Historiebloggen: Tattooed Scythian Warriors, Descendants of the Amazons

Herodotus describes the Scythians living in the area north of the Black Sea about three thousand years ago. According to him they traced their ancestry directly from Zeus and the river nymph Borysthenis, daughter of the river god Borysthenes, the union of which produced a son named Tagitaos and he in turn had three sons with a human woman, demigods, who were the progenitors of the three Scythian tribes. It is said that in the time of the sons of Tagitaos there came down from heaven four items made of gold. These items were a plow, a yoke, a cup and a battle axe. Each brother attempted to use the items but they were met with a blazing fire or great heat but when the youngest approached the items the fire was gone and they worked only for him and from him the tribe of the Royal Scythians was formed. If one looks at such a tale with modern eyes we could imagine that the items were technology coded to only function for one individual and possibly dangerous as it was also said that anyone who slept while guarding these items in the open would die within a year.

Now while Herodotus, the historian and teller of this tale doubted that the Scythians were indeed the descendants of Zeus, he nonetheless recorded their accounts. He also tells a different account where they are the descendants of another of Zeus’ sons, Heracles and the half serpent half goddess Echidna, but that story seems like a more fanciful telling of the first story and involves many of the same events. He goes on to say that he favours a third version of their origin which tells of wandering Asiatic tribes that migrated into the lands of the Cimmerians.

The longer you look, the origin of the Scythians becomes more and more cloudy and some scholars contend that the Scythians referred to by Herodotus are really only the remnants of a much earlier people who were once widespread and very advanced with great cities, ships, farming and herding. If we remember the story of the golden plow, yoke, cup and battle axe we would infer that farming must have been important to the early Scythians if their gods saw fit to gift them with a magical plow and yoke, not a very practical gift for nomadic horsemen. This possibility seems very likely since the Scythians of Herodotus’ time were known to be nomadic and the earlier Scythians are credited with developing the smelting of iron and bronze, the invention of the battle axe (actually credited to the Amazons among the Scythians), the pottery wheel, the bellows, the anchor and the science of horse breeding. One has to wonder why nomads would invent the anchor.

Fred Hamori wrote that Justinius II referred to the Scythians as one of the oldest civilizations in the world; even older than the Egyptians and that they were most likely a northern Mesopotamian culture, not the later immigrant tribes who adapted many of their customs. The Scythians described by the Greeks were apparently an amalgamation of many peoples overlaying a very ancient culture that existed in the area around the Black Sea. Whatever their origins, the Scythians were a remarkable people with a very ancient origin that remains a mystery. However, two more tales of the Scythians are even stranger. One is the story of the bald people who were once part of the royal Scythians but separated themselves and went to live isolated at the foot of a mountain. Herodotus described them thus; Passing over a great extent of this rough country, you come to a people dwelling at the foot of lofty mountains, who are said to be all- both men and women- bald from their birth, to have flat noses, and very long chins. These people speak a language of their own; the dress which they wear is the same as the Scythian. They live on the fruit of a certain tree, the name of which is Ponticum; in size it is about equal to our fig-tree, and it bears a fruit like a bean, with a stone inside. … No one harms these people, for they are looked upon as sacred- they do not even possess any warlike weapons. When their neighbours fall out, they make up the quarrel; and when one flies to them for refuge, he is safe from all hurt. They are called the Argippaeans. Now we have a race of people who believe they were descended from the three sons of a god, they are so early that even in the time of Herodotus their origins were ancient history, they believed they had received technology directly from their gods and a small number of them, described as not normal humans lived apart and served as judges and protectors and the strange story gets even stranger…now we bring in the Amazons.

It seems that in all the histories of the Scythians one point is either marginalized or simply mentioned as if it is not important, but I contend that it is of upmost importance if we are to truly understand the psyche of the Scythians, the existence of the Amazons and in fact the history of all humanity.

The ancient Scythians, the ones who predate the nomads, worshiped as their main deity not a god but a goddess, the half snake half woman deity known as Tabiti, who coincidentally fits the description of Tagitaos’ mother in the Scythian origin story . She was the Earth Goddess who was said to be the witness of all things, often depicted as a woman with child she travelled with a raven and a wolf.

