SPAIN, ROMAN AND GOTHIC
(From 44 B.C. to 673 A.D.)
The Strife between Pompey and Caesar.—The Victory of Caesar.—Spain under the
Caesars.—The beneficent Reign of Augustus.—Tiberius
Caligula.—Nero.—The four good Emperors.—Invasion of Spain by northern
Barbarians.—Introduction of Christianity.—Martyrdom.—The Gothic Invasion
and Empire.—Euric.—Theodoric.—The Crown elective.—The Arians and
Trinitarians.—Jealousy of the Nobles.—Adoption of the Catholic
Faith.—Collection of Wamba.—Whimsical Letter of Paul.
 IN the division which the triumvirs made between themselves of the Roman world, Spain, with
other vast possessions, was assigned to Pompey. But when civil war arose, and Pompey had
been driven out of Italy by the successful usurpation of Caesar, the conqueror marched to
Spain, to win that country from the three lieutenants to whom Pompey had intrusted its
administration. Surmounting the Alps, and marching through Southern Gaul, Caesar entered
Spain by skirting the extreme eastern termination of the Pyrenees, where they abut upon
the Mediterranean. The first encounter between the troops of Caesar and those of Pompey
was at Lerida, upon the Segre, one of the tributaries of the Ebro. Caesar routed his
foes, and was then so strengthened by the native tribes crowding to his banners that
Pompey's lieutenants found it impossible to continue the conflict, and were compelled to
make an unconditional surrender. Spain thus passed, almost without a struggle, into the
hands of Caesar. This great achievement
 was accomplished, after entering Spain, in a campaign of but forty days. Caesar, thus
victorious, assigned the two great provinces of Hither and Farther Spain, one to each of
his lieutenants, Cassius and Lepidus, and then returned to Italy to prosecute the war
Upon the fall of Pompey in Africa, his eldest son fled to Spain, with many of his father's
partisans. The memory of Pompey was still dear to many of the inhabitants, and several of
the tribes rallied around his son. Again there was civil war in Spain. Victory crowned the
first efforts of the young Pompey, and soon nearly all the peninsula was in his
possession. The emergency was so great that Caesar himself hastened, at the head of his
legions, to reconquer the country. After several indecisive battles, the two contending
forces met in great strength on the plains of Monda, twenty-four miles from Malaga. It was
manifest that, on that day of blood, the fate of the peninsula was to be decided. At the
commencement of the battle the tide of war turned against Caesar, and his ranks were
rapidly melting away before the stern blows of his assailants. Caesar was for a moment
thrown into a state of terrible agitation. Raising his helmet, he spurred his horse into
the midst of his soldiers, shouting:
"Soldiers, I am your Caesar! Veterans, after so many victories, will you suffer yourselves
to be conquered by a boy? Do you thus abandon your chief? Rather will I perish by my own
hand than by the sword of Pompey."
Thus speaking, he made a movement as if determined to kill himself, should the battle
continue to go against him. This dramatic appeal accomplished its purpose. The wavering
ranks again became firm, and with redoubled vigor they pressed forward, and gained a
 The young Pompey fled, leaving 30,000 of his followers dead upon the plain. The unhappy
son of a sire whose woes had been as great as were his abilities, was pursued, taken, and
cruelly put to death. Caesar, deeming the country subdued, returned to Rome, where the
dagger of Brutus and his confederates terminated his brilliant career.
Under the long reign of the Roman emperors who succeeded Julius Caesar, the founder of the
Empire, Spain continued one of the Roman provinces, with but little to distinguish it from
any other part of the realm. Octavius Caesar, the successor of Julius, ascended the throne
of the empire about the year 38 B.C. Octavius, who soon, from his achievements, acquired
the title of Augustus, relinquished the former division of Spain into Hither
and Farther, and instituted instead a threefold division. The whole north-eastern
part of the country was organized into a province, called Tarraconensis. The southern
section was called Baetica. The western district, embracing what is now Portugal, and its
adjacent sections, was named Lusitania.
