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THE BEGINNINGS OF SPAIN—THE GOTHIC KINGDOM
THE PHOENICIANS WRECKED ON THE SPANISH COAST
[Authorities: Coppee: History of the Conquest of Spain; Hume: Spain, Its
Greatness and Decay, The Spanish People: Their Origin, Growth and Influence; Hale: The
Story of Spain; Lane-Poole: The Story of the Moors in Spain; Latimer: Spain in the
Nineteenth Century; Prescott: Ferdinand and Isabella, Charles the Fifth, Philip the
Second; Irving: Life of Columbus, Moorish Chronicles, Conquest of Spain, Conquest
of Granada; Watts, Spain; Burke: A History of Spain; Meyrick: The Church in Spain;
Ticknor: History of Spanish Literature.]
It has been said that nations like individuals have their birth, growth, manhood, old age,
decay, and death. Many of the stories already told in these pages confirm this
declaration. Perhaps the most impressive example of modern times is that of Spain. She
came into being many centuries ago, climbed to the greatest heights of power, influence,
and glory, and, though she still exists, she is in a condition of senility and
decrepitude, which, like that of the tottering nonagenarian, suggests a collapse not far
The earliest historical mention of Spain finds it inhabited by a people who sprang from a
number of different races. To the Greeks and Romans the country was known as Spania,
Hispania, and Iberia, and in the Scriptures the "ships of Tarshish" probably
referred to those of the Phoenicians, which traded with Spain. The colony of Gadir, or
Cadiz, was planted by the Phoenicians about 1000 B.C., at which time they found the
southern part of the country in the possession of the Iberians. It is uncertain where the
latter came from. As a people, they were short of stature, with a swarthy
com-  plexion, and plentiful black, curly hair. Investigations seem to indicate an affinity with
the Kabyl tribes of the Atlas instead of an Aryan origin.
SPAIN AND HER ANCIENT KINGDOMS.
Far back among the shadows of prehistoric times, a horde of Celts swarmed over the
Pyrenees into this land of the Iberians, encountering possibly a still earlier race, whose
descendants of to-day are the Basques. The Celts swerved to the west and settled in what
now is Portugal and Gallicia. In civilization and physique, the invaders were much
superior to the Iberians. As the centuries rolled on, the two peoples fought for mastery.
They gradually blended in the central part of Spain, while the Celts continued dominant in
the west and northwest of the peninsula, and the Iberians held their own in the east and
Such were the inhabitants of the country when the enterprising mariners of Phoenicia began
planting colonies on the coast. They found the country fair and inviting, with fertile
alluvial valleys; sheep with the finest of wool, and a soil rich with minerals, such as
the quicksilver of Almaden, the silver and gold, the copper and tin from which bronze was
formed, and the corals, pearls, and precious stones, which made the Phoenician colonies
rivals in wealth of Carthage herself. It is said that the Phoenicians gathered such
enormous quantities of gold that their ships would have sunk had they tried to carry it
Cadiz was the most important settlement made by the Phoenicians, who induced the natives
to develop the mines, whose richness became famous, and soon led other nations, among them
the Greeks, to send expeditions thither. The strangers were welcomed, and since their only
purpose was to procure all the gain they could, they made no attempt to interfere with the
government of the country. We owe to the crude alphabet brought by them the more reliable
history that has come down to us from those remote times.
Naturally, it was trade which gave the great Phoenician city of Carthage a foothold in
Spain. At that time Carthage had no armies, but after her defeat by Rome in the first of
their tremendous wars, the grand project of forming Spain into a Carthaginian province was
conceived by Hamilcar. He was surnamed Barca or Barak, or "lightning," and when very young
was given command of the Carthaginian forces in Sicily (247 B.C.), at a time when the
Romans had full possession of the island. He maintained a long and successful warfare
against them, but the defeat of the Carthaginian fleet compelled him to withdraw from
Sicily (241 B.C.), and he became commander of the Carthaginian army. It was about 236 B.
c. that he entered upon the campaign whose aim was to found a new empire in Spain, from
which, as a base, he might attack the Romans. He advanced westward, while the fleet under
command of his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, cruised along the coast. Crossing the Strait of
 Hamilcar attacked the natives, and steadily bored his way to the heart of the country. No
force could be gathered to make a successful resistance, and he subdued many tribes and
cities, and gathered such a stupendous amount of plunder that it interfered with the
advance of his army. He spent nine years of conquest in Spain and then fell in battle.
