The Strife between Pompey and Caesar.—The Victory of Caesar.—Spain under the Caesars.—The beneficent Reign of Augustus.—Tiberius Caligula.—Nero.—The four good Emperors.—Invasion of Spain by northern Barbarians.—Introduction of Christianity.—Martyrdom.—The Gothic Invasion and Empire.—Euric.—Theodoric.—The Crown elective.—The Arians and Trinitarians.—Jealousy of the Nobles.—Adoption of the Catholic Faith.—Collection of Wamba.—Whimsical Letter of Paul.
In the division which the triumvirs made between themselves of the Roman world, Spain, with other vast possessions, was assigned to Pompey. But when civil war arose, and Pompey had been driven out of Italy by the successful usurpation of Caesar, the conqueror marched to Spain, to win that country from the three lieutenants to whom Pompey had intrusted its administration. Surmounting the Alps, and marching through Southern Gaul, Caesar entered Spain by skirting the extreme eastern termination of the Pyrenees, where they abut upon the Mediterranean. The first encounter between the troops of Caesar and those of Pompey was at Lerida, upon the Segre, one of the tributaries of the Ebro. Caesar routed his foes, and was then so strengthened by the native tribes crowding to his banners that Pompey's lieutenants found it impossible to continue the conflict, and were compelled to make an unconditional surrender. Spain thus passed, almost without a struggle, into the hands of Caesar. This great achievement was accomplished, after entering Spain, in a campaign of but forty days. Caesar, thus victorious, assigned the two great provinces of Hither and Farther Spain, one to each of his lieutenants, Cassius and Lepidus, and then returned to Italy to prosecute the war against Pompey.
Upon the fall of Pompey in Africa, his eldest son fled to Spain, with many of his father's partisans. The memory of Pompey was still dear to many of the inhabitants, and several of the tribes rallied around his son. Again there was civil war in Spain. Victory crowned the first efforts of the young Pompey, and soon nearly all the peninsula was in his possession. The emergency was so great that Caesar himself hastened, at the head of his legions, to reconquer the country. After several indecisive battles, the two contending forces met in great strength on the plains of Monda, twenty-four miles from Malaga. It was manifest that, on that day of blood, the fate of the peninsula was to be decided. At the commencement of the battle the tide of war turned against Caesar, and his ranks were rapidly melting away before the stern blows of his assailants. Caesar was for a moment thrown into a state of terrible agitation. Raising his helmet, he spurred his horse into the midst of his soldiers, shouting:
"Soldiers, I am your Caesar! Veterans, after so many victories, will you suffer yourselves to be conquered by a boy? Do you thus abandon your chief? Rather will I perish by my own hand than by the sword of Pompey."
Thus speaking, he made a movement as if determined to kill himself, should the battle continue to go against him. This dramatic appeal accomplished its purpose. The wavering ranks again became firm, and with redoubled vigor they pressed forward, and gained a complete victory.
The young Pompey fled, leaving 30,000 of his followers dead upon the plain. The unhappy son of a sire whose woes had been as great as were his abilities, was pursued, taken, and cruelly put to death. Caesar, deeming the country subdued, returned to Rome, where the dagger of Brutus and his confederates terminated his brilliant career.
Under the long reign of the Roman emperors who succeeded Julius Caesar, the founder of the Empire, Spain continued one of the Roman provinces, with but little to distinguish it from any other part of the realm. Octavius Caesar, the successor of Julius, ascended the throne of the empire about the year 38 b.c. Octavius, who soon, from his achievements, acquired the title of Augustus, relinquished the former division of Spain into Hither and Farther, and instituted instead a threefold division. The whole north-eastern part of the country was organized into a province, called Tarraconensis. The southern section was called Baetica. The western district, embracing what is now Portugal, and its adjacent sections, was named Lusitania.
