Known as the western part of the Germanic tribe called the Goths, the Visigoths remained mainly on the west part of the Black Sea during the 3rd century AD. It is located on the Bible Timeline Chart between 400 and 500 AD. Because they frequently settled in the west, these people were referred to as the Western Goths while the Ostrogoths were the Eastern Goths. This distinction was made by Cassiodorus, a Roman writer who provided further information about these two Gothic tribes.
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Upon the invasions of the Huns, the Visigoths sought for help to Emperor Valens, who was then the ruler of Rome. These people needed a place where they could settle and remain safe from the Hunnic invasions. Fortunately, Valens permitted them to stay in an area situated near the Danube much to the contentment of the Visigoths.
However, things took a turn for the worst for this tribe as provincial Roman governors began to mistreat their people. This resulted to open rebellion led by the Visigoths to defend themselves from the cruel treatment of these officials. The Visigoths sacked and looted various Roman towns, and they became more and more powerful after successfully getting what they wanted.
Valens took action by setting out for a battle against the Visigoths. The Gothic Wars, which took place in 376 to 382 AD, resulted in many wins by the Roman Empire. However, the Battle of Adrianople held in 378 AD served as the decisive victory for the Visigoths. It also signaled the Roman Empire’s slow decline and even the emperor was killed in this tough battle.
The Glory of the Visigoths
Theodosius I assumed the throne to take the place of Valens, and he ruled the Western Roman Empire. His main purpose was to prevent the Visigoths from further causing trouble and chaos to the Romans’ territories. In 382 AD, a peace treaty was created to end the battle between the Romans and Visigoths. The treaty was signed by the leaders of both parties – Athanaric and Theodosius.
Meanwhile, Theodosius decided to strengthen this peace treaty by establishing regional Visigoth governors. He also tried to unite the Romans and the Visigoths through the Christian religion. At that time, the Visigoths believed in Arianism while the Roman Empire followed the Nicene Creed that was instituted by the Emperor Constantine the Great. Although he did not attain this goal of encouraging more Visigoths to practice the Nicene Creed, the peaceful relations between the two lasted until Theodosius died in 395 AD.
With the death of Theodosius, the Visigoths who were assigned to various political roles started to reject the Roman rule. They chose Alaric I as their new king. Alaric I wanted to establish unity between the Romans and Visigoths, which he partly accomplished. However, he was much more competent as a warrior than as an administrator. So, he failed to promote long-term peace between the Visigoths and the Romans until it led to the conquest of Rome in 410 AD. Slowly, Rome lost its control over the Visigoths, and with greater challenges from its powerful opponents, the empire soon reached its decline.
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