Hermenegild

(d. 585)
   Spanish Visigothic prince and coregent with his father Leovigild and brother Reccared, Hermenegild led an unsuccessful revolt against his father. The rebellion may have been inspired by Hermenegild's conversion to Catholic Christianity from the Arian faith of his father. According to some accounts, his conversion and rebellion brought about his murder in 585, after the rebellion had been put down. Although his efforts ultimately failed, his conversion foreshadowed that of his brother, and with Reccared's conversion the Visigothic kingdom of Spain converted to Catholic Christianity.
   Hermenegild played an important role in his father's reign before his rebellion in 579. The firstborn son of Leovigild, Heremenegild surely had a part to play in his father's conquests in Spain. In 573, Leovigild made his two sons coregents, thus granting them royal authority and marking them as eventual heirs to his power. Indeed, Hermenegild's elevation most likely reveals Leovigild's intention to establish a royal dynasty. Hermenegild also played a significant role his father's diplomacy. In 579 Hermenegild married the Merovingian princess Ingunde, the daughter of powerful Brunhilde, a Visigoth herself, and the Frankish king Sigebert. The marriage was surely a recognition of the importance of good relations between Leovigild's family and the Merovingian dynasty, as well as of the growing power of Leovigild. Of course, the marriage complicated relations between the two dynasties after the revolt and then murder of Leovigild.
   Despite his earlier importance, Hermenegild rebelled in 579. The exact cause of the revolt, however, remains uncertain. The sources and chronology of events are a bit confused, and it remains unclear whether Hermenegild converted before or after his revolt began. According to some accounts, Hermenegild was driven to accept Catholic Christianity by his young-she was twelve at the time of the marriage-but determined wife. Hermenegild's stepmother and grandmother of Ingunde, Goiswinth, may have persecuted the young girl and pressured her to convert to Arian Christianity from the Catholic faith practiced by the Merovingians. In order to establish peace at court, Leovigild sent his son and daughter-in-law to southern Spain, which Hermenegild governed for his father. In southern Spain, Hermenegild came under the influence of Leander, the older brother of the famous encyclopedist Isidore of Seville. Leander is also identified as the agent of Hermenegild's conversion, and it is while he was in the south that Hermenegild both revolted and converted, in whatever order. What is of importance is that Hermenegild did convert and was probably influenced to do so by both his wife and Leander.
   Whether he converted before or after the rebellion broke out, Hermenegild used his conversion as justification for the rebellion and declared that he had revolted because of religious persecution. To guarantee the success of his uprising, Hermenegild undertook furious diplomatic negotiations with a number of peoples. He forged alliances with those conquered by his father. He also found support from the Suevi, who committed to him for both political and religious reasons. The Suevi, a Germanic tribe who had established a kingdom in northwestern Spain and had been defeated by Leovigild in 576, had converted to Catholicism during the previous generation. He also found allies among the relatives of his wife, the Catholic Merovingians. He sought the support of the emperor in Constantinople and found a great friend and ally in Pope Gregory the Great. Although he found much support against Leovigild, the only effective aid came from the Suevi; both the Merovingians and the Byzantines were involved in internal and external military difficulties at the time.
   The course of the revolt went poorly for Hermenegild. It broke out in 579, and the tide turned by 582 when Leovigild struck back hard at his son and his allies. The Suevi were defeated by Leovigild in 583 and forced to withdraw their support and recognize Leovigild's authority over them. Hermenegild withdrew to Seville, which fell after a lengthy siege in 584. Hermenegild then moved to Córdoba, where he was welcomed by the Byzantine commander of the town. But this support was not long lasting; the imperial commander quickly settled a treaty with Leovigild that returned the city to the Visigoth in exchange for 30,000 pieces of gold. Abandoned by the Byzantines, who withdrew with Ingunde and their son, Hermenegild sought refuge in a church in the hopes of negotiating with his father. Leovigild had mercy on his rebellious son. He demanded that Hermenegild renounce his royal title in exchange for his life and accept exile to Valencia. He moved in the next year, 585, to Tarragona, where he was murdered in the same year.
   Hermenegild's conversion pointed the way of the future for the Visigoths in Spain, but it found him little support from Catholic Christians after his revolt failed. With the exception of Gregory the Great, most contemporary writers had little good to say about Hermenegild. The pope recognized Hermenegild as a martyr to the faith and implicated Leovigild in the murder, but this view finds little support from Gregory's contemporaries, and the Roman and Visigothic population of Spain seem to have held that the revolt was the result of Hermenegild's ambition and not his conversion. Some Merovingian kings sought revenge for the death of Hermenegild, and Guntram invaded Visigothic territory in defense of Ingunde. But Gregory of Tours found little good in the revolt, saying of Hermenegild, "Poor prince, he did not realize that the judgment of God hangs over anyone who makes such plans against his own father, even if that father be a heretic"(375). Notwithstanding this verdict on his revolt, his conversion was vindicated by the successful conversion of Visigothic Spain by Reccared.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Bury, John B. History of the Later Roman Empire: From the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian. 2 vols. 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 1959.
 ♦ Collins, Roger. Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400-1000. New York and London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Gregory of Tours. History of the Franks. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1974.
 ♦ Heather, Peter. The Goths. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
 ♦ Isidore of Seville. Isidore of Seville's History of the Goths, Vandals, and Suevi, 2d rev. ed. Trans. Guido Donini and Gordon B. Ford. Leiden: Brill, 1970.
 ♦ Thompson, Edward A. The Goths in Spain. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969.
 ♦ Wolfram, Herwig. History of the Goths. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
 ♦ ---. The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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