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Asterix and the Goths • Battle of the Goths and Huns • Column of the Goths • Crimean Goths • Dietrich of the Goths • King of Goths • King of the Goths • Roderick the Last of the Goths • Swedes and Goths • The Battle of the Goths and Huns • The War between Goths and Huns • West Goths
The Goths (Gothic: *Gut-þiuda, *Gutans; Old Norse: Gutar/Gotar; German: Goten; Latin: Gothi; Greek: Γότθοι, Gótthoi) were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe.
The most important source is Jordanes' 6th-century, semi-fictional Getica which describes a migration from southern Scandza (Scandinavia), to Gothiscandza, believed to be the lower Vistula region in modern Pomerania, and from there to the coast of the Black Sea. The Pomeranian Wielbark culture and the Chernyakhov culture northeast of the lower Danube are archaeological traces of this migration. In the 3rd century, either through crossing the lower Danube, or travelling by sea, the Goths ravaged the Balkan Peninsula and Anatolia as far as Cyprus, sacking Athens, Byzantium, Sparta. By the fourth century, the Goths conquered Dacia, and were divided into at least two distinct groups separated by the Dniester River, the Thervingi, led by the Balti dynasty, and the Greuthungi, led by the Amali dynasty. Centered around their capital at the Dnieper, the Goths ruled a vast area which at its peak under the Kings Ermanaric and Athanaric stretched from the Danube to the Volga river, and from the Black to the Baltic Sea.
In the late fourth century, the Huns invaded the Gothic region from the east. While many Goths were subdued and joined the ranks of the Huns, a group of Goths led by Fritigern fled across the Danube and revolted against the Roman Empire, winning a decisive victory at the Battle of Adrianople. Meanwhile, the Goths were converted from paganism to Arian Christianity by the Gothic missionary Wulfila, who devised the Gothic alphabet to translate the Bible. In the fifth and sixth centuries, the Goths separated into two tribes, the Visigoths, who became federates of the Romans, and the Ostrogoths, who joined the Huns.
After the Ostrogoths successfully revolted against the Huns at the Battle of Nedao in 454, their leader Theodoric the Great settled his people in Italy, founding a Kingdom which eventually gained control of the whole peninsula. Shortly after Theodoric's death in 526, the country was captured by the Eastern Roman Empire, in a war which caused enormous damage and depopulation to Italy. After their able leader Totila was killed at the Battle of Taginae, effective Ostrogothic resistance ended, and the remaining Goths were assimilated by the Lombards, another Germanic tribe, who invaded Italy and founded a Kingdom in the northern parts of the country in 567 AD.
The Visigoths under Alaric I sacked Rome in 410, defeated Attila at the Battle of the Catalunian Plains in 451, and founded a Kingdom in Aquitaine which was pushed to Hispania by the Franks in 507, converted to Catholicism by the late sixth century, and in the early eighth century conquered by the Muslim Moors. Subsequently, the Visigothic nobleman Pelagius began the Reconquista with his victory at the Battle of Covadonga, and founded the Kingdom of Asturias, which eventually evolved in to modern Spain.
While its influence continued to be felt in small ways in some west European states, the Gothic language and culture largely disappeared during the Middle Ages. In the 16th century a small remnant of a Gothic dialect known as Crimean Gothic was described as surviving in the Crimea.
The Goths have had many names, possibly due to their population being composed of many separate ethnic groups. People known by similar names were key elements of Proto-Indo-European and later Germanic migrations. Nevertheless, they believed (as does the mainstream of scholarship) that the names derived from a single prehistoric ethnonym owned by a uniform culture in the middle 1st millennium BC, the original "Goths".
Etymologically, the ethnonym of the Goths derives from the stem Guton-", which gave Proto-Germanic *Gutaniz (also surviving in Gutes (Swedish Gutar), the self-designation of the inhabitans of Gotland in Sweden). Related, but not identical, is the Scandinavian tribal name Geat (the inhabitants of Swedish Götaland/Geatland), 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". 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. 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.
Interestingly Old Norse records do not distinguish between the Goths and the Gutes (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 differentiated from the Goths, or Gutes, 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”. Evidently, this way of forming a country or people name is not unique to Germanic.
According to Jordanes’ Getica, written in the mid-6th century, the earliest migrating Goths sailed from Scandza (Scandinavia) under King Berig in three ships and named the place at which they landed after themselves. "Today [says Jordanes] it is called Gothiscandza" ("Scandza of the Goths"). From there they entered the land of the "Ulmerugi" (Rugii) who were spread along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, expelled them, and also subdued the neighboring Vandals. Regarding the location of Gothiscandza, Jordanes states that one shipload "dwelled in the province of Spesis on an island surrounded by the shallow waters of the Vistula."
