A KINGDOM OF THE GOTHS
 EXCEPT for an invasion of the Franks, about 256 A.D., the peace of Spain was unbroken for nearly
four hundred years. But in the time of the Roman Emperor Honorius, the empire having been
greatly weakened by repeated attacks of the northern barbarians, as well as by the sloth
and effeminacy of its own citizens, her distant provinces soon began to experience
dissensions and invasions. The death of Stilicho, the trusted adviser of Honorius and
commander of his forces, removed the only obstacle to Alaric's advance upon Rome, and the
city yielded to his persistent attacks. And the same year that Rome first felt the rude
barbarian's terrible hand upon her, was also that, if we may believe the chronicles, in
which a host of Suevi,
 Alani, and Vandals poured over the Pyrenees, and swept across defenceless Spain.
Roman civilization and influence were felt mainly on the coast and in southern Spain in
the north and west lived the semi-barbarous tribes we have already noted, who were now but
loosely held together by the disintegrating bonds of Rome. Hispania's conquerors could do
nothing to help her, for was not Rome herself at the mercy of the Goths, and compelled to
pay an enormous ransom, after enduring humiliating siege and capitulation? It came about,
however, that the successor of Alaric, Ataulpha, or Atawulf, made captive lovely Placidia,
sister of Honorius, whom he married and carried away into Aquitania. Honorius made the
best of the matter and granted to Atawulf all southern Gaul and Roman Spain, on condition
that he would expel the Suevi and Alani, and hold the province tributary to his empire. He
accomplished his task, so far as southern Gaul was concerned, and then went over the
mountains and established his court at Barcelona, which had been successively a
Phoenician, Carthaginian, and Roman city, and was now held by the Visigoths.
Though Atawulf seems to have been a faithful ally of Rome, and in her name held his new
kingdom of Hispania-Gothia, as he called it, yet Honorius sent an army against
 him under
Constantius, who, according to report, was in love with Placidia before she was carried
off and married by the Goth. Atawulf was basely assassinated by a creature of his court,
and Constantius made truce with his successor, on condition that he should be given
possession of Placidia. It was a cheap purchase of peace, the Goths concluded, and so the
Roman general retired with the widow of Atawulf as his only captive, and married in Rome
her who became the mother of the future emperor Valentinian.
Sigric, successor to Atawulf, had murdered the five children of the latter and compelled
his wife to walk barefoot through the streets of Barcelona, one historian tells us; yet he
lived but a month to enjoy his ill-gotten throne, and was followed by the real founder of
the Visigothic kingdom in Spain, the warrior Walia, whose reign lasted four years, when he
died, and was succeeded by Theodoric.
Walia had reconquered the greater part of Spain for Rome, and was allowed to recover the
territory of southern Gaul, where he established his kingdom of Toulouse, and whither his
successor also went to hold court. Theodoric continued the conquests of his predecessor,
but committed the unpardonable sin, in the eyes of Rome, of keeping his
 acquisition for himself and the Visigothic kingdom. In the year 428 the Vandals and Suevi,
under the renowned Genseric, defeated an allied army of Goths and Romans, for a long time
ravaged all southern Spain, and then went over into Africa. Some say that the present name
of Andalusia, applied to the south of Spain, which in Roman times was called Boetica, was
derived from the Vandal occupation—Vandalusia, or the land of the Vandals.
The greatest event of Theodoric's reign occurred in the year of his death, 451 A.D., when
the Visigoths, assisted by the allied armies of Rome and the Franks, defeated Attila the
Hun, that famed "Scourge of God," who had thus far led his horde of "beasts on two legs"
out of the east and the north, to the ravage of the south.
Theodoric was killed on the field of battle, and the crown fell to a son, Theodoric II,
after him to another son, Euric, or Evaric, who defied the waning power of Rome, and
finally threw it off and brought the peninsula under the sole supremacy of the Visigoths.
Under Alaric II, who became king upon the death of Euric, the Visigoths lost nearly all
their possessions north of the Pyrenees, and became more particularly a Spanish people.
Their capital was established at Toledo,
 that ancient and interesting city on the Tagus, and, as compared with the other invaders,
they were cultured and polished. At the same time they were more virile than the Romans,
hence had been able to expel the latter and subdue the former. They were not, however,
sufficiently civilized to hold sacred human life, and especially they secured a reputation
as regicides, so many kings of theirs were murdered. During the three hundred years of
their dominion in Spain they had thirty-three kings ruling over them, many of whom fell by
the assassin's knife.
By sword and good right arm, the Visigothic kings generally won their thrones, but the
time came when they were dominated by the Church. To show how this came about, we must
look back to the .time when, a menace to Rome and a terror to all southern Europe, the
barbarous Goths descended from their northern fastnesses. They were pagans then, enemies
of the true faith, until between the years 340 and 380 they were converted to Christianity
by one Ulfilas, who invented an alphabet for them and translated much of the New Testament
into Gothic. This was about the middle of the fourth century; but even when Alaric was
thundering at the gates of Rome, it is said that the Goths held more seriously the tenets
of their faith and were of
 purer morals than those from whom they had received their new religion.
