Rechiar

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Silver coin of Rechiar (438–55). The reverse reads IVSSV RICHIARI REGES, Latin for "by order of King Rechiar".

Rechiar or Rechiarius[1] (after 415[2] – died December 456) was the Suevic King of Galicia from 448 until his death. He was the first Catholic—that is, Athanasian—Germanic king in Europe and one of the most innovative and belligerent of the Suevi monarchs. Despite his orthodox Christianity, Hydatius, the contemporary bishop and chronicler from Galicia who is the sole contemporary source for biographical details of Rechiar, established his reputation as that of a barbarian with little sense of Roman law, culture, or custom.

Religion[edit]

Rechiar was almost certainly not raised Catholic, though some scholars have raised the contention that his father raised him that way in order to foster good relations with the Church and bring about the easy conversion of the Suevi.[3] What is certain is the Rechiar had been converted (catholicus factus according to Isidore's Historia Suevorum) before reaching the throne.[3] Rechiar's conversion to Catholicism predated that of the more famous Clovis of the Franks by half a century. The argument was even raised in the late nineteenth century that the Spanish church had primacy over the French because Rechiar's conversion predated Clovis'.[3] Rechiar was the son of the pagan Rechila, whom he succeeded on the throne, and a daughter of the Visigothic king Wallia. The date and circumstances of Rechiar's conversion from paganism are unknown and it is possible that Roman missionaries took some part in it, since he was not converted to the Arianism which was preached by the Visigothic missionaries.[3] Rechiar was one of the only Suevi to convert at that time; his people remained pagan. Hydatius records opposition, possibly secret,[4] to his succession, but the basis of this opposition he does not mention. It is not inconceivable that it was religiously motivated.[3]

Rechiar married an Arian Visigothic princess from Toulouse, the daughter of Theodoric I.[5][6] The marriage of Catholic to Arian was not advantageous for the church of the former and the influence of Rechiar's queen and another later Arian queen helped bring about the conversion of the Suevi not to Catholicism, but to Arianism.[5] If Rechiar did make any effort to convert his people to his faith, it was entirely ephemeral and "bore no detectable fruit".[7]

Administration[edit]

Rechiar was a powerful enough ruler to mint his own coinage, on which he had stamped the legend ivssv rechiari reges.[4] Indeed, he was the first Germanic king to mint coins (siliquae)[8] bearing his name and the first to claim the right (ivssv) to mint them.[9] Three of these coins survive, bearing witness to his complete independence from even nominal Roman authority. Rechiar's kingship was primitive enough, however, that it appears he took the royal thesaurus (treasure) with him on his campaigns.[10] He also did not employ Roman bureaucrats or lawyers, for he did not recognise Roman law nor did he have a formal relationship with the Roman empire or the land on which his men settled, roamed, and marauded.[11] He kept his capital at Braga.

Wars[edit]

Rechiar was a bellicose ruler, who made war on all of his neighbours. In 448, at the commencement of his reign, the Roman count Censorius was executed at Seville by a Suevic nobleman named Agiulf. It has been surmised by some that this act was connected with Rechiar's warlike attitude towards Rome.[5] He even allied with the Bagaudae in ravaging the Ebro valley, a unique occurrence between Germanic rulers and local peasant rebels.[5][12] Rechiar also impelled the first contact between the Suevi and the Basques: he made war on them in February 449.[5] The expedition may have been a mere raid[5] or an attempted conquest of Vasconia as a prelude to the conquest of the Ebro valley.[13] Later in 449 he visited his father-in-law in Gaul.[14] On his return home to Galicia, Rechiar allied with Basilius, leader of one of the Bagaudae, and raided the Ebro valley, attacking Zaragoza and even entering Lérida (Ilerda) "by a trick".[15] He took many prisoners, but he failed to take the region and thus complete the Suevic conquest of Hispania. Rechiar did not approach Tarragona, the provincial capital.[15]