Spain, thus organized, thickly peopled with a warlike race, and containing immense resources of revenue, was deemed one of the most important provinces of the Roman Empire, and Augustus Caesar decided to visit it in person. With imperial pomp he traversed the realm, studying its capabilities and the character of its inhabitants. He speedily discerned that the restless disposition of the natives was such that the country could only be held by military occupation. He therefore reared many fortresses, garrisoned them strongly, and quelled the slightest indications of revolt with a relentless hand. Thus the spirit of the nation was subdued, and Spain, under Roman law, shared in the general peace and prosperity, such as they were, which the Roman Empire enjoyed.
Spain had never been so happy before as under the reign of Augustus Caesar. He did what he could to curb the rapacity of the local governors; constructed roads and bridges, and conferred high dignities of government upon deserving natives of the country. The following anecdote is related, illustrative of his magnanimity, and the reputation he acquired.
There was a celebrated robber by the name of Baracota, ranging the mountains, at the head of a determined band. He had for a long time been the terror of the country, either eluding or cutting to pieces all the forces sent to oppose him. At length Augustus offered a large reward for his head. Baracota, knowing that any of his followers would gladly murder him for the reward, boldly delivered himself up to the Emperor, confessing his crimes, promising to abandon his lawless course of life, and demanding the reward which had been offered for his apprehension. The intrepidity of the bandit, and his confidence in the imperial clemency, so touched the Emperor that he pardoned the robber and conferred upon him the proffered reward.
The reign of Tiberius Caesar, who followed Augustus, was a scourge to Spain, as to all other parts of the Roman Empire. His own rapacity was exceeded only by that of the praetors, or governors, who ruled over the province. The taxes were doubled, the property of the rich confiscated; children were deprived of their inheritance, and any person whose property the tyrant coveted was sent into banishment or to the scaffold.
The reign of the infamous Caligula was still more ruinous for Spain than was that of Tiberius Caesar. The remorseless tyrant, having exhausted the revenues of Italy, plundered Spain pitilessly. Claudius and Nero followed in his footsteps, and Spain sank deeper and deeper in the abyss of poverty and woe. At length, goaded beyond endurance by crime and outrage of every kind, Galba, the governor of Tarragona, in Spain, raised the standard of revolt against Nero. He was declared emperor of the army which he had under his command, but was soon assassinated. Vespasian, and after him Titus, endeavored to repair the wrongs which ages of oppression had inflicted upon Spain; and prosperity was just beginning to dawn upon the long-afflicted land, when the accession of Domitian to the throne of the empire, again introduced, through all the provinces of the Roman world, the reign of rapine and misery.
The Emperor Trajan, who was invested with the imperial crown about the year of our Lord 97, was a Spaniard by birth. He proved one of the noblest sovereigns who ever swayed the Roman sceptre. His reign was a gala-day for Spain. Loving his native land, he did every thing in his power to promote its happiness by encouraging all the arts of peace. New roads were constructed, and magnificent bridges thrown across the streams. Arches, colonnades, and aqueducts arose, and Spain, from the Pyrenees to Europa's point, clapped her hands for joy. Adrian, who succeeded Trajan, was also a Spaniard, and, though he inherited not the high genius of his predecessor, he was equally attached to his native land. Many monuments still remain in the Spanish peninsula indicative of his devotion to the province which gave him birth. His successor, the great and good Antoninus Pius, was a Gaul, and, under his reign, Spain, with all the rest of the Roman world, enjoyed prosperity. He was succeeded by Marcus Aurelius, a Spaniard, who also secured the well-merited affection of his subjects.
The reign of these four good emperors was extended over eighty-two years, and during all that time Spain was prosperous and happy. But then came again the reign of darkness, and the whole world groaned beneath the iron rod of despotism. With all the rest of the empire, Spain was crushed beneath the weight of intolerable oppression. But as years rolled on, and corruption ate into the vitals of the Empire, the imperial arm became weakened, and the governors of the provinces assumed more of independence, and their extortion and tyranny passed all bounds. The people, goaded to madness, were continually rising in blind insurrections, only to be trampled down in blood by the Roman legions. The only object of the government seemed to be plunder; robber bands swept the country, and poverty reigned in all dwellings excepting those of a favored few in the large cities.