The Goddess is the most ancient of all deities with depictions dating back over 29000 years BC and her worship held sway until only about four thousand years ago when mankind spiralled into never ending warfare. Her names are almost endless, Anu, Eki, Hathor, Isis, Danu, Cali; the list would go on for pages but they all represented the same thing, the sacred feminine, the great mother. The fact that matriarchal or egalitarian societies might have existed and in fact may have been the norm prior to the ‘historical’ period is now dismissed by most mainstream historians but I contend that they were the norm and they did not die out suddenly. There was a time of transition during which women and men still existed as equals in society and the Amazons are a compelling example of one of these transitions.

Herodotus, with his usual flare, tells a remarkable story of how the Amazons came to be with the Scythians which makes a great deal more sense when one understands that the nomadic Scythians were later arrivals and the Amazons were part of an earlier civilization still existing to the south of the Black Sea but in constant threat from the Greeks as the accounts of many battles suggest. He recounts that after the Battle of Thermodon, several galleys carrying Amazon prisoners were retaken by the captives and the women came ashore in the land of Scythia on the north shore of the Black Sea They engaged some of the Scythians in combat who upon discovering that the dead were actually women decided not to try to kill the newcomers but woo them instead. They eventually approached them unarmed and the two groups decided to merge but not without negotiations. The Amazons refused to live as Scythian women, they would not give up their place in society so their new Scythian husbands agreed and asked for their inheritance to be given them and they left for lands to the northeast. This story seems to tell of a merging of the nomadic Scythians with the earlier matriarchal society and their migration away from the patriarchal societies rising to power to the south and eventually the entire world.

Of course most mainstream historians call the Amazons creatures of myth not because there are not ample records of their battles and individuals but for the reason Strabo the Greek historian put it 2000 years ago, “For who can believe that an army of women, or a city, or a nation, could ever subsist without men? and not only subsist, but make inroads upon the territories of other people, and obtain possession not only of the places near them, and advance as far as the present Ionia, but even dispatch an expedition across the sea to Attica?” Who indeed could believe such a thing? Certainly not the men who have written history but now we have their bodies, women buried with the respect once though only reserved for men and these tattooed women warriors are much harder to call a myth.

The origin of the word Amazon may have come from the Iranian language. The work ha-mazan (phonetic pronunciation) meant warrior and the nomadic Scythians that migrated into the eastern European region are believed to have been Indo-Iranian tribes so the etymology of the word seems right. As the Scythian nomads moved across the area, described in Herodotus’ third story of their origin, a stratified society developed in which the farmers and herders (the earlier inhabitants) were lower status and the newer Scythian warrior class became the royal or ruling class.

However, unlike most societies that are absorbed by a warrior based culture, this one did not immediately or exclusively denigrate women to the lowest status. It seems that in their world there was a place for the warrior woman, a practice perhaps influenced by their female deities. Herodotus believed that the Samatians were the result of the merging of the Scythian and Amazon cultures. Whether this acceptance came from the merging of a society, such as the Amazonians that already had such practices, or it was inherent in the customs of the early nomads is not clear, but archaeological evidence shows that women both as warriors and as high status individuals existed in the Scythian society and similar cultures in the region of Pazyryk.

The Scythians buried their high status dead in mounds called kurgans or tumuli. The dead were laid out often as if asleep in a hollowed out log, facing the east. Grave goods included fine clothes, jewellery, food, cannabis, hand mirrors (also carried by the followers of Hathor), horse tack, bows, swords, shields, entire chariots and often other humans and horses. The horses were sacrificed by axe blow and then buried with the deceased. A later excavation, such as the one of the Pazyryk mummy known as the Ice Maiden excavated by Natalia Polosmak, has shown that at least in this instance the horses were older rather than younger stock suggesting a hint of practicality when killing the livestock. The bodies were mummified in a complex process involving the removal of internal organs, packing the body cavity with aromatic herbs and spices and then embalming the flesh with oils and resin. Some of the kurgans also filled with ground water and subsequently sealed the mummies in ice which further preserved all of the burial goods. The craftsmanship of the gold work, textiles, leather items and wood carving is exceptional and equally so for both male and female burials.

