Visigoths

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The Visigoths (Latin: Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, or Wisi) were one of two main branches of the Goths, the Ostrogoths being the other. Together these tribes were among the Germanic peoples who spread through the late Roman Empire during the Migration Period. The Romanized Visigoths first emerged as a distinct people during the 4th century, initially in the Balkans, where they participated in several wars with Rome. A Visigothic army under Alaric I eventually moved into Italy and famously sacked Rome in 410.

Eventually the Visigoths were settled in southern Gaul as foederati of the Romans, the reasons for which is still a subject for debate among scholars. They soon fell out with their hosts and established their own kingdom with its capital at Toulouse. They slowly extended their authority into Hispania, displacing the Vandals and Alans. Their rule in Gaul was cut short at the Battle of Vouillé in 507 when they were defeated by the Franks under Clovis I. 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, formerly Arian Christians, converted to the Nicene faith as the ethnic distinction (ancestry, language, religion, tribal dress, etc.) between the increasingly Romanized Visigoths and their Hispano-Roman subjects gradually disappeared.[1] 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, a phenomenon which has led to much debate among scholars concerning its causes. Gothic identity survived the fall of the kingdom, however, especially in the Kingdom of Asturias and the Marca Hispanica.

Of what remains of the Visigoths in Spain and Portugal there are several churches and an increasing number of archaeological finds, but most notably a large number of Spanish, Portuguese, and other Romance language 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.

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