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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Goths (Gothic: 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌰𐌽𐍃 *Gutans[citation needed]) were a heterogeneous East Germanic tribe. The historian Jordanes claimed that the Goths arrived from semi-legendary Scandza, believed to be somewhere in modern Götaland (Sweden), and that a Gothic population had crossed the Baltic Sea before the 2nd century, lending their name to the region of Gothiscandza, believed to be the lower Vistula region in modern Pomerelia (Poland). The archaeological Wielbark (Willenberg) culture is associated with the arrival of the Goths and their subsequent agglomeration with the indigenous population. But the reliability of Jordanes, who wrote in the 6th century, is disputed,[1] and there is also no archaeological evidence for a substantial emigration from Scandinavia.[2]

From the mid-second century onward, groups of Goths started migrating to the southeast along the River Vistula,[citation needed] reaching Scythia at the coast of the Black Sea in modern Ukraine where they left their archaeological traces in the Chernyakhov culture.

Throughout the 3rd and 4th centuries, the Scythian Goths were divided into at least two distinct entities, the Thervingi and the Greuthungi, divided by the Dniester River. They repeatedly harried the Roman Empire during the Gothic Wars and later adopted Arianism. In the late 4th century, the Huns invaded the Gothic region from the east. While many Goths were subdued and integrated into the Hunnic Empire, others were pushed towards the Roman Empire.

The Goths were converted to Christianity by the Arian (half-) Gothic missionary, Wulfila, who then found it necessary to leave Gothic country for Moesia (Bulgaria) with his congregation, where he translated the Bible into Gothic, devising a script for this purpose.

In the 5th and 6th centuries, they became divided as the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, who established powerful successor-states of the Western Roman Empire in the Iberian peninsula and Italy. In Italy, the Ostrogothic Kingdom established by Theodoric the Great was defeated by the forces of the Eastern Roman Empire after the Gothic Wars. In Hispania, the Visigoths, converted to Catholicism by late sixth century, would survive until the early eighth century, when it fell to Islam after the Muslim conquest.

The Gothic language and culture disappeared except for fragments in other cultures. In the 16th century a small remnant of a Gothic dialect was described as surviving in the Crimea.[3]



Götaland, south Sweden, a possible original homeland of the Goths.

The Goths have had many names and have acquired population from many ethnic sources. People under similar names were key elements of the Germanic migrations. Nevertheless they believed, and this belief is supported by the mainstream of scholarship,[4] that the names derived from a single prehistoric ethnonym owned by a uniform culture of south Scandinavia in the mid-first millennium BC, the original "Goths". People of a modern form of that name still live there.

Etymologically, the ethnonym of the Goths derives from a stem Guton-",[5] which gave Proto-Germanic *Gutaniz (also surviving in Gutar, the self-designation of the Gotlanders). Related, but not the same, is the Scandinavian tribal name Geat, from the Proto-Germanic *Gautoz (plural *Gautaz). Both *Gautoz and *Gutaniz are derived (specifically they are two ablaut grades) from the Proto-Germanic word *geutan, meaning "to pour".[6] The Indo-European root of the "pour" derivation would be *gheu-d- as it is listed in the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD). *gheu-d- is a centum form. The AHD relies on Julius Pokorny for the same root.[7] The ethnonym has been connected with the name of a river flowing through Västergötland in Sweden, the Göta älv, which drains Lake Vänern into the Kattegat.[8]

Old Norse records do not separate the Goths from the Gutar (Gotlanders) and both are called Gotar in Old West Norse. The Old East Norse term for both Goths and Gotlanders seems to have been Gutar (for instance in the Gutasaga and in the runic inscription of the Rökstone). However the Geats are clearly distinguished from the Goths/Gutar in both Old Norse and Old English literature.

At some time in European prehistory, consonant changes according to Grimm's Law created a *g from the *gh and a *t from the *d. This same law more or less rules out *ghedh-, The *dh in that case would become a *d instead of a *t.

According to the rules of Indo-European ablaut, the full grade (containing an *e), *gheud-, might be replaced with the zero-grade (the *e disappears), *ghud-, or the o-grade (the *e changes to an *o), *ghoud-, accounting for the various forms of the name. The zero-grade is preserved in modern times in the Lithuanian ethnonym for Belarusians, Gudai (earlier Baltic Prussian territory before Slavic conquests by about 1200 CE), and in certain Prussian towns in the territory around the Vistula River in Gothiscandza, (today Poland (Gdynia, Gdansk). The use of all three grades suggests that the name derives from an Indo-European stage; otherwise, it would be from a line descending from one grade. However, when and where the ancestors of the Goths assigned this name to themselves and whether they used it in Indo-European or proto-Germanic times remain unsolved questions of historical linguistics and prehistoric archaeology.

A compound name, Gut-þiuda, at root the "Gothic people", appears in the Gothic Calendar (aikklesjons fullaizos ana gutþiudai gabrannidai). Parallel occurrences indicate that it may mean "country of the Goths": Old Icelandic Sui-þjòd, "Sweden"; Old English Angel-þēod, "Anglia"; Old Irish Cruithen-tuath, "country of the Picts.[5]. Evidently this way of forming a country- or people-name is not unique to Germanic.

Gapt, an early Gothic hero, recorded by Jordanes, is generally regarded as a corruption of Gaut.

Early records at the Baltic Sea


Written sources - Tacitus, Jordanes and Pliny

The Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117-38) according to Tacitus's Germania (written ca. AD 100) and Ptolemy's Geographia (ca. AD 130), showing the location of the Gothones East Germanic group, then inhabiting the east bank of the Visula (Vistula) river, Poland

Tacitus characterized the Goths as well as the neighboring Rugii and Lemovii saying they carried round shields and short swords, and obeyed their regular authority.[9][10][11]

According to Jordanes' Getica, written in retrospect in the mid-6th century, the earliest migrating Goths sailed from Scandza under King Berig[12] in three ships[13] and named the place at which they landed after themselves. Today, says Jordanes, it is called Gothiscandza ("Scandza of the Goths").[14] From there they entered the land of the "Ulmerugi" (Rugii), who were spread along southern coast of Baltic Sea, expelled them,[9], and also subdued the Vandals, their neighbours.

As for the location of Gothiscandza, Jordanes says[15] that one shipload "dwelled in the province of Spesis on an island surrounded by the shallow waters of the Vistula." Today's Gdansk, a large city, is at the mouth of the Vistula, but the terrain has changed due to the deposition of mud. The origin of the city remains undetermined. The name is generally conceded to be from "Goth" but not necessarily from Gothiscandza. That this is a legend of the origin of Gdansk cannot be ruled out.

Independent confirmation of Jordanes' account in some cases itself needs confirmation: specifically the passage attributed by Pliny[16] to the voyager Pytheas, in which the latter states that the "Gutones, a people of Germany," inhabit the shores of an estuary of at least 6,000 stadia (the Baltic Sea) called Mentonomon, where amber is cast up by the waves. Lehmann (mentioned above under Etymology) accepted this view but a manuscript variant states Guiones rather than Gutones.[17] No other trace of Guiones has even been found.

