Euric

(c. 420-c. 484)
   Visigothic king who ruled over much of southern Gaul (now the south of France) and parts of Spain from his capital at Toulouse. Euric broke a long-standing alliance with the Romans and established an independent kingdom within the boundaries of the Western Empire that was one of the first and most successful successor kingdoms; it had a population of some ten million people and an area of some three hundred thousand square miles. A successful warrior, Euric commissioned a legal code, the Codex Euricianus (Code of Euric), with the aid of Roman jurist. He was also an Arian Christian and, unlike his predecessors as kings of Toulouse, pursued an anti-Catholic religious policy that alienated his Roman subjects.
   Euric seized power over the Gothic kingdom of Toulouse, which had formed as a federate ally of the empire around 418, in 466 when he murdered his brother Theodoric II. The assassination was most likely not over political or religious policy, but rather was a simple power grab by Euric. His thirst for power was further revealed in his relations with the Romans and other barbarian peoples in the coming decades. In the opening years of his reign, Euric negotiated with other barbarians against the Romans and ended the treaty the Visigoths of Toulouse had with the Western Empire. In 468 and again in 472 and 473, Euric sent armies into Spain, where they had great success, capturing cities such as Pamplona and Tarragona to the west and along the coast, respectively.
   Ultimately, Euric controlled nearly all of the Iberian peninsula, seizing it from both Roman and barbarian powers. In 469 he sent armies into northern Gaul, and from 471 to 475 he continued the conquest of much of Gaul. By 475, Euric had extended his power across a region that stretched from the Atlantic coast to the Loire and Rhone rivers. His wars to the north included struggles with the Franks, who had already made overtures toward expansion into that region. Euric's power was at its height, and he commanded both land and naval forces; this successful naval command was unique among the unseaworthy Visigoths and reveals the extent of Euric's success. Moreover, many former Roman military leaders had joined Euric's army, which only enhanced his power and reputation. A new treaty between the empire and the kingdom of Toulouse was signed in 475, which recognized the new state of affairs. When Roman government was ended in the Western Empire in 476, Euric waged war against Odovacar, then king in Italy, to force the new power to recognize the Goth's claim in Gaul. And despite aid from barbarian allies of the empire, Odovacar was forced to accept Euric's claims. After creating a great kingdom, Euric died quietly in late 484, and was succeeded by his son Alaric II (r. 484-507).
   Along with the creation of a sizeable kingdom in the remnants of the Western Empire, Euric is best remembered for his legal code. Although uncertainty remains about whether the existing code is the one promulgated by Euric, it is certain that in 475 the king issued a series of laws. The code was written in Latin with the help of Roman lawyers, but did not adopt the Roman legal tradition, which was best represented by the codification of Justinian in the next century. Euric's codification did not involve only tribal law, however, but did include royal statutory law. Although not universal tribal law, the Codex Euricianus, was, most likely, universal in scope and applied equally to Euric's Visigothic and Roman subjects. The code itself addressed a wide variety of issues, including the use of charters, last wills, lending and borrowing, and other matters concerning relations between Romans and Visigoths. The law code also recognized, for the first time, the institution of private retainers.
   In terms of religious policy, as with relations toward Rome, Euric's reign marked a change in Visigothic practice. Unlike his predecessors, who had adopted a policy of tolerating and cooperating with their Catholic Christian subjects, Euric took a harder, less tolerant line. Although to identify his policy as one of systematic persecution of Catholic Christians may be an exaggeration, his attitude toward the Catholic church in his kingdom was hostile. He prohibited the bishops of his realm from communicating with Rome. He prevented the appointment of new Catholic bishops to various sees in his kingdom and banished others, including the archbishop of Bourges. He took steps to restrict the ability of the Catholic church and its clergy to operate freely and was accused of keeping churches deserted. But his opposition to the church moderated somewhat after the empire recognized his territorial conquests. Euric's restrictions on the church were, in part, the result of his inability to incorporate it into the state. Once the political situation eased, so did his oppression of the church associated with the empire. That notwithstanding, his earlier hostility toward the church caused tension between him and his Roman subjects that undermined his ability to govern.
   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.
 ♦ 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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