Hamilcar, as you will recall, was the father of Hannibal, one of the greatest of all
military leaders. You have not forgotten that the lad inherited from his father his hatred
of Rome. In his later years, when in exile, he related the following anecdote: "When I was
a little boy not more than nine years old, my father offered sacrifices to Jupiter the
Best and Greatest, on his departure from Carthage as general in Spain. While he was
conducting the sacrifice, he asked me if I would like to go to the camp with him. I said I
would gladly and began to beg him not to hesitate to take me. He replied: 'I will do it if
you will make the promise I demand.' He took me at once to the altar at which he had
offered his sacrifice. He bade me take hold of it, having sent the others away, and bade
me swear that I would never be at friendship with the Romans."
Hannibal, as we know, faithfully kept his youthful oath. After the death of his father, he
was employed by Hasdrubal, his brother-in-law, in most of his military expeditions. He won
the enthusiastic love of the soldiers by his heroism and noble character, and when
Hasdrubal was assassinated, the army with one voice chose Hannibal their
commander-in-chief, though he was only in his twenty-ninth year. Before entering upon his
life work—that of fulfilling his pledge to his father—he spent two years in
the conquest of Spain. Saguntum was a city in alliance with Rome, and Hannibal attacked
it, on the ground that its inhabitants were making aggressions on some of the subjects of
The story has been told of the fall of the city after a siege of eight months and after it
had made a vain appeal to Rome for assistance. In capturing it, Hannibal violated the
treaty made by his father, and in 218 B.C. brought on the second Punic War. The campaigns
that followed were among the most remarkable in history, and brought to Hannibal a fame
which places him among the foremost military geniuses of antiquity. After having
maintained himself in Italy for upward of fifteen. years, he was recalled to Africa to
defend his country against Scipio, who defeated him with great loss, and peace was
concluded in the following year (201 B.C.).
THE IBERIANS DRIVEN UNDER THE ROMAN YOKE.
The capture of Saguntum by Hannibal seems to have drawn the serious attention of Rome for
the first time to Spain. Its importance was seen, and the future empress of the world
began to send armies thither. The Romans drove the Carthaginians from the Peninsula in 206
B.C., and made the country a
 Roman province. The Romanizing of the country went on steadily for centuries, and to this
fact Spain owes the basis of her language, and many of her customs, traits, and
Not until 25 B.C., however, did the Cantabri and Astures, in the extreme north, lay down
their arms to the Roman conquerors, one of whom was the illustrious Julius Caesar. The
country having been finally reduced to subjection, was divided into the three provinces of
Tarraconensis, which embraced the northern and eastern provinces; Baetica (Andalusia), and
Lusitania, which included Portugal and certain of the western provinces. This division of
Spain lasted down to the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337), and until his death her
condition was highly prosperous.
The Roman occupation was of great advantage in every respect to the Spaniards. They were
forced to cease their wasteful intestine wars, and to give their energies to industrial
pursuits. They adopted the laws, language, and customs of their conquerors, and the
population increased rapidly. In numerous parts of the country Roman towns sprang up,
while many aqueducts, bridges, amphitheatres, and buildings were erected, whose ruins are
the wonder of modern tourists.
For three hundred years Spain was the richest province of the Roman Empire. It was for a
long time the granary of Rome, and gold and silver flowed thence like a river into the
coffers of the imperial city. According to Gibbon, twenty thousand pound-weight of gold
was annually received from the provinces of Austria (Asturias), Gallicia, and Lusitania.
Spain was withdrawn from military history for four hundred happy years, and then the
shaggy warriors from the German forests came rushing down upon Southern Europe. These
Goths did not have to occupy France long to discover the riches of neighboring Spain, and
nothing was more certain or natural than that they should move forward to occupy it. Rome
could do nothing, for she herself was besieged by Alaric, and purchased her ransom by
paying two and a half tons of gold, fifteen tons of silver, and valuable silks and cloths
in profusion. Then Alaric died most opportunely for the Romans, who began negotiating with
Ataulfus, the brother-in-law and successor of Alaric. These negotiations recognized the
mastery of the Goths in Southern France and in Spain, which were presented to them as a
gift, the Goths having no objection to becoming nominal subjects of the Empire on the
single condition of military service. Indeed, it may be said of these Goths and Romans
that they mutually conquered each other, for, though the barbarians were wild and savage,
and able to beat down the others in battle, they began to learn the wisdom of employing
their minds and bodies in more useful pursuits than fighting and hunting.