To add to these almost unearthly woes, there came, about a.d. 260, a flood of foreign invasion. Barbaric tribes, from the wilds of Germany, fierce as wolves, came sweeping through Gaul, and, clambering the Pyrenees, ravaged Spain with the most savage mercilessness. They trampled down the crops, burned cities and villages, and the wretched inhabitants of the peninsula were exposed to every outrage which the imagination can conceive. For twelve years this inundation of woe rolled over Spain almost unchecked. The wretched Roman Empire was at this time distracted by the conflicts of no less than thirty pretenders to the throne, and anarchy reigned throughout the known world. At length an energetic governor, who had extended his sway over both Spain and Gaul, arrested the barbaric flood and turned it in another direction. But so dreadful had been the ravages of these savage hordes, that they were not repaired by one hundred and fifty years of succeeding peace.
The introduction of Christianity into Spain is lost in the obscurity of the past. It is however certain that, in the early periods of the second century, Christian churches were established in the peninsula, and that the flames of martyrdom had also been kindled there. The martyrdom of Fructuosus, Bishop of the Church of Tarragona during the reign of Galienus, is well authenticated. The Emperor issued a decree commanding the Christians, under penalty of death, to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Fructuosus paid no regard to the decree, and was consequently dragged before Emilianus, then the Roman governor of Spain.
"Art thou acquainted," inquired Emilianus, "with the decree of the Emperor?"
"What is that decree?" replied Fructuosus.
"That thou must sacrifice to the gods of Rome," was the answer.
"I adore one God only," Fructuosus replied, "our Heavenly Father, who has created heaven and earth."
"Art thou ignorant, then, that there are many gods?" responded the governor.
"I am," was the meek reply of the bishop.
The soldiers were commanded immediately to seize him, bind him hand and foot, and lead him to the stake. Ile was seated upon a vast combustible pile, which was prepared to burst into flame at the touch of the torch. Looking around upon his weeping friends, he said:
"My brethren, fear not that you will ever want for pastors. God will never forsake you. Weep not for me. These pangs will soon be over, and I shall enter those joyful realms to which martyrdom conducts me."
As the flames wreathed around him, consuming the cords with which he was bound, he kneeled, amidst the roaring fire, apparently as tranquil as if in his own closet; and with clasped hands, and breathing a fervent prayer, passed away to the martyr's crown.
During the reign of Diocletian the fires of persecution blazed through the whole Spanish peninsula. Sometimes hundreds perished together. The governor of the populous city of Saragossa, weary of hunting out Christians and executing them one by one, issued a decree that if the Christians would abandon the city and meet at an appointed place without the walls, he would pardon them all, and assign them lands, where they might build a city and live by themselves, and enjoy their religion unmolested.
Trusting to the honor of the governor, a great multitude of Christians—men, women, and children—issued from the gates. He then treacherously fell upon them with soldiers held in ambuscade, and every individual was massacred. Their bodies were all thrown together upon one funeral pyre and consumed.
The martyrdom of Fructuosus, Bishop of Tarragona.
As corruption sapped the foundations of the Roman Empire, the northern barbarians became more bold in their assaults, and wave after wave of invasion rolled over the provinces of Southern Europe. In many localities the barbaric tribes established themselves permanently under their bold and sagacious chieftains. During the whole of the fifth century Spain was the battle-ground where the savage nations of the North met and struggled for the ascendency. In the early part of the century three Germanic tribes, the Suevi, the Alans, and the Vandals, came rushing over the Pyrenees, and, after perpetrating every imaginable enormity upon the native inhabitants, took possession of the country and divided it between them.
But soon there came another people, the Goths, more powerful than the three tribes united which had preceded them, and commenced a desperate struggle to wrest Spain from its conquerors, and to appropriate it to themselves. Many campaigns of blood and woe ensued, with conflagrations, massacres, murders, and violence, which could not have been exceeded had the combatants been demons instead of men. In the progress of this war the Alans were annihilated. Still the war continued with occasional lulls, the Goths gradually gaining ground, until finally the Vandals abandoned the country, and crossing the Straits, a tribe of 80,000 souls, carried the terror of their arms into Africa. This was in March, 427 a.d.