In Pliny's only other mention of the Gutones[18] he says that the Vandals are one of the five races of Germany, and that the Vandals include the Burgodiones, the Varinnae, the Charini and the Gutones. The location of those Vandals is not stated, but there is a match with his contemporary Ptolemy's east German tribes.[19] As those Gutones are put forward as Pliny's interpretation, not Pytheas', the early date is unconfirmed, but not necessarily invalid.

Archaeological records - Wielbark Culture

The dark pink area is the island of Gotland. The green area is the traditional extent of Götaland. The red area is the extent of the Wielbark culture in the early 3rd century, and the orange area is the Chernyakhov culture, in the early 4th century. The purple area is the Roman Empire
Germaniae veteris typus (Old Germany.), Aestui, Venedi, Gythones and Ingaevones on the right upper corner of the map Edited by Willem and Joan Blaeu), 1645.

The earliest material culture identified with the Goths at the southern coast of the Baltic Sea is the Wielbark, also Willenberg culture,[20] centered around the modern region of Pomerelia in northern Poland. This culture replaced the local Oksywie, also Oxhöft culture in the 1st century. The replacement happened when a Scandinavian settlement was established in a buffer zone between the Oksywie culture and the Przeworsk culture.[21]

However, as early as the late Nordic Bronze Age and early Pre-Roman Iron Age (ca 1300 BC – ca 300 BC), this area saw influences from southern Scandinavia.[22] In fact, the Scandinavian influence on Pomerania and today's northern Poland from ca 1300 BC (period III) and onwards was so considerable that this region is sometimes included in the Nordic Bronze Age culture.[23]

During the period ca 600 BC – ca 300 BC the warm and dry climate of southern Scandinavia deteriorated considerably, which not only dramatically changed the flora, but forced people to change their way of living and to leave settlements.[citation needed]

The Goths are believed to have crossed the Baltic Sea sometime between the end of this period, ca 300 BC, and 100. According to earlier research, in the traditional Swedish province of Östergötland, archaeological evidence shows that there was a general depopulation during this period.[24] However, this is not confirmed in the more recent publications.[25] The settlement in today's Poland probably corresponds to the introduction of Scandinavian burial traditions, such as the stone circles and the stelae, especially common on the island of Gotland and other parts of southern Sweden, which indicates that the early Goths preferred to bury their dead according to Scandinavian traditions.[citation needed]

The Polish archaeologist Tomasz Skorupka regards a migration from Scandinavia as a certainty: "Despite many controversial hypotheses regarding the location of Scandia ... the fact that the Goths arrived on today's Polish land from the North after crossing the Baltic Sea by boats is certain.")[26] The Gothic culture also exhibits continuity with earlier cultures in the area,[20] suggesting that the immigrants mixed with earlier populations, perhaps providing their separate aristocracy. This scenario would make their migration across the Baltic similar to many other population movements in history, such as the earlier Anglo-Saxon Invasion — where according to some theories migrants have imposed their own culture and language on an indigenous one — and the later Scandinavian ones in the same tradition through the Russian rivers, giving rise to the Rus.

But Heather considers this scenario dubious, claiming that there is no archaeological evidences for a substantial emigration from Scandinavia.[27]

Migration to the Black Sea

Written sources - Jordanes

According to Jordanes' Getica, written in retrospect in the mid-6th century, under their 5th king, Filimer, son of Gadaric, the Goths entered Oium, a land of bogs, part of Scythia,[28] defeated the Spali and moved to the vicinity of the Black Sea.[29] There they became divided into the Visigoths ruled by the Balthi family and the Ostrogoths ruled by the Amali family.[30] Ostrogoths means "eastern Goths" and Visigoths means "Goths of the western country."[31]

Archaeological records - Chernyakhov culture

The Willenberg/Wielbark culture shifted south-eastwards towards the Black Sea area from the mid-2nd century. It was the oldest part of the Wielbark culture, located west of the Vistula and which had Scandinavian burial traditions, that pulled up its stakes and moved.[26] In Ukraine, they imposed themselves as the rulers of the local Zarubintsy culture forming the new Chernyakhov Culture (ca 200–ca 400). They were ultimately assimilated into the local population.

A theory claims that continued contacts between the Goths during their migration and southern Sweden existed.[32] Chernyakhov settlements cluster in open ground in river valleys. The houses include sunken-floored dwellings, surface dwellings, and stall-houses. The largest known settlement (Budesty) is 35 hectares.[33] Most settlements are open and unfortified; some forts are also known.[citation needed]

Chernyakhov cemeteries include both cremation and inhumation burials; among the latter the head is to the north. Some graves were left empty. Grave goods often include pottery, bone combs, and iron tools, but almost never any weapons.[34]

Within the Roman Empire

A 19th century artist's rendition of campaigning Goths as described by their 3rd - 4th century Roman adversaries.
Ruins of an Arian Gothic basilica from Late Antiquity at the Palace of Omurtag site in northeastern Bulgaria

Major sources for Gothic history include Ammianus Marcellinus' Res gestae, mentioning Gothic involvement in the civil war between emperors Procopius and Valens of 365 and recounting the Gothic refugee crisis and revolt of 376-382 and Procopius' de bello gothico, describing the Gothic War of 535-552.

In the 3rd century, there were at least two groups of Goths, the Thervingi, and the Greuthungi. The Thervingi launched one of the first major "barbarian" invasions of the Roman Empire from 262, sailing up to the Aegean and laying waste to the islands and the countryside in 267, although they were unable to take any fortified cities.[35] A year later, they suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Naissus. By 271 the force was destroyed, and some of the survivors were resettled within the empire, while another part was incorporated in the Roman army. Later an independent kingdom centred on the abandoned Roman province of Dacia was established. In 332 Constantine, in order to enforce the Roman Empire border, helped the Sarmatians to settle on the north banks of the Danube to defend against the Goths' attacks. 100,000 Goths were killed in battle, and Ariaricus, the son of the King of the Goths, was captured. In 334 Constantine evacuated 300,000 Sarmatians from the north bank of the Danube (after a local revolt of the Sarmatians' slaves). In 335-336 Constantine, continuing his Danube campaign, defeated many Gothic tribes.[36][37][38] Both the Greuthungi and Thervingi became heavily Romanized during the 4th century by the influence of trade with the Byzantines, and by their membership of a military covenant centred in Byzantium to assist each other militarily. They converted to Arianism during this time. Hunnic domination of the Gothic kingdom in Scythia began in the 370s,[citation needed] and under pressure of the Huns, the king of the Thervingi,[citation needed] Fritigern in 376 asked the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. Valens permitted this, and even helped the Goths cross the river,[citation needed] probably at the fortress of Durostorum, but following a famine the Gothic War (376-382) took place, and Goths and local Thracians rebelled. The Roman Emperor Valens was killed at the Battle of Adrianople.

The Visigoths were one of two main branches of the Goths, (the Ostrogoths being the other) during the fifth century. Together these tribes were among the Germanic peoples who disturbed the late Roman Empire during the Migration Period. A Visigothic force led by Alaric I sacked Rome in 410. Honorius granted the Visigoths Aquitania, where they defeated the Vandals and by 475 ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Ostrogoths in the meantime freed themselves of government of the Huns following the Battle of Nedao in 454. At the behest of emperor Zeno, Theodoric the Great from 488 conquered all of Italy. The Goths were briefly reunited under one crown in the early sixth century under Theodoric the Great, who became regent of the Visigothic kingdom following the death of Alaric II at the Battle of Vouillé in 507. Procopius, writing at this time, interpreted the name Visigoth to mean "western Goths", and the name Ostrogoth as "eastern Goth" which corresponded to the current distribution of the Gothic realms.