Spain, thus organized, thickly peopled with a warlike race, and containing immense
resources of revenue, was deemed one of the most important provinces of the Roman Empire,
and Augustus Caesar decided to visit it in person. With imperial pomp he traversed the
realm, studying its capabilities and the character of its inhabitants. He speedily
discerned that the restless disposition of the natives was such that the country could
only be held by military occupation. He therefore reared many fortresses, garrisoned them
strongly, and quelled the slightest indications of revolt with a relentless hand. Thus the
spirit of the nation was subdued, and Spain, under Roman law, shared in the
 general peace and prosperity, such as they were, which the Roman Empire enjoyed.
Spain had never been so happy before as under the reign of Augustus Caesar. He did what he
could to curb the rapacity of the local governors; constructed roads and bridges, and
conferred high dignities of government upon deserving natives of the country. The
following anecdote is related, illustrative of his magnanimity, and the reputation he
There was a celebrated robber by the name of Baracota, ranging the mountains, at the head
of a determined band. He had for a long time been the terror of the country, either
eluding or cutting to pieces all the forces sent to oppose him. At length Augustus offered
a large reward for his head. Baracota, knowing that any of his followers would gladly
murder him for the reward, boldly delivered himself up to the Emperor, confessing his
crimes, promising to abandon his lawless course of life, and demanding the reward which
had been offered for his apprehension. The intrepidity of the bandit, and his confidence
in the imperial clemency, so touched the Emperor that he pardoned the robber and conferred
upon him the proffered reward.
The reign of Tiberius Caesar, who followed Augustus, was a scourge to Spain, as to all
other parts of the Roman Empire. His own rapacity was exceeded only by that of the
praetors, or governors, who ruled over the province. The taxes were doubled, the property
of the rich confiscated; children were deprived of their inheritance, and any person
whose property the tyrant coveted was sent into banishment or to the scaffold.
The reign of the infamous Caligula was still more ruinous for Spain than was that of
Tiberius Caesar. The
re-  morseless tyrant, having exhausted the revenues of Italy, plundered Spain pitilessly.
Claudius and Nero followed in his footsteps, and Spain sank deeper and deeper in the abyss
of poverty and woe. At length, goaded beyond endurance by crime and outrage of every kind,
Galba, the governor of Tarragona, in Spain, raised the standard of revolt against Nero. He
was declared emperor of the army which he had under his command, but was soon
assassinated. Vespasian, and after him Titus, endeavored to repair the wrongs which ages
of oppression had inflicted upon Spain; and prosperity was just beginning to dawn upon the
long-afflicted land, when the accession of Domitian to the throne of the empire, again
introduced, through all the provinces of the Roman world, the reign of rapine and misery.
The Emperor Trajan, who was invested with the imperial crown about the year of our Lord
97, was a Spaniard by birth. He proved one of the noblest sovereigns who ever swayed the
Roman sceptre. His reign was a gala-day for Spain. Loving his native land, he did every
thing in his power to promote its happiness by encouraging all the arts of peace. New
roads were constructed, and magnificent bridges thrown across the streams. Arches,
colonnades, and aqueducts arose, and Spain, from the Pyrenees to Europa's point, clapped
her hands for joy. Adrian, who succeeded Trajan, was also a Spaniard, and, though he
inherited not the high genius of his predecessor, he was equally attached to his native
land. Many monuments still remain in the Spanish peninsula indicative of his devotion to
the province which gave him birth. His successor, the great and good Antoninus Pius, was
a Gaul, and, under his reign, Spain, with all the rest of the Roman
 world, enjoyed prosperity. He was succeeded by Marcus Aurelius, a Spaniard, who also
secured the well-merited affection of his subjects.
The reign of these four good emperors was extended over eighty-two years, and during all
that time Spain was prosperous and happy. But then came again the reign of darkness, and
the whole world groaned beneath the iron rod of despotism. With all the rest of the
empire, Spain was crushed beneath the weight of intolerable oppression. But as years
rolled on, and corruption ate into the vitals of the Empire, the imperial arm became
weakened, and the governors of the provinces assumed more of independence, and their
extortion and tyranny passed all bounds. The people, goaded to madness, were continually
rising in blind insurrections, only to be trampled down in blood by the Roman legions. The
only object of the government seemed to be plunder; robber bands swept the country, and
poverty reigned in all dwellings excepting those of a favored few in the large cities.