 Before Ataulfus could occupy his new empire, he had to drive out the Sueves and Vandals,
who were devastating it, but he and his lusty followers completed the work, and in
Narbonne he established himself with a Roman bride. She was Placidia, sister of the Roman
Emperor Honorius, and was among the captives taken in the siege of Rome. Ataulfus fell in
love with her and asked her to marry him. The tawny chieftain had already captured the
heart of the Roman maiden, and she consented. The Emperor held this mighty warrior for the
time in awe, and to win his friendship approved the marriage. Ataulfus was anxious to
retain the good-will of the Emperor, and, therefore, devoted his energies to warring upon
the Vandals and Sueves, who were the enemies of both.
There was a Roman who had also wished to marry Placidia, and he persuaded the Emperor
Honorius to attack the Goths. They were driven out of Gaul, and retreated into the Spanish
country. Ataulfus withdrew to Barcelona, where he established his court and made the city
the capital of his kingdom, to which he gave the name of Hispana-Gothia. Still anxious to
conciliate the Emperor, he strove to introduce among his people the manners and
civilization of the Romans, thereby offending his own followers, who thought his course
weak and womanly.
You can understand that Ataulfus did not hold the most enviable situation in the world,
and he must have had a hard time of it; for it was all important for him to keep the
good-will of his turbulent warriors and to retain the regard of his high-spirited wife. He
succeeded in the latter, but not in the former. Six bright, affectionate children were
born to the couple, and received careful training, but the soldiers and officers were
soured at sight of their leader becoming Romanized. They were angry when ordered to fight
beside the Romans, whom they hated, and this made the trouble still greater.
One day, while the King and his family were watching the evolutions of his cavalry in the
court yard of his palace at Barcelona, a dwarf stole up behind Ataulfus and drove a sword
into his back. So intense was the resentment against the assassinated monarch, that the
agonized Queen could find no one to avenge his murder. A relative, Sigeric, succeeded the
dead King, and showed his anti-Roman ferocity by slaying the six children of Ataulfus, and
compelling his widow to walk barefoot through the streets of the city. Such fiendish
cruelty turned the anger of the people against Sigeric, who, a few days later, also fell
by the dagger of an assassin.
THE GOTHS DESCENDING INTO SPAIN.
The Goths were more fortunate in selecting Wallia as their next king, for, though he
detested the Romans as much as his predecessor, he was tactful. He pleased his own people
by sending an expedition against the Roman possessions in Africa. His fleet, however, was
baffled by a tempest and his soldiers
 scattered. Before he could bring them together, a Roman army advanced against him, and he
found himself in imminent danger.
A singular solution of the difficulty resulted. Constantius, the commander of the Roman
army, was the admirer of Placidia, who had been won away from him by Ataulfus. Constantius
had been told by the Emperor that he might wed her if she would agree, and the general,
therefore, came rather to woo than to war. As soon as the two armies encamped within sight
of each other, Constantius sent a proposal to Wallia that they should make peace, the
condition being that the Gothic leader should surrender Placidia, widow of the dead
You may be sure that Wallia was glad enough to do this, and he proved his wisdom by
winning the ardent support of his followers in the step. He led them against the
barbarians of the north, who had dared to occupy a country that the Goths claimed as their
own. The campaign was successful, and the Vandals were compelled to withdraw into
Gallicia, while the Sueves saved themselves by claiming the protection of Rome. The
grateful Emperor gave the lands in Southern Gaul, from Toulouse to the sea, to Wallia, who
made the city his capital, and lived there until his death, a few years later.
The successor of Wallia was Theodoric I. (418-451), son of the great Alaric who lost his
life in the bloody struggle against Attila at Chalons, leaving his throne to his son,
Thorismund (451-452), who was assassinated by his brother Theodoric II. (452-466), and he,
after reigning a number of years, fell by the hand of an assassin, who was also a brother,
named Euric (466-483). What a condition of affairs, when two rulers obtained their power
by each assassinating a brother!
Yet the reign of Euric was brilliant and successful. He greatly extended the power of the
Visigoths both in France and Spain, introduced the arts of civilization among his
subjects, and drew up a wise code of laws for the government of his people. It will be
seen that the Goths had made great advancement in civilization. Euric doubtless considered
himself the equal in all respects of the Roman Emperor. The language of the kingdom was
Latin, but corrupted by the tongues of the earlier tribes, to which confusion the Goths
added by a mixture of their own words, though their books were written in Latin. The
government had the form of an absolute monarchy, though the prelates of the church
possessed so much influence that it was really a theocracy. Since there was no royalty or
nobility of descent, every chieftain considered himself as good as the King, for there was
always the possibility of his becoming one.