The Ostrogothic kingdom persisted until 553 under Teia, when Italy briefly fell back under Byzantine control, until the conquest of the Langobards in 568. The Visigothic kingdom lasted longer, until 711 under Roderic, when it had to yield to the Muslim Umayyad invasion of the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus).

In the late 6th century, Goths were settled as foederati in parts of Asia Minor. Their descendants, forming the elite Optimatoi regiment, still lived there in the early 8th century, and albeit largely assimilated, their Gothic origin was still well-known: the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor calls them Gothograeci.


Gothic is an archaic Germanic language with definite ties to the languages of North-Central Europe. It is the only well-recorded East Germanic language.

According to at least one theory[citation needed], there are closer linguistic connections between Gothic and Old Norse (especially the Old Gutnish dialect) than between Gothic and the West Germanic languages (see East Germanic languages and Gothic). Moreover, there were two tribes that probably are closely related to the Goths[39] and remained in Scandinavia, the Gutar (Gotlanders), whose name is identical to Goths, and the Geats. These tribes were considered to be Goths by Jordanes (see Scandza).

The fact is that virtually all of those phonetic and grammatical features that characterize the North Germanic languages as a separate branch of the Germanic language family (not to mention the features that distinguish various Norse dialects) seem to have evolved at a later stage than the one preserved in Gothic. Gothic in turn, while being an extremely archaic form of Germanic in most respects, has nevertheless developed a certain number of unique features that it shares with no other Germanic language.

However, this does not exclude the possibility of the Goths, the Gutar and the Geats being related as tribes. Similarly, the Saxon dialects of Germany are hardly closer to Anglo-Saxon than any other West Germanic language that hasn't undergone the High German consonant shift (see Grimm's law), but the tribes themselves are definitely identical. The Jutes (Dan. jyder) of Jutland (Dan. Jylland, in Western Danmark) are at least etymologically identical to the Jutes that came from that region and invaded Britain together with the Angles and the Saxons in the 5th century AD. Nevertheless, there are no remaining written sources to associate the Jutes of Jutlandia with anything but North Germanic dialects, or the Jutes of Britain with anything but West Germanic dialects. Thus, language is not always the best criterion for tribal or ethnic tradition and continuity.

Symbolic legacy

The Gutar (Gotlanders) themselves had oral traditions of a mass migration towards southern Europe, written down in the Gutasaga. If the facts are related, that would be a unique case of a tradition that survived in more than a thousand years and that actually pre-dates most of the major splits in the Germanic language family.

The Goths' relationship with Sweden became an important part of Swedish nationalism, and until the 19th century the view that the Swedes were the direct descendants of the Goths was common. Today Swedish scholars identify this as a cultural movement called Gothicismus, which included an enthusiasm for things Old Norse.

Since 1278, when Magnus III of Sweden ascended to the throne, it has been included in the title of the King of Sweden. "We N.N. by Gods Grace of the Swedes, the Goths and the Vends King". In 1973, with the death of King Gustaf VI Adolf, the title was changed to solely "King of Sweden"

In Medieval and Modern Spain, the Visigoths were thought to be the origin of the Spanish nobility (compare Gobineau for a similar French idea).

Somebody acting with arrogance would be said to be "haciéndose los godos" ("making himself to act like the Goths"). Because of this, in Chile, Argentina and the Canary Islands, godo was an ethnic slur used against European Spaniards, who in the early colony period would feel superior to the people born locally (criollos).

This claim of Gothic origins led to a clash with the Swedish delegation at the Council of Basel, 1434. Before the assembled cardinals and delegations could undertake the theological discussions, they had to decide how to sit during the proceedings. The delegations from the more prominent nations were to sit closest to the Pope, and there were also disputes about who was to have the finest chairs and who was to have their chairs on mats. In some cases they compromised so that some would have half a chair leg on the rim of a mat. In this conflict, the bishop of Växjö, Nicolaus Ragvaldi claimed that the Swedes were the descendants of the great Goths, and that the people of Västergötland (Westrogothia in Latin) were the Visigoths and the people of Östergötland (Ostrogothia in Latin) were the Ostrogoths. The Spanish delegation then retorted that it was only the lazy and unenterprising Goths who had remained in Sweden, whereas the heroic Goths, on the other hand, had left Sweden, invaded the Roman empire and settled in Spain.[40][41]

See also

Descendants and related peoples:



  1. ^ Cf. Heather, The Goths, pp. 11ff.; Walter Goffart, Barbarian Tides, 2006, pp. 56ff.
  2. ^ Cf. Heather, The Goths, p. 26.
  3. ^ Bradley (1899) page 364.
  4. ^ Wolfram (1988) pages 19-35.
  5. ^ a b Lehmann, Winfred P.; Helen-Jo J. Hewitt (1986). A Gothic Etymological Dictionary. Leiden: E.J. Brill. pp. 164. ISBN 9004081763, 9789004081765. ; apparent in the name of the Gutones mentioned in a quotation of Pytheas cited by Pliny.
  6. ^ Compare the modern Swedish gjuta, modern Dutch gieten, modern German gießen, Gothic giutan, old Scandinavian giota, old English geotan all cognate with Latin fondere "to pour" and old Greek cheo "I pour".
  7. ^ Page 447.
  8. ^ Wolfram (1988) page 21.
  9. ^ a b Johannes Hoops, Herbert Jankuhn, Heinrich Beck, Dieter Geuenich, Heiko Steuer, Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, 2nd edition, Walter de Gruyter, 2004, pp.452ff, ISBN 3110177331
  10. ^ The Works of Tacitus: The Oxford Translation, Revised, With Notes, BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008, p.836, ISBN 0559473354
  11. ^ J. B. Rives on Tacitus, Germania, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.311, ISBN 0198150504
  12. ^ Jordanes 25.
  13. ^ Jordanes 94.
  14. ^ Jordanes 26.
  15. ^ Jordanes 96.
  16. ^ Book 37, Chapter 11.
  17. ^ Tacitus, Cornelius; J.B. Rives, Translator and Commentator (1999). Germania. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 113. ISBN 0199240000, 9780199240005.  As Pytheas did mention the Teutones in the same passage it securely dates them to 300 BC.
  18. ^ Book 4, Chapter 13.
  19. ^ Book II, Chapter 10.
  20. ^ a b The Goths in Greater Poland
  21. ^ Andrzej Kokowski "Archäologie der Goten" 1999 (ISBN 83-907341-8-4)
  22. ^ Gothic Connections
  23. ^ Dabrowski 1989:73
  24. ^ Oxenstierna 1945
  25. ^ Kaliff 2001
  26. ^ a b Jewellery of the Goths
  27. ^ Heather, The Goths, p. 26.
  28. ^ Jordanes 27.
  29. ^ Jordanes 28.
  30. ^ Jordanes 42.
  31. ^ Jordanes 82.
  32. ^ Arhenius, B. Connections between Scandinavia and the East Roman Empire in the Migration Period, in From the Baltic to the Black Sea: Studies in Medieval Archaeology, ed. by David Austin and Leslie Alcock (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990), 118-37 (pp. 119, 134).
  33. ^ Heather, Peter & Matthews, John, 1991, The Goths in the Fourth Century, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, pp. 52-54.
  34. ^ Heather, Peter & Matthews, John, 1991, Goths in the Fourth Century, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, pp. 54-56.G
  35. ^ Hermannus Contractus, quoting Eusebius, has "263: Macedonia, Graecia, Pontus, Asia et aliae provinciae depopulantur per Gothos".
  36. ^ Origo Constantini 6.32 mention the actions
  37. ^ Eusebius Vita Constantini IV.6
  38. ^ Charles Manson Odahl Constantine and the Christian Empire chapter X
  39. ^ Stål, Harry. (1976). Ortnamn och ortnamnsforskning. Almquist & Wiksell, Uppsala. p.131.
  40. ^ Ergo 12-1996.
  41. ^ Söderberg, Werner. (1896). "Nicolaus Ragvaldis tal i Basel 1434", in Samlaren. p. 187-195.


  • Andersson, Thorsten (1996). "Göter, goter, gutar" (in Swedish). Namn och Bygd (Uppsala) 84: 5–21. 
  • Bell-Fialkoff, Andrew, Editor (2000). The Role of Migration in the History of the Eurasian Steppe: Sedentary Civilization vs. "Barbarian" and Nomad. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-21207-0. 
  • Bradley, Henry (1888). The Goths: from the Earliest Times to the End of the Gothic Dominion in Spain. London: T. Fisher Unwin.  Downloadable Google Books.
  • Dabrowski, J. (1989) Nordische Kreis un Kulturen Polnischer Gebiete. Die Bronzezeit im Ostseegebiet. Ein Rapport der Kgl. Schwedischen Akademie der Literatur Geschichte und Alter unt Altertumsforschung über das Julita-Symposium 1986. Ed Ambrosiani, B. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien. Konferenser 22. Stockholm.
  • Findeisen, Joerg-Peter: Schweden - Von den Anfaengen bis zur Gegenwart, Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1998.
  • Oxenstierna, Graf E.C. : Die Urheimat der Goten. Leipzig, Mannus-Buecherei 73, 1945 (later printed in 1948).
  • Heather, Peter: The Goths (Blackwell, 1996)
  • Hermodsson, Lars: Goterna - ett krigafolk och dess bibel, Stockholm, Atlantis, 1993.
  • Kaliff, Anders: Gothic Connections. Contacts between eastern Scandinavia and the southern Baltic coast 1000 BC – 500 AD. Occasional Papers in Archaeology (OPIA) 26. Uppsala 2001.
  • Mastrelli, Carlo Alberto in Volker Bierbauer et al., I Goti, Milan: Electa Lombardia, Elemond Editori Associati, 1994.
  • Nordgren, I.: Goterkällan - om goterna i Norden och på kontinenten, Skara: Vaestergoetlands museums skriftserie nr 30, 2000.
  • Nordgren, I.: The Well Spring of the Goths : About the Gothic peoples in the Nordic Countries and on the Continent (2004)
  • Rodin, L. - Lindblom, V. - Klang, K.: Gudaträd och västgötska skottkungar - Sveriges bysantiska arv, Göteborg: Tre böcker, 1994.
  • Schaetze der Ostgoten, Stuttgart: Theiss, 1995. Studia Gotica - Die eisenzeitlichen Verbindungen zwischen Schweden und Suedosteuropa - Vortraege beim Gotensymposion im Statens Historiska Museum, Stockholm 1970.
  • Tacitus: Germania, (with introduction and commentary by J.B. Rives), Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999.
  • Wenskus, Reinhard: Stammesbildung und Verfassung. Das Werden der Frühmittelalterlichen Gentes (Köln 1961).
  • Wolfram, Herwig; Thomas J. Dunlap, Translator (1988). History of the Goths: New and completely revised from the second German edition. Los Angeles: University of California Press. LC number D137.W6213 1987 940.1. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GOTHS (Gotones, later Gothis), a Teutonic people who in the 1 st century of the Christian era appear to have inhabited the middle part of the basin of the Vistula. They were probably the easternmost of the Teutonic peoples. Early P Y P P history. According to their own traditions as recorded by Jordanes, they had come originally from the island Scandza., i.e. Skane or Sweden, under the leadership of a king named Berig, and landed first in a region called Gothiscandza. Thence they invaded the territories of the Ulmerugi (the Holmryge of Anglo-Saxon tradition), probably in the neighbourhood of Riigenwalde in eastern Pomerania, and conquered both them and the neighbouring Vandals. Under their sixth king Filimer they migrated into Scythia and settled in a district which they called Oium. The rest of their early history, as it is given by Jordanes following Cassiodorus, is due to an erroneous identification of the Goths with the Getae, and ancient Thracian people.

The credibility of the story of the migration from Sweden has been much discussed by modern authors. The legend was not peculiar to the Goths, similar traditions being current among the Langobardi, the Burgundians, and apparently several other Teutonic nations. It has been observed with truth that so many populous nations can hardly have sprung from the Scandinavian peninsula; on the other hand, the existence of these traditions certainly requires some explanation. Possibly, however, many of the royal families may have contained an element of Scandinavian blood, a hypothesis which would well accord with the social conditions of the migration period, as illustrated, e.g., in Volsunga Saga and in Hervarar Saga ok Heib'reks Konungs. In the case of the Goths a connexion with Gotland is not unlikely, since it is clear from archaeological evidence that this island had an extensive trade with the coasts about the mouth of the Vistula in early times. If, however, there was any migration at all, one would rather have expected it to have taken place in the reverse direction. For the origin of the Goths can hardly be separated from that of the Vandals, whom according to Procopius they resembled in language and in all other respects. Moreover the Gepidae, another Teutonic people, who are said to have formerly inhabited the delta of the Vistula, also appear to have been closely connected with the Goths. According to Jordanes they participated in the migration from Scandza.

Apart from a doubtful reference by Pliny to a statement of the early traveller Pytheas, the first notices we have of the Goths go back to the first years of the Christian era, at which time they seem to have been subject to the Marcomannic king Maroboduus. They do not enter into Roman history, however, until after the beginning of the 3rd century, at which time they appear to have come in conflict with the emperor Caracalla. During this century their frontier seems to have been advanced considerably farther south, and the whole country as far as the lower Danube was frequently ravaged by them. The emperor Gordianus is called " victor Gothorum " by Capitolinus, though we have no record of the ground for the claim, and further conflicts are recorded with his successors, one of whom, Decius, was slain by the Goths in Moesia. According to Jordanes the kings of the Goths during these campaigns were Ostrogotha and afterwards Cniva, the former of whom is praised also in the AngloSaxon poem Widsith. The emperor Gallus was forced to pay tribute to the Goths. By this time they had reached the coasts of the Black Sea, and during the next twenty years they frequently ravaged the maritime regions of Asia Minor and Greece. Aurelian is said to have won a victory over them, but the province of Dacia had to be given up. In the time of Constantine the Great Thrace and Moesia were again plundered by the Goths, A.D. 321. Constantine drove them back and concluded peace with their king Ariaric in 336. From the end of the 3rd century we hear of subdivisions of the nation called Greutungi, Teruingi, Austrogothi (Ostrogothi), Visigothi, Taifali, though it is not clear whether these were all distinct.