Royal Scythians were also tattooed and apparently those tattoos attested to their elite status. Their tattoos are almost modern in appearance and were created not by the most common ancient method of sewing dye soaked thread under the skin but instead by the puncture method. This technique allowed the artists to create stylized designs in the shapes of goats, horses, deer and leopards. A tattoo stencil (pattern used for creating the design) was actually found in one of the burials. The males and females wore the same designs and there is also evidence of more medicinal tattoos that as usual were only lines. Among the Scythians it is relatively easy to separate the therapeutic tattoos from the decorative because they had such advanced tattooing skills.

There are many very interesting Scythians and Pazyryk burials and it would take a book to describe them all, but some contained women, or men and women together, who were buried as warriors with bows, shields and swords as well as their horses. It is apparent that this society accepted the participation of women in warfare and allowed them the honours afforded to such a status and perhaps it is this very custom that earned these people the title of barbarian because the cultures that surrounded them found the very thought of women in such roles as unthinkable, even mythical. It has long been an accepted practice in anthropology to draw inferences about people and gender role within a society based on the way they are treated in death and there must have been some degree of equality within this society.

Just as the Pazyryk culture greatly resembled the Scythian culture to their west, I think we can also see cultural similarities in the Norse and Celtic peoples to the east of Scythia who, whether from intermingling in trade or migration, exhibited the same treatment of women until the spread of Rome and Christianity across Europe destroyed the native culture and purposefully erased any pagan history especially Goddess worship. I will also go as far to say that Rome and the church at the time began the systematic persecution of women taking away any power they had in society including, medicine, religion, brewing and warfare.

The Sarmatians, the people Herodotus believed were the mix of Amazons and Scythians, are known to have invaded Gaul and pushed out the Picts and there are many Roman accounts of the women warriors among the Gauls. The Norse shield maidens are not myth and accounts of their participation in known battles is generally not disputed unlike those of the Amazons. Queen Boudicca, trained as a warrior when she was a child went on to led an army of over 10,0000 many of them women against the Romans in Briton. Of course the Romans described her as a woman who was smarter than most of her gender which explained her successes but they still considered her a person not to be dealt with lightly.

Of her own part Boudicca said “We British are used to women commanders in war; I am descended from mighty men! But I am not fighting for my kingdom and my wealth now. I am fighting as an ordinary citizen for my lost freedom, my bruised body and my outraged daughters…Consider how many of you are fighting and why! Then you will win this battle or perish. That is what I, a woman, plan to do, let the men live in slavery if they will.”(Boudicca according to Tacitus)

In 61 AD Boudicca died when she took her own life instead of being captured and with her died the hope of women all over Europe for social equality in the face of the Roman invasion and the subsequent spread of Christianity. Perhaps Boudicca represents the last great stand of the descendants of the Amazons and the tattooed warriors of the steppes who rode into battle together, man and woman side by side, against the new societies where woman were seen as weak and inferior and their great deeds in history were turned into myths.


J. A. Salmonson, The Encyclopedia of Amazons (1991), ISBN 0385423667

F. G. Bergmann, Les Amazones dans l'histoire et dans la fable (1853)

J.Harmatta: "Scythians" in UNESCO Collection of History of Humanity – Volume III: From the Seventh Century BC to the Seventh Century AD. Routledge/UNESCO. 1996.

The Real Scythians of Messopotamia, Fred Hamori, based on a work by Gyula Meszaros

The History of Herodotus, George Rawlinson, ed. and tr., vol. 3, Book 4, Chapters 2-36, 46-82. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1885]

Scythians in the Ancient World by Gill, Education About.com Ancient / Classical History Herodotus History Book IV

Scythian tumuli : Bouzek Jan (2/22/2008) "Scythian tumuli", 2008, Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Black Sea

Origins of the Picts and Scots, Hal MacGregor, Origins of the Clan Gregor

The Boudicca Chapters, Isha Bassi, Heroines of History.

