Visigoths

The Visigoths (Latin: Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, or Wisi) were one of two main branches of the later Goths, the Ostrogoths being the other. These nomadic tribes were among the Germanic peoples who spread through the late Roman Empire during Late Antiquity or the Migration Period. The Visigoths emerged out of the Gothic groups who entered the Roman Empire in and after 376 and defeated the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The Visigoths invaded Italy under Alaric I and famously sacked Rome in 410 AD, eventually settling in Spain and Portugal, where they founded a powerful Kingdom.

After numerous years of migration, which led the Visigoths to compare themselves to the Biblical Hebrew people wandering for 40 years in the Sinai Desert, the Visigoths settled in southern Gaul as foederati of the Romans in 418. For unknown reasons, they soon fell out with their hosts and established their own kingdom with its capital at Toulouse. Extending their authority into Hispania at the expense of the Suevi and Vandals, their rule in Gaul was ended by the Franks under Clovis I at the Battle of Vouillé in 507. Thereafter the only territory north of the Pyrenees that the Visigoths held was Septimania, such that their kingdom became limited to Hispania. The province came to be dominated by the Visigothic small governing elite at the expense of the Byzantine province of Spania and the Suebic Kingdom of Galicia.

In or around 589, the Visigoths, under Reccared I, converted from Arianism to the Nicene faith, gradually adopting the culture of their Hispano-Roman subjects. Liber Iudiciorum (completed in 654) abolished the old tradition of having different laws for Romans and for Visigoths, so that legal distinctions were no longer made between Romani and Gothi, coalescing them into Hispani. The century that followed was dominated by the Councils of Toledo and the episcopacy. Historical sources for the 7th century are relatively sparse. In 711 or 712 the Visigoths, including their king and many of their leading men, were killed in the Battle of Guadalete by a force of invading Arabs and Berbers. The kingdom quickly collapsed in the aftermath. Gothic identity survived the fall of the kingdom, however, especially in Marca Hispanica and the Kingdom of Asturias, which was founded by the Visigothic nobleman Pelagius after his victory over the Moors at the Battle of Covadonga.

In their Kingdom of Hispania, the Visigoths built several churches and left an increasing number of archaeological finds, but most notably a large number of Spanish, Portuguese given names and surnames. The Visigoths were the only people to found new cities in western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and before the rise of the Carolingians. Until the Late Middle Ages, the greatest Visigothic legacy, which is no longer in use, was their law code, the Liber iudiciorum, which formed most notably the basis for court procedure in most of Christian Iberia for centuries after their kingdom's demise.

Read more about Visigoths:  Division of The Goths: Tervingi and Vesi, Etymology of Tervingi and Vesi/Visigothi

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