Roderic

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Titlepage of La Crónica del rey don Rodrigo (The Chronicle of the Lord King Roderic) published by Juan Ferrer (1549), recounting the legendary deeds of Roderic

Ruderic (also spelled Roderic, Roderik, Roderich, or Roderick;[1] Spanish and Portuguese: Rodrigo, Arabic: Ludharīq, لذريق‎; died 711 or 712) was the Visigothic King of Hispania for a brief period between 710 and 712. He is famous in legend as "the last king of the Goths". In history he actually is an extremely obscure figure about whom little can be said with certainty but that he ruled part of Iberia with opponents ruling the rest and was defeated and killed by invading Muslims who soon conquered most of the peninsula. His widow Egilona is believed to have married Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa, who was later assassinated.

The above circumstances have caused the name "Roderic" and its variants to remain in use up to the present, unlike many other Germanic names of the time which had faded into obscurity.

Early life[edit]

According to the late Chronicle of Alfonso III, Roderic was a son of Theodefred, himself a son of king Chindaswinth, and of a woman named Riccilo. Roderic's exact date of birth is unknown but probably was after 687, estimated from his father's marriage having taken place after his exile to Córdoba following the succession of King Egica in that year.[2]

Succession[edit]

Usurpation[edit]

According to the Chronicle of 754, Roderic "tumultuously [tumultuose] invaded the kingdom [regnum] with the encouragement of [or at the exhortation of] the senate [senatus]."[3][4] Historians have long debated the exact meaning of these words. What is generally recognised is that it was not a typical palace coup as had occurred on previous occasions, but rather a violent invasion of the palace which sharply divided the kingdom.

It is probable that the "invasion" was not from outside the kingdom; because the word regnum can refer to the office of the king, it is likely that Roderic merely usurped the throne.[4] Nonetheless, it is possible that Roderic was a regional commander (dux of Baetica in later, legendary sources) or even an exile when he staged his coup.[5][6]

The "tumult" which surrounded this usurpation was probably violent, though whether or not it involved the deposition or assassination of the legitimate king, Wittiza, or was a consequence of his recent natural death has divided scholars.[7] Some scholars believe that the king Achila, who ruled in opposition to Roderic, was in fact Wittiza's son and successor and that Roderic had tried to usurp the throne from him.[8]

The senate with which Roderic accomplished his coup was probably composed of the "leading aristocrats and perhaps also some of the bishops."[4] The participation of churchmen in the revolt is disputed, some arguing that the support of the bishops would not have led to the act being labelled a usurpation.[9] The body of leading temporal and ecclesiastical lords had been the dominant body in determining the Visigothic succession since the reign of Reccared I.[5] The palatine officials, however, had not been much affected by royal measures to decrease their influence in the final decades of the kingdom, as their effecting of a coup in 711 indicates.[3]

Division of the kingdom[edit]

After the coup, the division of the kingdom into two factions, with the southwest (the provinces of Lusitania and western Carthaginiensis around the capital Toledo) in Roderic's hands and the northeast (Tarraconensis and Narbonensis) in the hands of Achila is confirmed by archaeological and numismatic evidence. Roderic's twelve surviving coins, all bearing the name Rvdericvs, were minted at Toledo, probably his capital, and "Egitania", probably Idanha-a-Velha.[10] The regions in which the coins have been discovered do not overlap and it seems highly probable that the two rulers ruled in opposition from different regions. It is unknown to whom the provinces of Gallaecia and Baetica fell.[10] That Roderic and Achila never appear to have come into military conflict is probably best explained by the preoccupation of Roderic with Arab raids and not to a formal division of the kingdom.[11]

A Visigothic regnal list mentions "Ruderigus" as having reigned seven years and six months, while two other continuations of the Chronicon Regum Visigothorum record Achila's reign of three years.[5] In contrast to the regnal lists, which cannot be dated, the Chronicle of 754, written at Toledo, says that "Rudericus" reigned for a year.[5] Roderic's reign is usually dated to begin in 710 (rarely as early as 709) or, more commonly, 711 and to have extended until late in 711 or 712. Achila's reign probably began shortly after Roderic's and lasted until 713.