The Suevi and the Goths were now alone left to struggle for the supremacy. It is true that there were some slight lingerings still of Roman power in portions of the peninsula, but so slight as scarcely to deserve notice. In a series of campaigns, extending through ten years, the Suevi gradually gained the entire ascendency.
But they were not permitted long to enjoy their triumph. Another contestant suddenly appeared upon the bloody arena, as the war-cry of the Huns resounded through the defiles of the mountains, and roused anew the clamor of battle. Suevi and Hun now rushed upon each other with gory clubs, and bit the dust together. But again, in the midst of these scenes of demoniac crime and misery, the banners of another host are seen hurrying to the battle. The Heruli landed from their boats upon the coast of Calabria, and plunged eagerly into the thickest of the fight. As wolves frantically struggle over the bones they have already gnawed bare of all their flesh, so did barbarian contend with barbarian over the skeleton remains of miserable Spain. There was no longer any law in the land. Spain had become barbaric. Robbery, violence, murder devasted the country from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar's rock.
About 466 a.d. , Euric, at the head of an immense Gothic force, descended from Gaul upon Spain, and soon succeeded in bringing the whole realm into subjection to his sway. The Suevi were driven into the south-west portion of the kingdom, where they were permitted to live in peace, as the vassals of the conqueror. Euric, surrounded by his invincible warriors, was now recognized as the monarch of Spain, and is regarded as the founder of the Gothic kingdom there. The Emperor, Julius Nepos, was glad to make peace with this warlike and triumphant sovereign by surrendering to him not only Spain, but the whole country beyond the Alps. Thus France, then called Gaul, and Spain became one Gothic empire, under Euric, more powerful at that time than decaying Rome itself.
Euric established the seat of his empire at Arles, in Gaul, on the Rhone, about thirty miles from its mouth. The Roman sway had now disappeared from these realms forever. Thus, what is called the Gothic kingdom was founded and consolidated in Spain. All the remnants of the various tribes who had inundated the country were gradually blended, with the native inhabitants, into a homogeneous people. Euric appears to have been a man of much intelligence, and vigorously he engaged in the work of reducing his realms to order. He established the famous code of Gothic law, still known as the Forum Judicum. He was nominally a Christian, though he adopted the Arian doctrine, and with merciless cruelty persecuted those Christians who adhered to the Trinitarian faith. Euric died at Arles in the year 483, and his son, Alaric, was elected by the warlike chieftains to succeed him on the throne.
Alaric was unable to retain the empire which his father's sword had won. Clovis, from Northern Gaul, came down upon him, at the head of his warlike Franks, and the armies of Alaric were dispersed, and the king himself slain. A northern nation, called the Ostrogoths, had now taken possession of Italy, and Theodoric, their king, wrested Spain from Gensealic, the feeble successor of Alaric. Thus the peninsula became a province of the Italian Ostrogoths, governed by a general whom Theodoric intrusted with the administration. This general, Theudis, was also an Arian, but, unlike Euric, he left those of a different faith in the undisturbed enjoyment of their religion. His rule was upright and sagacious. Laws were ordained, churches constructed, public improvements encouraged, and councils convened to settle important and disputed doctrines of the Christian faith. Theodoric was the first who introduced the custom of temporal sovereigns appointing to offices in the Church of Christ. His favorites he placed in the Episcopal chairs, thus secularizing the Church, and placing its offices of influence and honor by the side of those of the army and the navy.
Theodoric, just before his death, surrendered the dominion of Spain, with the southern portion of Gaul, to his grandson, Amalaric, and thus Spain became again an independent kingdom. Seville was chosen as the metropolis of this realm, which embraced the Pyrenees, and extended for many leagues along their northern slopes. But Amalaric soon fell in battle, engaged in a war with the Franks. A Gothic chieftain by the name of Theudis, was elected to the vacant throne. He was soon deprived of his inheritance in Gaul, and his soldiers were driven across the Pyrenees into Spain. The triumphant foe even pursued the fugitives down into the plains of the peninsula, and ravaged its provinces with their merciless arms. After a stormy reign, Theudis fell beneath the dagger of an assassin.
Theudisel succeeded to the throne. He was a monster of wickedness, indulging in brutal passions without restraint, and trampling with grossest violence upon all the most sacred relations of domestic life. A Gothic king in that day was elevated but little above his warrior nobles, and the dagger was the facile instrument with which to remove an obnoxious incumbent from the throne. One evening Theudisel was supping with his court in his palace at Seville, in commemoration of a recent victory, when, at a given signal, the lamps were extinguished, and a dozen swords, wielded by the nervous hands of outraged husbands and fathers, pierced his body.
Agilan succeeded him. His short reign was an incessant tempest. Many parts of Spain refused to acquiesce in his election. Civil war raged cruelly. The king was driven from his capital, and forced to take refuge in Merida. Surrounded by defeat, and with insurrection triumphant all over the land, he was slain by his own soldiers.
Athanagild, a Gothic noble, who was the leading spirit in this triumphant revolt, obtained aid in his rebellion from the Emperor Justinian. The death of Agilan however did by no means end the strife; on the contrary, it was but the signal for a still more deadly conflict among the combatants for the booty. The troops of Justinian were fighting for the Emperor, and not for Athanagild, and they remained for some time in Spain struggling for the possession of its provinces. They were eventually overcome, and the victor, with his sword ever unsheathed, maintained his throne.
In this day, when the Church had come to be regarded as one of the most potent institutions of the State, religious disputes necessarily became the dividing line between political parties. The great conflict between the Arians and the Trinitarians agitated all Christendom. The rancor of feeling was as severe, and the persecution as bitter, as has ever existed between Catholic and Protestant, or Aristocrat and Democrat. It was political rather than religious zeal which envenomed the dispute. It would be tedious to follow the details of the strifes and the battles to which this division led. There was a succession of sovereigns whose reigns were agitated by this politico-religious contest. One of these sovereigns, Leovigild, in his exasperation, caused the head of his son to be cleft by a hatchet, because he refused to abjure the Catholic faith and adopt that of Arius.
Leovigild persecuted the Catholics fiercely. He plundered their churches and monasteries, and extorted vast sums from the rich as the penalty of their faith, while others were sent into exile, to the dungeon, and even to the scaffold. With the money thug acquired, he surrounded his court with unwonted splendor. He was publicly crowned, a pageant in which no other Gothic king had indulged, for the king had heretofore been considered but very slightly elevated above the chieftains who elected him. He reared a magnificent throne in his palace, and studiously surrounded himself with all the pomp and pageantry of royalty. For the first time, under his reign, the effigy of the king was stamped upon the coin, with a diadem upon his brow.
Upon the death of Leovigild, in the year 589, his son, Recared I., was unanimously chosen as his successor. Apparently from sincere conviction he gradually abandoned the tenets of Arius, and espoused the Catholic cause. With singular sagacity, he adopted measures to bring back the whole Arian portion of the Spanish Church to the ancient faith. The treasure which had been wrested from the Catholic Church was restored. Public discussions were encouraged, at which the king presided, exerting a gentle but decided influence in behalf of the cause he had secretly espoused. By a merciful yet firm government, and by great kindness to the poor, he won general popularity. Having thus prepared the way for his attempt to establish unity of religious faith throughout his realms, he assembled a general council of his clergy and nobles at Toledo on the 8th of May, 589. After the council had devoted three days to fasting and prayer, the king, in a carefully prepared speech, opened the subject for which he had convened them. The substance of his address was as follows:
"Religion is a subject more important than all others to man, since it involves not only his prosperity in this life, but also his eternal welfare in the life to come. Unhappily antagonistic schemes of religion divide the Church in Spain. The most careful consideration has convinced me that the ancient Catholic system is the religion of the Bible, and I wish now publicly to make a profession of my Christian faith in connection with that Church. Though my conscience impels me to this step, still I have no wish to constrain the conscience of any other man. But if unity of religious faith can by any possibility be restored to Spain, it will prove the greatest blessing which could be conferred upon the realm, introducing peace to the distracted kingdom, and promoting national prosperity and individual happiness. I do therefore now publicly abjure the errors of Arianism, and declare my belief in the co-equality of the three persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and I submit myself to the authority of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is also my earnest desire that all who are present should follow my example."
