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Erwig ( Flavius ​​Ervigius Rex ; † 687 ) was King of the Visigoths from October 15, 680 to November 15, 687 .

Origin and assumption of government

Erwig's father Ardabastus had come from the Eastern Roman Empire to the Visigoths as an exile. The name Ardabastus ( Artavasdes ) indicates an Armenian origin ( Artawazd in Armenian ). The Visigoth king Chindaswinth (642–653) gave the refugee his consubrina (cousin or - more likely - niece) to wife. Thus Erwig came from a royal family on his mother's side.

Erwig grew up at the court and received the dignity of a count. According to the presentation of Asturian chronicles of the 9th / 10th centuries. In the early 20th century, he was instrumental in the overthrow of King Wambas in October 680. The details are controversial, but that Wamba was overthrown by a court intrigue arranged by Erwig can hardly be doubted. The Chronicle of Alfonso III. reports that Erwig mixed the nerve poison Sparteine in a drink for the king and temporarily numbed him with it. In any case, as a supposedly terminally ill, Wamba received the sacrament of penance and, according to the custom at the time, was dressed in religious garb and accepted into the clerical class through the tonsure . This made him incapable of governing . He abdicated on October 14, 680, signed a document by which he appointed Erwig as his successor, and retired to a monastery, where he died in 683 at the latest. Erwig took office on October 15; there was no royal election, but the legal basis was the designation by the predecessor. On October 21, Erwig received the anointing of the king by Metropolitan Julian of Toledo . Recent research suggests that Julian welcomed and even actively supported the coup.

Church policy and legislation

After taking power, Erwig immediately (in January 681) convened an imperial council , the 12th council of Toledo , which approved the unusual change of government. In addition, the council strengthened the position of the Metropolitan of Toledo vis-à-vis the rest of the Metropolitans and in fact elevated him to the “universal metropolitan” of the Imperial Church, which resulted in a centralization of the church organization, which was unusual for the time.

In 683 the 13th Council of Toledo met, whose decisions show the king in a clearly weakened position. The council acts testify to the strong influence of a powerful opposition aristocratic party that wanted to limit the power of the king. The Council Fathers demanded the general amnesty of conspirators and rebels and the return of their confiscated property to their families. However, the king only partially implemented the relevant council resolution. Most constitutionally significant was a resolution that prohibited the removal, arrest, torture or expropriation of bishops or members of the court nobility unless they were convicted in a public trial by a court of their peers. The use of physical force against noble men to obtain confessions was thus prohibited. The nobility-friendly resolutions also included a waiver of tax debts.

On October 21, 681 Erwig put a new version of the Visigothic code into effect. Among other things, it regulated the duty to serve in the army, the violation of which continued to be punished with high penalties. The regulations indicate that the Visigoth army at that time consisted largely of slaves. The slave owners were obliged to arm a tenth of their slaves and take them with them on the campaigns. The king had no direct access to a large number of those fit for military service, but could only induce the powerful nobles to take part in his military actions with their followers (private armies).

An important part of the new legal provisions were Erwig's extensive measures against the Jews, with which he tied in with the existing anti-Jewish legislation. Baptized Jews (including those compulsorily baptized under King Sisebut and their descendants) were subjected to strict controls to prevent a return to the Jewish faith; the clergy were given control over and punishable by law.

Succession planning

Erwig was married to Leuvigoto (Liuvigoto), a woman of unknown origin; there is no evidence to support the claim that she was a king's daughter. The couple had several children. Of these, only the daughter Cixilo is known by name, who Erwig married to a nobleman named Egica , a relative (probably nephew) of Wambas. Due to a fatal illness, Erwig designated Egica as his successor on November 14, 687 and abdicated the following day, whereupon Egica immediately took office. Egica was hostile to his predecessor; whether Erwig made him his son-in-law and successor voluntarily or under pressure (although he himself had sons who survived him) is unknown. Presumably he was forced to make important concessions to the powerful clan of his predecessor.



  1. For the credibility of this information see Jan Prelog: Die Chronik Alfons' III. , Frankfurt a. M. 1980, pp. 138f.
  2. Prelog, pp. 139f., Plead for the credibility of the sources in detail. and A. Barbero / MI Loring, The Catholic Visigothic Kingdom , in: The New Cambridge Medieval History , Vol. 1, Cambridge 2005, p. 362; Alexander P. Bronisch is skeptical: Wamba , in: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde Vol. 33, Berlin 2006, p. 166.
  3. Dietrich Claude: Adel, Kirche und Königum im Westgotenreich , Sigmaringen 1971, pp. 166–168.
  4. Suzanne Teillet: La déposition de Wamba, un coup d'État au VIIe siècle , in: De Tertullien aux mozarabes , Vol. 2, Paris 1992, pp. 99-113; Bronisch (2006) p. 166f.
  5. Claude p. 170f.
  6. Claude p. 183.
  7. Claude pp. 177-183.
  8. Claude pp. 173-175.
  9. Lex Visigothorum XII.3, ed. Karl Zeumer, MGH Leges I.1, Hannover 1902, pp. 427-456; see also Alexander P. Bronisch: The Jewish legislation in the Catholic Visigothic Empire of Toledo , Hannover 2005, pp. 96–110.
  10. ^ Concilium Toletanum XV c. 5, ed. José Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos , Barcelona 1963, p. 464.
  11. ^ Bronisch (2006) p. 166.
predecessor Office successor
Wamba King of the Visigoths