Following the assassination of the patrician Flavius Aëtius and the emperors Valentinian III and Petronius Maximus in 455, Rechiar led an attack on Carthaginiensis, probably with the intent of conquest. Later that year he attacked the province of Tarraconensis, the only province of Hispania still under Roman control, but did not conquer it.[5][6][16] According to Jordanes, he had "presumed" on the basis of his relationship to the Visigothic king and Roman foederatus Theodoric II (his brother-in-law), that he could rule all of Hispania.[15] Theodoric, acting on the orders of the emperor Avitus, invaded Hispania in 456 with an army of Goths, Franks, Burgundians under their kings Chilperic I and Gundioch, and perhaps even Romans to confront the Suevi, who in turn planned to meet the invaders on the borders of Tarraconensis.[16][17] On 5 October 456 Theodoric defeated Rechiar in a battle at the Campus Paramus twelve miles from Astorga on the Urbicus (Órbigo).[6][16] He was wounded during the battle, but according to Hydatius managed to flee as far as Porto in the heart of his kingdom, while Jordanes says he took ship in the Tyrrhenian Sea (i.e., the western Mediterranean) before winds forced him back and he was captured.[18] Jordanes is almost certainly wrong; at Porto Rechiar was captured and executed in December.[19] The Suevic monarchy collapsed and rapidly disintegrating into rival factions in the next years.[6] Braga fell on 28 October and the Visigoths brutally sacked the city and the churches before moving on to conquer Andalusia.[19] During the century of Arianism that soon commenced, nothing about the Suevi was recorded.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Castilian and Galician: Requiario; Portuguese: Requiário.
  2. ^ His father Rechila married a daughter of Wallia, king of the Visigoths (415–19); the marriage took place between 415 and 419.
  3. ^ a b c d e Thompson, "The Conversion of the Spanish Suevi", 79.
  4. ^ a b Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 165.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Thompson, "The Conversion of the Spanish Suevi", 80.
  6. ^ a b c d Collins, Visigothic Spain, 31.
  7. ^ Thompson, "The Conversion of the Spanish Suevi", 91.
  8. ^ Edmondson, "Mining in the Later Roman Empire and Beyond", 100.
  9. ^ Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 212.
  10. ^ Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 169.
  11. ^ Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 209.
  12. ^ Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 184–185. Isidore of Seville believed that it was not Bagaudae with which Rechiar allied, but rather the Visigoths. Theodore Mommsen follows him, but there is no reason to accept Isidore over Hydatius and every reason not to when considering that Isidore refuses to mention the Bagaude in his Historia.
  13. ^ Collins, "The Basques in Aquitaine and Navarre", 6.
  14. ^ Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 189.
  15. ^ a b c Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 162.
  16. ^ a b c Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 163.
  17. ^ Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 296 n12, notes that Felix Dahn believed Theodoric invaded Hispania feeling that Suevic control of Tarraconensis would threaten his kingdom of Toulouse. Thompson himself dismisses the argument.
  18. ^ Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 297 n15.
  19. ^ a b Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 164.

References[edit]

  • Collins, Roger. "The Basques in Aquitaine and Navarre: Problems of Frontier Government." War and Society in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of J. O. Prestwich. edd. J. Gillingham and J. C. Holt. Cambridge: Boydell Press, 1984. Reprinted in Law, Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain. Variorum, 1992. ISBN 0-86078-308-1.
  • Collins, Roger. Visigothic Spain, 409–711. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. ISBN 0-631-18185-7.
  • Edmondson, J. C. "Mining in the Later Roman Empire and Beyond: Continuity or Disruption?" The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 79. (1989), pp 84–102.
  • Thompson, E. A. "The Conversion of the Spanish Suevi to Catholicism." Visigothic Spain: New Approaches. ed. Edward James. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. ISBN 0-19-822543-1.
  • Thompson, E. A. Romans and Barbarians: The Decline of the Western Empire. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. ISBN 0-299-08700-X.
Preceded by
Rechila
King of Galicia
448–456
Succeeded by
Aioulf