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Egica, however, was not destined to see the day of trial, nor was his son Witiza (701-710), of whom absolutely nothing is known, save that he was ‘popular with the people but hated by the clergy.” The details of his evil doings are the mere imaginings of the monkish writers of the tenth century. In his own time they were not written down, for within two years of his death Spain had fallen under the power of the Moor, and no native chronicler had the heart to detail the last hours of the old Visigothic kingdom. Witiza died young, leaving two sons who were not old enough to wear the crown. The Goths chose, therefore, as their king a certain count Roderic, who is a mere name to us—though the later chroniclers say, what is likely enough, that he was a kinsman of Chindaswinth and Erwig, and therefore hostile to the house of Wamba and Egica. He reigned but eighteen months, for in his time came the evil day of Spain. The Saracen conquerors of Africa had spent the last twenty years in taming the Moors and Berbers. All the tribes had now bowed to their yoke and accepted Islam : swelled to vast numbers by the new converts, and yearning for fresh fields to, conquer, the Arab chiefs were preparing to leap over the narrow strait of Gibraltar, and throw themselves upon the Spanish peninsula. The romantic legends of a later generation tell a lurid tale of the wickedness of king Roderic, how he violated the daughter of count Julian, the governor of Ceuta, and how the outraged father betrayed his fortress, the key of the straits, to the Moors, and guided them over to the shores of Andalusia. All this is purely unhistoric. There is no reason for believing that Roderic was better or worse than his predecessors; of his character we know nothing: his very existence is only vouched for by a name and date in the list of Gothic kings, and by a few very rare coins. This much we know, that ere he had been eighteen months on the throne the Moors landed in force at Calpe, thenceforth to be known as Jebel-Tarik (Gibraltar), from the name of their leader. They began to lay waste Andalusia, and Roderic came out against them at the head of the whole host of Visigothic Spain, which must now have been composed—as the laws of Wamba show us—of a few wealthy counts and bishops heading a great multitude of their serfs and dependants. The levy of the Visigoths proved far less able to resist the Moslems than had been the troops of Byzantium. Battle of the On the banks of the Guadelete, near Medina Guadelete, 711. Sidonia, Tarik gained a decisive victory. Roderic was slain or drowned in the pursuit, the Gothic army dispersed, and without having to fight any second battle the invaders mastered Spain. In less than two years (711-13) Tarik and his superior officer Musa, the governor of Africa, subdued the whole country; a few places, such as Cordova, Merida, and Saragossa, held out for a short space, but the Goths did not choose a new king or rally for any general effort of resistance. By 713 the only corner of Spain which had not submitted was the mountainous coast of the Bay of Biscay, where the untameable Basques and the inhabitants of the Asturias maintained a precarious liberty, preserved rather by their obscurity and the ruggedness of their homes than by the inability of the Moslems to complete their conquest. So fell Visigothic Spain. The reasons are not far to seek: the kings—chosen from no single royal stock, but creatures of a chance election—had become powerless, the mere slaves of their clergy; the great nobles were disloyal and turbulent; causes of the the smaller freeholders had disappeared ; the fall of the great mass of serfs had no heart to fight for their * tyrannical masters. The State combined the weakness of a land under ecclesiastical governance with the turbulence of extreme feudalism. It would have fallen before the first strong invader in any case; if the Moor had not crossed the straits, Spain would probably have become an appanage of the Frankish realm under the mighty Mayors of the Palace, or the still mightier Charles the Great. .
Dynastic troubles after the death of Heraclius—Wars of Constantinus (Constans II.) with the Caliphate—His publication of the “Type'—His invasion of Italy and war with the Lombards—Reign of Constantine v. —His successful defence of Constantinople—Tyranny of Justinian II.His deposition—Usurpations of Leontius and Tiberius—Justinian restored —Anarchy follows his murder–Rise of Leo the Isaurian.
At the moment of the death of the unfortunate Heraclius the East-Roman Empire was left in a most disadvantageous position for resisting the vigorous attack which the Moslems were pressing against its remaining provinces. Yielding to the influence of his ambitious wife Martina, the old emperor had left the imperial power divided between Heraclius Constantinus, the offspring of his first wife, and Martina's eldest son Heracleonas. The elder of the young emperors was twenty-nine, the younger only sixteen. Their joint reign opened ill, for Heraclius Constantinus and his step-mother, who acted in all things as the representative of her young son, were at open discord. But before three months had elapsed Heraclius Constantinus died ; it is pro- Troubles at bable that his decease was due to natural causes, Constanti
but the Byzantine public believed otherwise, **
and Martina was openly accused of having poisoned her stepson. Her conduct was not such as to render the charge improbable, for she at once proclaimed her son Heracleonas sole emperor, although Heraclius Constantinus had left two
young boys behind him,
This was more than the Constantinopolitans would stand. Rioting at once broke out, and the senate, which about this time assumes an independent attitude, very different from its usual obedient impotence, made the most strongly worded representations to Martina and her son, threatening the worst consequences if the sons of Heraclius Constantinus were excluded from the succession. In terror of their lives Martina and Heracleonas bowed to the popular will, and allowed the boy Constantinus to be crowned as the colleague of his uncle; he was no more than eleven years old at his coronation.
The joint rule of the two lads, under the regency of Martina, lasted less than a year. In September 642 the senate executed a coup d'état; Martina and her son were seized and banished to Cherson. On the accusation that they had poisoned Heraclius Constantinus they were cruelly mutilated: the tongue of the empress and the nose of Heracleonas were slit—the first instance of such a treatment of royal personages, but by no means the last in Byzantine history. Constantinus IV., or as he was more usually but less accurately styled Constans II.," thus became the sole ruler of the East ere he had finished his twelfth year. The real government was, for some time, carried on by the senate constans II., —a fact which vouches both for the loyalty of *-*. the empire to the house of Heraclius and for the great rise in the power of the senate during the last two or three generations. In earlier days there is no doubt that some powerful general would have seized the throne. But Constantinus, though his minority was not untroubled by revolts, was permitted to grow up to man's estate, and to assume in due course the personal control of the empire. It is astonishing that more evils did not come upon the State during the boyhood of Constantinus. The energetic caliph Omar was still urging on the Arabs to conquest, and with no firm hand at the helm it might have been expected that the ship of the East-Roman state would have run upon the breakers. But though the Saracens still continued to make way, the rate of their progress was checked. Alexandria, the last Christian stronghold in Egypt, had fallen during the short reign of Heracleonas. The resources of the empire were drained for an attempt to recover it, and in the second year of Constantinus a considerable expedition, under a general named Manuel, fell unexpectedly upon the place and retook it. The Arab governor of Egypt, the celebrated Amrou, had to besiege the place for more than a year before it yielded. Irritated by its long resistance he cast down its walls and massacred many of its inhabitants. It would seem that the Saracen arms were for the next few years more
THE HOUSE OF HERACLIUS.
Heraclius the Exarch.
| | CONSTANTINUS IV. (Constans II.) Theodosius, 641-668. executed 660.
| CONSTANTINE IV. or V., 668-685.
* There is no doubt that his real name was Constantinus, or in full Flavius Heraclius Constantinus. But the Western historians, and some of those of the East, call him Constans. Probably this was a mere convenience to distinguish him from his father, Heraclius Constantinus, and his son, Constantine IV. (or V.).