Page images

was skilled in grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, and that he erected a magnificent cathedral in Toledo. But Sisibut was no mere crowned savant; he took up the task, which had been abandoned since the death of Reccared, of driving the East-Roman garrisons out of Andalusia, and was almost completely successful. The emperor Heraclius, then in the throes of his Persian war, could send no help to Spain, and one after another all the harbours of south-eastern Spain from the mouth of the Guadalquivir to the mouth of the Sucre fell into his hands. Nothing remained to the East Romans except their most westerly possession, the extreme south-west angle of Portugal, with the fortress of Lagos, and the promontory of Cape St. Vincent. After winning the Andalusian coast it appears that Sisibut built a small fleet and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to wrest Ceuta and Tangier from the exarch of Africa. In 615. Heraclius made peace with him, formally surrendering all that Sisibut had succeeded in gaining from his generals. Sisibut was also successful in taming the intractable Basques; following them into their mountains he compelled them to pay tribute. A less happy record is preserved of Sisibut in the matter of internal government. As befitted a hot supporter of the intolerant Spanish church, he gave himself up to the promptings of his bishops, and commenced a fierce persecution of the Jews, the first of many tribulations which the unhappy Hebrews were to suffer at the hands of the later Gothic kings. Sisibut reigned only eight years; he had taken the precaution to have his son Reccared. II. elected king by the national council during his own lifetime, and on his death the youth succeeded to the throne without molestation. But less than a year after Sisibut's death Reccared followed him to the grave, and the crown once more passed into a new house. Count Swinthila, whom the Goths now chose as king, was a general who had distinguished himself in the war with the Basques, and had a great military reputation, but, unlike Sisibut, was not a favourer of the Church party, and had to face its intrigues all through the ten years of his reign. He was equally disliked by the great nobles, whose powers he sought to curb by asserting the rights of the smaller Gothic freeholders, who had for long been lapsing more and more into feudal dependence on their greater neighbours. His care for their interests won for him the title of the ‘Father of the Poor,” swinthila, and their loyalty is no doubt the explanation of 620-31. the fact that he was able to hold the crown so long when both Church and nobles were against him. Nor was his reign entirely without military successes. He took Lagos and the fort on Cape St. Vincent, the two last Byzantine strongholds in Spain, so that the whole peninsula was at last drawn under a single ruler. He was equally successful against a rebellion of the Basques, and, overrunning their mountain valleys in Navarre and Biscay, built the fortress of Olite, beyond the Ebro and near Pampeluna, to hold them down. But Swinthila had too many enemies to be allowed to keep his crown. A certain count Sisinand, a governor in Septimania, rose against him, and called in to his aid Dagobert, the king of the Franks. Gaul was now once more united under a single monarch, and the long civil wars of the descendants of Brunhildis and Fredegundis were over, so that the Franks were, after a long interval, able to indulge in foreign invasion. Backed by troops lent him by Dagobert, Sisinand crossed the Pyrenees, and advanced against Saragossa, where the king had marched forward to meet him. No battle took place, for the matter was settled by treachery. The great nobles and bishops, Rebellion of who had obeyed Swinthila's summons to war, seized Sisimand, 631 him in his own camp, threw him into chains, and handed him over to Sisinand. The usurper, more merciful than many Gothic rebels, contented himself with casting Swinthila into a monastery, and did not put him to death. Sisinand had promised his Frankish friend to surrender to him in return for his help the most splendid treasure in the Gothic royal hoard, a great golden bowl of Roman workmanship, weighing five hundred pounds, a trophy of the old

wars of the fifth century. He gave up the vessel to Dagobert's ambassadors, but, when it was seen departing from Spain, the Gothic counts swore that such an ancient heirloom of their kings must never leave the land, and took it back by force. In its lieu Sisinand sent to Dagobert a sum of 200,ooo gold solidi (A. 140,000). Sisinand was a weak ruler, the tool and instrument of his bishops. Under his impotent hands all the power and authority of the royal name melted away, and the work of Sisibut and Swinthila was undone. The Church and not he ruled Spain. When synods met, the king was seen on bended knee, and with streaming eyes, lamenting his sins, and begging the counsel of the holy fathers. He reigned only for five years (631-36), and was succeeded by Chinthila, another chosen instrument of the hierarchy, of whom we know little more than that “he held many synods with his bishops, and strengthened himself by the help of the true faith.’ He reigned only three years, but was allowed by his Priest-ridden clerical partisans to have his son Tulga crowned kings, 63-41. as his successor before he died. Tulga, another obedient son of the Church, had only reigned two years when he was dethroned by a conspiracy of the great lay nobles, to whom the domination of the clergy in the State became more and more odious under the twelve years' rule of three priest-ridden kings. Tulga was sent to pursue the congenial path of piety in a monastery, while the National Assembly, convened by the conspirators, elected as king count Chindaswinth, whose virtues were recognised by all, while his great age—he was no less than seventy-nine—promised a free hand to his turbulent subjects (641). But the nobles had erred greatly in their estimate of Chindaswinth, as grievously as did the misled cardinals, who, in a later age, elected the apparently moribund Sixtus v. to the Papacy. The touch of the crown on his brow seemed to give back his youth and vigour to the old man, and the Goths found that a king of the type of Leovigild and Swinthila, a PERIOD I. P