To add to these almost unearthly woes, there came, about A.D. 260, a flood of foreign
invasion. Barbaric tribes, from the wilds of Germany, fierce as wolves, came sweeping
through Gaul, and, clambering the Pyrenees, ravaged Spain with the most savage
mercilessness. They trampled down the crops, burned cities and villages, and the wretched
inhabitants of the peninsula were exposed to every outrage which the imagination can
conceive. For twelve years this inundation of woe rolled over Spain almost unchecked. The
wretched Roman Empire was at this time distracted by the conflicts of no less than thirty
pretenders to the throne, and anarchy reigned throughout the known world. At length an
energetic governor, who had
 extended his sway over both Spain and Gaul, arrested the barbaric flood and turned it in
another direction. But so dreadful had been the ravages of these savage hordes, that they
were not repaired by one hundred and fifty years of succeeding peace.
The introduction of Christianity into Spain is lost in the obscurity of the past. It is
however certain that, in the early periods of the second century, Christian churches were
established in the peninsula, and that the flames of martyrdom had also been kindled
there. The martyrdom of Fructuosus, Bishop of the Church of Tarragona during the reign of
Galienus, is well authenticated. The Emperor issued a decree commanding the Christians,
under penalty of death, to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Fructuosus paid no regard to the
decree, and was consequently dragged before Emilianus, then the Roman governor of Spain.
"Art thou acquainted," inquired Emilianus, "with the decree of the Emperor?"
"What is that decree?" replied Fructuosus.
"That thou must sacrifice to the gods of Rome," was the answer.
"I adore one God only," Fructuosus replied, "our Heavenly Father, who has created heaven
"Art thou ignorant, then, that there are many gods?" responded the governor.
"I am," was the meek reply of the bishop.
The soldiers were commanded immediately to seize him, bind him hand and foot, and lead him
to the stake. Ile was seated upon a vast combustible pile, which was prepared to burst
into flame at the touch of the torch. Looking around upon his weeping friends, he said:
"My brethren, fear not that you will ever want for
 pastors. God will never forsake you. Weep not for me. These pangs will soon be over, and I
shall enter those joyful realms to which martyrdom conducts me."
As the flames wreathed around him, consuming the cords with which he was bound, he
kneeled, amidst the roaring fire, apparently as tranquil as if in his own closet; and with
clasped hands, and breathing a fervent prayer, passed away to the martyr's crown.
During the reign of Diocletian the fires of persecution blazed through the whole Spanish
peninsula. Sometimes hundreds perished together. The governor of the populous city of
Saragossa, weary of hunting out Christians and executing them one by one, issued a decree
that if the Christians would abandon the city and meet at an appointed place without the
walls, he would pardon them all, and assign them lands, where they might build a city and
live by themselves, and enjoy their religion unmolested.
Trusting to the honor of the governor, a great multitude of Christians—men, women,
and children—issued from the gates. He then treacherously fell upon them with
soldiers held in ambuscade, and every individual was massacred. Their bodies were all
thrown together upon one funeral pyre and consumed.
THE MARTYRDOM OF FRUCTUOSUS, BISHOP OF TARRAGONA.
As corruption sapped the foundations of the Roman Empire, the northern barbarians became
more bold in their assaults, and wave after wave of invasion rolled over the provinces of
Southern Europe. In many localities the barbaric tribes established themselves permanently
under their bold and sagacious chieftains. During the whole of the fifth century Spain was
the battle-ground where the savage nations of the North met and struggled for the
ascendency. In the early part of the century three Germanic
 tribes, the Suevi, the Alans, and the Vandals, came rushing over the Pyrenees, and, after
perpetrating every imaginable enormity upon the native inhabitants, took possession of
the country and divided it between them.
