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GOTHI

Eth. GOTHI, Eth. GOTONES, Eth. GOTHONES, Eth. GUTAE, Eth. GUTTONES (Eth. Γόπθοι, Γόττοι, Γοῦτθοι, Γύθωνες), a tribe of Germans, noticed even by Pytheas of Marseilles, in his account of the coasts of the Baltic. (Plin. Nat. 37.2.) According to him, they dwelt about the Aestuarium Oceani Mentonomon [p. 1.1007](the Frische Haff). Tacitus (Germ. 43), who places them beyond the Lygii, that is, on the north-east of them, points to the same district, though he does not intimate that they were inhabitants of the coast. Ptolemy (3.5.20) mentions them under the name of Γύθωνες as a Sarmatian tribe, and as dwelling on the east of the Vistula, and in the south of the Venedae or Wends; so that he, too, does not place them on the sea-coast. Strabo (vii. p.290) speaks of the Butones (Βούτωνες) as a tribe subject to king Maroboduus, which agrees with the story of young Catualda, the Goth, in Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 2.62). The later form of the name of this people, Gothi, does not occur until the time of Caracalla (Spartian. Carac. 10, Antonin. Get. 6), and approaches the native name of the people, Gutthiuda, which is preserved in the Fragments of Bishop Ulphilas.