Though by this time the Goths had extended their territories far to the south and east, it must not be assumed that they had evacuated their old lands on the Vistula. Jordanes records several traditions of their conflicts with other Teutonic tribes, in particular a victory won by Ostrogotha over Fastida, king of the Gepidae, and another by Geberic over Visimar, king of the Vandals, about the end of Constantine's reign, in consequence of which the Vandals sought and obtained permission to settle in Pannonia. Geberic was succeeded by the most famous of the Gothic kings, Hermanaric (Eormenric, Iormunrekr), whose deeds are recorded in the traditions of all Teutonic nations. According to Jordanes he conquered the Heruli, the Aestii, the Venedi, and a number of other tribes who seem to have been settled in the southern part of Russia. From Anglo-Saxon sources it seems probable that his supremacy reached westwards as far as Holstein. He was of a cruel disposition, and is said to have killed his nephews Embrica (Emerca) and Fritla (Fridla) in order to obtain the great treasure which they possessed. Still more famous is the story of Suanihilda (Svanhildr), who according to Northern tradition was his wife and was cruelly put to death on a false charge of unfaithfulness. An attempt to avenge her death was made by her brothers Ammius (Hamoir) and Sarus (Sorli) by whom Hermanaric was severely wounded. To his time belong a number of other heroes whose exploits are recorded in English and Northern tradition, amongst whom we may mention Wudga (Vidigoia), Hama and several others, who in Widsith are represented as defending their country against the Huns in the forest of the Vistula. Hermanaric committed suicide in his distress at an invasion of the Huns about A.D. 370, and the portion of the nation called Ostrogoths then came under Hunnish supremacy. The Visigoths obtained permission to cross the Danube and settle in Moesia. A large part of the nation became Christian about this time (see below). The exactions of the Roman governors, however, soon led to a quarrel, which ended in the total defeat and death of Valens at Adrianople in the year 378. (F. G. M. B.) From about 370 the history of the East and West Goths parts asunder, to be joined together again only incidentally and for a season. The great mass of the East Goths overlordship of the Hun. They do not for the present play any important part in the affairs of the Empire. The great mass of the West Goths crossed the Danube into the Roman provinces, and there played a most important part in various characters of alliance and enmity. The great migration was in 376, when they were allowed to pass as peaceful settlers under their chief Frithigern. His rival Athanaric seems to have tried to maintain his party for a while north of the Danube in defiance of the Huns; but he had presently to follow the example of the great mass of the nation. The peaceful designs of Frithigern were meanwhile thwarted by the ill-treatment which the Goths suffered from the Roman officials, which led first to disputes and then to open war. In 378 the Goths won the great battle of Adrianople, and after this Theodosius the Great, the successor of Valens, made terms with them in 381, and the mass of the Gothic warriors entered the Roman service as foederati. Many of their chiefs were in high favour; but it seems that the orthodox Theodosius showed more favour to the still remaining heathen party among the Goths than to the larger part of them who had embraced Arian Christianity. Athanaric himself came to Constantinople in 381; he was received with high honours, and had a solemn funeral when he died. His saying is worth recording, as an example of the effect which Roman civilization had on the Teutonic mind. " The emperor," he said, " was a god upon earth, and he who resisted him would have his blood on his own head." The death of Theodosius in 395 broke up the union between the West Goths and the Empire. Dissensions arose between them and the ministers of Arcadius; the Goths threw off their allegiance, and chose Alaric as their king. This was a restoration alike of national unity and of national independence. The royal title had not been borne by their leaders in the Roman service. Alaric's position is quite different from that of several Goths in the Roman service, who appear as simple rebels. He was of the great West Gothic house of the Balthi, or Bold-men, a house second in nobility only to that of the Amali. His whole career was taken up with marchings to and fro within the lands, first of the Eastern, then of the Western empire. The Goths are under him an independent people under a national king; their independence is in no way interfered with if the Gothic king, in a moment of peace, accepts the office and titles of a Roman general. But under Alaric the Goths make no lasting settlement. In the long tale of intrigue and warfare between the Goths and the two imperial courts which fills up this whole time, cessions of territory are offered to the Goths, provinces are occupied by them, but as yet they do not take root anywhere; no Western land as yet becomes Gothia. Alaric's designs of settlement seem in his first stage to have still kept east of the Adriatic, in Illyricum, possibly in Greece. Towards the end of his career his eyes seem fixed on Africa.

Greece was the scene of his great campaign in 395-96, the second Gothic invasion of that country. In this campaign the religious position of the Goths is strongly marked. The Arian appeared as an enemy alike to the pagan majority and the Catholic minority; but he came surrounded by monks, and his chief wrath was directed against the heathen temples (vide G. F. Hertzberg, Geschichte Griechenlands, iii. 391). His Italian campaigns fall into two great divisions, that of 402-3, when he was driven back by Stilicho, and that of 408-10, after Stilicho's death. In this second war he thrice besieged Rome (408, 409, 410). The second time it suited a momentary policy to set up a puppet emperor of his own, and even to accept a military commission from him. The third time he sacked the city, the first time since Brennus that Rome had been taken by an army of utter foreigners. The intricate political and military details of these campaigns are of less importance in the history of the Gothic nation than the stage which Alaric's reign marks in the history of that nation. It stands between two periods of settlement within the Empire and of service under the Empire. Under Alaric there is no settlement, and service is quite secondary and precarious; after his death in 410 the two begin again in new shapes.

Contemporary with the campaigns of Alaric was a barbarian invasion of Italy, which, according to one view, again brings the East and West Goths together. The great mass of the East Goths, as has been already said, became one of the many nations which were under vassalage to the Huns; but their relation was one merely of vassalage. They remained a distinct people under kings of their own, kings of the house of the Amali and of the kindred of Ermanaric (Jordanes, 48). They had to follow the lead of the Huns in war, but they were also able to carry on wars of their own; and it has been held that among these separate East Gothic enterprises we are to place the invasion of Italy in 4 05 by Radagaisus (whom R. Pallmann' writes Ratiger, and takes him for the chief of the heathen part of the East Goths). One chronicler, Prosper, makes this invasion preceded by another in 400, in which Alaric and Radagaisus appear as partners. The paganism of Radagaisus is certain. The presence of Goths in his army is certain, but it seems dangerous to infer that his invasion was a national Gothic enterprise.

Under Ataulphus, the brother-in-law and successor of Alaric, another era opens, the beginning of enterprises which did in the end lead to the establishment of a settled Gothic monarchy in the West. The position of Ataulphus is well marked by the speech put into his mouth by Orosius. He had at one time dreamed of destroying the Roman power, of turning Romania into Gothia, and putting Ataulphus in the stead of Augustus; but he had learned that the world could be governed only by the laws of Rome and he had determined to use the Gothic arms for the support of the Roman power. And in the confused and contradictory accounts of his actions (for the story in Jordanes cannot be reconciled with the accounts in Olympiodorus and the chroniclers), we can see something of this principle at work throughout. Gaul and Spain were overrun both by barbarian 1 Geschichte der Volkerwanderung (Gotha, 1863-1864).

stayed north of the Danube, and passed under the Y P invaders and by rival emperors. The sword of the Goth was to win back the last lands for Rome. And, amid many shiftings of allegiance, Ataulphus seems never to have wholly given up the position of an ally of the Empire. His marriage with Placidia, the daughter of the great Theodosius, was taken as the seal of the union between Goth and Roman, and, had their son Theodosius lived, a dynasty might have arisen uniting both claims. But the career of Ataulphus was cut short at Barcelona in 415, by his murder at the hands of another faction of the Goths. The reign of Sigeric was momentary. Under Wallia in 418 a more settled state of things was established. The Empire received again, as the prize of Gothic victories, the Tarraconensis in Spain, and Novempopulana and the Narbonensis in Gaul. The " second Aquitaine," with the sea-coast from the mouth of the Garonne to the mouth of the Loire, became the West Gothic kingdom of Toulouse. The dominion of the Goths was now strictly Gaulish; their lasting Spanish dominion does not yet begin.

The reign of the first West Gothic Theodoric (419-451) shows a shifting state of relations between the Roman and Gothic powers; but, after defeats and successes both ways, the older relation of alliance against common enemies was again established. At last Goth and Roman had to join together against the common enemy of Europe and Christendom, Attila the Hun. But they met Gothic warriors in his army. By the terms of their subjection to the Huns, the East Goths came to fight for Attila against Christendom at Chalons, just as the Servians came to fight for Bajazet against Christendom at Nicopolis. Theodoric fell in the battle (451). After this momentary meeting, the history of the East and West Goths again separates for a while. The kingdom of Toulouse grew within Gaul at the expense of the Empire, and in Spain at the expense of the Suevi. Under Euric (466-485) the West Gothic power again became largely a Spanish power. The kingdom of Toulouse took in nearly all Gaul south of the Loire and west of the Rhone, with all Spain, except the north-west corner, which was still held by the Suevi. Provence alone remained to the Empire. The West Gothic kings largely adopted Roman manners and culture; but, as they still kept to their original Arian creed, their rule never became thoroughly acceptable to their Catholic subjects. Theystood, therefore, at a great disadvantage when a new and aggressive Catholic power appeared in Gaul through the conversion of the Frank Clovis or Chlodwig. Toulouse was, as in days long after, the seat of an heretical power, against which the forces of northern Gaul marched as on a crusade. In 507 the West Gothic king Alaric II. fell before the Frankish arms at Campus Vogladensis, near Poitiers, and his kingdom, as a great power north of the Alps, fell with him. That Spain and a fragment of Gaul still remained to form a West Gothic kingdom was owing to the intervention of the East Goths under the rule of the greatest man in Gothic history.

When the Hunnish power broke in pieces on the death of Attila, the East Goths recovered their full independence. They now entered into relations with the Empire, and were settled on lands in Pannonia. During the greater part of the latter half of the 5th century, the East Goths play in south-eastern Europe nearly the same part which the West Goths played in the century before. They are seen going to and fro, in every conceivable relation of friendship and enmity with the Eastern Roman power, till, just as the West Goths had done before them, they pass from the East to the West. They are still ruled by kings of the house of the Amali, and from that house there now steps forward a great figure, famous alike in history and in romance, in the person of Theodoric, son of Theodemir. Born about 454, his childhood was spent at Constantinople as a hostage, where he was carefully educated. The early part of his life is taken up with various disputes, intrigues and wars within the Eastern empire, in which he has as his rival another Theodoric, son of Triarius, and surnamed Strabo. This older but lesser Theodoric seems to have been the chief, not the king, of that branch of the East Goths which had settled within the Empire at an earlier time. Theodoric the Great, as he is some times distinguished, is sometimes the friend, sometimes the enemy, of the Empire. In the former case he is clothed with various Roman titles and offices, as patrician and consul; but in all cases alike he remains the national East Gothic king. It was in both characters together that he set out in 488, by commission from the emperor Zeno, to recover Italy from Odoacer. By 493 Ravenna was taken; Odoacer was killed by Theodoric's own hand; and the East Gothic power was fully established over Italy, Sicily, Dalmatia and the lands to the north of Italy. In this war the history of the East and West Goths begins again to unite, if we may accept the witness of one writer that Theodoric was helped by West Gothic auxiliaries. The two branches of the nation were soon brought much more closely together, when, through the overthrow of the West Gothic kingdom of Toulouse, the power of Theodoric was practically extended over a large part of Gaul and over nearly the whole of Spain. A time of confusion followed the fall of Alaric II., and, as that prince was the son-in-law of Theodoric, the East Gothic king stepped in as the guardian of his grandson Amalaric, and preserved for him all his Spanish and a fragment of his Gaulish dominion. Toulouse passed away to the Frank; but the Goth kept Narbonne and its district, the land of Septimania - the land which, as the last part of Gaul held by the Goths, kept the name of Gothia for many ages. While Theodoric lived, the West Gothic kingdom was practically united to his own dominion. He seems also to have claimed a kind of protectorate over the Teutonic powers generally, and indeed to have practically exercised it, except in the case of the Franks.

The East Gothic dominion was now again as great in extent and far more splendid than it could have been in the time of Ermanaric. But it was now of a wholly different character. The dominion of Theodoric was not a barbarian but a civilized power. His twofold position ran through everything. He was at once national king of the Goths, and successor, though without any imperial titles, of the Roman emperors of the West. The two nations, differing in manners, language and religion, lived side by side on the soil of Italy; each was ruled according to its own law, by the prince who was, in his two separate characters, the common sovereign of both. The picture of Theodoric's rule is drawn for us in the state papers drawn up in his name and in the names of his successors by his Roman minister Cassiodorus. The Goths seem to have been thick on the ground in northern Italy; in the south they formed little more than garrisons. In Theodoric's theory the Goth was the armed protector of the peaceful Roman; the Gothic king had the toil of government, while the Roman consul had the honour. All the forms of the Roman administration went on, and the Roman polity and Roman culture had great influence on the Goths themselves. The rule of the prince over two distinct nations in the same land was necessarily despotic; the old Teutonic freedom was necessarily lost. Such a system as that which Theodoric established needed a Theodoric to carry it on. It broke in pieces after his death.

On the death of Theodoric (526) the East and West Goths were again separated. The few instances in which they are found acting together after this time are as scattered and incidental as they were before. Amalaric succeeded to the West Gothic kingdom in Spain and Septimania. Provence was added to the dominion of the new East Gothic king Athalaric, the grandson of Theodoric through his daughter Amalasuntha. The weakness of the East Gothic position in Italy now showed itself. The long wars of Justinian's reign (535-555) recovered Italy for the Empire, and the Gothic name died out on Italian soil. The chance of forming a national state in Italy by the union of Roman and Teutonic elements, such as those which arose in Gaul, in Spain, and in parts of Italy under Lombard rule, was thus lost. The East Gothic kingdom was destroyed bef ore Goths and Italians had at all mingled together. The war of course made the distinction stronger; under the kings who were chosen for the purposes of the war national Gothic feeling had revived. The Goths were now again, if not a wandering people, yet an armed host, no longer the protectors but the enemies of the Roman people of Italy. The East Gothic dominion and the East Gothic name wholly passed away. The nation had followed Theodoric. It is only once or twice after his expedition that we hear of Goths, or even of Gothic leaders, in the eastern provinces. From the soil of Italy the nation passed away almost without a trace, while the next Teutonic conquerors stamped their name on the two ends of the land, one of which keeps it to this day.

The West Gothic kingdom lasted much longer, and came much nearer to establishing itself as a national power in the lands which it took in. But the difference of race and faith between the Arian Goths and the Catholic Romans of Gaul and Spain influenced the history of the West Gothic kingdom for a long time. The Arian Goths ruled over Catholic subjects, and were surrounded by Catholic neighbours. The Franks were Catholics from their first conversion; the Suevi became Catholics much earlier than the Goths. The African conquests of Belisarius gave the Goths of Spain, instead of the Arian Vandals, another Catholic neighbour in the form of the restored Roman power. The Catholics everywhere preferred either Roman, Suevian or Frankish rule to that of the heretical Goths; even the unconquerable mountaineers of Cantabria seem for a while to have received a Frankish governor. In some other mountain districts the Roman inhabitants long maintained their independence, and in 534 a large part of the south of Spain, including the great cities of Cadiz, Cordova, Seville and New Carthage, was, with the good will of its Roman inhabitants, reunited to the Empire, which kept some points on the coast as late as 624. That is to say, the same work which the Empire was carrying on in Italy against the East Goths was at the same moment carried on in Spain against the West Goths. But in Italy the whole land was for a while won back, and the Gothic power passed away for ever. In Spain the Gothic power outlived the Roman power, but it outlived it only by itself becoming in some measure Roman. The greatest period of the Gothic power as such was in the reign of Leovigild (568-586). He reunited the Gaulish and Spanish parts of the kingdom which had been parted for a moment; he united the Suevian dominion to his own; he overcame some of the independent districts, and won back part of the recovered Roman province in southern Spain. He further established the power of the crown over the Gothic nobles, who were beginning to grow into territorial lords. The next reign, that of his son Recared (586-601), was marked by a change which took away the great hindrance which had thus far stood in the way of any national union between Goths and Romans. The king and the greater part of the Gothic people embraced the Catholic faith. A vast degree of influence now fell into the hands of the Catholic bishops; the two nations began to unite; the Goths were gradually romanized and the Gothic language began to go out of use. In short, the Romance nation and the Romance speech of Spain began to be formed. The Goths supplied the Teutonic infusion into the Roman mass. The kingdom, however, still remained a Gothic kingdom. " Gothic," not " Roman " or " Spanish," is its formal title; only a single late instance of the use of the formula " regnum Hispaniae " is known. In the first half of the 7th century that name became for the first time geographically applicable by the conquest of the still Roman coast of southern Spain. The Empire was then engaged in the great struggle with the Avars and Persians, and, now that the Gothic kings were Catholic, the great objection to their rule on the part of the Roman inhabitants was taken away. The Gothic nobility still remained a distinct class, and held, along with the Catholic prelacy, the right of choosing the king. Union with the Catholic Church was accompanied by the introduction of the ecclesiastical ceremony of anointing, a change decidedly favourable to elective rule. The growth of those later ideas which tended again to favour the hereditary doctrine had not time to grow up in Spain before the Mahommedan conquest (711). The West Gothic crown therefore remained elective till the end. The modern Spanish nation is the growth of the long struggle with the Mussulmans; but it has a direct connexion with the West Gothic kingdom. We see at once that the Goths hold altogether a different place in Spanish memory from that which they hold in Italian memory. In Italy the Goth was but a momentary invader and ruler; the Teutonic element in Italy comes from other sources. In Spain the Goth supplies an important element in the modern nation. And that element has been neither forgotten nor despised. Part of the unconquered region of northern Spain, the land of Asturia, kept for a while the name of Gothia, as did the Gothic possessions in Gaul and in Crim. The name of the people who played so great a part in all southern Europe, and who actually ruled over so large a part of it has now wholly passed away; but it is in Spain that its historical impress is to be looked for.

Of Gothic literature in the Gothic language we have the Bible of Ulfilas, and some other religious writings and fragments (see Gothic Language below). Of Gothic legislation in Latin we have the edict of Theodoric of the year 500, edited by F. Bluhme in the Monumenta Germaniae historica; and the books of Variae of Cassiodorus may pass as a collection of the state papers of Theodoric and his immediate successors. Among the West Goths written laws had already been put forth by Euric. The second Alaric (484-507) put forth a Breviarium of Roman law for his Roman subjects; but the great collection of West Gothic laws dates from the later days of the monarchy, being put forth by King Recceswinth about 654. This code gave occasion to some well-known comments by Montesquieu and Gibbon, and has been discussed by Savigny (Geschichte des riimischen Rechts, ii. 65) and various other writers. They are printed in the Monumenta Germaniae, leges, tome i. (1902). Of special Gothic histories, besides that of Jordanes, already so often quoted, there is the Gothic history of Isidore, archbishop of Seville, a special source of the history of the West Gothic kings down to Svinthala (621-631). But all the Latin and Greek writers contemporary with the days of Gothic predominance make their constant contributions. Not for special facts, but for a general estimate, no writer is more instructive than Salvian of Marseilles in the 5th century, whose work De Gubernatione Dei "is full of passages contrasting the vices of the Romans with the virtues of the barbarians, especially of the Goths. In all such pictures we must allow a good deal for exaggeration both ways, but there must be a ground-work of truth. The chief virtues which the Catholic presbyter praises in the Arian Goths are their chastity, their piety according to their own creed, their tolerance towards the Catholics under their rule, and their general good treatment of their Roman subjects. He even ventures to hope that such good people may be saved, notwithstanding their heresy. All this must have had some groundwork of truth in the 5th century, but it is not very wonderful if the later West Goths of Spain had a good deal fallen away from the doubtless somewhat ideal picture of Salvian. (E. A. F.) There is now an extensive literature on the Goths, and among the principal works may be mentioned: T. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders (Oxford, 1880-1899); J. Aschbach, Geschichte der Westgoten (Frankfort, 1827); F. Dahn, Die Konige der Germanen (1861-1899); E. von Wietersheim, Geschichte der Volkerwanderung (1880-1881); R. Pallmann, Die Geschichte der Volkerwanderung (Gotha, 1863-1864);. B. Rappaport, Die Einfdlle der Goten in das romische Reich (Leipzig, 1899), and K. Zeuss, Die Deutschen and die Nachbarstamme (Munich, 1837). Other works which may be consulted are: E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, edited by J. B. Bury (1896-1900); H. H. Milman, History of Latin Christianity (1867); J. B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire (1889); P. Villari, Le Invasioni barbariche in Italia (Milan, 1901); and F. Martroye, L'Occident a l'epoque byzantine: Goths et Vandales (Paris, 1903). There is a popular history of the Goths by H. Bradley in the " Story of the Nations " series (London, 1888). For the laws see the Leges in Band I. of the Monumenta Germaniae historica, leges (1902). A. Helfferich, Entstehung and Geschichte des Westgotenrechts (Berlin, 1858); F. Bluhme, Zur Textkritik des Westgotenrechts (1872); F. Dahn, Lex Visigothorum. Westgotische Studien (Wiirzburg, 1874); C. Rinaudo, Leggi dei Visigote, studio (Turin, 1878); and K. Zeumer, " Geschichte der westgotischen Gesetzgebung " in the Neues Archie der Gesellschaft fiir eiltere deutsche Geschichtskunde. See also the article On Theodoric.

Gothic Language

Our knowledge of the Gothic language is derived almost entirely from the fragments of a translation of the Bible which is believed to have been made by the Arian bishop Wulfila or Ulfilas (d. 383) for the Goths who dwelt on the lower Danube. The MSS. which have come down to us and which date from the period of Ostrogothic rule in Italy (489-555) contain the Second Epistle to the Corinthians complete, together with more or less considerable fragments of the four Gospels and of all the other Pauline Epistles. The only remains of the Old Testament are three short fragments of Ezra and Nehemiah. There is also an incomplete commentary (skeireins) on St John's Gospel, a fragment of a calendar, and two charters (from Naples and Arezzo, the latter now lost) which contain some Gothic sentences. All these texts are written in a special character, which is said to have been invented by Wulfila. It is based chiefly on the uncial Greek alphabet, from which indeed most of the letters are obviously derived, and several orthographical peculiarities, e.g. the use of ai for e and ei for i reflect the Greek pronunciation of the period. Other letters, however, have been taken over from the Runic and Latin alphabets. Apart from the texts mentioned above, the only remains of the Gothic language are the proper names and occasional words which occur in Greek and Latin writings, together with some notes, including the Gothic alphabet, in a Salzburg MS. of the 10th century, and two short inscriptions on a torque and a spear-head, discovered at Buzeo (Walachia) and Kovel (Volhynia) respectively. The language itself, as might be expected from the date of Wulfila's translation, is of a much more archaic type than that of any other Teutonic writings which we possess, except a few of the earliest Northern inscriptions. This may be seen, e.g. in the better preservation of final and unaccented syllables and in the retention of the dual and the middle (passive) voice in verbs. It would be quite erroneous, however, to regard the Gothic fragments as representing a type of language common to all Teutonic nations in the 4th century. Indeed the distinctive characteristics of the language are very marked, and there is good reason for believing that it differed considerably from the various northern and western languages, whereas the differences among the latter at this time were probably comparatively slight (see Teutonic Languages). On the other hand, it must not be supposed that the language of the Goths stood quite isolated. Procopius (Vand. i. 2) states distinctly that the Gothic language was spoken not only by the Ostrogoths and Visigoths but also by the Vandals and the Gepidae; and in the former case there is sufficient evidence, chiefly from proper names, to prove that his statement is not far from the truth. With regard to the Gepidae we have less information; but since the Goths, according to Jordanes (cap. 17), believed them to have been originally a branch of their own nation, it is highly probable that the two languages were at least closely related. Procopius elsewhere (Vand. i. 3; Goth. i. 1, iii. 2) speaks of the Rugii, Sciri and Alani as Gothic nations. The fact that the two former were sprung from the north-east of Germany renders it probable that they had Gothic affinities, while the Alani, though non-Teutonic in origin, may have become gothicized in the course of the migration period. Some modern writers have included in the same class the Burgundians, a nation which had apparently come from the basin of the Oder, but the evidence at our disposal on the whole hardly justifies the supposition that their language retained a close affinity with Gothic.

In the 4th and 5th centuries the Gothic language - using the term in its widest sense - must have spread over the greater part of Europe together with the north coast of Africa. It disappeared, however, with surprising rapidity. There is no evidence for its survival in Italy or Africa after the fall of the Ostrogothic and Vandal kingdoms, while in Spain it is doubtful whether the Visigoths retained their language until the Arabic conquest. In central Europe it may have lingered somewhat longer in view of the evidence of the Salzburg MS. mentioned above. Possibly the information there given was derived from southern Hungary or Transylvania where remains of the Gepidae were to be found shortly before the Magyar invasion (889). According to Walafridus Strabo (de Reb. Eccles. cap. 7) also Gothic was still used in his time (the 9th century) in some churches in the region of the lower Danube. Thenceforth the language seems to have survived only among the Goths (Goti Tetraxitae) of the Crimea, who are mentioned for the last time by Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq, an imperial envoy at Constantinople about the middle of the 16th century. He collected a number of words and phrases in use among them which show clearly that their language, though not unaffected by Iranian influence, was still essentially a form of Gothic.

See H. C. von der Gabelentz and J. Loebe, Ulfilas (Altenburg and Leipzig, 1836-1846); E. Bernhardt, Vulfila oder die gotische Bibel (Halle, 1875). For other works on the Gothic language see J. Wright, A Primer of the Gothic Language (Oxford, 1892), p. 143 f. To the references there given should be added: C. C. Uhlenbeck, EtymologischesWorterbuch,2nd ed.1901);F. Kluge, " Geschichte d. got. Sprache " in H. Paul's Grundriss d. germ. Philologie (2nd ed., vol. i., Strassburg, 1897); W. Streitberg, Gotisches Elementarbuch (Heidelberg, 1897); Th. von Grienberger, Beitrage zur Geschichte d. deutschen Sprache u. Literatur, xxi. 185 ff.; L. F. A. Wimmer, Die Runenschrift (Berlin, 1887), p. 61 ff.; G. Stephens, Handbook to the Runic Monuments (London, 1884), p. 203; F. Wrede, Ober die Sprache der Wandalen (Strassburg, 1886). For further references see K. Zeuss, Die Deutschen, p. 432 f. (where earlier references to the Crimean Goths are also given); F. Kluge, op. cit., p. 515 ff.; and O. Bremer, ib. vol. iii., p. 822. (H. M. C.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also goths



Proper noun

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  1. Plural form of Goth.
  2. A Teutonic tribe that originated in Scandinavia, migrating south and invading the Roman Empire.

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Simple English

Goth can also stand for a member of the Goth subculture
File:Roman Empire
The Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117-38) according to Tacitus's Germania (written ca. AD 100) and Ptolemy's Geographia (ca. AD 130). The map shows the location of the Gothones East Germanic group, who inhabited the east bank of the Visula (Vistula) river, Poland at the time

[[File:|thumb|250px|Gothic artifacts]]

The Goths (Gothic: File:GothicFile:GothicFile:GothicFile:GothicFile:GothicFile:Gothic, Gutans) were an East Germanic tribe. Jordanes is a scholar from the 6th century. He wrote a summary of a twelve volume work by Cassiodorus about the Goths. Jordanes work is commonly called Getica. As the original work by Cassiodorius was lost, Getica is the only surviving contemporary account about the Goths. According to this work, they left Scandinavia and settled close to the mouth of the Vistula river (in present day Poland). In the 3rd and 4th centuries they settled Scythia, Dacia and parts of Moesia and Asia Minor. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, they fought with the Roman Empire and later adopted Arianism (a form of Christianity). In the 5th and 6th centuries, they split into the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths. With this move, they established powerful successor-states of the Roman Empire in Italy and on the Iberian peninsula (now Spain & Portugal).[1]


  1. Jordanes, Getica.


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