But soon there came another people, the Goths, more powerful than the three tribes united
which had preceded them, and commenced a desperate struggle to wrest Spain from its
conquerors, and to appropriate it to themselves. Many campaigns of blood and woe ensued,
with conflagrations, massacres, murders, and violence, which could not have been exceeded
had the combatants been demons instead of men. In the progress of this war the Alans were
annihilated. Still the war continued with occasional lulls, the Goths gradually gaining
ground, until finally the Vandals abandoned the country, and crossing the Straits, a
tribe of 80,000 souls, carried the terror of their arms into Africa. This was in March,
The Suevi and the Goths were now alone left to struggle for the supremacy. It is true
that there were some slight lingerings still of Roman power in portions of the peninsula,
but so slight as scarcely to deserve notice. In a series of campaigns, extending through
ten years, the Suevi gradually gained the entire ascendency.
But they were not permitted long to enjoy their triumph. Another contestant suddenly
appeared upon the bloody arena, as the war-cry of the Huns resounded through the defiles
of the mountains, and roused anew the clamor of battle. Suevi and Hun now rushed upon each
other with gory clubs, and bit the dust together. But again, in the midst of these scenes
of demoniac crime and misery, the banners of another host are seen hurrying to the battle.
The Heruli landed from their boats upon the
 coast of Calabria, and plunged eagerly into the thickest of the fight. As wolves
frantically struggle over the bones they have already gnawed bare of all their flesh, so
did barbarian contend with barbarian over the skeleton remains of miserable Spain. There
was no longer any law in the land. Spain had become barbaric. Robbery, violence, murder
devasted the country from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar's rock.
About 466 A.D., Euric, at the head of an immense Gothic force, descended from Gaul upon
Spain, and soon succeeded in bringing the whole realm into subjection to his sway. The
Suevi were driven into the south-west portion of the kingdom, where they were permitted to
live in peace, as the vassals of the conqueror. Euric, surrounded by his invincible
warriors, was now recognized as the monarch of Spain, and is regarded as the founder of
the Gothic kingdom there. The Emperor, Julius Nepos, was glad to make peace with this
warlike and triumphant sovereign by surrendering to him not only Spain, but the whole
country beyond the Alps. Thus France, then called Gaul, and Spain became one Gothic
empire, under Euric, more powerful at that time than decaying Rome itself.
Euric established the seat of his empire at Arles, in Gaul, on the Rhone, about thirty
miles from its mouth. The Roman sway had now disappeared from these realms forever. Thus,
what is called the Gothic kingdom was founded and consolidated in Spain. All the remnants
of the various tribes who had inundated the country were gradually blended, with the
native inhabitants, into a homogeneous people. Euric appears to have been a man of much
intelligence, and vigorously he engaged in the work of reducing his realms to order. He
established the famous
 code of Gothic law, still known as the Forum Judicum. He was nominally a Christian, though
he adopted the Arian doctrine, and with merciless cruelty persecuted those Christians who
adhered to the Trinitarian faith. Euric died at Arles in the year 483, and his son,
Alaric, was elected by the warlike chieftains to succeed him on the throne.
Alaric was unable to retain the empire which his father's sword had won. Clovis, from
Northern Gaul, came down upon him, at the head of his warlike Franks, and the armies of
Alaric were dispersed, and the king himself slain. A northern nation, called the
Ostrogoths, had now taken possession of Italy, and Theodoric, their king, wrested Spain
from Gensealic, the feeble successor of Alaric. Thus the peninsula became a province of
the Italian Ostrogoths, governed by a general whom Theodoric intrusted with the
administration. This general, Theudis, was also an Arian, but, unlike Euric, he left those
of a different faith in the undisturbed enjoyment of their religion. His rule was upright
and sagacious. Laws were ordained, churches constructed, public improvements encouraged,
and councils convened to settle important and disputed doctrines of the Christian faith.
Theodoric was the first who introduced the custom of temporal sovereigns appointing to
offices in the Church of Christ. His favorites he placed in the Episcopal chairs, thus
secularizing the Church, and placing its offices of influence and honor by the side of
those of the army and the navy.
Theodoric, just before his death, surrendered the dominion of Spain, with the southern
portion of Gaul, to his grandson, Amalaric, and thus Spain became again an independent
kingdom. Seville was chosen as the metropolis of
 this realm, which embraced the Pyrenees, and extended for many leagues along their
northern slopes. But Amalaric soon fell in battle, engaged in a war with the Franks. A
Gothic chieftain by the name of Theudis, was elected to the vacant throne. He was soon
deprived of his inheritance in Gaul, and his soldiers were driven across the Pyrenees into
Spain. The triumphant foe even pursued the fugitives down into the plains of the
peninsula, and ravaged its provinces with their merciless arms. After a stormy reign,
Theudis fell beneath the dagger of an assassin.