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

stern repressor of lawlessness and feudal anarchy, was reigning
over them. Chindaswinth set himself at once to revindicate the
royal prerogative, both against the great nobles and against the
chindaswinth, ecclesiastical synods. His hand fell heavily upon
641-52. the traitors who, twelve years before, had be-
trayed Swinthila; he began to seek them out, and to execute
them. At once the majority of the nobles of Spain burst into
revolt. Some fled to Africa, and borrowed aid from the
Byzantine exarch, others to the kings of the Franks. But
Chindaswinth beat down all their risings, and quenched the
flame of insurrection in the blood of two hundred nobles, and
five hundred men of lesser rank, whom he handed over to the
headsman. “He tamed the Goths so that they dared attempt
nothing more against him, as they had so often done with
their kings, for the Goths are a hard-necked folk, and need
a heavy yoke for their shoulders.’ When the revolt was
crushed, Chindaswinth compelled the bishops assembled
in synod at Toledo to pronounce a solemn curse on all
rebellious nobles—" tyranni,’ he called them—and to decree
the penalty of deprivation of orders and excommunication on
all members of the clergy who should be found consenting to
the plots of the ‘tyrants’ (646).
Chindaswinth's heavy hand won Spain seven years of peace
in the latter end of his reign, and he was able to associate
with himself on the throne his son Recceswinth, without any
of the Goths daring to murmur. The father and son reigned
together for three years, Recceswinth discharging the func-
tions of king, while Chindaswinth gave himself up to works of
piety. Their joint rule is marked by one very important in-
cident, showing the completion of the process of unification,
which had begun by the conversion of Reccared to Catholicism
Laws of in 589. Goth and Spaniard were now so much
chindaswinth, assimilated to each other that the kings thought
that they might for the future be ruled by a single code of
laws. The races were beginning to be completely intermixed.
Spanish counts and dukes are as numerous in the end of the

period as Gothic bishops and abbots. The one race had no longer the monopoly of secular power, nor the other that of ecclesiastical promotion. Chindaswinth resolved to suspend the use of the old Roman law in his dominion, and to make all his subjects use Gothic law, though he introduced into the latter a considerable Roman element. The advantage of the new code of Chindaswinth was that the counts and wicarii, the king's immediate representatives, had for the future full jurisdiction over the whole native Spanish element, including the clergy; for the Spaniards were deprivéd of their Roman law-book, the Breviarium Alarici, and of their own courts and judges, and were subjected for legal, no less than for administrative or military matters, to the Gothic count. At the same time the prohibition against marriage between Goths and Provincials, which still nominally existed, though it was frequently broken since the time of Leovigild, was removed, and all the king's subjects became equal in the eye of the law. Chindaswinth died in 652, at the great age of ninety, unparalleled among Teutonic kings of his day. His son and colleague, Recceswinth, already well advanced down the vale of years, survived for twenty years more. He had the longest, quietest, and, in a way, the most prosperous reign of any of the Visigothic kings. Unlike his father, he was a devoted supporter of the Church, and, by the aid of the bishops, maintained his rule until the day of his death. But he was gradu ally letting slip once more all the royal powers Reeces winth, which his father had with such trouble regained 652-72. and restored. As he grew older the entire rule of the State dropped once more into the hands of bishops and synods. Recceswinth was busy all his days in building churches, and making great offerings to the saints. Chance has preserved to us one huge gold crown, with a dedicatory inscription, which he presented to the Virgin; it now forms the pride of the Cluny Museum at Paris, and is the best monument of the rude Teutonic art of the time, except, perhaps, the golden offerings of Agilulf and Theodelinda at Monza.1

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »