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Tradition speaks much of the spiritual blessings that were vouchsafed him. He and Archbishop Hildefuns were privileged to behold with their own eyes a miraculous vision of St. Leocadia, in the cathedral of Toledo. But meanwhile the kingly authority was once more vanishing away, and Recceswinth, provided that he at least enjoyed peace and pious leisure, seems to have cared little for the fate of his successors; he had himself no son to whom he could bequeath the throne. Personally he was popular—'so mild and unpretending that he could hardly be told from one of his own subjects'—and he did not reap the fruit of the seeds of weakness that he was sowing. One insignificant rebellion alone interrupted the twenty peaceful years of his reign. But meanwhile the elements of dissolution were growing in strength. The nobles were once more reasserting their old claims to feudal independence, and the clergy were growing more and more domineering.
Recceswinth died in 672, leaving no heir, and there was much disputing among the nobles as to the election of his successor. Their choice fell at last upon Wamba, a man of mature age and high reputation, but he refused to take up the burden, in spite of the acclamations with which his name was received. At last, we are told, a certain duke drew his sword, and threatened to slay him, as a traitor to his nation and his duty, if he hesitated any longer to obey the will of the assembly. Wamba bowed to this form of persuasion, and accepted the crown.
We have more knowledge of Wamba's reign than of those of his predecessors and successors, as his biography, written by bishop Julian of Toledo, has chanced to survive. We learn that he was a stern and hard master to the Goths, model
wamba, h'ng himself upon the example of Chindaswinth,
672-680. and that his reign was spent in a not unsuccessful attempt to 'recover the powers of the crown, which the pious Recceswinth had let slip. Rebellions were naturally rife when the king began to make his strong hand felt. The untameable Basques took to arms, and, while Wamba was busy in their mountains, a more dangerous rising took place in Septimania, where a certain count Hilderic raised the standard of revolt. The king sent against them a large army, under duke Paulus, a trusted officer of Roman blood. But, instead of attacking the rebels, the treacherous Paulus opened negotiations with them, debauched the chiefs of his own Rebellion of army, and suddenly proclaimed himself king. Paulus, 673. The challenge which he is said to have sent to Wamba deserves, perhaps, to be recorded for its strange and highflown style. 'In the name of God,' wrote the usurper, 'Flavius Paulus, the mighty king of the East, greets Wamba, the king of the West. If thou hast traversed the rough, unpeopled waste of the mountains; if thou hast burst through woods and thickets like some strong lion; if thou hast tamed the swiftness of the wild goat, and the bounding stag, and the ravening boar and bear; if thou hast cast out the poison of snake and adder,—then make thyself known to me, thou man of arms, lord of the woods, and lover of the rocks, and hasten to meet me, that we may strive against each other in song, like nightingales. Wherefore, great king, stir up thy heart to strength, come down to the passes of the Pyrenees, and there shalt thou find an athlete with whom thou mayest worthily contend.'
Paulus was taken at his word, the 'lord of the woods' flew down in haste from the Basque mountains, and had thrown himself upon the rebel army before a single week was out. He forced the passes of the Pyrenees, driving the troops of Paulus before him, and then threw himself upon Narbonne, the capital of Septimania. The town was stormed by main force, after a siege of only three days, and, when it had fallen, Wamba recovered most of the other towns between the mountains and the Rhone. Paulus took refuge in the strong town of Nismes, and sent to ask help of the Franks. But the king was too quick for him. The Goths had grown skilled in the art of poliorcetics during their long struggle to expel the Byzantines from Andalusia, and, by means of his siege-machines, Wamba took Nismes on the second day of its leaguer. Paulus and his chiefs then shut themselves up in the great Roman amphitheatre, which they had turned into a citadel. In a few days they were reduced by famine to throw themselves on the king's mercy. Wamba swore to spare their lives, and Paulus, with six-and-twenty counts and chiefs, gave themselves up to his mercy. The king had their beards and hair plucked out by the roots, and led them in triumph to Toledo, where they were marched through the town in chains and barefoot, clothed in shirts of sackcloth, with Paulus in front, wearing a leather crown, fastened on to his bare scalp by a pitch-plaster. The names of the six-andtwenty have survived. They included one bishop (a Goth), one priest of Roman blood, and twenty-four counts and chiefs, of whom seventeen have Gothic and seven Roman names.
This blow to the unruly Gothic nobles secured Wamba a quiet reign. He sat on the throne for seven years more (673680), in peace and prosperity, endeavouring to palliate as best
Laws of he could the diseases of the Visigothic state.
Wamba. Some of his laws show clearly enough the dangers of the times. So far had the class of small freeholders, who should have composed the bulk of the royal host, now disappeared that Wamba ordains that for the future slaves, as well as freemen, are to obey the royal summons to war. He even ordered that the bishops were to head their serfs in the field, a command which was deeply resented by the clergy, though a few generations later we find the practice common enough both in England, Gaul, and Germany.
Wamba lost his throne by a curious chance or, perhaps, by a still more curious plot. He fell ill in 680, was given over by the physicians, and fell into a long stupor. His attendants, in accordance with a frequent practice of the day, clad him in monkish robes and shore his hair to the tonsure, that he might die 'in religion.' Then before the breath was out of his body his most trusted officer, count Erwig, seized the royal hoard and declared himself king. Erwig was a great-nephew of king Chindaswinth, and looked upon himself as . the heir of his cousin, Recceswinth, Wamba's predecessor. Yet he was not of pure Visigothic blood; his father Artavasdes was a refugee from Byzantium, whom Chindaswinth had taken into favour and honoured with the gift of his niece's hand.
To the dismay of the palace the aged Wamba did not die: he recovered from his long stupor and began to mend. But the new king and the court clergy joined in assuring him that —even though he knew it not—he had become a monk, and could not resume his lay attire or his royal authority. Apparently Wamba was not above the superstitions of his day; he resigned himself to the idea, and retired to the monastery of Pampliega, where he lived to a great old age. It was afterwards rumoured, whether truly or falsely, that his long trance had not been natural, but that Erwig, seeing him on the bed of sickness, had given him a strong sleepingpotion, and deliberately enfrocked him by fraud in order to seize the crown.
Wamba was the last of the Visigoths; the four kings who followed him are mere shadows, crowned phantoms of whom we know little or nothing, for with Wamba's death the history of Spain sinks into the blackest obscurity. Their The last names were Erwig (680-87), Egica (687-701), Gothic kingsWitiza (701-10), and Roderic (710-11). Of the last two we know little more than the names, but a few facts are ascertainable about Erwig and Egica.
The former, though he had nerve enough to seize the throne, had not courage to defend the royal rights. He let the crown sink back into the same state of dependence on the church into which it had fallen in the days of Sisinand and Recceswinth. He was ruled and managed by Julian, the bishop of Toledo, and appears to have been far less truly king of Spain than was that prelate. At Julian's behest he repealed the military laws of Wamba, because they bore hardly on the church, and recommenced the cruel persecution of the Jews, which always accompanied the accession of a priest-ridden king to the Spanish throne.
Apparently because he was tormented by his conscience on account of his dealings with king Wamba, Erwig chose Wamba's nephew and heir Egica as his successor. Having married him to his own daughter Cixilo, and made him swear to be kind to his wife and her brothers, Erwig laid down his crown and followed Wamba into a monastery.
Egica did not keep his vow; the moment that the Gothic assembly had recognised him as king he made the bishops absolve him from his oath, and then repudiated his wife and seized the property of his brothers-in-law, the sons of Erwig. Egica's reign was marked by the last and fiercest persecution of the Jews, in which the Visigothic king and clergy ever indulged. They voted at the sixteenth Council of Toledo (695) that all adult Jews should be seized and sold as slaves, while their children were to be separated from them and given to Christian families to rear in the true faith. Under this wicked law many Hebrews conformed, and still more fled over sea to Africa. The crime which brought down this doom upon them is said to have been a plot to betray Spain to foreign enemies. A new power had just arrived in the neighbourhood of the Visigothic realm; after fifty years of Approach of fighting, the terrible and fanatical Saracen had the Saracens. just overcome the Byzantine governors of Africa and stormed Carthage (695), the last stronghold of the EastRomans. It was to them, it would seem, that the Jews had sent messages, to beg them to cross the straits and put an end to the persecuting rule of the Spanish bishops. Nothing came of the invitation at this time; but the very fact that it was possible implied the gravest change in the situation of the Visigoths. For three generations they had been lying between two weak stationary and unenterprising neighbours, the faction-ridden Franks and the exarchs of Africa. How would the decaying realm fare when attacked by a new power in the first bloom of its fanatical youth and vigour?