Book Series Studies and Texts, vol. 166

The Visigoths in History and Legend

J. N. Hillgarth

  • Pages: 239 p.
  • Size:155 x 230 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2010

  • ISBN: 978-0-88844-166-9
  • Hardback
  • Available

This book explores one of the central myths of Spain. A study of the evolution and persistence of the nation's Gothic roots, it promises to become essential reading for both historians and literary scholars.


"The notes to the opening chapters are a boon to early medievalists: they will find there a master's considered opinions on scores of disputed questions and theses [...]. Students of later periods will welcome the contextualization of the work of well-known authors and the introduction to more obscure ones."

(Adam J. Kosto, in American Historical Review, February 2011, p. 211)


This book explores one of the central myths of Spain: the idea that Spanish culture arose from that of the Visigoths. It begins with a sketch of Visigothic history, then proceeds to explore attitudes towards the Goths and legends and myths that developed around them from late antiquity to the twentieth century; such ideas proved influential among those who saw the Goths as their spiritual, if not literal, ancestors. The focus is on the myth of the Goths as expressed in literature of a broadly historical nature; many authors have played a significant role in forming and shaping this myth, and thus in shaping the mentality of their contemporaries and descendants.

The Gothic myth was of great use to the different monarchies that succeeded the Goths after the Arabic invasion of 711. Visigothic kings were adopted as models by one age after another, from the rudimentary kingdom of Asturias in the ninth century to the world-monarchy of Spain under the Catholic Kings and the Habsburgs. Over the centuries, adroit “improvements” on history and even outright fabrications influenced the creation of an idealized, epic past to which Spaniards look even today. This study of the evolution and persistence of the myth of Spain’s Gothic roots is essential reading for scholars of Spanish history.


Chapter One: The Visigoths 1

Chapter Two: Goths and Romans 21

Chapter Three: After 711 57

Chapter Four: Gothic Tradition in the Eleventh Century 82

Chapter Five: The Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries 95

Chapter Six: The Power of Memory: The Fifteenth Century 119

Chapter Seven: Imaginary History: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries 140

Chapter Eight: Images of the Visigothic Past 161

Bibliography 177

Index 227