War with the Muslims[edit]

According to the Chronicle of 754, Roderic immediately upon securing his throne gathered a force to oppose the Arabs and Berbers (Mauri) who were raiding in the south of the Iberian peninsula and had destroyed many towns under Tariq ibn Ziyad and other Muslim generals.[6] While later Arabic sources make the conquest of Hispania a singular event undertaken at the orders of the governor Musa ibn Nosseyr of Ifriqiya, according to the Chronicle, which was written much nearer in date to the actual events, the Arabs began disorganised raids and only undertook to conquer the peninsula with the fortuitous death of Roderic and the collapse of the Visigothic nobility. Paul the Deacon's Historia Langobardorum, records that the Saracens invaded "all Hispania" from Septem (Ceuta).[12][13]

Roderic made several expeditions against the invaders before he was deserted by his troops and killed in battle in 712.[6] The chronicler of 754 claims that some of the nobles who had accompanied Roderic on his last expedition did so out of "ambition for the kingdom", perhaps intending to allow him to die in battle so that they could secure the throne for one of themselves.[6] Whatever their intentions, most of them seem to have died in the battle as well.[6] Other historians have suggested that low morale amongst the soldiery because of Roderic's disputed succession was the cause of defeat.[13] The majority of Roderic's soldiers may have been poorly trained and unwilling slave conscripts; there were probably few freemen left fighting for the Goths.[14]

The location of the battle is debatable. It probably occurred near the mouth of the Guadalete river, hence its name, the Battle of Guadalete. According to Paul the Deacon, the site was the otherwise unidentifiable "Transductine promontories".[13]

According to the Chronicle of 754, the Arabs took Toledo in 711 and executed many nobles still in the city on the pretense that they had assisted in the flight of Oppa, a son of Egica.[6] Since this took place, according to the same chronicle, after Roderic's defeat, either the defeat must be moved back to 711 or the conquest of Toledo pushed back to 712; the latter is preferred by Collins.[15] It is possible that the Oppa who fled Toledo and was a son of a previous king was the cause of the "internal fury" which wracked Hispania at the time recorded in the Chronicle. Perhaps Oppa had been declared king at Toledo by Roderic and Achila's rivals, either before Roderic's final defeat or between his death and the Arab capture of Toledo.[11] If so, the death of the nobles who had "ambition for the kingdom" may have been Oppa's supporters who were killed in Toledo by the Arabs shortly after the battle in the south.[15]

According to a ninth-century chronicle, a tombstone with the inscription Hic requiescit Rodericus, rex Gothorum (here rests Roderic, king of the Goths) was found at Egitania (modern Idanha-a-Velha, Portugal). According to the legend of Nazaré the king fled the battlefield alone. Roderic left a widow, Egilo, who later married one of the Arabic governors of Hispania.[13]

In literature[edit]

Roderic is a central figure in the English playwright William Rowley's tragedy All's Lost by Lust, which portrays him as a rapist usurped by Count Julian and the Moors.

The Scottish writer Walter Scott, and the English writers Walter Savage Landor and Robert Southey, handled the legends associated with these events poetically: Scott in "The Vision of Don Roderick" in 1811; Landor in his tragedy Count Julian in 1812; and Southey in "Roderick the Last of the Goths", in 1814.

The American writer Washington Irving retold the legends in his Legends of the Conquest of Spain (1835), mostly written while living in that country. These consist of "Legend of Don Roderick", "Legend of the Subjugation of Spain", and "Legend of Count Julian and His Family".

Roderic has been the subject of two operas: Rodrigo by George Frideric Handel and Don Rodrigo by Alberto Ginastera.

Roderic appears as a minor character in the first half of Portuguese early Romantic writer Alexandre Herculano's novel Eurico, o Presbítero ("Euric, the Presbyter", 1844).

Roderic's story is told in the British West End musical La Cava (2000).

Sources[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ His name is of Gothic origin. Its Germanic root is Hrōþirīk(i)az.
  2. ^ Collins, Visigothic, 136.
  3. ^ a b Thompson, 249.
  4. ^ a b c Collins, Visigothic, 113.
  5. ^ a b c d Collins, Visigothic, 132.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Collins, Visigothic, 133.
  7. ^ Collins, Visigothic, believes that Wittiza was the target of the coup.
  8. ^ Bachrach, 32.
  9. ^ Thompson, 249, who considers the senate comprise merely the palatine officials.
  10. ^ a b Collins, Visigothic, 131.
  11. ^ a b Collins, Visigothic, 139.
  12. ^ HL, VI, 46
  13. ^ a b c d Thompson, 250.
  14. ^ Thompson, 319.
  15. ^ a b Collins, Visigothic, 134.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Wittiza
King of the Visigoths
710–712
Succeeded by
Achila II