The king was beloved, and love is far more potent in promoting conversion than argument. Denominational differences are ordinarily social in their origin, the result of elective affinities rather than of intellectual conviction. Religious theses and political platforms were at this time so blended that partisanship rather than enlightened conscientiousness controlled in the Church as well as in the State. The speech of the popular king was received with a general burst of applause. Nearly all the prelates and nobles, who were present, with enthusiasm followed the king. Their assent was given with such singular unanimity that immediately it was decreed that the Catholic religion should be henceforth the religion of the State, and that no person should be admitted to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, who would not first give his assent to the orthodox creed sanctioned by the Council of Constantinople. Some of the more vigorous or conscientious of the Arian prelates denounced this apostasy, as they deemed it, in unmeasured terms. Their indignation led so far as even to incite them to conspire against the life of the king.
The Gothic kingdom of Spain, at this time, extended across the Pyrenees into Gaul; and, though the Franks sent a force of sixty thousand men to recover Southern Gaul from Recared, they were utterly routed, leaving nine thousand of their number dead upon the field. The reign of Recared was singularly prosperous and happy. He seems to have devoted all his energies with great sagacity to the promotion of the welfare of his subjects. He died a.d. 601.
Several kings succeeded, during whose reigns nothing of moment occurred. Liuva, after a weak and brief reign, was assassinated. Witeric succeeded, and closed a few years of shame and calamity by being murdered at his own table, and his body was thrown contemptuously into a ditch. Gundemar, in whose hands the sceptre was next placed, was a warrior, and, after a few military exploits of some renown, died in his bed. Sisebert then accepted the perilous diadem. He was an energetic king, and he displayed a degree of humanity marvelous in those days, even weeping over the gory spectacle of the battle-field, and doing every thing in his power to mitigate the inevitable horrors of war. And yet, with this humanity for Spaniards and Goths, and all included, even nominally, within the Christian pale, he was merciless beyond all bounds in his treatment of the Jews. He issued a decree that every Jew, unless he would submit to the ordinance of baptism, and profess the Christian faith, should be publicly scourged, stripped of all his possessions, and turned loose to starve. By this horrid intolerance, eighty thousand were compelled to receive baptism. Many escaped into France, and many, sternly adhering to the faith of their fathers, suffered, to the bitter end, this cruel persecution.
The Jew, while thus forcibly submitting to baptism, and partaking of the bread and the wine, cursed Christ in his heart; and it soon became so evident that this violence was promoting hypocrisy, not Christianity, that by a council convened at Toledo the very sensible resolve was adopted that the sacrament should henceforth be administered only to those who wished to receive it. Independently of this persecution, which the darkness of the age explains but does not excuse, Sisebert was a wise and patriotic sovereign. He took much interest in mercantile affairs, and commenced the construction of a fleet. He was also much of a scholar, and several of his letters still remain. At the time of his death, in the year 621, Spain was probably in a higher state of prosperity than it had ever been before.
His son, Recared, who was elected to succeed him, after a short reign of three months sank into the grave, and the Gothic nobles placed Swintila in the supreme command. With amazing energy he commenced his reign, and singular prosperity crowned his administration. But success and power fostered pride and cruelty. He become arrogant and despotic, and endeavored to change the elective crown into an hereditary one by decreeing that his son should succeed him. This so exasperated the proud Gothic nobles, who considered the king but as one of their own number whom they elected to lead their armies, that indignantly, after a pretty stern conflict, they succeeded in deposing Swintila, and the sceptre was placed in the hands of Sisenand.