While it would take too much space to give the particulars of the rule of all the
different Gothic kings, we must dwell for a brief time upon the career of Roderick, who,
through various difficulties, became ruler of all Spain in the
 year 709. This was a century after the amazing success of the Arab Mahomet, who had set in
motion that wave of conquest, in which the Mahometan hosts declared their purpose of
conquering the world, and soon swept over Northern Africa and Western Asia.
Roderick was fiercely threatened by rivals for the throne, who were favored by the Church
under the Bishop of Toledo. Count Julian, one of the foes of the King, held a virtually
independent command in Africa, where the Goths had the posts of Ceuta, opposite Gibraltar,
of Tangier, and of Arsilla. Julian had defeated Musa, the Saracen leader, who to his
astonishment one day received a visit from the victor, with an offer to surrender all the
Gothic posts, on condition that Musa would use the Saracen army to aid the enemies of
Musa was so impressed by the magnitude of the treason that he sent the Count to the Caliph
in Arabia. The Caliph was highly pleased, and directed Count Julian to return to Musa with
his approval. To test his sincerity, Musa sent a number of his troops to the northern
shore, where under their leader, Tarik, they were allowed to plunder as they chose without
The glowing reports brought back by these visitors led Musa to send Tarik once more with a
larger force. The name of this leader is perpetuated in the name given the town where he
landed, Tarifa. Indeed, he has supplied all modern governments with a word by which he is
likely to be forever remembered. Our "tariff "comes from the duties collected by the
Mahometans at Tarifa on all goods entering Spain. Gibraltar is also "Gebel-al-Tarik," the
Mountain of Tarik.
Despite the treason of his officers—and history contains few instances of equal
perfidy—Roderick prepared to make the best resistance he could against the invaders.
He hastened against them with a force so numerous that the Moors of Tarik were terrified.
They were only some twelve thousand in all, and it was said the Goths numbered ninety
FIRST BAPTISM AMONG THE GOTHS IN SPAIN.
This battle of Xeres, fought on the plains of that name, near Cadiz, more than a thousand
years ago, ranks among the decisive struggles in the world's history, for its results were
of momentous importance. The disparity of numbers by no means indicates the true relative
strength of the armies; for many of the Goths had no defensive armor, and their weapons
consisted of short scythes, clubs, axes, slings, bows, and lances. Worse than all, was the
disaffection among a large number of the officers and troops. Some who dared not act
openly, merely waited to see which way the battle promised to go, with the purpose of
joining the successful side, so as to claim a part of the reward. The army itself was too
large to be handled well, and there was no commander equal to the task. In the height of
his great career Napoleon Bonaparte
ex-  pressed the doubt that there were two generals in France capable of effectively handling a
hundred thousand men.
Exactly the opposite state of affairs existed in the Moslem army, which was compact,
ardent, well armed, highly disciplined and fanatical in its heroism. Tarik, their
commander, was idolized, for, as his own Caliph declared, he was one of the best swords in
Islam. It is said the battle lasted eight days, but probably several were spent in
preliminary skirmishing, and the severe fighting lasted but a day.
The struggle opened at dawn on Sunday, July 19, 711, and for the first day or two inclined
to the side of the Goths. One inspiring cause that nerved the Saracens was the fact
impressed upon them by Tarik, that he had burned their ships, and they must win a victory
or be utterly destroyed; for the Goths were in front and the sea was behind them. All that
mortal men could do they were certain to do. They hurled themselves upon the ranks of the
Christians with irresistible fury. Tarik himself singled out a knight clothed in brilliant
armor, and, believing him to be Roderick, fought a way through the defenders, and slew him
with his own hand. The Moslem soldiers were fired to enthusiasm by the deed, which, in the
Gothic ranks, caused dismay, confusion, and panic. At this critical moment a strong body
of Roderick's foes is said to have drawn off and joined the Moslem troops. Be that as it
may, the Gothic army was utterly routed and fled in wild, headlong confusion, with the
Moors in merciless pursuit, cutting down and slaying the terrified fugitives, until no
more food remained to the dripping swords. The losses on both sides were frightful, but
that of the Goths must have been more than double—perhaps three or four times as
great—as that of their conquerors.
It was never known what became of Roderick. By some it is said he was indeed slain on the
field, though his body was never found. Another legend is that he was swept along with the
frantic army, and that, exhausted from his wounds and exertions, and oppressed by his
ponderous armor, he reached the marshes of the River Guadalete, where he was either slain
by his pursuers or drowned. His riderless steed was found, and near the spot a royal
crown, a purple mantle, and a sandal embroidered with pearls and emeralds.
The end of it all was that Spain was delivered helpless and bound to the Moslem invaders,
and the whole current of her history abruptly changed.