From the statements above referred to, it is manifest that in the earliest times the Gothi, or Goths, as we shall henceforth call them, inhabited the coast of modern Prussia from the Vistula as far as Braunsberg or Heiligenbeil, where the country of the Venedae commenced. After the time of Tacitus we hear no more of the Goths until the beginning of the third century, when, simultaneously with the appearance of the Alemanni in the west, the Goths are spoken of as a powerful nation on the coasts of the Black Sea. The emperor Caracalla, on an expedition to the East, is said to have conquered the Goths in several engagements (Spartian. Carac. 10); Alexander Severus soon discovered that they were most dangerous neighbours of the province of Dacia; for those German tribes on the Lower Danube showed as determined a. hostility against the Romans as their brethren on the Rhine. The most formidable of these tribes were the Goths, who now occupied the countries once inhabited by the Sarmatian Getae and Scythians, whence they themselves are sometimes called Getae or Scythians, as, for example, in Procopius, Capitolinus, Trebellius Pollio, and even by their own historian Jornandes. In the reign of the emperor Philippus (A.D. 244--249) they took possession of Dacia, and laid siege to Marcianopolis, the capital of Moesia Secunda, which purchased peace for a large sum of money. (Jornand. de Reb. Goth. 16.) Afterwards, however, they again ravaged Moesia: in A.D. 250 they indeed retreated before the army of Decius in the neighbourhood of Nicopolis, on the Danube; but not long afterwards they annihilated the whole Roman army near Philippopolis at the foot of Mount Haemus. (Jornand. l.c. 18; Amm. Marc. 31.5.) The Goths now poured down upon Macedonia and Greece, and advanced as far as Thermopylae; but the pass was well guarded, and the invaders were obliged to return northward: in Moesia, however, they defeated Decius a second time, and destroyed his whole army near Abrutum or Forum Trebonii. (Zosim. 1.23; Aurel. Vict. de Caes. 29, Epit. 29; Syncell. p. 375; Zonar. 12.20, foll.; Amm. Marc. 31.13.) Meantime the Goths extended more and more on the coast of the Euxine; and having become possessed of a fleet, they sailed in A.D. 253 with a large number of boats against Pityus. Meeting with a powerful resistance there, they raised the siege; but they afterwards returned and took the town. Trapezus experienced the same fate; and in its harbour the barbarians captured a large fleet, with which they sailed away, in A.D. 258. In the. following year they undertook a fresh expedition against the Thracian Bosporus, in which they conquered Chalcedon, Nicomedeia, Nicaea, Prusa, Apamea, and Cius. A third expedition, undertaken with a fleet of 500 ships, was still more terrible for the Roman empire. They landed at Cyzicus, which they destroyed; then sailed down the Aegean, and made a descent upon Attica: the whole coast, from the south of Peloponnesus far as Epirus and Thessaly, was ravaged in a fearful manner, and Illyricum was literally ransacked. At length, apparently tired of their roving expeditions, a portion of the Goths returned through Moesia and across the Danube into their own country, on the north-west of the Euxine: the remainder continued their devastations on the coast of Asia Minor; but afterwards they also returned home. (Zosim. 1.32, foll.; Trebell. Poll. Gallien. 5, 6, 13; Jornand. 20; Zonar. 12.26; Oros. 7.22; Syncell. p. 382.) But they did not remain quiet for any length of time; for in A.D. 269 they undertook another vast maritime expedition, in which, notwithstanding many reverses in. Thrace and on the coast of Asia Minor, they ravaged Crete and Cyprus, and laid siege to Cassandreia and Thessalonica. At length, however, the emperor Claudius, in A.D. 269, gained a brilliant victory over the Goths in three great battles, from which he derived the surname Gothicus. (Trebell. Poll. Claud. 8, foll.; Zosim. 1.43, foll.; Zonar. 12.29, foll.) Although only few returned to their own country after these battles, the Gothic tribes still continued to harass the frontiers of the Roman empire under the two successors of Claudius; and Aurelian was even obliged, in A.D. 272, to cede to them the large province of Dacia. (Zosim. 1.48, foll.; Eutrop. 9.15; S. Ruf. 9; Amm. Marc. 31.6.) There now followed a period of about 50 years, during which the Goths appear to have remained quiet, except that in the reign of Tacitus they made an unsuccessful expedition into Colchis and Asia Minor. (Zosim. 1.53; Vopisc. Tacit. 13.) At the time when Constantine had overcome all his enemies, the Goths again came forward against the Romans, but soon concluded peace. (Zosim. 2.21; Jornand. 21.) In A.D. 332 their king Araric crossed the Danube: in his first encounter with Constantine he was successful; but in a second engagement he was worsted, and, as his own dominion was invaded by the inhabitants of the Crimea, he concluded a peace. The consequence was, that henceforth, so long as the family of Constantine occupied the imperial throne, that is, till A.D. 363, the Goths never made any attack upon the frontiers of the empire. Their great king Hermanric never made war against the Romans. In the reign of Valens the western portion of the Goths carried on a war against the Romans, which lasted three years (from A.D. 367--369), but in which no decisive battle was fought, and which was terminated by a peace, in which the Goths acted the part of victors. (Amm. Marc. 37.4, 5; Themist. Orat. x. p. 129, foll.) At the time when the Huns invaded Europe from the east, the southern portion of the branch of the Goths, called Visigoths, took refuge in the country on the right of the Danube, imploring the emperor of Constantinople to admit them and protect them against the barbarians; in A.D. 375 they accordingly crossed the Danube under their chiefs, Fridigern and Alavivus, amounting to 200,000. The Ostrogoths, another part of the nation, being refused admission into the Roman empire, took refuge in the mountains with their king Athanaric. [p. 1.1008]The Visigoths, when settled in Moesia, were insolently treated by their protectors, in consequence of which they attacked and defeated the Roman general Lupicinus, traversed the neighbouring countries, and, conjointly with the bands of Goths that served in the Roman armies and with others of the Ostrogoths, defeated the Roman army near Adrianople, where the emperor Valens himself lost his life, A.D. 378. The Visigoths then appeared before Constantinople, but without being able to take it, and advanced westward as far as the Julian Alps. In the reign of Theodosius they spread devastation both in the south and in the north; and their hosts, though reduced by many reverses, remained masters of Thrace and Dacia (Jornand. 26), for their numbers were constantly increased by fresh reinforcements from the north, and the court of Constantinople saw no other way of securing itself against their attacks than by forming friendly relations with them, and making them an integral part of the empire. (Oros. 7.34; Socrat. 5.10; Themist. Oral. xvi. p. 252, foil.; Zosim. 4.56.) Henceforth the Goths were regularly engaged in the service of the Roman empire; but after the death of Theodosius, swarms of Goths, under the command of Alaric, quitted Thrace, advanced unmolested through the pass of Thermopylae towards Thebes and Athens, plundered Argos, Corinth, and Sparta, and then returned to Epirus, where they remained. (Zosim. 5.5, foil. 26.) In the meantime Gaina, another chief in the east, attempted to make himself master of Constantinople and put himself at the head of the empire, but was compelled to withdraw with his army across the Danube. (Zosim. 5.13, foll.; Socrat. 6.6.) After this Alaric again appears in the service of the empire with the title of Dux Illyrici, whence he made an invasion into Italy, but was obliged to withdraw, about A.D. 400. (Claudian, de Bell. Get. 535; Jornand. 29; Oros. 7.37.) His example, however, was followed by Radagaisus, who, in A.D. 405, crossed the Alps with a numerous army of Goths, though apparently without producing any results. Alaric himself then again poured down his hosts upon Italy, and thrice advanced to Rome, which had not seen an army of northern barbarians within its walls since its capture by the Gauls. From Rome Alaric turned to the south of Italy, where death cut short his victorious career. In A.D. 412 the Goths quitted Italy, the south of Gaul being given up to them; after having remained there for a short time, they crossed the Pyrenees and took possession of a large part of Spain, where Athaulf, the successor of Alaric, was assassinated. His successor, Wallia, assisted the Romans against the Vandals and Alani in Spain, and was rewarded by a portion of Western Gaul, from Tolosa to the ocean. The succeeding kings of the Goths extended their empire on both sides of the Pyrenees, and the kingdom reached its highest point of prosperity during the latter half of the fifth century under Euric. The empire of the Visigoths then embraced the greater part of Spain and a large portion of Gaul, and the kings resided at Tolosa, Arelate, or Burdigala; but after Euric's death the Goths in Gaul were compelled to retreat before the Franks, while in Spain their empire was overthrown about two centuries later by the Saracens.

