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Persian empire, and Khaled, ‘the Sword of God,” the most
more put on his armour, and spent the years 635-6 in Syria
north Syria and Mesopotamia by sending an army under his son and heir Heraclius Constantinus to endeavour to recover Antioch. After some slight show of success at first, the young Caesar suffered a fatal defeat in front of Emesa, and retired from the scene, leaving Mesopotamia with all its timehonoured strongholds, Daras, Edessa, and Amida, a prey to the irresistible enemy (638-9). With the fall of the seaport of Caesarea in 640 the Romans lost their last foothold south of the Taurus, and Asia Minor itself now became exposed to invasion. Before he died of the dropsy, which was the bane of his declining years, the unfortunate Heraclius was destined to see one more disaster to his realm. In 640 the Saracens, now headed by Amrou, crossed the desert of Suez and fell upon Egypt. They beat the Roman army in the field, captured Memphis and Babylon, and then received the homage of all upper and central Egypt. The population was very largely
composed of heretical sects who received the Moslems as
deliverers from orthodox oppression, and Mokawkas the Coptic governor of the province surrendered long ere the situation had grown desperate. It was only about Alexandria, where Saracens the Greek orthodox element was strongest, that conquer any serious resistance was made. But the great *P** seaport capital of Egypt held out very staunchly, and was still in Christian hands when Heraclius died on Feb. Ioth, 641, in the sixty-sixth year of his age.
Thus ended in misery and failure the man who would have been hailed as the greatest of all the warrior emperors of Rome if he had died but ten years sooner. He had saved the empire at its darkest hour, and won back all the East by feats of arms such as have seldom been paralleled in all history. But he won it back only to lose again two-thirds of the rescued lands to a new enemy, and ungrateful after-ages remembered him rather as the loser of Jerusalem and Antioch than as the saviour of Constantinople.
Obscurity of Visigothic History—Sisibut and Swinthila expel the EastRomans—A series of priest-ridden Kings—Chindaswinth restores the royal power—His legislation—Recceswinth's long reign—Wamba and his wars—The rebellion of Paulus—Wamba's weak and obscure successors— Approach of the Saracens—Weakness of Spain—Roderic the Last of the Goths—All Spain subdued by the Saracens.
FEW periods of European history are so obscure as the last hundred years of the Visigothic dominion in Spain. The original sources for its annals are few and meagre, and little has been accomplished of late in the way of making the period more comprehensible. The Moorish conquest in 711 seems to have swept away both books and writers, and it was not till many years after that disaster that the composition of historical works in Spain was resumed; the later Visigothic times are as dark and little known as the beginnings of the English heptarchy, and Spain had no Bede and no Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to throw gleams of light across the obscurity. Hence it comes that many of their kings are mere names, and that their acts and policy are often incomprehensible. The tale grows more and more puzzling as the seventh century draws on to its close, and by the beginning of the eighth we have only untrustworthy legends to help us. The house of Leovigild, after forty years of success, ended disastrously in 603 by the assassination of the young king Leova II. His murderer was a certain count Witterich, a turbulent noble who had joined in the Arian rising of 590, and had been un
wisely pardoned by Reccared. The accession of Witterich marked a revulsion against the growth of the kingly power, which had been making such strides under Leovigild and Reccared, and probably also a protest against the ecclesiastical policy of Reccared, who, since his conversion, had given the witterich, Catholic bishops such power and authority in his 603-Io. realm. Witterich reigned for seven years, with little credit to himself—it is only strange that he guarded his ill-gotten crown so long. He had some unimportant struggles with the Franks in Aquitaine and the Byzantine garrisons in Andalusia, but won no credit in either quarter. The Church was against him, his counts and dukes paid him little heed, and no one showed much astonishment or regret when in 610 he was murdered by conspirators at a feast, like his predecessor the tyrant Theudigisel. The king chosen by the Goths in his place was a certain count Gundimar, who appears to have been the head of the orthodox church party, as the ecclesiastical chronicles are loud in the praises of his piety. Gundimar determined to take part in the Frankish civil war when Theuderich of Burgundy and Brunhildis attacked Theudebert of Austrasia. He naturally sided with the distant Austrasian against his nearer Burgundian brother, with whom the Goths of Septimania had some frontier disputes. But in the year that the war broke out Gundimar died, only twenty-one months after he had been crowned (612). His successor was king Sisibut (612-20), a prince of some mark and character, who like his predecessor was a great friend of the church party and a foe of the unruly secular nobility. He was not only a great warrior, but what was more strange in a Gothic prince, a learned student and even a writer of books. The modern historian would give much to be able to recover his lost Chronicle of the Kings of the Goths; but the irony of fate has decreed that of his works only an sisibut, ecclesiastical biography, The Zife and Passion of 612-20. St. Desiderius, and some bad verses, should survive. We learn from his admiring clerical friends that he