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The Visigoths were a Germanic people, one part of the Goths, who raided Roman territories repeatedly, notably defeating a Roman army and killing the Roman emperor at the Battle of Adrianoplee in 378. They took the city Rome in 410. They later established a kingdom in parts of what is now France, Portugal, and Spain (Hispania). In 711, Islamic invaders conquered this kingdom, establishing Al-Andalus. Map: The Empire of the Goths under Theoderic the Great around 523 A.D.

The Visigoths were one of two main branches of the Goths, an eastern Germanic tribe; the Ostrogoths being the other. Together these tribes were among the Germanic peoples who conquered the late Roman Empire during the Migration Period.


The Visigoths first emerged as a distinct people during the fourth 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 conquered Rome (410).

Eventually the Visigoths were settled in southern Gaul as foederati of the Romans, the reasons for which are still subjects 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 in 507 at the Battle of Vouillé, when they were defeated by the Franks under Clovis I. Thereafter the only territory north of the Pyrenees that the Visigoths held was Septimania and their kingdom was limited to Hispania, which came completely under the control of their 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 Arianism, converted to the Nicene Creed. In their kingdom, the century that followed was dominated by the Councils of Toledo and the episcopacy. Historical sources for the seventh 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 thereafter, 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 language, Portuguese language and other Romance languages and 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 the basis for legal procedure in most of Christian Iberian Peninsula for centuries after their kingdom's demise.

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