At the time when the Visigoths were received by the emperor Valens within the Roman dominion, the application of the Ostrogoths, as already stated, was rejected; but they took the first opportunity of crossing the Danube notwithstanding, and joined Fridigern, during whose expedition to the south, however, they marched into Pannonia. (Amm. Marc. 31.5, 12; Jornand. 27.) In the reign of Thendosius, when the Visigoths had become reconciled with the Romans, there appeared a new host of Ostrogoths about the mouth of the Danube, but in attempting to cross the river they were completely defeated by the Romans. (Zosim. 4.35; Claudian, de IV. Cons. Hon. 623, foll.) During the ascendancy of the Huns, the Ostrogoths did not by themselves commit any act of hostility against the Romans, but joined Attila in his expedition into Gaul. (Jornand. 38.) After the overthrow of the Huns the Ostrogoths appear again in Pannonia, which was ceded to them, and the Eastern empire was in fact obliged to purchase their peace with large sums of money. But after some time the Ostrogothic king Widemir led his hosts into Italy; but his son, being prevailed upon by the emperor Glycerius by presents, quitted the country to join the Visigoths in the west. In the meantime other hosts under different leaders traversed the Eastern empire, and finally received settlements in the country between the Lower Danube and Mount Haemus, in the very heart of the empire. The town of Nova in Moesia is said to have been the residence of their king Theodoric, who, in A.D. 489, on the instigation of the emperor Zeno, entered on his grand expedition, the object of which was the conquest of Italy. He was successful, and established the kingdom of the Ostrogoths in the heart of Italy, upon the ruins of the kingdom of Odoacer. The new empire was so powerful that during the lifetime of Theodoric no one ventured to attack it. But his death involved the downfall of his kingdom; for while the members of his family were embroiled in domestic feuds, the kingdom was attacked by foreign enemies, and, though it was bravely defended, became a prey of the Eastern empire, and the Ostrogoths ceased to be an independent people.

Such is a sketch of the history of the Goths and their two chief branches down to their disappearance from history. The part which they acted in the history of the Roman empire was so important and conspicuous, that down to the present day their name is often used as synonymous with Germans, although they were only a branch of the great German nation. Having traced their history, we shall now subjoin a brief account of the various tribes of which the nation of the Goths consisted, and of their sub-divisions. Pliny (4.28) describes the Goths as belonging to the groups of tribes which he calls Vindili, while some modern critics regard them as a part of the Istaevones. Thus much, however, is certain, that ever since the beginning of the third century the name Goths embraced the German tribes occupying the south-eastern part of the country. The different branches making up the Gothic group are the following:--

  • 1. The Gothi minores, also called Moesogothi, were the branch of the Western Goths who, after having received permission to settle in Moesia. remained there in fixed habitations, applying themselves to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture. (Jornand. 51, 52.)
  • 2. Gothi Tetraxitae, belonging to the Eastern Goths on the Palus Maeotis (Procop. Bell. Goth. 4.4, 5, 18): they maintained their national peculiarities for a long period.
  • 3 The Taifalae, on the Danube in Dacia, were [p. 1.1009]a part of the Western Goths. (Amm. Marc. 16.13, 31.3; Eutrop. 8.2.)
  • 4. The Gepidae. [GEPIDAE]
  • 5. The Rugii. [RUGII.]
  • 6. The Sciri and Turcilingi; see these articles.
  • 7. The Heruli [HERULI], and
  • 8. The Juthungi. [JUTHUNGI]

