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Visigoths(West Goths), division of the Goths, one of the most important groups of GermansGermans,
great ethnic complex of ancient Europe, a basic stock in the composition of the modern peoples of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, N Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, N and central France, Lowland Scotland, and England.
..... Click the link for more information. . Having settled in the region W of the Black Sea in the 3d cent. A.D., the Goths soon split into two divisions, the OstrogothsOstrogoths
(East Goths), division of the Goths, one of the most important groups of the Germans. According to their own unproven tradition, the ancestors of the Goths were the Gotar of S Sweden. By the 3d cent. A.D., the Goths settled in the region N of the Black Sea.
..... Click the link for more information. and the Visigoths.
In the Roman Empire
By the 4th cent. the Visigoths were at the borders of the East Roman Empire, raiding across the Danube River, and peacefully infiltrating the trans-Danubian provinces. Constantine I was troubled by the Visigoths, but they became a real menace only after the middle of the 4th cent. At that time groups of Visigoths had settled in Dacia as agriculturalists, and many had accepted Arian Christianity (see ArianismArianism
, Christian heresy founded by Arius in the 4th cent. It was one of the most widespread and divisive heresies in the history of Christianity. As a priest in Alexandria, Arius taught (c.
..... Click the link for more information. ), partly as a result of the work of UlfilasUlfilas
[Gothic,=little wolf], c.311–383, Gothic bishop, translator of the Bible into Gothic. He was converted to Christianity at Constantinople and was consecrated bishop (341) by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.
..... Click the link for more information. . About 364 a group of Visigoths devastated Thrace, and punitive measures were undertaken against them. They were also involved in the revolt (366) of Procopius.
Until 369 Emperor ValensValens
, c.328–378, Roman emperor of the East (364–78). Brother and coregent of Valentinian I, Valens followed in most respects his brother's policies but, unlike him, embraced Arian Christianity (see Arianism).
..... Click the link for more information. waged war successfully against the Visigoths, who were led by AthanaricAthanaric
, d. 381, Visigothic chieftain. He led the Visigoths against Emperor Valens and negotiated a favorable peace in 369. A pagan, he persecuted the Christians, and, possibly for that reason, he was involved in a civil war with Fritigern.
..... Click the link for more information. . Athanaric asserted his supremacy over FritigernFritigern
, d. 380, Visigothic chieftain. An intermittent rival of Athanaric for leadership of the Visigoths, he adopted Arian Christianity (see Arianism) and thus gained the support of Emperor Valens.
..... Click the link for more information. , a rival Visigothic leader who then retired into the Roman Empire and obtained Roman aid against Athanaric. However, the internal affairs of the Goths became of secondary importance to the invasion (c.375) of their lands by the HunsHuns,
nomadic and pastoral people of unknown ethnological affinities who appeared in Europe in the 4th cent. A.D., and built up an empire there. They were organized in a predominantly military manner.
..... Click the link for more information. . Athanaric retired to Transylvania, and the majority of the Visigoths joined Fritigern and fled (376) into the empire. Subjected to oppressive measures by Roman officials, these Visigothic settlers soon rose in revolt. Opposed by Emperor Valens at Adrianople in 378, the Goths won a decisive victory. They then swept across the upper Balkan Peninsula and ravaged Thrace. Theodosius ITheodosius I
or Theodosius the Great,
346?–395, Roman emperor of the East (379–95) and emperor of the West (394–95), son of Theodosius, the general of Valentinian I.
..... Click the link for more information. immediately took up arms against them. In 382 peace was finally concluded, and the Goths under Athanaric were settled in Thrace. Friction, however, continued.
In 395, after the death of Theodosius I, the Visigothic troops in Roman service proclaimed Alaric IAlaric I
, c.370–410, Visigothic king. He headed the Visigothic troops serving Emperor Theodosius I. After the emperor's death (395) the troops rebelled and chose Alaric as their leader (see Visigoths). Alaric devastated Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece.
..... Click the link for more information. their leader; under his strong guidance they first developed the concept of kingship. Alaric led a revolt in the Balkan Peninsula but was checked by StilichoStilicho, Flavius
, d. 408, Roman general, a Vandal. He was the chief general of Theodosius I, whose niece he married. By order of Theodosius, he served after Theodosius' death (395) as the regent for Honorius in the West.
..... Click the link for more information. . In 401 Alaric began his attacks on Italy; he was halted by Stilicho, but after Stilicho's death he succeeded in his invasion, and the Visigoths became masters of Italy. Negotiations between Alaric and Emperor HonoriusHonorius,
384–423, Roman emperor of the West (395–423). On the death (395) of Theodosius I, the Roman Empire was divided; Arcadius, the elder son, received the East, and Honorius, the younger son, received the West. This division proved to be a permanent one.
..... Click the link for more information. failed, and in 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome. Alaric died soon afterward.
, d. 415, Visigothic king (410–15). Succeeding his brother-in-law, Alaric I, he abandoned Alaric's scheme of southward expansion and led the Visigoths out of Italy into S Gaul (France) in 412.