Theudisel succeeded to the throne. He was a monster of wickedness, indulging in brutal
passions without restraint, and trampling with grossest violence upon all the most sacred
relations of domestic life. A Gothic king in that day was elevated but little above his
warrior nobles, and the dagger was the facile instrument with which to remove an obnoxious
incumbent from the throne. One evening Theudisel was supping with his court in his palace
at Seville, in commemoration of a recent victory, when, at a given signal, the lamps were
extinguished, and a dozen swords, wielded by the nervous hands of outraged husbands and
fathers, pierced his body.
Agilan succeeded him. His short reign was an incessant tempest. Many parts of Spain
refused to acquiesce in his election. Civil war raged cruelly. The king was driven from
his capital, and forced to take refuge in Merida. Surrounded by defeat, and with
insurrection triumphant all over the land, he was slain by his own soldiers.
Athanagild, a Gothic noble, who was the leading spirit in this triumphant revolt, obtained
aid in his rebellion from the Emperor Justinian. The death of Agilan however did by no
means end the strife; on the contrary, it was but
 the signal for a still more deadly conflict among the combatants for the booty. The
troops of Justinian were fighting for the Emperor, and not for Athanagild, and they
remained for some time in Spain struggling for the possession of its provinces. They were
eventually overcome, and the victor, with his sword ever unsheathed, maintained his
In this day, when the Church had come to be regarded as one of the most potent
institutions of the State, religious disputes necessarily became the dividing line between
political parties. The great conflict between the Arians and the Trinitarians agitated
all Christendom. The rancor of feeling was as severe, and the persecution as bitter, as
has ever existed between Catholic and Protestant, or Aristocrat and Democrat. It was
political rather than religious zeal which envenomed the dispute. It would be tedious to
follow the details of the strifes and the battles to which this division led. There was a
succession of sovereigns whose reigns were agitated by this politico-religious contest.
One of these sovereigns, Leovigild, in his exasperation, caused the head of his son to be
cleft by a hatchet, because he refused to abjure the Catholic faith and adopt that of
Leovigild persecuted the Catholics fiercely. He plundered their churches and monasteries,
and extorted vast sums from the rich as the penalty of their faith, while others were
sent into exile, to the dungeon, and even to the scaffold. With the money thug acquired,
he surrounded his court with unwonted splendor. He was publicly crowned, a pageant in
which no other Gothic king had indulged, for the king had heretofore been considered but
very slightly elevated above the chieftains who elected
 him. He reared a magnificent throne in his palace, and studiously surrounded himself with
all the pomp and pageantry of royalty. For the first time, under his reign, the effigy of
the king was stamped upon the coin, with a diadem upon his brow.
Upon the death of Leovigild, in the year 589, his son, Recared I., was unanimously chosen
as his successor. Apparently from sincere conviction he gradually abandoned the tenets of
Arius, and espoused the Catholic cause. With singular sagacity, he adopted measures to
bring back the whole Arian portion of the Spanish Church to the ancient faith. The
treasure which had been wrested from the Catholic Church was restored. Public discussions
were encouraged, at which the king presided, exerting a gentle but decided influence in
behalf of the cause he had secretly espoused. By a merciful yet firm government, and by
great kindness to the poor, he won general popularity. Having thus prepared the way for
his attempt to establish unity of religious faith throughout his realms, he assembled a
general council of his clergy and nobles at Toledo on the 8th of May, 589. After the
council had devoted three days to fasting and prayer, the king, in a carefully prepared
speech, opened the subject for which he had convened them. The substance of his address
was as follows:
"Religion is a subject more important than all others to man, since it involves not only
his prosperity in this life, but also his eternal welfare in the life to come. Unhappily
antagonistic schemes of religion divide the Church in Spain. The most careful
consideration has convinced me that the ancient Catholic system is the religion of the
Bible, and I wish now publicly to make a profession of my Christian faith in connection
with that Church. Though my
con-  science impels me to this step, still I have no wish to constrain the conscience of any
other man. But if unity of religious faith can by any possibility be restored to Spain, it
will prove the greatest blessing which could be conferred upon the realm, introducing
peace to the distracted kingdom, and promoting national prosperity and individual
happiness. I do therefore now publicly abjure the errors of Arianism, and declare my
belief in the co-equality of the three persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Ghost, and I submit myself to the authority of the Catholic and Apostolic Church.