Some writers also include the Alani and Vandali among the Goths; but see ALANI and VANDALI The whole nation of the Goths, in the strict sense of the name, was divided into two main groups or tribes, the Ostrogoths, occupying the sandy steppes in the east, and the Visigoths, inhabiting the more fertile and woody countries in the west. The former occur under the names of Austrogothi (Pollio, Claud. 6) and Ostrogothi (Claudian, in Eutrop. 2.153). The earliest traces of the name of the Visigoths (Visigothi), which occurs only in very late writers, are found in Sidonius Apollinaris (Carm. 7.399, 431, 5.476) in the form Vesus; and in Cassiodorus (Varr. 3.1, 3) we find Vuisigothi and Vuisigothae; while Jornandes has Wesegothae and Wesigothae. As to the meaning of these names, there can be no doubt that they were derived from the countries occupied by the two branches of the nation, the one signifying the Eastern, and the other the Western Goths. Zosimus and Ammianus Marcellinus know neither of these two names, which do not appear to have been used until the time when the Goths were in possession of a large extent of country in the north of the Black Sea. The two writers just named frequently mention the Greutungi or Grutungi and the Tervingi or Thervingi, where they are evidently speaking of Goths. In regard to these names, different opinions are entertained by modern writers, some believing them to be merely local names, which accordingly disappeared after the migration of the Goths from the country north of the Euxine, whence they are not mentioned by Jornandes; others think that Grutungi is only another name for the whole of the Ostrogoths; but it is most probable that the Grutungi were the most illustrious tribe among the Ostrogoths, and that the Tervingi occupied the same rank among the Visigoths.

As the Goths were a thoroughly German race, their religion must, on the whole, have been that common to all the Germans; but ever since the time of Constantine the Great, Christianity appears to have gradually struck root among the Goths settled in Moesia (the Moeso-Goths), whence a Gothic bishop is mentioned as present at the council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Their form of Christianity was probably Arianism, which was patronised by their protector Valens, and which was certainly the form of Christianity adopted by their celebrated bishop Ulphilas. Athanaric, one of their chiefs, however, made great efforts to destroy Christianity among his people, and punished those who resisted his attempts in a most cruel manner; but he did not succeed. The introduction of Christianity among these Goths, and the circumstance of their dwelling near and even among civilised subjects of the Roman empire, greatly contributed to raising them, in point of civilisation, above the other German tribes. Their bishop Ulphilas, in the fourth century, formed a new alphabet out of those of the Greeks and Romans, which in the course of time was adopted by all the German tribes, and is essentially the same as that still in general use in Germany, and is known in this country by the name of “black letter.” (Socrat. Hist. Eccl. 4.27; Sozom. 6.36; Jornand. 51; Philostorg. 2.5.) The same bishop also translated the Scriptures into the Gothic language, and this translation is the most ancient document of the German language now extant. Unfortunately, the translation has not come down to us complete; but the fragments are still quite sufficient to enable us to form an opinion of the language at that time. It contains many words which the Goths in their intercourse with Greeks and Latins borrowed from them, and a few others may have been derived from the Sarmatians or Dacians. Besides this translation of the Scriptures, we possess a few other monuments of the Gothic language, which, however, are of less importance. It may be observed here, by the way, that of all the Germanic dialects the Swedish is least like the Gothic, though there is a tradition according to which Scandinavia (Scandia) was the original home of the Goths. (Jornand. 4, 5.) The fact that Goths once did dwell in Scandinavia is indeed attested by a vast amount of evidence, among which the names of places are not the least important; but the probability is, that the Goths migrated to Scandinavia from the country east of the Vistula, even before they proceeded southward: at least Ptolemy (2.11.35) mentions Gutae (Γοῦται) in Scandia. The Visigoths, lastly, appear to have been the first of all the German tribes that had a written code of laws, the drawing up of which is ascribed to their king Euric in the fifth century. (Comp. Eisenschmidt, de Origine Ostrogothorum et Visigothorum, Jena, 1835; Zahn, Ulfilas's Gothische Bibelübersetzung, &c., Weissenfels, 1805; Aschbach, Geschichte der Westgothen; Manso, Gesch. der Ostgothen in Italien, 1824, together with the works referred to at the end of the article GERMANIA and Dr. Latham on Tacit. Germ. p. 162, and Epilegom. p. xxxviii., foll.)

[L.S]

hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.62
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 37.2
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.28
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 31.12
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 31.13
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 31.3
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 31.5
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 31.6
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.11
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.5
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