Septimania in 537
was the western region of the Roman
province of Gallia Narbonensis
that passed under the control of the Visigoths
in 462, when Septimania was ceded to
their king, Theodoric II
. Under the
Visigoths it was known as simply Gallia
. It corresponded roughly with the modern
French region of Languedoc-Roussillon.
It passed briefly to the Emirate of Córdoba
in the eighth
century before its reconquest by the Franks
who by the end of the ninth century termed it
or the Gothic march
Septimania was a march
of the Carolingian Empire
and then West Francia
down to the thirteenth century,
though it was culturally and politically separate from northern
France and the central royal government. The region was under
the influence of the Toulousain,
Provence, and Catalonia.
It was part of the cultural and linguistic
region named Occitania
that was finally
brought within the control of the French kings in the early 13th
century as a result of the Albigensian Crusade
after which it came
under French governors. From the end of the thirteenth century it
was known as Languedoc
and its history is
tied up with that of France.
"Septimania" may derive from part of the Roman name of the city of
Julia Septimanorum Beaterrae, which in turn alludes to the
settlement of veterans of the Roman
VII Legion in the city. Another possible derivation of the name is
in reference to the seven cities (civitates) of the
territory: Béziers, Elne, Agde, Narbonne, Lodève, Maguelonne, and Nîmes.
extended to a line half-way between the Mediterranean
Sea and the Garonne River in the northwest; in the east the Rhône separated it from Provence; and to the south its boundary was formed
by the Pyrenees.
Gothic acquisition of Septimania
Theodoric II, the Visigoths settled in Aquitaine as foederati of
the Western Roman Empire
Apollinaris refers to Septimania as "theirs" during the reign
of Avitus (455–456), but Sidonius is probably
considering Visigothic settlement of and around Toulouse.
The Visigoths were then holding the
Toulousain against the legal claims of the Empire, though they had
more than once offered to exchange it for the Auvergne
In 462 the Empire, controlled by Ricimer
the name of Libius Severus
the Visigoths the western half of the province of Gallia
Narbonensis to settle. The Visigoths occupied Provence
(eastern Narbonensis) as well and only in
475 did the Visigothic king, Euric
, cede it to
the Empire by a treaty whereby the emperor Julius Nepos
recognised the Visigoths' full
Kingdom of Narbonne
The Visigoths, perhaps because they were Arian
, met with the opposition of the Catholic Franks
Franks allied with the Armorici,
whose land was under constant threat from the Goths south of the
Loire, and in 507 Clovis I, the
Frankish king, invaded the Visigothic kingdom, whose capital lay in
Septimania at Toulouse, with the consent of the leading men of the
tribe. Clovis defeated the Goths in the Battle of Vouillé and the child-king
Amalaric was carried for safety into Iberia
while Gesalec was elected to replace him and
rule from Narbonne.
Clovis, his son Theuderic I
, and his
allies proceeded to conquer
most of Visigothic Gaul, including the Rouergue
(507) and Toulouse (508). The attempt to take
Carcassone, a fortified site guarding the Septimanian coast,
was defeated by the Ostrogoths (508) and
Septimania thereafter remained in Visigothic hands, though the
Burgundians managed to hold Narbonne for a time and drive Gesalec
Border warfare between Gallo-Roman magnates,
including bishops, had existed with the Visigoths during the last
phase of the Empire and it continued under the Franks.
The Ostrogothic king Theodoric the
reconquered Narbonne from the Burgundians and retained it
as the provincial capital. Theudis
appointed regent at Narbonne by Theodoric while Amalaric was still
a minor in Iberia. When Theodoric died in 526, Amalaric was elected
king in his own right and he immediately made his capital in
Narbonne. He ceded Provence, which had at some point passed back
into Visigothic control, to the Ostrogothic king Athalaric
. The Frankish king of Paris, Childebert I, invaded Septimania in 531 and
chased Amalaric to Barcelona in response to pleas from his sister, Chrotilda, that her husband, Amalaric, had been
The Franks did not try to hold the
province, however. Under Amalaric's successor, however, the centre
of gravity of the kingdom crossed the Pyrenees and Theudis made his
capital in Barcelona.
Gothic province of Gallia
Visigothic kingdom, which became centred on Toledo by the end of the reign of Leovigild, the province of Gallia Narbonensis,
usually shortened to just Gallia or Narbonensis and never called
Septimania, was both an administrative province of the central
royal government and an ecclesiastical province whose metropolitan was the Archbishop of Narbonne.
Originally, the Goths may have maintained
their hold on the Albigeois, but if so it was conquered by the time of Chilperic I.
There is archaeological
evidence that some enclaves of Visigothic population remained in
Frankish Gaul, near the Septimanian border, after 507.
The province of Gallia held a unique place in the Visigothic
kingdom, as it was the only province outside of Iberia, north of
the Pyrenees, and bordering a strong foreign nation, in this case
. The kings after Alaric II favoured
Narbonne as a capital, but twice (611 and 531) were defeated and
forced back to Barcelona by the Franks before Theudis moved the capital
Under Theodoric Septimania had been safe
from Frankish assault, but was raided by Childebert I
twice (531 and 541). When Liuva I
succeeded the throne in 568, Septimania was
a dangerous frontier province and Iberia was wracked by revolts.
Liuva granted Iberia to his son Leovigild and took Septimania to
During the revolt of Hermenegild
(583–585) against his father Leovigild, Septimania was invaded by
, King of
, possible in support of Hermenegild's revolt, since
the latter was married to his niece Ingundis
. The Frankish attack of 585 was repulsed
by Hermenegild's brother Reccared
, who was
ruling Narbonensis as a sub-king. Hermenegild died at Tarragona that year and it is possible that he had escaped
confinement in Valencia and was seeking to join up with his Frankish
Alternately, the invasion may have occurred in
response to Hermenegild's death. Reccared meanwhile took Beaucaire (Ugernum) on the Rhône near Tarascon and Cabaret (a fort called
Ram's Head), both of which lay in Guntram's kingdom.
ignored two pleas for a peace in 586 and Reccared undertook the
only Visigothic invasion of Francia in response. However, Guntram
was not motivated solely by religious alliance with the fellow
Catholic Hermenegild, for he invaded Septimania again in 589 and
was roundly defeated near Carcassonne by Claudius, Duke of Lusitania
is clear that the Franks, throughout the sixth century, had coveted
Septimania, but were unable to take it and the invasion of 589 was
the last attempt.
In the seventh century Gallia often had its own governors or
(dukes), who were typically Visigoths. Most public
offices were also held by Goths, far out of proportion to their
part of the population.
Culture of Gothic Septimania
The native population of Gallia was referred to by Visigothic and
Iberian writers as the "Gauls" and there is a well-attested hatred
between the Goths and the Gaul which was atypical for the kingdom
as a whole. The Gauls commonly insulted the Goths by comparing the
strength of their men to that of Gaulish women, though the
Spaniards regarded themselves as the defenders and protectors of
the Gauls. It is only in the time of Wamba
Julian of Toledo
, however, that a
large Jewish population becomes evident in Septimania: Julian
referred to it as a "brothel of blaspheming Jews."
Thanks to the preserved canons of the Council of Narbonne
of 590, a good deal
can be known about surviving pagan practices in Visigothic
Septimania. The Council may have been responding in part to the
orders of the Third Council of
, which found "the sacrilege of idolatry [to be] firmly
implanted throughout almost the whole of Iberia and Septimania."
The Roman pagan practice of not working Thursdays in honour of
was still prevalent. The council set
down penance to be done for not working on Thursday save for church
festivals and commanded the practice of Martin of Braga
, rest from rural work on
Sundays, to be adopted. Also punished by the council were
fortunetellers, who were publicly lashed and sold into
Different theories exist concerning the nature of the frontier
between Septimania and Frankish Gaul. On the one hand, cultural
exchange is generally reputed to have been minimal, but the level
of trading activity has been disputed. There have been few to no
objects of Neustrian
, or Burgundian
provenance discovered in Septimania.
However, a series of sarcophagi
unique regional style, variously laballed Visigothic, Aquitainian,
or south-west Gallic, are prevalent on both sides of the Septimania
border. These sarcophagi are made of locally
quarried marble from Saint-Béat and are of varied design, but with generally flat
relief which distinguishes them from Roman sarcophagi.
production has been dated to either the 5th, 6th, or 7th century,
with the second of these being considered the most likely today.
However, if they were made in the 5th century, while both Aquitaine
and Septimani were in Visigothic hands, their existence provides no
evidence for a cultural osmosis across the Gothic-Frankish
frontier. A unique style of orange pottery was common in the 4th
and 5th centuries in southern Gaul, but the later (6th century)
examples culled from Septimania are more orange than their cousins
from Aquitaine and Provence and are not found commonly outside of
Septimania, a strong indicator that there was little commerce over
the frontier or at its ports. In fact, Septimania helped to isolate
both Aquitaine and Iberia from the rest of the Mediterranean
Visigothic coinage did not circulate in Gaul outside of Septimania
and Frankish coinage did not circulate in Iberia or Septimania. If
there had been a significant amount of commerce over the frontier,
the monies paid had to have been melted down immediately and
re-minted for foreign coins have not been preserved across the
Moors, under Al-Samh ibn Malik the
governor-general of al-Andalus, sweeping up the Iberian peninsula, by 719 overran
Septimania; al-Samh set up his capital from 720 at Narbonne, which
the Moors called Arbuna, offering the still largely Arian
inhabitants generous terms and quickly pacifying the other
cities. Following the conquest, al-Andalus was divided into five administrative areas roughly
corresponding to Andalusia, Galicia and Lusitania, Castile and
Léon, Aragon and Catalonia, and Septimania.
With Narbonne secure, and
equally important, its port, for the Arab mariners were masters now
of the Western Mediterranean, he swiftly subdued the largely
unresisting cities, still controlled by their Visigoth counts:
taking Alet and Béziers, Agde, Lodève, Maguelonne and Nîmes. By 721
he was reinforced and ready to lay siege to Toulouse, a possession
that would open up Aquitaine to him on the same terms as
Septimania. But his plans were overthrown in the disastrous
Battle of Toulouse
immense losses, in which al-Samh was so seriously wounded that he
soon died at Narbonne. Arab forces soundly based in Narbonne and
easily resupplied by sea, struck eastwards in the 720s, penetrating
as far as Autun
(725). But in 731, the Berber wali of Narbonne and the region of
Cerdagne, Uthman ibn
Naissa, called "Munuza" by the Franks, who was recently linked
by marriage to duke Eudes (also called Odo) of Aquitaine, revolted
against Córdoba, and was defeated and killed.
In October of
732, an Arab force under Abdul
Rahman Al Ghafiqi
between Tours and Poitiers, and was defeated. This
"Battle of Tours
" (also called the
Battle of Poitiers) is celebrated in popular history and
traditionally credited with stopping the Moorish advance in
territory round Toulouse was taken by the Franks in
732, Pippin III directed his attention to
Narbonne, but the city held firm in 737, defended by its Goths, and
Jews under the command of its governor Yusuf, 'Abd er-Rahman's
Around 747 the government of the Septimania region
(and the Upper Mark, from Pyrénées to Ebro River) was given to
Aumar ben Aumar
. In 752 the Gothic counts of Nimes, Melguelh, Agde and Beziers refused allegance to the emir at Córdoba and declared their loyalty to the Frankish king—the
count of Nimes, Ansemund, having some
authority over the remaining counts. The Gothic counts and
the Franks then began to besiege Narbonne, where Miló was probably
the count (as successor of the count Gilbert) But Narbonne resisted.