Pliny refers to the voyager Pytheas, who visited Northern Europe in the 4th century BC. In this passage, Pytheas 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. In Pliny's only other mention of the Gutones, he states 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. As those Gutones are put forward as Pliny's interpretation, not Pytheas’, the early date is unconfirmed, but not necessarily invalid.
The earliest material culture associated with the Goths on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea is the Wielbark Culture, centered around the modern region of Pomerania in northern Poland. This culture replaced the local Oksywie or Oxhöft culture in the 1st century, when a Scandinavian settlement was established in a buffer zone between the Oksywie culture and the Przeworsk culture.
This area was influenced by southern Scandinavian culture from as early as the late Nordic Bronze Age and early Pre-Roman Iron Age (ca. 1300 – ca. 300 BC). 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.
The Goths are believed to have crossed the Baltic Sea sometime between the end of this period (ca 300 BC) and AD 100. Early archaeological evidence in the traditional Swedish province of Östergötland suggests a general depopulation during this period. However, this is not confirmed in more recent publications. The settlement in today's Poland may correspond 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.
The arrival of Germanic-speaking invaders along the coast of the Black Sea is generally explained as a gradual migration of the Goths from what is now Poland to Ukraine, reflecting the tradition of Jordanes and old songs.
Beginning in the middle 2nd century, the Wielbark culture shifted to the southeast, towards the Black Sea. The part of the Wielbark culture that moved was the oldest portion, located west of the Vistula and still practicing Scandinavian burial traditions. In Ukraine, they installed themselves as the rulers of the local Zarubintsy culture, forming the new Chernyakhov Culture (ca. 200 – ca. 400).
The first Greek references to the Goths call them Scythians,[examples needed] since this area along the Black Sea historically had been occupied by an unrelated people of that name. The term as applied to the Goths appears to be geographical rather than ethnological in reference.
According to Jordanes's Getica, the Goths entered Oium, part of Scythia, under their 5th king, Filimer, where they subdued the Spali (Sarmatians), conqured the Kingdom of the Bosporus and captured several cities on the Euxinean coast, including Olbia and Tyras. There they became divided into the Visigoths ruled by the Balthi family and the Ostrogoths ruled by the Amali family. Jordanes parses Ostrogoths as "eastern Goths", and Visigoths as "Goths of the western country."
One theory claims that the Goths maintained contact with southern Sweden during their migration. Chernyakhov settlements tend to cluster in open ground in river valleys. The houses include sunken-floored dwellings, surface dwellings, and stall-houses. The largest known settlement (Budesty-Budești) is 35 hectares. Most settlements are open and unfortified, although some forts have also been discovered. Chernyakhov cemeteries feature 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 hardly ever weapons.
In the first attested incursion in Thrace the Goths were mentioned as Boranoi by Zosimus, and then as Boradoi by Gregory Thaumaturgus. The first incursion of the Roman Empire that can be attributed to Goths is the sack of Histria in 238. Several such raids followed in subsequent decades, in particular the Battle of Abrittus in 251, led by Cniva, in which the Roman Emperor Decius was killed. At the time, there were at least two groups of Goths: the Thervingi and the Greuthungi. Goths were subsequently heavily recruited into the Roman Army to fight in the Roman-Persian Wars, notably participating at the Battle of Misiche in 242.
The first seaborne raids took place in three subsequent years, probably 255-257. An unsuccessful attack on Pityus was followed in the second year by another which sacked by Pityus and Trapezus and ravaged large area in the Pontus. In the third year a much larger force devastated large areas of Bithynia and the Propontis, including the cities of Chalcedon, Nicomedia, Nicaea, Apamea, Cius and Prusa[disambiguation needed ].
After a 10 year gap, the Goths, along with the Heruli, another Germanic tribe from Scandinavia, raiding on 500 ships, sacked Heraclea Pontica, Cyzicus and Byzantium. They were defeated by the Roman navy but managed to escape into Aegean Sea, where they ravaged the islands of Lemnos and Scyros, broke through Thermopylae and sacked several cities of the southern Greece (province of Achaea) including Athens, Corinth, Argos, Olympia and Sparta. Then an Athenian militia, led by the historian Dexippus, pushed the invaders to the north where they were intercepted by the Roman army under Gallienus. He won an important victory near the Nessos (Nestos) river, on the boundary between Macedonia and Thrace, with the aid of the Dalmatian cavalry. Reported barbarian casualties were 3,000 men. Subsequently, the Heruli leader Naulobatus came to terms with the Romans.