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Historiebloggen: Goternas ursprung

Goternas ursprung har varit ett lärt spörsmål alltsedan 500-talet, då visigoternas och ostrogoternas riken behärskade stora delar av det forna Västromerska rikets områden. Goterna hade varit mindre kända för grekisk-romerska författare innan deras första anfall vid det romerska rikets gränser i mitten på 200-talet, så man kunde undra var dessa mäktiga folk egentligen kom ifrån. Ambrosius betecknade dem som Gog. Även bland de nya härskarna fanns ett behov av en historia som inte var sämre än romarnas. Mellan 526 och 533 skrev Cassiodorus sin Gotiska historia i tolv delar. Cassiodorus ledde kansliet under Theoderik den store och Athalaric, och förfogade därmed över stora forskningsresurser. Verket har gått förlorat, men man känner innehållet genom ett sammandrag av Jordanes. All senare forskning om goternas ursprung beror främst på Jordanes Getica.

Cassiodorus/Jordanes försökte hitta goternas rötter genom att identifiera dem i Getica 39 med Geterna (Γέται), en stam i Thrakien, omnämnt av Herodotos i bok IV 93-96 (besegrade av Dareios I) och V 3/4. Det finns samband mellan detta thrakiska folk och de mycket senare germansk-språkiga goterna, och det hjälpte de klassiska historikerna att identifiera dem. Herodotos daimon Zalmoxis blev hos Jordanes en gotisk kung. Sedan länkar Cassiodorus/Jordanes de thrakiska Geterna med skyterna. Med ett citat till Josefus och en helt okänd Ablabius anges skyternas anfader vara Magog, i bibeln en av Jafets söner.

Jordanes berättar att goterna ursprungligen under sin konung Berig, tillsammans med gepiderna på tre skepp skall ha utvandrat från Scandza, där bland annat stammerna Gauthigoth, Ostrogothae och Vagoth anges bo, vilka av forskare stundom har identifierats med västgötar, östgötar och gutar. Utvandringsberättelsen har Jordanes från Cassiodorus som uttryckligen hänvisar till en levande folktradition hos dåtidens goter: "Ex hac igitur Scandza insula ... Gothi quondam memorantur egressi" Det är alltså inte någon »lärd tradition», vilket däremot kombinationen av goter och geter var. Denna mytiska utvandring daterar Jordanes till 1490 f.v.t..

Isidor av Sevilla skrev också en gotisk historia: Historia de regibus Gothorum, Vandalorum et Suevorum, mest visigoternas historia. Verket finns i två versioner. I den kortare versionen (cirka 620) skriver den lärde biskopen om goternas ursprung endast att det står fast att det är ett mycket gammalt folk, sprunget ut Skyternas rike. I den längre versionen (cirka 625), talar han om den sista stavelsens likhet med Magog (Jafets son), och att man detta mest härleder ur en tolkning av Ezekiel (kap. 38:14-15). Men han tillägger att man tidigare brukade identifiera goterna med Getai.

Gotiskan är ett germanskt språk och klassas som nordgermanskt. Det anses av vissa vara närmare släkt med de nordgermanska språken, i synnerhet gutniskan på Gotland än med de västgermanska språken. Viktiga punkter i argumentationen är att gutniskan i likhet med gotiskan saknar a-omljud i höga vokaler (t ex fulk : skandinaviska folk, tyska volk, anglosaxiska folk), sänkning av u till o före r, användandet av ordet lamb med betydelsen "får", och uppträdandet av ett tidigt latinskt lånord lucerna ("(olje)lampa", gotiska -lukarn, gutniska lukarr), som endast gotiskan och gutniskan uppvisar.

Vissa hävdar dock att gotiskan inte stod närmare urnordiskan än andra germanska språk och klassar gotiskan som ett östgermanskt språk eftersom det talades av goterna i Ukrajina.

Etnonymen gutar användes i östra Skandinavien på vikingatiden både för gotlänningar och goter, och har den form som goternas namn förväntas skulle ha haft i sin dåtida östnordiska form. Motsvarande term på fornvästnordiska, de isländska sagornas språk, är gotar med adjektivet gotneskr, vilket alltså kan betyda både gutnisk och gotisk. Gotneska (gutniska) är den isländska beteckningen än idag för det gotiska språket. Enligt språkforskare härstammar goternas och gutarnas namn ursprungligen från en urgermansk etnonym: gutaniz, vilket anses ha betydelsen utgjutare.

Genom det gotiska språket kan man följa goternas, götars och gotlänningars släktskap med Ostrogoter som bebodde Ukrajina och att denna släktskap tyder på att de haft ett stort utbyte, förmodligen både kulturellt och i handel.

I Gutasagan från Gotland berättas det att öns befolkning en gång i forntiden blev så mångtalig att en tredjedel av gutarna tvingades att utvandra söderut för att slutligen bosätta sig på östromerskt område där de fortfarande på 1300-talet, när sagan skrevs ned, bodde kvar (Gutasagan, Holmbäck/Wesséns översättning). Denna berättelse har kopplats till goternas utvandring och Jordanes berättelse att detta folk på tre skepp skulle ha utvandrat från en ö i Östersjön nämligen Gotland, som ligger norr om floden Vistulas mynning och som hade formen av ett löv (Getica, Andreas Nordins översättning). Ännu på 1500-talet bodde det kvar en gotisk folkspillra på Krim; krimgoternas rike var på den tiden en vasall till det Östromerska riket. Språkmässigt försvann de någon gång på 1700-talet.

Under den tid då Jordanes skrev sin Getica trodde dock romarna att Skandinavien var en ö, vilket gör forskningen än svårare om ursprunget. Det råder enighet bland många forskare att Jordanes via Cassidorius har fått goternas utvandringsberättelse från en författare vid namn Ablabius. Enligt historikern Peter Heather så skulle denne Ablabius bara ha talat om en icke namngiven ö i Östersjön, som goterna enligt sina muntligt traderade sägner skall ha utvandrat ifrån. Denna ö identifierades sedan av Cassidorius med Skandinavien som man på hans tid hade fått upplysningar om genom den norske kungen Rodwulfs besök vid Theoderik den stores hov. Cassidorius har alltså själv dragit slutsatsen att det var Skandinavien som avsågs med den ö i Östersjön som goterna sade sig komma ifrån. Men med störst sannolikhet var det just Gotland som man menade att goterna kom från.

Goternas ursprung har vållat debatt alltsedan senmedeltiden, särskilt i Sverige. På grund av Jordanes berättelse om goternas urhem Scandza där han räknar upp ett flertal kända skandinaviska folkstammar, har det antagits att goterna härstammade från det som idag är Sverige, från götar och gutar, dvs. Gotland och Götaland på fastlandet. Tanken att svenskarna var förfäder till goter har använts till att i nationalromantisk anda förhärliga den svenska nationen. Många göticister ägnade stor möda åt frågan. Numera ifrågasätter flera (i synnerhet svenska) historiker goternas ursprung i Skandinavien. Dock finns det också forskare som i viss mån stöder denna uppfattning, såsom Ingemar Nordgren, Anders Kaliff och Josef Svennung.

Arkeologiska bevis, framlagda av polska och tyska arkeologer, bekräftar till viss del Jordanes uppgifter om goternas expansion söderut, i början från ett område, Pommern, vid nedre Weichsel nära Östersjökusten, och senare i väst- och centrala Ukrajina. Det arkeologiska materialet ger klara kopplingar till Skandinavien bl.a. likheter i gravhögar. Goterna har därför kopplats till den så kallade Tjerniahiv-kulturen i Ukrajina som hade släktskap i Wielbark-kulturen i Polen.


