leovigild added the name of Justin II. to his own, but he soon cast away the last sign of the old dependence on the empire, and the inscription, LIVIGILDVS INCLITVS REX, was the sign of the disavowal of the last nominal connection of Spain with the heirs of Constantine. The troubles of Leovigild, however, had not yet come to an end. His worst enemies were to be those of his own house Before his accession to the throne he had married, contrary to Gothic custom, a noble Roman lady, named Theodosia, daughter of Severianus, sometime governor of Carthagena. By her he had two sons, Hermenegild and Reccared. When she died he endeavoured to strengthen his position by marrying Godiswintha, the widow of his predecessor Athanagild; and Some years later, when his son Hermenegild reached manhood, he determined to seek for him another bride from the family of Athanagild. Accordingly he asked for, and obtained the hand of his wife's granddaughter, Ingunthis, the daughter of Sigibert

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »