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Goths as a Legitimizing Symbol in Medieval Spain

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Ingmar Söhrman
Publicerad i Romance Studies
Volym 35
Nummer/häfte 1
Sidor 48-58
ISSN 0263-9904
Publiceringsår 2017
Publicerad vid Institutionen för språk och litteraturer
Sidor 48-58
Språk en
Länkar dx.doi.org/10.1080/02639904.2017.13...
Ämnesord legitimacy, Goths, Spain, ethnic myth, Literature
Ämneskategorier Litteraturvetenskap, Litteraturstudier


In this article I will show the importance of symbolic links to history as a means of legitimacy, and that this legitimacy does not need to be true but to be considered true, at least by the people who claim this legitimacy, and that it can be reused if needed. When the western part of the Roman Empire finally broke up in the fourth and fifth centuries, the Goths had been allowed into the Roman Empire as foederatii. They came from regions close to the Black Sea, where they united into two major groups the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths. Both these groups turned westwards and were sometimes allied with the Empire and sometimes they opposed it. The origin of the Goths is controversial as they had come from somewhere in the north; according to legend, they had links with Scandinavia, but this question will not be discussed here. On their long and laborious journey westwards, the Visigoths ended up in what was to become Spain in the mid-sixth century. Due to internal conflicts among the royalty and noble families, the Moors (Muslim Arabs and Berbers from Morocco; see below) were invited to help one of the sides in this conflict. They came, they won and they stayed, which was never the intention of the princes who had invited them originally. However, after the Moorish conquest of Spain in 711 what little Visigothic/Spanish resistance remained was confined to the Cantabrian mountains and the victorious Moors talked with disdain about the Visigothic leader Don Pelayo and his 30 'donkeys' (= men) in Cantabria in the north. In Pelayo's and his successors' need for legitimacy as the (re)conquest went on, the Gothic heritage played a very important role for many centuries, and the Scandinavian origin was also taken as an argument to prove the truly ancient lineage of the Goths, which reinforced their claims for legitimacy as the true and rightful kings of Castile. Thus this heritage is central to the ethnic myth of the population, and, especially, of the royal family. The ethnic myth in itself is the mirror image of a people's supposed origin and history and how the people today sees itself in the light of a partly-imagined history, or at least of a subjective interpretation of this history.

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