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The province of Spania (green) after 586 (with the previous loss of territory to the Visigoths)

The province of Spania (Latin: Provincia Spaniae , corrupted by Hispania ) was the westernmost province of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire . It was located in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and existed from about 552 to 625 before it was finally conquered by the Visigoths .


After the end of the Union of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths (526), ​​there were decades of succession battles between various aristocratic factions in the Visigoth Empire . Around 550 Córdoba and the Roman (Romanesque) majority of the population of the province of Baetica, who had remained Catholic, rose up against the Arian Visigoths. In Seville in 551 the Visigoth Athanagild (Atanagildo) rose against his king Agila . At least one of the two opponents called on the troops of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian , who were just about to complete the subjugation of the Ostrogoth Empire in Italy. The emperor in Constantinople basically claimed rule over all former western Roman territories , and Justinian tried to enforce this claim militarily. Coming from North Africa, which had been under the emperor again since 534, an Eastern Roman fleet under Liberius' troops landed in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, which from 552 occupied numerous coastal towns, but also some areas in the hinterland. Agila was defeated in 554, but also under Athanagild the Visigoths and Eastern Romans fought each other.


The troops in the province of Spania were under their own magister militum Spaniae . In the year 589 this was obviously Comenciolus , as this stone inscription from Cartagena shows that mentions the battles against barbarians.

Just as controversial as the question of who called the Eastern Romans into the country is the question of whether the Eastern Romans actually wanted to subjugate the entire Visigothic Empire after the conquest of the Vandal Empire (534) and the Ostrogoth Empire (554), or just the opportunity to win used some coastal bases to better defend North Africa. The expansion of the province of Spania is also controversial . The eastern Roman sphere of influence apparently extended at least over the coastal strip from Málaga (Malaca) to Cartagena (Cartago Spartaria) - according to several chroniclers, historians and cartographers it also extended in the west via Medina-Sidonia (Asidona) and Cádiz (Gades) to Faro (Ossonoba) ) in the Algarve (province of Lusitania ) and in the east beyond Alicante (Lucentum) to Dénia (Dianium) on the Levant (province of Carthaginiensis ). In the hinterland, most of Baetica with Córdoba (Corduba) and Baza (Basti) belonged to it, possibly, if only temporarily, also Seville (Hispalis) and perhaps even Mérida (Emerita Augusta). Some authors even assume that the Eastern Romans - at least temporarily - were able to extend their sphere of influence on the Levant to Valencia (Valentia). In the Algarve, their sphere of influence is said to have extended beyond Faro not only to Portimão , but also in the hinterland to the areas south of the Tagus . Whether through direct contact with the Eastern Romans or only under their influence - the Suebi empire to the north of the Tejo also adopted the Catholic faith in 561.


In Italy, where the last Ostrogothic resistance had only been broken in 563, the Eastern Romans saw themselves confronted with the Lombards invasion as early as 568 . In 572 a war broke out with the Persians, which tied the Eastern Roman troops. The Visigoths under Athanagild's successors Liuva and Leovigild took the opportunity to recapture Córdoba, Cadiz and about half of the province of Spania from 572 onwards . But his son Hermenegild, who had converted to Catholicism, rose up against Leovigild in Seville and Merida in 579 and allied himself with the Eastern Romans and the Suebi; Cordoba became Eastern Roman again until 583 or 584. Between 584 and 588 the Eastern Romans vacated most of their possessions on the Iberian Peninsula, but retained control of the coast.

After defeating Hermenegild, Leovigild subdued the Suebi in 585 and conquered their empire. Leovigild's successors were less successful against the Eastern Romans in the remaining areas; the eastern Roman troops were able to defend the coastal region. Only Sisebut and Suinthila were able to take over Málaga, which was defended by Patricius Caesarius, from the Eastern Romans around 616 , the last base on the Algarve around 620 and finally, in 625, Cartagena, their last base on the Mediterranean. Since 603, the Eastern Romans were fully occupied with the defense of the Persian Sassanid Empire and in the north with the defense of the Slavs (Sklavenoi) or Avars , which the Visigoths had taken advantage of. Only the Balearic Islands initially remained Eastern Roman. According to some sources, some bases in the Algarve are said to have been under Eastern Roman rule until 634.


Depiction of the theudimer on a portal in Orihuela

Towards the end of the 7th century there were again Eastern Roman military operations on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. After the Eastern Romans had not been able to assert North Africa against the Muslim Arabs ( Battle of Carthage ), the Eastern Roman fleet that withdrew from Carthage in 698 landed troops at Alicante or Cartagena instead. With their defeat against the Visigothic military leader Theudimer (Teodomiro), this last Eastern Roman attempt at recapture ended in 701 at the latest - if it was at all one.


  • Jamie Wood: Defending Byzantine Spain: Frontiers and Diplomacy. In: Early Medieval Europe 18, 2010, pp. 292-319.


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