..... Click the link for more information. the Visigoths left (412) Italy and went into S Gaul and N Spain. They increased their territories in Spain (which was evacuated by the VandalsVandals,
ancient Germanic tribe. They originated in N Jutland and, along with other Germanic peoples, settled in the valley of the Oder about the 5th cent. B.C. They appeared in Pannonia and Dacia in the 3d cent. A.D., apparently under imperial aegis. In the early 5th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. ), acquired AquitaineAquitaine
, Lat. Aquitania, former duchy and kingdom in SW France. Julius Caesar conquered the Aquitani, an Iberian people of SW Gaul, in 56 B.C. The province that he created occupied the territory between the Garonne River and the Pyrenees; under Roman rule it was
..... Click the link for more information. , and extended their influence to the Loire valley, making Toulouse their capital. The height of Visigothic power was reached under EuricEuric
, d. c.484, king of the Visigoths (466–c.484), brother and successor of Theodoric II. He made Toulouse his capital and under him the Visigothic kingdom reached its greatest extent, including the Iberian peninsula and southern Gaul.
..... Click the link for more information. (466–84), who completed the conquest of Spain. In 507, Alaric IIAlaric II,
d. 507, Visigothic king of Spain and of S Gaul (c.484–507), son and successor of Euric. He issued (506) at Toulouse the Breviary of Alaric for his Roman subjects.
..... Click the link for more information. was defeated at Vouillé by the Franks under Clovis, to whom he lost nearly all his possessions N of the Pyrenees. Toledo became the new Visigothic capital, and the history of the Visigoths became essentially that of SpainSpain,
Span. España , officially Kingdom of Spain, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 40,341,000), 194,884 sq mi (504,750 sq km), including the Balearic and Canary islands, SW Europe.
..... Click the link for more information. .
Weakened by warfare with the Franks and the Basques and by Byzantine penetration in S Spain, the kingdom recovered its vigor in the late 6th cent. under LeovigildLeovigild
, d. 586, Visigothic king of Spain (568–86), brother and successor of Athanagild. He was joint ruler to 573 with his brother Liuva. He reorganized the administration and assumed a royal pomp that imitated that of the Byzantine court.
..... Click the link for more information. and under RecaredRecared
(Recared I) , d. 601, Visigothic king in Spain (586–601), son and successor of Leovigild. Although before his accession he had greatly distinguished himself in warfare with the Franks, he did not pursue his father's policy of conquest.
..... Click the link for more information. , whose conversion to Catholicism facilitated the fusion of the Visigothic and the Hispano-Roman populations of Spain. King RecceswinthRecceswinth
, d. 672, Visigothic king of Spain (653–72). He was the son of Chindaswinth, who in 649 admitted him to joint rule. Recceswinth succeeded to the throne without election, thereby violating the Visigothic tradition enjoining election of the king by the nobility.
..... Click the link for more information. imposed (c.654) a Visigothic common law on both his Gothic and his Roman subjects, who previously had lived under different codes (see Germanic lawsGermanic laws,
customary law codes of the Germans before their contact with the Romans. They are unknown to us except through casual references of ancient authors and inferences from the codes compiled after the tribes had invaded the Roman Empire.
..... Click the link for more information. ). The church councils of Toledo became the main force in the government, and the royal power was weakened accordingly.
King Wamba, who succeeded Recceswinth, was deposed after a civil war, and thereafter the kingdom was torn by civil strife. When the last king, RoderickRoderick
, d. 711?, last Visigothic king in Spain (710–711?). After the death of King Witiza, a group of nobles chose Roderick, duke of Baetica, as successor to the king. Having defeated Witiza's son, Roderick established himself on the throne.
..... Click the link for more information. , seized the throne, his rivals appealed to the Muslim leader Tarik ibn ZiyadTarik ibn Ziyad
, fl. 711, Berber leader of the Muslim invaders of Spain. When the heirs of the Visigothic king, Witiza, requested help from the Moors of N Africa against the usurper Roderick, Tarik, with his Moorish army, crossed (711) from Africa to Gibraltar (originally named
..... Click the link for more information. , whose victory (711) in a battle near Medina Sidonia ended the Visigothic kingdom and inaugurated the Moorish period in the history of Spain.
See T. Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, Vol. I–III (2d ed. 1892–96, repr. 1967); E. A. Thompson, The Goths in Spain (1969); A. Barbero, The Day of the Barbarians (2007).
(West Goths, or Thervingi), a Germanic tribe, a western branch of the Goths. The Visigoths, who lived east of the Dnestr River in the third and fourth centuries, participated (from the 370’s) in the Great Migration of Peoples. In 418 they founded a kingdom in southern Gaul—the first barbarian kingdom on the territory of the Western Roman Empire—with Toulouse as its center. In the second half of the fifth century they conquered the greater part of Spain, which (after the Visigoths lost southern Gaul to the Franks in 507) became the main territory of the kingdom of the Visigoths. Its capital from the middle of the sixth century was the city of Toledo. The Visigoths confiscated two-thirds of the arable land from some of the local landowners. Close contact with Roman customs furthered the transformation of the Visigoths from a patrimonial-tribal order to an early feudal one. The Visigoths—conquerors who were the predominant ethnic group in the western Gothic kingdom— gradually mixed with the local Spanish-Roman population and were assimilated by them. In the years 711-718 the Visigothic state was conquered by the Arabs.
REFERENCEKorsunskii, A. R. “O razvitii feodal’nykh otnoshenii v gotskoi Is-panii V-VII vv.” In the collection Srednie veka, part 10. Moscow, 1957; part 15. Moscow, 1959; part 19. Moscow, 1961.
A. R. KORSUNSKII