After Gallienus was assassinated outside Milan in the summer of 268 in a plot led by high officers in his army, Claudius was proclaimed emperor and headed to Rome to establish his rule. Claudius' immediate concerns were with the Alamanni, who had invaded Raetia and Italy. After he defeated them in the Battle of Lake Benacus, he was finally able to take care of the invasions in the Balkan provinces.
In the meantime, the second and larger sea-borne invasion had started. An enormous coalition consisting of Goths (Greuthungi and Thervingi), Gepids and Peucini, led again by the Heruli, assembled at the mouth of river Tyras (Dniester). The Augustan History and Zosimus claim a total number of 2,000–6,000 ships and 325,000 men. This is probably a gross exaggeration but remains indicative of the scale of the invasion. After failing to storm some towns on the coasts of the western Black Sea and the Danube (Tomi, Marcianopolis), the invaders attacked Byzantium and Chrysopolis. Part of their fleet was wrecked, either because of the Gothic inexperience in sailing through the violent currents of the Propontis or because it was defeated by the Roman navy. Then they entered Aegean Sea and a detachment ravaged the Aegean islands as far as Crete, Rhodes and Cyrpus. The fleet probably also sacked Troy and Ephesus, destroying the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While their main force had constructed siege works and was close to taking the cities of Thessalonica and Cassandreia, it retreated to the Balkan interior at the news that the emperor was advancing. On their way, they plundered Doberus (Paionia ?) and Pelagonia.
Learning of the approach of Claudius, the Goths first attempt to directly invade Italy. They are engaged near Naissus by a Roman army led by Claudius advancing from the north. The battle most likely took place in 269, and was fiercely contested. Large numbers on both sides were killed but, at the critical point, the Romans tricked the Goths into an ambush by pretended flight. Some 50,000 Goths were allegedly killed or taken captive and their base at Thessalonika destroyed. It seems that Aurelian who was in charge of all Roman cavalry during Claudius' reign, led the decisive attack in the battle. Some survivors were resettled within the empire, while others were incorporated into the Roman army. The battle ensured the survival of the Roman Empire for another two centuries. In 270, after the death of Claudius, Goths under the leadership of Cannabaudes again launch an invasion on the Roman Empire, but were defeated by Aurelian, who however surrendered Dacia beyond the Danube.
Major sources for Gothic history include Ammianus Marcellinus' Res gestae, which mentions Gothic involvement in the civil war between emperors Procopius and Valens of 365 and recounts the Gothic refugee crisis and revolt of 376–82, and Procopius' de bello gothico, which describes the Gothic war of 535–52.
In 332 Constantine helped the Sarmatians to settle on the north banks of the Danube to defend against the Goths' attacks and thereby enforce the Roman Empire's border. Around 100,000 Goths were reportedly killed in battle, and Ariaricus, son of the King of the Goths, was captured. In 334, Constantine evacuated approximately 300,000 Sarmatians from the north bank of the Danube after a revolt of the Sarmatians' slaves. From 335 to 336, Constantine, continuing his Danube campaign, defeated many Gothic tribes. Both the Greuthungi and Thervingi became heavily Romanized during the 4th century. This came about through trade with the Byzantines, as well as through Gothic membership of a military covenant, which was based in Byzantium and involved pledges of military assistance. Reportedly, 40,000 Goths were brought by Constantine to defend Constantinople in his later reign, and the Palace Guard was mostly composed of Germans, as the quality of the native Romans troops kept declining. The Goths were converted Arianism by Ulfila during this time.
Hunnic domination of the Gothic kingdom in Scythia began in the 370s according to Ammianus. and confirmed by the Eunapius and the later Zosimus. Under pressure of the Huns, the chieftain Fritigern approached the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens in 376 with a portion of the Thervingi and asked to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. Valens permitted this, and even assisted the Goths in their crossing of the river (probably at the fortress of Durostorum). Following a famine, however, the Gothic War of 376–82 ensued, and the Goths and the local Thracians rebelled. The Roman Emperor Valens was killed at the Battle of Adrianople in 378.
The Goths remained divided — as Visigoths and Ostrogoths — during the fifth century. These two tribes were among the Germanic peoples who clashed with 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 conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula by 475.
In the meantime, under Theodemir, the Ostrogoths broke away from Hunnic rule following the Battle of Nedao in 454, and decisively defeated the Huns again under Valamir at Bassianae in 468. At the request of emperor Zeno, Theodoric the Great conquered all of Italy beginning in 488. 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 interpreted the name Visigoth as "western Goths" and the name Ostrogoth as "eastern Goth", reflecting the geographic distribution of the Gothic realms at that time.