The Franks in Gaul, aided the Spanish Goths in the deposition of Swintila; and the Gothic chieftains, as a remuneration, presented their allies with a large sum of gold. The Franks appropriated this treasure to the construction of the magnificent Church of St. Denis, near Paris, which has since served as the mausoleum of the kings of France.
Sisenand, to consolidate his power, convened a council of high ecclesiastics and influential nobles of the laity at Toledo, a.d. 633. The political supremacy which the Church had then attained is indicated by the acts of this council. Swintila, the deposed sovereign, was excommunicated, with his wife, his child, and his brother. All their property was confiscated, and they were placed, unprotected by law, at the mercy of the king. It was also decreed that henceforth no election of a king should be valid until confirmed by a council, regularly convened, of the clergy and the nobles.
Chintila was elected to succeed Sisenand in 636. A council of the clergy, and of nobles of the laity, was promptly convened to ratify the election. This council issued the singular decree that in the future no one should be nominated king unless he were of noble blood, and of pure Gothic descent. Another decree was soon promulgated, that the elected king should always take an oath not to suffer the exercise of any other religion than the Catholic, and to enforce the laws rigorously against all dissidents, especially against "that accursed people the Jews." There were however many Christians who, better understanding the mind of Christ, protested against this intolerance, and even Chintila disapproved of the ordinance.
Tulga next ascended the throne, in 640. He proved so inefficient, allowing the laws to be broken with impunity, that, after disgracing the throne for two years, the nobles shut him up in a monastery, and placed the sceptre in the hands of Chindaswind, a stern old man, who, with a mailed hand, boxed all insubordination into pliant obedience. His authority became so indisputable, and the terror of his arm so great, that he was enabled to associate his son, Reces wind, with him in the royal dignity, and to transmit to him the crown.
The Gothic nobles, proud of their independence, and of their right of electing their sovereigns, were alarmed by this advance towards the hereditary transmission of the throne, and rose in revolt. An army was speedily gathered on the north side of the Pyrenees. They crossed the mountains, but soon meeting the king's troops, they were dispersed, and almost annihilated. Thus the opposition to the royal authority was crushed. Receswind proved a worthy prince, and seems to have been a man of piety. The temptation was very great for the sovereign to avail himself of his position in acquiring vast wealth to transmit to his children. The clergy issued a decree, which the king sanctioned, that thenceforth all the wealth acquired by the king after his accession to the throne should be transmitted, not to his children, but to the crown. Receswind died at an advanced age, in the year 672, and was succeeded by Wamba.
The new sovereign was chosen by the electors. The name of Wamba is one of the most illustrious in the annals of the ancient kings of Spain. He was truly a noble in character as in blood. He had already filled many of the most important posts in the State, and, weary of active life, had sought retirement. When informed of his election, he earnestly begged to be excused from accepting the proffered dignity, alleging his advanced age and consequent incapacity for the labors which the responsible post required. The importunity, however, was such that he was virtually compelled to accept the crown. Wamba had hardly taken his seat upon the throne in Toledo ere the Goths, on the other side of the Pyrenees, rose in rebellion, and chose Flavius Paulus, a Greek duke, for their king. They crowned him at Narbonne. Paulus sent the following whimsical letter, as a declaration of war, and a challenge to his Southern rival:
"In the name of the Lord, Flavius Paulus, King of the East, to Wamba, King of the South. Tell me, warrior, lord of woods and friend of rocks, Nast thou ever run through the sharp rocks of uninhabitable mountains? Hast thou ever, like the strongest lion, broken down with thy breast the thickets and trees of the forest? Hast thou ever outstripped the deer in speed, or outleaped the stag, or subdued the devouring bears? Hast thou ever triumphed over the venom of vipers and serpents? If thou hast done all this, hasten unto us, that we may be abundantly regaled with the notes of the nightingale. Wherefore, thou wonderful man, whose courage rises with the occasion, come down to the defiles of the Pyrenees. There thou wilt find the great redresser of wrongs, whom thou canst engage without dishonor."