or JORDA'NES, as he is called, perhaps correctly, in the Codex Ambrosianus, and some other MS. of his works, an historian of more renown than merit, yet of such great importance, that without him our knowledge of the Goths and other barbarians would be very limited.
He lived in the time of the emperor Justinian I., or in the sixth century of our era, but we know neither the time of his birth nor that of his death.
He was a Goth; his father's name was Alanovamuthis, and his grandlather, Peria, had been notarius, or private and state secretary, to Candax, king of the Alani. Jornandes held the same office at the court of the king of the Alani, adopted the Christian religion, took orders, and was made a bishop in Italy.
It is said that he was bishop of Ravenna, but this opinion does not rest on sufficient evidence, and is the less credible as his name does not occur in the "Vitae Episcoporum Ravennatium " by Agnellus, who lived in the middle of the ninth century.
Jornandes is the author of two historical works written in the Latin language.
The first is entitled De Getarum (Gothorum) Origine et Rebus Gestis,
in which he relates the history of the Goths from their earliest migrations down to their subjugation by Belisarius in 541; adding, however, some facts which took place after that event, from which we may infer the time when he wrote. Aschbach, the eminent author of the Geschichte der Westgothen,
characterises this work as follows: " In many respects this work is very valuable, because the author has derived much information from the old traditions of the Goths, and relates things which we find neither in the Roman nor in the Greek writers.
In other respects, however, it deserves very little credit, since it is written without any criticism, abounding in fables, and betraying every where the author's extreme ignorance.
He is the principal source of the common belief which confounded the Goths, the Getae, and the Scythians, being misled by earlier Roman and Greek writers, with whose works he was well acquainted ; and he thus ascribes to the Goths whatever the ancients report of the Scythians and Getae, and places the emigration of the Goths in the remotest time. His accounts of the settlement of the Goths on the Black Sea, and their extensive dominions and great power during the reign of king Hermanric (in the middle of the fourth century), are among the best parts of his work." Jornandes is chiefly to be blamed for his partiality to his countrymen, incorrectness, confusion of events, anachronisms, and want of historical knowledge.
According to his own statement (Dedication to Castalius), his book is an extract from the lost history of the Goths, or Getae, as he calls them, in twelve volumes, by the " Senator" (Cassiodorus), to which he added several things which he had read Roman and Greek writers, and he also drew up the conclusion and the commencement, as well as many episodes, according to his own knowledge or taste.
It would be unjust to charge Jornandes with pure inventions; his fault is credulity and want of judgment; and none of his statements ought to be rejected without a previous careful examination.
This remark refers, among other examples, to his account of the second invasion of Gaul by Attila, for which he is the only authority.
In spite of so many defects, the history of the Goths by Jornandes is a very interesting work, and whatever may have been said against him by modern historians, they show by the numerous quotations of his name that they owe a great deal of information to him.
The second work of Jornandes is entitled De Regnorum ac Temporum Successione,
being a short compendium of the most remarkable events from the creation down to the victory obtained by Narses, in 552, over king Theodatus.
It is only valuable for some accounts of several barbarous nations of the north, and the countries which they inhabited.
Editions, nearly all of which comprehend both the works:-Editio princeps, with Paulus Diaconus, by C. Peutinger, Augsburg, 1515, fol.
; with Procopius, by Beatus Rhenanus, Basel, 1531, fol.
; with Cassiodorus, by G. Fourrier, Paris, 1579, fol., 1583
, and often, by B. Vulcanius, with Procopius and some minor writers, Leyden, 1597, 8vo.
; the same, reprinted in Scriptores Goth. et Longob. Rer., Leyden, 1617, 8vo., and in Hugo Grotius, Hist. Goth. Vand. et Longob., Amsterdam, 1655, 1676, 8vo., by Gruter, in Hist. Aug. Script. Lat. Min., Hanover, 1611, fol.; by Lindenbrog, with Isidorus and Pauls Diaconus, Hamburg, 1611, 4to.; by Garet, with Cassiodorus, Paris, 1679, fol., reprinted Venice, 1729, fol.
; the same, revised by Muratori, in vol. i. part i. of his Script. Rer. Ital.:
these are the two best editions.
There are several others, but we still want a good critical edition.
There is a bad French translation by Drouet de Maupertuy
, and a better one in Swedish, by J. T. Peringskiöld, Stockholm, 1719, 4to.
Swedish scholars, especially Peringskiöld
and Eric Benzelius
, have devoted much time and labour to writing commentaries upon Jornandes, which the reader ought to peruse with no less caution than the original.
Fabric. Bibl. Med. et Inf Latinit.; Bibl. Lat.
vol. iii. p. 7; Voss. De Hist. Lat.