The Ostrogothic kingdom persisted until 553 under Teia, when Italy returned briefly to Byzantine control. This restoration of imperial rule was reversed by the conquest of the Lombards in 568. The Visigothic kingdom lasted until 711 under Roderic, when it fell to the Muslim Umayyad invasion of the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus). However, the Visigothic nobles under the leadership of Pelagius of Asturias managed to defeat the Moors at the Battle of Covadonga, and subsequently established the Kingdom of Asturias. The Gothic victory at Covadonga is regarded as the initiation of the Reconquista, and it was from the Asturian kingdom that modern Spain evolved.
In the late 6th century Goths settled as foederati in parts of Asia Minor. Their descendants, who formed the elite Optimatoi regiment, still lived there in the early 8th century. While they were largely assimilated, their Gothic origin was still well-known: the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor calls them Gothograeci.
Before the invasion of the Huns the Gothic Chernyakhov culture produced jewelry, vessels, and decorative objects in a style much influenced by Greek and Roman craftsmen. They developed a polychrome style of gold work, using wrought cells or setting to encrust Gems into their gold objects. This style was influential in western Germanic areas well into the Middle Ages.
The Gothic language is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable corpus. All others, including Burgundian and Vandalic, are known, if at all, only from proper names that survived in historical accounts, and from loan-words in other languages like Spanish and French.
As a Germanic language, Gothic is a part of the Indo-European language family. It is the Germanic language with the earliest attestation but has no modern descendants. The oldest documents in Gothic date back to the 4th century. The language was in decline by the mid-6th century, due in part to the military defeat of the Goths at the hands of the Franks, the elimination of the Goths in Italy, and geographic isolation (in Spain the Gothic language lost its last and probably already declining function as a church language when the Visigoths converted to Catholicism in 589). The language survived as a domestic language in the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) as late as the 8th century, and Frankish author Walafrid Strabo wrote that it was still spoken in the lower Danube area and in isolated mountain regions in Crimea in the early 9th century (see Crimean Gothic). Gothic-seeming terms found in later (post-9th century) manuscripts may not belong to the same language.
The existence of such early attested corpora makes it a language of considerable interest in comparative linguistics.
Initially pagan, the Goths were in the 4th century converted to Arian Christianity by the Gothic missionary Wulfila, who devised an alphabet to translate the Bible. The Visigothic Kingdom in Hispania was converted to Catholicism in the 7th century.
The Gutes (Gotlanders) themselves had oral traditions of a mass migration towards southern Europe, recorded in the Gutasaga. If the facts are related, this would be a unique case of a tradition that endured for 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 Swedes were commonly considered to be the direct descendants of the Goths. Today, Swedish scholars identify this as a cultural movement called Gothicismus, which included an enthusiasm for things Old Norse.
Beginning in 1278, when Magnus III of Sweden ascended to the throne, a reference to Gothic origins was included in the title of the King of Sweden:
We N.N. by the Grace of God King of the Swedes, the Goths and the Vends.
In 1973, with the death of King Gustaf VI Adolf, the title was changed to simply "King of Sweden."
In Medieval and Modern Spain, the Visigoths were believed to be the origin of the Spanish nobility (compare Gobineau for a similar French idea). By the early 7th century, the ethnic distinction between Visigoths and Hispano-Romans had all but disappeared, but recognition of a Gothic origin, e.g. on gravestones, still survived among the nobility. The 7th-century Visigothic aristocracy saw itself as bearers of a particular Gothic consciousness and as guardians of old traditions such as Germanic namegiving; probably these traditions were on the whole restricted to the family sphere (Hispano-Roman nobles did service for Visigothic nobles already in the 5th century and the two branches of Spanish aristocracy had fully adopted similar customs two centuries later).
In Spain, a man acting with arrogance would be said to be "haciéndose los godos" ("making himself to act like the Goths"). Thus, in Chile, Argentina and the Canary Islands, godo was an ethnic slur used against European Spaniards, who in the early colony period often felt superior to the people born locally (criollos). In Colombia the members of the Conservative Party were referred to as godos.
The Spanish and Swedish claims of Gothic origins led to a clash at the Council of Basel in 1434. Before the assembled cardinals and delegations could engage in theological discussion, they had to decide how to sit during the proceedings. The delegations from the more prominent nations argued that they should sit closest to the Pope, and there were also disputes over 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, Nicolaus Ragvaldi, bishop of Växjö, 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 retorted that it was only the lazy and unenterprising Goths who had remained in Sweden, whereas the heroic Goths had left Sweden, invaded the Roman empire and settled in Spain.
Descendants and related peoples:
|Wikisource has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article Goth.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Goths|
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