Now, the primitive Christianity which the Goths had received from Ulfilas was silent as to
the mysteries and the dogmas which had gathered around the religion of Rome during the
centuries which had passed. They still held to the primitive faith taught them by Ulfilas
and their Gothic Bible. In a word (without pretending to say which might have been right,
or which party wrong), the Goths were Arians in their belief, while the Romans of Spain
and their converts were Trinitarians. There were other minor differences between them, but
so long as this radical discrepancy existed between the two religions, they were always at
odds. This trouble was brought to a head in the time of King Leovigild, who reigned from
A.D. 567 to 586, and who was such a rigid Arian that he finally beheaded a beloved son
for becoming a convert to and publicly professing a belief in the Roman religion. This
son, Hermenigild, had married a French wife who was a Roman Catholic and who had been the
means of his conversion, and encouraged him to lead a revolt against his father. He
received his reward in the sixteenth century, when he was canonized as a saint.
King Leovigild was succeeded by another
 son, Recared, who, though he had stood by and seen his brother executed for opinion's
sake, and whom his father thought to be a good Arian, yet became a Catholic soon after his
coronation. With the zeal peculiar to all new converts, he insisted that all his subjects
should become Catholics also, and rooted out the "Arian heresy" wherever he could find it.
Recared was the first Catholic king of Spain, but not the last bigot, for he lighted the
fires of religious persecution, which burned so brightly and balefully through many
succeeding centuries. Not content with causing all the Goths to renounce their Arianism,
he—or the priests, at his suggestion—turned upon the Jews of the kingdom and
threatened them with expulsion unless they also recanted.
Thus in the last years of the sixth century the Church acquired a voice in royal affairs,
and the Gothic monarchy became elective and dependent very much upon the choice of the
During the next seventy years twelve kings occupied the throne, each king seated at the
pleasure of the bishops, and sometimes unseated—not without violence—at their
dictation. Of all the Gothic monarchs who reigned in the capital city of Toledo, perhaps
none has been held in more sacred remembrance
 than King Wamba, who, a simple shepherd, was made a king against his will, and then, after
he had acquired a liking for the throne, was deposed, also against his will, even after he
had performed prodigies of valour for his country. It seems that the clerical party wanted
him for king because they thought he might be a pliant instrument in their hands, like his
predecessors. But Wamba had a will of his own, so a person of his court, one Ervingius by
name, was persuaded to administer a cup of poison to the obstinate old man, which plunged
him into a sleep so deep that his attendants thought him about to die.
Now it was a tradition of the Church that no king, no matter what his previous life had
been, could receive the blessings of the future life unless he died garbed in the habit of
a monk. So his servants dressed Wamba in a monk's cowl and cloak, and when he recovered
his senses—for he did riot die just then—he was almost insane with rage; for
according to the same unwritten law of the Church, once in the cowl, never more could one
reign a king; and so poor old Wamba made the best of it, though protesting that it was a
very scurvy trick, and retired to a cloister, where he passed the remainder of his days.
All this occurred about the year 680,
 and it is averred that then began the dissensions, caused by the desire for ecclesiastical
supremacy, which divided the Gothic kingdom against itself, and caused its downfall about
thirty years later.
Wamba was succeeded by the usurper Ervigius, or Erwic—the same who had sent the old
king to a cell—who reigned seven years, and after him came Egica and Witica, who
between them carried Gothic domination up to the year 710, when the portents were strong
for some unknown. disaster. Church and state had been in the main united hitherto, or
since the advent of Recared but now there were signs of dissolution, and the final
severance came with the elevation of King Roderick.
Around King Roderick, "the last of the Goths," cluster legends and traditions so thickly
that it is difficult to separate fiction from truth. If you would know to what extent
fable and fiction have enmeshed him, read Washington Irving's fascinating Legend of Don
Roderick. He was a son of a brave Goth, Duke Theodifred, who was blinded and
imprisoned by orders of King Witica; but he succeeded in hurling the tyrant from his
throne and inflicting upon him the same punishment. He banished the sons of Witica and set
himself to work reforms; but the
king-  dom had been so weakened by the foolish and evil deeds of his late predecessors, and he
found himself so surrounded by enemies (friends and relations of the former king), that he
could not save it from ruin. He was to be known to history as the last reigning sovereign
before the kingdom was overthrown by that mighty Moslem host from Africa. Some Spanish
chroniclers have sought to account for this overthrow by ascribing to Don Roderick a foul
deed done to a daughter of a certain Count Julian, commander of the Gothic forces in
Africa, and the name of fair Florinda has come down to us coupled in infamy with that of
the king. But the truth probably is that, while Count Julian's defection did assist the
African invasion, yet the real reason for it runs further back, to the time when the
ecclesiastics began to meddle in royal affairs, and especially when their bigotry led to
the expulsion of the Jews, who, settling along the North African coast, conspired with the
Moors to obtain a foothold in that fair land across the straits.
The sad truth is that the Gothic reign was near its end; it was to perish from the earth,
leaving few memorials of its existence save a lasting impress upon the speech of Spain,
which has been called "a Gothic language handled in a Latin grammar."
 Another race was to occupy the land successively won by Roman and Visigoth; and to obtain
a clear conception of the manner in which the conquest was effected we must review the