Holmbäck-Wessén, Svenska landskapslagar, Skånelagen och Gutalagen 1943.
Wessén, Elias, Nordiska folkstammar och folknamn, Fornvännen 1969.
Ambrosius av Milano (378). ”16”. De Fide II
Jordanes (1997). Getica: Om goternas ursprung och bedrifter. Stockholm: Atlantis. Sid. 16, 212. ISBN 91-7486-310-X
Josefus. Jewish Antiquities I ch.6
Fornvännen 1968, Elias Wessén s 21
Arne Søby Christensen (2002). Cassiodorus, Jordanes, and the History of the Goths. Studies in a Migration Myth. ISBN 978-87-7289-710-3
Wessén, Elias, Nordiska folkstammar och folknamn, Fornvännen 1969
Michael Barnes (2003). ”Languages and ethnic groups”. The Cambridge History of Scandinavia. Sid. s. 98. ISBN 0-521-47299-7
Sveriges Television: Svenska dialektmysterier
Hachmann, R., "Die Goten und Skandinavien" 1970".
Heather, P J, "The Goths" s 27
David King (2006). Drömmen om Atlantis. ISBN 91-975265-2-5
Mikael Kulikowski (2007). Rome's Gothic wars. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-84633-1
Ingemar Nordgren (2000). Goterkällan: Om goterna i Norden och på kontinenten. ISBN 91-973891-2-9
"The archaeological record could indicate that Jordanes' history concerning the origin of the Goths was based on an oral tradition with some sort of real background." - Kaliff, Anders. 2001. Gothic Connections. Contacts between eastern Scandinavia and the southern Baltic coast 1000 BC – 500 AD. Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University.
Lars Hermodsson, Var goterna svenska utvandrare?, Populär historia, 5/1997

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Historiebloggen: Sotarna, Ian Wachtmeister, 2014, ISBN: 9789187769030

Historiebloggens bokrecension: Sotarna av Ian Wachtmeister , 2014ISBN: 9789187769030

Boken är mer än köpvärd, den är ett måste att läsas och behållas för längre framtid då den är högaktuell med sin fakta under lång tid framöver. Ian Wachtmeister skriver rakt och utan att modifiera en enda liten mening. Han vågar säga saker som de är. Läsaren får inblick i Carnegieaffären som skördade Maths O Sundqvist och många andra. Även om hur svensk jurnalistik styrs indirekt av miljöpartiet eftersom hälften av journalisterna är miljöpartister. Och om hur fascisten Putin förbereder en invasion av Europa. Gotland är en strategisk punkt, den som kontrollerar Gotland kontrollerar Östersjön sägs det. När Rasha/Ryssland började ockupera Ukrajina år 2014 var det bara början på Europas ockupationsplan. Ian skriver också om The National Prayer Breakfast som är en stor grej i USA, där till och med Barack Obama USAs president närvarar med sin fru. Han skriver också om hur djurvännerna ville rädda elefanterna (Nika och Shiva) på Skansen men istället skickade dem till döden. Eller om hur vänsterpacket hävdat att Fidel Castro grundat det svenska välståndet.

Boken innehåller många personliga minnen från Wachmeisters liv och även många kända personers liv också. Den kommer inte lämna sin läsare oberörd. Boken riktar sig till alla som vill veta vad som händer (och vad som inte händer) i Sverige och Sveriges politiska arena. Köp boken och spara den för att läsa om vid ett senare tillfälle, eller ha som en uppslagsbok för svensk politik.

Bokens beskrivning från förlaget:

Med boken Sotarna är Ian Wachtmeister tillbaka som författare, mer personlig och rak än någonsin. Här finns aldrig tidigare berättade historier ur hans spännande och brokiga liv, kryddade med fritänkarens ocensurerade sanningar. Boken rymmer såväl skandaler från näringslivet som romantiska skildringar från herrgårdslivet under andra världskriget. Nutida politiker, myndigheter och medier granskas med obarmhärtig skärpa, samtidigt som personliga anekdoter och reseupplevelser skildras med en hjärtlig värme en sida av Ian som de flesta inte känner till.

Några kommer att bli förbannande. Andra kommer att uppskatta att det finns någon som vågar säga vad han tycker. Och ingen kommer att lämnas oberörd!

Utvalda citat:

I Sverige tycks vi ha en ständigt pågående gnällig kris där alla politiska ledare ser tråkiga ut och ingen vågar säga vad de tycker. Först ska spinndoktorerna undersöka vad som är rätt att säga just då. Åsikter är inget de har, det är något de framför i vissa lägen med tydliga reservationer och begränsningar. Resultatet blir en charad där den storögt irriterade byter ord med den ihåligt malande och blir avbrutna av den milde med elaka ögon. Då och då avbryts föreställningen av någon som försöker säga så många ord som möjligt utan att säga något. Publiken kan samtidigt tydligt se vem programledaren håller på. Spektaklet kallas public service-teve!

