Historical writing in Visigothic Spain from c. 468 to the Arab invasion of 711

Historical writing in Visigothic Spain from c. 468 to the Arab invasion of 711

By Elizabeth A. Jordan

Thesis (Ph.D.)–University of Toronto, 1996

Abstract: The purpose of the present dissertation is to investigate the nature of the historical works composed in Visigothic Spain from the Chronica of the Gallaecian bishop Hydatius written c. 468 to the Arab Invasion of Spain in 711. The limited amount of concrete evidence to have survived with regard to the Visigothic kingdom in Spain, has generally led scholars to treat these historical texts as sources for historical facts rather than to approach them from a historiographical perspective. Alternatively, they have been used, selectively, to support certain thematic arguments.

The thesis examines the major extant historical works produced in Spain in this period in an attempt to derive from them the emerging perception throughout the period of the Visigothic presence in the peninsula and its role vis-a-vis external political entities, the Spanish Church and the indigenous population. An attempt is made to identify the ways in which the various kinds of historical works were used to direct and shape perceptions ofthe Goths and of Gothic history to certain ends, determined by the authors, all of whom held high ecclesiastical office, and to place these works within a larger context of Christian historical writing in its various genres.

Chapter 1 contains a general discussion of the nature of historical writing in the medieval period, the selection of texts for the present study, and the historiographical background which preceded and influenced the Iberian authors.

Chapter 2 considers how the Chronica of Hydatius reflected the Hispano-Roman reaction to the initial barbarian incursions. In Chapter 3 the focus shifts to the Visigothic period proper with the late-fifth-century chronicle of John of Biclar.

Chapter 4 serves as an introduction to Isidore of Seville and an examination of his political and historical theories as they appear in his non-historical writings. Chapter 5 focuses on the various genres of historical writing in which Isidore worked, and the manner in which he used them to direct the historical perceptions of his audience.

Chapter 5 examines the narrowing of the focus of historical writing in the later Visigothic period and includes the two major historical works produced in Spain from the death of Isidore to the Arab invasion, the De viris illustribus of Ildefonsus of Toledo and the Historia Wambae of Julian of Toledo. Chapter 6 summarizes the major changes of focus which took place in Spain throughout the Visigothic period.

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