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History - Vandals and Visigoths


These groups from northern Europe ruled Andalucia for over 300 years.   At the beginning of the fourth century AD, the expanding Mongolian population was pressurising the tribes on the Russian Steppes, and over the next century they in turn pushed the Vandals, the Visigoths and the Franks further to the boundary of the Roman Empire on the Rhine.

Vandals: 335-435AD

In AD 409/410 the Roman frontier was breached and the Vandals crossed the Pyrenees into the Iberian peninsula. There, they received land from the Romans in Hispania Baetica (roughly modern-day Andalucia). Other tribes who also arrived around this time were the Suevi and Alani. The Vandals crushed the Alani, killing the western Alan King Attaces. The remainder of his people subsequently appealed to the Vandal King Gunderic to accept the Alan crown.


These tribes were followed by the Visigoths, who separated from the Ostrogoths, invaded Italy and sacked Rome. The Visigoths first settled in southern Gaul as a tribe federated to the Romans (they had to provide them with troops). They converted to Arianism rather than Nicean Catholicism followed by the roomans and were seen by them as heritics. The Visigoths soon fell out with their Roman hosts and extended their authority into Hispania Betica at the expense of the Suevi and Vandals.   The Visigoths had nearly completed the conquest of Spain by AD 476 pushing the Vandals south in Africa. Hence with the exception of the Suevic kingdom in the north west, which did not fall until 585, and the exception of areas controlled by the Basques, all Hispania was Visigoth.   

In the sixth century, Visigoth rule in Gaul was ended by the Franks. After that, the Visigoth kingdom was limited to Hispania.

Byzantine Province

In 554, Granada, Malaga and southernmost Hispania Baetica were lost to the Byzantine Empire to form the province of Spania. The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern successor to the Roman Empire in the west. It came into being around the year 330 AD when Rome's first Christian Emperor, Constantine I moved the capital from Rome to Byzantium, later Constantinople now Istanbul. Under Emperor Justinian a concerted effort was made to regain much of the lost empire.

In 551 a Vizigoth nobleman named Athanagild, who was fighting the Vizigoth King Agila made his base Seville. Athanagild 'invited' Byzantium Emperor Justinium to help. His forces arrived in 552, after a couple of years Agila was assassinated in Merida and Athanagild was crowned. However the Byzantine forces stayed on, as a spearhead to a reconquest of the far west envisaged by Roman emperor Justinian I. However Visigoth King Suintila reconquered completely in 624.


Earlier in 589, King Reccared converted his people from Arianism to Catholicism. Their legal code, the Visigothic Code, was completed in 654 and abolished the long standing practice of applying different laws for Romans and Visigoths. Once legal distinctions were no longer being made these two peoples became known collectively as Hispani.   Their Catholic bishops increased in power, until, at the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633, they took upon themselves to upsurp the nobles' right to select a king from among the royal family. Visigothic also began the persecution of Jews began after the conversion to Catholicism.

When the Tariq and the Moors invaded in 711, they conquered Visigothic Iberia very quickly. Following the death of Hispani King Rodrigo in the battle of Guadalete, there was no movement by the Visigoth nobility, nor Wanda's prince sons, nor the people to push them back. Perhaps the Visigoth saw the berber tribesman as involuntary allies who were going to rid them of a fiscal and clerical tyranny. It was true almost everybody helped them on their way, like a liberating army, guiding them and opening gates for them. More about the Moorish invasion

The Visigoths left very few visible signs from their rule in Andalucia, except for stone pillars from their churches (some were Arian, others Catholic) reused by the Moors to build their mosques. If you are interested, you can visit some Visigoths graves at Carteia ruins.