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Historiebloggen: Storstrejken i Sverige 1909

Storstrejken i Sverige 1909 var en arbetsmarknadskonflikt, innefattande både strejk och lockout. Strejken startade 4 augusti 1909 och pågick exakt en månad. Vissa efterdyningar fanns dock kvar till den 13 november samma år, då SAF upphävde den sista kvarstående lockouten vid järnbruken. Den var de svenska arbetsmarknadsorganisationerna SAF:s och LO:s första stora arbetsmarknadskonflikt.

Den pågående lågkonjunkturen pressade många företag och SAF krävde därför lönesänkningar på vissa områden. För att få igenom sitt krav lockoutades i slutet av juli 80 000 anställda inom textil-, sågverks- och pappersmasseindustrin. Detta fick LO att svara med en strejk i vilken som mest omkring 300 000 arbetare deltog.

Den svenska arbetarklassen var i ett europeiskt perspektiv väl organiserad fackligt och politiskt. Ändå led arbetarsidan totalt nederlag. Skälen var flera. Lågkonjunkturen gjorde att exportföretagen satt på uppbyggda lager och att produktionen stod stilla blev därför mindre kännbart än om strejken kommit i högkonjunktur. Men även i distributionsledet misslyckades strejken. På LO-sidan diskuterades vilka grupper som skulle tas ut i strejk och vilka som skulle stå utanför. Resultatet blev en halvmesyr:

"Undantagen var på en gång för få och för många: för få för att hindra den liberala opinionen att skrämmas eller i ursinne gå över till högern och arbetsgivarna - främst på grund av typografstrejken, men också på grund av andra verkliga eller förmenta avtalsbrott. Samtidigt gjordes en undantag för mycket: järnvägsmännen." Lika viktiga som järnvägarna var hamnarna, från vilka utskeppningen av exportvaror fortsatte under strejken - och det trots att landets hamnarbetare också var i strejk. Lossning och lastning hålls igång med hjälp av sjömän bundna av sjölagen, förmän och strejkbrytare både från Sverige och utlandet.

Strejkkassorna var små och facket var efter en månad tvungna att successivt dra ner på strejkens omfattning, något som ledde till massavhopp av medlemmar. LO förlorade nästan hälften av sina medlemmar; några av dem gick med i det nybildade SAC, en syndikalistisk fackförening. Dessa menade att ledningen i LO hade skött strejken halvhjärtat och enbart inlett den för att stävja medlemmarnas mer radikala hållning. Arbetsgivarna tog även chansen att göra sig av med cirka 20 000 arbetare, vilket även det bidrog till massavhoppet från LO då arbetarna var tvungna att gå ur facket för att få tillbaka jobbet under pågående konflikt. Även utvandringen från Sverige ökade som en följd av strejken. Totalt varade strejken i drygt tre månader.


Berg, Jan O. (2011). På spaning efter en svensk modell: idéer och vägval i arbetsgivarpolitiken 1897-1909. Enebyberg: Jan O. Berg samt Berg Bild Rum & Färg Förlag. Libris 12121073. ISBN 9789162882648

Björkman, Jenny (2009). ”Storstrejken blev LO:s första kris”. Populär Historia (nr. 8): sid. 46-49. ISSN 1102-0822 ISSN 1102-0822.

Dalström, Kata (1910). Vargaflockens moral: ett minne från storstrejken. Frams broschyr ; 37. Malmö: Framtiden. Libris 1612697

Dokument från storstrejken 1909. Solna: Pogo press. 1979. Libris 7639440. ISBN 91-7386-044-1

Hamark, Jesper; Thörnqvist, Christer (2013). Docks and defeat : the 1909 General Strike in Sweden and the role of port labour. Libris 16419139

Kjellberg, Anders (2011). ”Storkonflikten 1980 och andra stora arbetskonflikter i Sverige”. Arbetarhistoria (Stockholm : Arbetarrörelsens arkiv och bibliotek, 1984-) "2011:2–3": sid. 33-40 : ill. ISSN 0281-7446. ISSN 0281-7446 ISSN 0281-7446. Libris 8260504 - Artikel som jämför storstrejken 1909, metallstrejken 1945 och storkonflikten 1980.