In 754 an
anti-Frank reaction, led by Ermeniard, killed Ansemund, but the
uprising was without success and Radulf
designated new count by the Frankish court. About 755 Abd al-Rahman ben Uqba
ben Aumar. Narbonne capitulated in 759 and the county was granted
, the Gothic count in
Muslim times. The region of Roussillon
was taken by the Franks in 760. In 767, after the fight against Waifred of Aquitaine, Albi, Rouergue, Gevaudan, and the
city of Toulouse were conquered. In 777 the wali of
al-Arabi, and the wali of Huesca Abu Taur, offered their submission to
Charlemagne and also the submission of Husayn, wali of Zaragoza.
Charlemagne invaded the Upper Mark in 778, Husayn refused
allegiance and he had to retire. In the Pyrenees, the Basques
defeated his forces in Roncesvalles (August
The Frankish king found Septimania and the borderlands so
devastated and depopulated by warfare, with the inhabitants hiding
among the mountains, that he made grants of land that were some of
the earliest identifiable fiefs
and other refugees. Charlemagne also founded several monasteries in
Septimania, around which the people gathered for protection. Beyond
Septimania to the south Charlemagne established the Spanish Marches
in the borderlands of his
The territory passed to Louis, king in Aquitaine, but it was
governed by Frankish margraves and then dukes (from 817) of
The Frankish noble Bernat of
(also, Bernat of Septimania) was the ruler of these
lands from 826 to 832. His career (he was beheaded in 844)
characterized the turbulent 9th century in Septimania. His
appointment as Count of
in 826 occasioned a general uprising of the Catalan
lords at this intrusion of Frankish power. For suppressing Berenguer of Toulouse
Catalans, Louis the Pious
Bernat with a series of counties, which roughly delimit 9th century
Septimania: Narbonne, Béziers, Agde, Magalona, Nimes and Uzés.
Rising against Charles the Bald in 843, Bernard was apprehended at
Toulouse and beheaded.
Septimania became known as Gothia
after the reign
. It retained these two
names while it was ruled by the counts
of Toulouse during early part of the Middle Ages, but the southern part became more
familiar as Roussillon and the west
became known as Foix, and the
name "Gothia" (along with the older name "Septimania") faded away
during the 10th century, except as a traditional designation as the
region fractured into smaller feudal entities, which sometimes
retained Carolingian titles, but lost their Carolingian character,
as the culture of Septimania evolved into the culture of Languedoc.
The name was used because the area was populated by a higher
concentration of Goths
than in surrounding
regions. The rulers of this area, when joined with several
counties, were titled the Marquesses
Gothia (and, also, the Dukes
- Bachrach, Bernard S.
Merovingian Military Organization, 481–751. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1971.
- Collins, Roger. The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710–97.
Oxford University Press, 1989.
- Collins, Roger. Visigothic Spain, 409–711. Blackwell
- James, Edward.
"Septimania and its Frontier: An Archaeological Approach."
Visigothic Spain: New Approaches. Edward James (ed).
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.
- Lewis, Archibald Ross. The
Development of Southern French and Catalan Society,
718–1050. University of Texas Press: Austin, 1965.
- McKenna, Stephen. Paganism
and Pagan Survivals in Spain up to the Fall of the Visigothic
Kingdom. Catholic University of America Press: 1938.
- Thompson, E. A. The Goths in Spain. Oxford: Clarendon
- James, 223.
- Bachrach, Merovingian, 7.
- Ibid, 10–11.
- Ibid, 16.
- James, 236.
- Thompson, 19.
- Collins, Visigothic Spain, 60.
- Thompson, 75.
- Thompson, 95.
- Thompson, 227.
- Thompson, 228.
- Thompson, 54.
- McKenna, 117–118.
- Thompson, 23.
- James, 228–229.
- James, 229.
- James, 230.
- James, 238.
- James, 240–241.
- James, 239.
- Joseph F. O'Callaghan, A History
of Medieval Spain , Cornell University Press, 1983, p.142