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Ecclesiastical Empire

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    CHAPTER II - THE VISIGOTHS IN THE MIDDLE AGES

    THE Ecclesiastical Empire is the grand center of the history that we are now to study. Yet with this there are inseparably connected other empires, and the Ten Kingdoms of Western Europe. In the nature of the case, these will have to be considered to a greater or less extent. Therefore, in order that each of these may have its due attention, as well as that the history of the Ecclesiastical Empire itself may be followed uninterruptedly and the more intelligently, it will be best first to sketch the kingdoms of Western Europe through the Middle Ages.ECE 8.1

    2. The Ten Kingdoms could not continue in either undisturbed or undisturbing relations, even among themselves. As ever in human history from the day of Nimrod, the desire to enlarge dominion, the ambition for empire, was the chief characteristic, the ruling passion, among these.ECE 8.2

    3. The first to make their power predominant among the Ten Kingdoms was the Visigoths. It will be remembered 1[Page 8] “Great Empires of Prophecy,” chap 12, par. 68. that under Wallia the Visigoths as early as A. D. 419 had gained a permanent seat in Southwestern Gaul, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay, and from the River Loire to the River Rhone, with their capital at Toulouse. There the newly established kingdom “gradually acquired strength and maturity.” “After the death of Wallia [A. D. 419], the Gothic scepter devolved to Theodoric, the son of the great Alaric; and his prosperous reign of more than thirty years [A. D. 419-451] over a turbulent people, may be allowed to prove that his prudence was supported by uncommon vigor, both of mind and body. Impatient of his narrow limits, Theodoric aspired to the possession of Arles, the wealthy seat of government and commerce; but” this enterprise failed.ECE 8.3

    4. “Theodoric, king of the Visigoths, appears to have deserved the love of his subjects, the confidence of his allies, and the esteem of mankind. His throne was surrounded by six valiant sons, who were educated with equal care in the exercises of the Barbarian camp, and in those of the Gallic schools: from the study of Roman jurisprudence they acquired the theory, at least, of law and justice.” “The two daughters of the Gothic king were given in marriage to the eldest sons of the kings of the Suevi and of the Vandals, who reigned in Spain and Africa.”—Gibbon. 2[Page 9] “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” chap 35, par. 4. This domestic alliance with the house of the king of the Vandals was fraught with far-reaching and dreadful consequences. The king of the Vandals at that time daughter-in-law had formed a conspiracy to poison him. With Genseric, his own suspicion was sufficient proof of guilt, and upon the hapless daughter of Theodoric was inflicted the horrible penalty of cutting off her nose and ears. Thus mutilated, she was sent back to the house of her father.ECE 8.4

    5. By this outrage Theodoric was stirred up to make war upon the king of the Vandals, in which he was widely supported by the sympathy of his neighbors. To protect himself and his dominions from this dangerous invasion Genseric by “rich gifts and pressing solicitations inflamed the ambition of Attila,” who, thus persuaded, marched, A. D. 451, with an army of seven hundred thousand men in his memorable invasion of Gaul. This required that not only the forces of Theodoric, but all the power of the whole West should stand unitedly in defense of their very homes. The battle that was fought was the battle of Chalons. “The body of Theodoric, pierced with honorable wounds, was discovered under a heap of the slain: his subjects bewailed the death of their king and father; but their tears were mingled with songs and acclamations, and his funeral rites were performed in the face of a vanquished enemy. The Goths, clashing their arms, elevated on a buckler his eldest son, Torismond, to whom they justly ascribed the glory of their success; and the new king accepted the obligation of revenge as a sacred portion of his paternal inheritance.”—Gibbon. 3[Page 9] Id., par. 11.ECE 9.1

    6. Torismond was murdered in A. D. 453 by his younger brother, Theodoric II, who reigned till 466. In 456 he invaded Spain in an expedition against “the Suevi who had fixed their kingdom in Gallicia,“ and who now “aspired to the conquest of Spain,” and even threatened to attack Theodoric under the very walls of his own capital. “Such a challenge urged Theodoric to prevent the bold designs of his enemy: he passed the Pyrenees at the head of the Visigoths: the Franks and the Burgundians served under his standard.... The two armies, or rather the two nations, encountered each other on the banks of the River Urbicus, about twelve miles from Astorga; and the decisive victory of the Goths appeared for a while to have extirpated the name and kingdom of the Suevi. From the field of battle Theodoric advanced to Braga, their metropolis, which still retained the splendid vestiges of its ancient commerce and dignity.”—Gibbon. 4[Page 10] Id., chap 35, par. 7. The king of the Suevi was captured and slain by Theodoric, who “carried his victorious arms as far as Merida,” whence he returned to his capital.ECE 9.2

    7. In A. D. 466 Theodoric was assassinated by Euric, who reigned till 485. Immediately upon his accession he renewed the Visigothic invasion of Spain. “He passed the Pyrenees at the head of a numerous army, subdued the cities of Saragossa and Pampeluna, vanquished in battle the martial nobles of the Tarragonese province, carried his victorious arms into the heart of Lusitania, and permitted the Suevi to hold the kingdom of Gallicia under the Gothic monarchy of Spain” which he made permanent. 5[Page 10] Id., par. 23.ECE 10.1

