From Academic Kids

Leovigild (reigned 569/572 - April 21, 586) was one of the more effective Visigothic kings of Spain, the restorer of Visigothic unity, ruling from his capital newly established at Toledo, where he settled towards the end of his reign. (The Iberian Visigothic monarchy is sometimes called the "Kingdom of Toledo".)

The capital at Toledo, established in the previous reign, marked the first move inland of a center of culture from the Mediterranean coast or the southern Tartessus. Leovigild and his brother were declared co-kings in 568 after a short period of anarchy which followed the death of King Athanagild, whose widow, Goisvintha, he married, his first wife, Theodosia, mother of his sons, having died. Leova, who was favored by the Visigoth nobles, ruled the Visigothic lands north of the Pyrenees, until his death in 572. Leovigild began his sole reign of the reunited Visigoth territories by seizing the Byzantine-ruled city of Córdoba, where the Byzantines had recently answered Athanagild's call for help by establishing a stretch of Byzantine territory in the southeast of the Iberian peninsula. Leovigild also ousted the Germanic Suevi from their strongholds at León and Zamora, thus enlarging his kingdom to the north and west as well, but for another generation the Eastern Roman emperor retained a base in southeastern Spain, which retained its old Roman name of Hispania Baetica.

Leovigild further reinforced possibilities of a peaceful future succession, a perennial Visigothic issue, by associating his two sons, Hermenegild and Reccared, with himself in the kingly office and placing certain regions under their regencies. Hermenegild, the elder, he married to a Frankish princess Inguthis|Ingund, daughter of King Sigebert I, the Austrasian king at Metz.

The Visigoths were still a military aristocracy in the peninsula, and Arianism was still the royal religion. New monarchs had to be ratified by the nobles, even though this was merely a form. Visigoths and their subjects were still separately governed according to two distinct law codes. During Leovigild's reign, Leander, an Ibero-Roman who was Catholic bishop of Seville, together with the princess Ingunthis, convinced her husband Hermenegild, the eldest son of Leovigild, to convert to Catholic Christianity, and defended the convert in an uprising (583 - 584) that occasioned his father's reprisals. Leovigild was not in general a bitter foe of the Catholic Christians, although he was obliged to punish them when they conspired against him with his external enemies. He ruled in part through the local prestige of the Catholic bishops, some of whose sees had almost four centuries' standing. For the Arian monarch, Catholicism was the religion of his Roman subjects, and Arianism was a rallying-point to counter his Byzantine enemies in the south; conversion was a preamble to treason. After besieging and taking Byzantine Seville, Leovigild took his son prisoner in Córdoba, and banished him safely north to Valencia, where he was murdered by Leovigild's agents (585)— and later canonized as Saint Hermenegild by Sixtus IV at the urging of Philip the Catholic. The Frankish princess was delivered to the Eastern Emperor Tiberius II Constantine and was last heard of in Africa. Leovigild had exiled the troublesome bishop, too, who spent the years before Hermenegild's rebellion, 579 to 582, at the court of Byzantium; the Roman Catholic Church has canonized him as Saint Leander of Seville. Gregory the Great gives some vivid details of Byzantine venality and Arian fanaticism in a highly colored Catholicizing version of these events (Dialogi, III, 31,).

Leovigild's last year was troubled by open war with the Franks along his northernmost borders.

The Visigoths in Spain considered themselves the heirs of Western Roman imperial power, not its enemies. Until Leovigild's reign, the Visigoths minted coins that imitated the imperial coinage of Byzantium which circulated from Byzantine possessions in Baetica. From the reign of Leovigild onwards however, the Visigoth kingdom issued coarse coinage of its own designs. While facing the rebellion in southern Spain, Leovigild struck an issue of tremisses with a cross on steps on the reverse, a design which had been introduced for the very first time on Byzantine solidi by emperor Tiberius II (578-582).

City-oriented Ibero-Roman culture continued to erode during Leovigild's reign. There evolved in Visigothic Spain the new post-Imperial pattern of regional and local overlordship based upon regional dukes (duces), who were military leaders, and lords of smaller districts or territories called counts (comes). A similar evolution was taking place in Italy, and, more slowly, in the East as well. The new ducal administrations tended to coincide with the old Roman provinces, and the territories of the counts with the old cities and their small hinterlands.

With the death of Leovigild, his other son Reccared, who had converted to Catholicism in 589, brought religious and political unity to link the Visigoths with their subjects. But the Catholicizing of Visigothic Spain encouraged the rise of the bishops and the decline of the institution of kingship itself. In 633 a synod of bishops at Toledo usurped the nobles' right to confirm the election of a king. With loyalties transferred to the local bishop, as both inspiration and the fount of patronage, when the Moors threatened in the 8th century, wider-scale resistance could not be coordinated, and the bishoprics collapsed one after another.

Perhaps Leovigild was correct in perceiving Arianism as the bastion of Visigothic kingship.

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