It is also my earnest desire that all who are present should follow my example."
The king was beloved, and love is far more potent in promoting conversion than argument.
Denominational differences are ordinarily social in their origin, the result of elective
affinities rather than of intellectual conviction. Religious theses and political
platforms were at this time so blended that partisanship rather than enlightened
conscientiousness controlled in the Church as well as in the State. The speech of the
popular king was received with a general burst of applause. Nearly all the prelates and
nobles, who were present, with enthusiasm followed the king. Their assent was given with
such singular unanimity that immediately it was decreed that the Catholic religion should
be henceforth the religion of the State, and that no person should be admitted to the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper, who would not first give his assent to the orthodox creed
sanctioned by the Council of Constantinople. Some of the more vigorous or conscientious of
the Arian prelates denounced this apostasy, as they deemed it, in unmeasured terms. Their
indignation led so far as even to incite them to conspire against the life of the king.
 The Gothic kingdom of Spain, at this time, extended across the Pyrenees into Gaul; and,
though the Franks sent a force of sixty thousand men to recover Southern Gaul from
Recared, they were utterly routed, leaving nine thousand of their number dead upon the
field. The reign of Recared was singularly prosperous and happy. He seems to have devoted
all his energies with great sagacity to the promotion of the welfare of his subjects. He
died A.D. 601.
Several kings succeeded, during whose reigns nothing of moment occurred. Liuva, after a
weak and brief reign, was assassinated. Witeric succeeded, and closed a few years of shame
and calamity by being murdered at his own table, and his body was thrown contemptuously
into a ditch. Gundemar, in whose hands the sceptre was next placed, was a warrior, and,
after a few military exploits of some renown, died in his bed. Sisebert then accepted the
perilous diadem. He was an energetic king, and he displayed a degree of humanity
marvelous in those days, even weeping over the gory spectacle of the battle-field, and
doing every thing in his power to mitigate the inevitable horrors of war. And yet, with
this humanity for Spaniards and Goths, and all included, even nominally, within the
Christian pale, he was merciless beyond all bounds in his treatment of the Jews. He issued
a decree that every Jew, unless he would submit to the ordinance of baptism, and profess
the Christian faith, should be publicly scourged, stripped of all his possessions, and
turned loose to starve. By this horrid intolerance, eighty thousand were compelled to
receive baptism. Many escaped into France, and many, sternly adhering to the faith of
their fathers, suffered, to the bitter end, this cruel persecution.
The Jew, while thus forcibly submitting to baptism, and
 partaking of the bread and the wine, cursed Christ in his heart; and it soon became so
evident that this violence was promoting hypocrisy, not Christianity, that by a council
convened at Toledo the very sensible resolve was adopted that the sacrament should
henceforth be administered only to those who wished to receive it. Independently of this
persecution, which the darkness of the age explains but does not excuse, Sisebert was a
wise and patriotic sovereign. He took much interest in mercantile affairs, and commenced
the construction of a fleet. He was also much of a scholar, and several of his letters
still remain. At the time of his death, in the year 621, Spain was probably in a higher
state of prosperity than it had ever been before.
His son, Recared, who was elected to succeed him, after a short reign of three months sank
into the grave, and the Gothic nobles placed Swintila in the supreme command. With amazing
energy he commenced his reign, and singular prosperity crowned his administration. But
success and power fostered pride and cruelty. He become arrogant and despotic, and
endeavored to change the elective crown into an hereditary one by decreeing that his son
should succeed him. This so exasperated the proud Gothic nobles, who considered the king
but as one of their own number whom they elected to lead their armies, that indignantly,
after a pretty stern conflict, they succeeded in deposing Swintila, and the sceptre was
placed in the hands of Sisenand.