    8. “The efforts of Euric were not less vigorous nor less successful in Gaul; and throughout the country that extends from the Pyrenees to the Rhone and the Loire, Berry and Auvergne were the only cities, or dioceses, which refused to acknowledge him as their master.” “As soon as Odoacer had extinguished the Western Empire, he sought the friendship of the most powerful of the barbarians. The new sovereign of Italy resigned to Euric, king of the Visigoths [A. D. 476-485], all the Roman conquests beyond the Alps as far as the Rhine and the ocean; and the Senate might confirm this liberal gift with some ostentation of power, and without any real loss of revenue or dominion.ECE 10.2

    9. “The lawful pretensions of Euric were justified by ambition and success; and the Gothic nation might aspire, under his command, to the monarchy of Spain and Gaul. Arles and Marseilles surrendered to his arms; he oppressed the freedom of Auvergne; and the bishop condescended to purchase his recall from exile by a tribute of just, but reluctant praise. Sidonius waited before the gates of the palace among a crowd of ambassadors and suppliants; and their various business at the court of Bordeaux attested the power and the renown of the king of the Visigoths. The Heruli of the distant ocean, who painted their naked bodies with its cerulean color, implored his protection; and the Saxons respected the maritime provinces of a prince who was destitute of any naval force. The tall Burgundians submitted to his authority; nor did he restore the captive Franks till he had imposed on that fierce nation the terms of an unequal peace. The Vandals of Africa cultivated his useful friendship: and the Ostrogoths of Pannonia were supported by his powerful aid against the oppression of the neighboring Huns. The North (such are the lofty strains of the poet) was agitated or appeased by the nod of Euric; the great king of Persia consulted the oracle of the West; and the aged god of the Tyber was protected by the swelling genius of the Garonne.” 6[Page 11] Id., chap 36, par. 23; chap 38, par. 3.ECE 10.3

    10. The reign of Euric “was the culminating point of the Visigothic monarchy in Gaul.”Guizot. 7[Page 11] “Representative Government,” lecture xxiv, par. 9. He was succeeded, A. D. 485, by his son, Alaric II, at the time “a helpless infant.” Though Alaric II reigned twenty-two years, he so “gave himself up to the pursuit of pleasure” that his reign “was the epoch of the decay of the Visigothic monarchy in Gaul,“ which indeed ended at the death of Alaric II by the hand of Clovis the Frank, in the battle of Poitiers, A. D. 507. Alaric II was succeeded by his infant son, Amalaric, who was taken into Spain. And though the Visigoths still held in Gaul “a narrow tract of seacoast from the Rhone to the Pyrenees,” from this time forward their dominion was properly in Spain, to which country it was limited, and wherein its seat was permanently fixed in the reign of Theudes, who succeeded Amalaric in A. D. 531, and reigned till 548.ECE 11.1

    11. The kingdom of the Visigoths continued to flourish in all Spain until A. D. 711. By that time luxury had so enervated them, and their despotism and persecutions had so estranged the subject peoples, that in a single year, 711-712, Tarik, the Saracen commander, conquered the country from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Bay of Biscay, a distance of seven hundred miles. This can be easily understood from the fact that to the great and decisive battle against the invading Saracens, Roderick, the king of the Visigoths, went “sustaining on his head a diadem of pearls, incumbered with a flowing robe of gold and silken embroidery, and reclining on a litter or car of ivory, drawn by two white mules.”—Gibbon. 8[Page 12] “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” chap 2, par. 41.ECE 11.2

    12. The remnant of the Visigoths, “a scanty band of warriors, headed by Pelayo, probably a member of the Visigothic royal family, found refuge in the cave of Covadonga, among the inaccessible mountains of Asturias” in the extreme northwestern part of the peninsula, “Their own bravery and the difficulties of the country enabled them to hold their own; and they became the rallying point for all who preferred a life of hardship to slavish submission.” 9[Page 12] Encyclopedia Britannica. Art. “Spain,” history, sec. iii, par. 7. This little band of warriors, never subdued, continued to hold their own, and to grow in strength and success. Little by little they pushed back the Saracens, enlarging their territory, and holding all that they gained. This they steadily continued for seven hundred and eighty years, when, in A. D. 1492, the last vestige of Mohammedan power in Spain was broken, and the descendants of the original Visigoths once more possessed the whole country. The present—A. D. 1901—child-heir to the throne of Spain is Alfonso XIII; and Alfonso I was the grandson of Pelayo, the intrepid leader of that “scanty band of warriors” who in A. D. 712 “found refuge in the cave of Covadonga among the inaccessible mountains of Asturias.”ECE 12.1

    13. The year of the final recovery of Spain from the Mohammedan power, it will be noted, was also the very year of the discovery of the West Indies by Columbus—A. D. 1492. This era of discovery and conquest opened by Columbus, and continued by Balboa, Cortes, and others, with an intricate complication of territorial accessions in Europe, suddenly at the beginning of the sixteenth century elevated Spain to the place of the leading power, and her king—Charles I—to the position of the greatest sovereign, then in the world. In fifty years, however, she had begun a decline which steadily continued till she was reduced, in 1898, to the bounds of the original kingdom of the Visigoths in the Spanish peninsula, with a few outlying islands.ECE 12.2

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