Centre d'études Visigothique

Centre d'études Visigothique

Historical Outline - GB

A brief history of the Visigoths to set the scene

The Visigoths came from south-east Sweden (there stills exists the town of Vestergotland) and from the Island of Gottland in the Baltic Sea.  Well before the birth of Jesus Christ they were known as traders, travelling as far south as Marseille and Greece.

In the first century they moved south "like a swarm of bees" into Poland, and by the second century had settled near the shores of the Black Sea.  Their warriors hired themselves as mercenaries to the Roman army and they prospered, becoming the most Romanised of the "barbarian" peoples, that is, the "strangers" from the north.

Alaric I - this bust of him is on the bridge at Cozenso in Italy, from where he sailed to his death.

Eventually, after many changes of Emperor, each more reluctant to pay them than the last, their King, Alaric I, laid siege to Rome and captured it, in 410AD.  He left Rome though, and died in a storm off the coast of Sicily on his way to Tunisia.  His successor Ataulf, negotiated a foedus and came to Narbonne in 412.

A foedus meant he administered the region and sent a proportion of the taxes raised back to Rome.  But his foedus only applied to Aquitaine.  But Ataulf was assassinated and his successor Wallia, claimed Toulouse.  There the Visigoths lived for nearly 100 years, during which their king Théodoric's contribution to a coalition army saved France from the Huns; but cost Théodoric his life.

Their next king, Euric, set out on a conquering career and by 507 the Visigothic territory included Aquitaine, provence, the Narbonnais, today's Catalonia, and most of Spain.

Then the Francs who had amalgated with the Roman Church, took most of Aquitaine under Clovis, but they never got Carcassonne, Narbonne, or the Visigoth's secret capital, Rennes-le-Château. 

The Roman Port of la Nautique at Narbonne in the time of the Visigoths

Narbonne became especially valuable and the capital of Septimanie, the area approximating to today's Languedoc.

This area remained Visigothic until Charles Martel ravaged and desolated the region in 737 - later the Visigoths intermarried with the Carolingians, vastly strengthening Charlemagne's aristocracy.

People still live in Languedoc and the Midi today who can claim Visigothic descent, and Visigothic ideas, such as their legal system, remained in force for another five hundred years.

Visigothic influence has been well forgotten now of course, as Frankish history labelled then heretics and then re-wrote their chronicles - which is where we come in!

The Visigothic memory deserves better than this.

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