The Franks in Gaul, aided the Spanish Goths in the deposition of Swintila; and the Gothic
chieftains, as a remuneration, presented their allies with a large sum of gold. The
Franks appropriated this treasure to the construction of the magnificent Church of St.
Denis, near Paris, which has since served as the mausoleum of the kings of France.
 Sisenand, to consolidate his power, convened a council of high ecclesiastics and
influential nobles of the laity at Toledo, A.D. 633. The political supremacy which the
Church had then attained is indicated by the acts of this council. Swintila, the deposed
sovereign, was excommunicated, with his wife, his child, and his brother. All their
property was confiscated, and they were placed, unprotected by law, at the mercy of the
king. It was also decreed that henceforth no election of a king should be valid until
confirmed by a council, regularly convened, of the clergy and the nobles.
Chintila was elected to succeed Sisenand in 636. A council of the clergy, and of nobles of
the laity, was promptly convened to ratify the election. This council issued the singular
decree that in the future no one should be nominated king unless he were of noble blood,
and of pure Gothic descent. Another decree was soon promulgated, that the elected king
should always take an oath not to suffer the exercise of any other religion than the
Catholic, and to enforce the laws rigorously against all dissidents, especially against
"that accursed people the Jews." There were however many Christians who, better
understanding the mind of Christ, protested against this intolerance, and even Chintila
disapproved of the ordinance.
Tulga next ascended the throne, in 640. He proved so inefficient, allowing the laws to be
broken with impunity, that, after disgracing the throne for two years, the nobles shut him
up in a monastery, and placed the sceptre in the hands of Chindaswind, a stern old man,
who, with a mailed hand, boxed all insubordination into pliant obedience. His authority
became so indisputable, and the terror of his arm so great, that he was enabled to
associate his son, Reces
 wind, with him in the royal dignity, and to transmit to him the crown.
The Gothic nobles, proud of their independence, and of their right of electing their
sovereigns, were alarmed by this advance towards the hereditary transmission of the
throne, and rose in revolt. An army was speedily gathered on the north side of the
Pyrenees. They crossed the mountains, but soon meeting the king's troops, they were
dispersed, and almost annihilated. Thus the opposition to the royal authority was crushed.
Receswind proved a worthy prince, and seems to have been a man of piety. The temptation
was very great for the sovereign to avail himself of his position in acquiring vast wealth
to transmit to his children. The clergy issued a decree, which the king sanctioned, that
thenceforth all the wealth acquired by the king after his accession to the throne should
be transmitted, not to his children, but to the crown. Receswind died at an advanced age,
in the year 672, and was succeeded by Wamba.
The new sovereign was chosen by the electors. The name of Wamba is one of the most
illustrious in the annals of the ancient kings of Spain. He was truly a noble in character
as in blood. He had already filled many of the most important posts in the State, and,
weary of active life, had sought retirement. When informed of his election, he earnestly
begged to be excused from accepting the proffered dignity, alleging his advanced age and
consequent incapacity for the labors which the responsible post required. The
importunity, however, was such that he was virtually compelled to accept the crown. Wamba
had hardly taken his seat upon the throne in Toledo ere the Goths, on the other side of
the Pyrenees, rose in rebellion, and chose Flavius
 Paulus, a Greek duke, for their king. They crowned him at Narbonne. Paulus sent the
following whimsical letter, as a declaration of war, and a challenge to his Southern
"In the name of the Lord, Flavius Paulus, King of the East, to Wamba, King of the South.
Tell me, warrior, lord of woods and friend of rocks, Nast thou ever run through the sharp
rocks of uninhabitable mountains? Hast thou ever, like the strongest lion, broken down
with thy breast the thickets and trees of the forest? Hast thou ever outstripped the deer
in speed, or outleaped the stag, or subdued the devouring bears? Hast thou ever triumphed
over the venom of vipers and serpents? If thou hast done all this, hasten unto us, that we
may be abundantly regaled with the notes of the nightingale. Wherefore, thou wonderful
man, whose courage rises with the occasion, come down to the defiles of the Pyrenees.
There thou wilt find the great redresser of wrongs, whom thou canst engage without