Protokoll och handlingar rörande 1909 års tvister mellan Svenska arbetsgivareföreningen och Landsorganisationen.. Stockholm: Arb. 1910. Libris 1616787

Redogörelse för lockouterna och storstrejken i Sverige år 1909.. Arbetsstatistik, 99-0441061-5 ; 9. Stockholm: Kommerskollegium. 1910-1912. Libris 8206867

Palme, Sven Ulric. Karl Staaff och storstrejken 1909 (1959)

Schiller, Bernt (1967). Storstrejken 1909: förhistoria och orsaker. Studia historica Gothoburgensia, 0081-6515 ; 9Scandinavian university books, 99-0103642-9. Göteborg: Elander. Libris 8078702

Svaret 1909.. Stockholm: Arena. 1970. Libris 7555

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Historiebloggen: Visigoter Tervingi

Visigoter, ibland även västgoter, (latin visi'gothi, visigothæ) är ett av de två gotiska folk som första gången nämns år 291. De kallades då tervingi (skogsbor) och betecknades som en utbrytargrupp, medan de övriga, ostrogoterna, inte nämns vid namn förrän omkring 100 år senare. Den omkring 390 skrivna Notitia dignitatum kallar visigoterna för Vesi, vilket är deras självbenämning och betyder "de goda" eller "de ädla". Det var först Cassiodorus som lade till efterleden och började kalla dem visigoter, med vilket han menade "västgoter". Han hittade sannolikt helt enkelt på ett namn som likt ostrogoternas kunde ange ett väderstreck.

Visigoterna som Roms allierade

Hunnerna erövrade ostrogoternas rike 375 och visigoterna valde då att hellre fly till romarriket än att underordna sig deras styre. Romarna tog dock motvilligt emot sina – sedan mitten av 300-talet – kristna bröder och behandlade dem så illa att de gjorde uppror. Det slutade med en katastrof för romarna när visigoterna besegrade dem i slaget vid Adrianopel och själva Konstantinopel svävade ett tag i fara. Men sedan Theodosius 379 blivit kejsare lyckades han genom kraft och klokhet lugna visigoterna och faktiskt vinna en allians med den gamle romarfienden Atanarik, som lämnat Siebenbürgen och efter Fritigerns död fått ett slags ledarställning. Så länge Theodosius regerade utgjorde sedan visigoterna såsom foederati ett slags buffert mot andra barbarfolk, medan enskilda medlemmar av folket också fick anställning i hären eller runt om i rikets förvaltning. Härigenom hotades goternas nationella sammanhållning och år 395, efter Theodosius död, valdes Alarik I till kung av en grupp goter som kallade sig "Vesi", detta namn utvecklades sedan till "visigoter".

Under Alarik påbörjades visigoternas kamp mot det romerska riket. Efter Teodosius död fick han Moesien och Thracien som foederati och fortsatte med att inta Pannonien och Makedonien. Han försökte sedan att inta Konstantinopel, som köpte sig fri och gick istället mot Grekland, där han efter förhandlingar erövrade bland annat Aten. Han fortsatte till Italien men blev besegrad av Stilicho två gånger. Efter den stora germaninvasionen i Gallien 406 tvingades dock Stilicho att förhandla med Alarik, men när kejsaren inte gick med på hans krav så belägrades Rom. Alarik fick förstärkning av de germanska legosoldaterna och 40 000 germanska slavar vilket ledde till Roms intagande och plundring år 410. Alarik försökte skapa ett gotiskt världsrike med Italien som centrum men när han fortsatte för att erövra Sicilien och Afrika, dog han, endast 34 år gammal och efterträddes av sin svåger Ataulf. Denne tog fasta på det erbjudande som Alarik fått av kejsar Honorius år 403, att med full äganderätt få Gallien och Spanien och detta ledde till besättandet av södra Gallien (det så kallade Tolosanska riket) med Toulouse som huvudstad under Ataulf och Wallia (415-418) och Theoderik I (418-451). I de flesta sammanhang kom dock goterna att uppträda som foederati (exempelvis mot vandalerna), och spelade i denna egenskap en mycket viktig roll vid Aëtius seger över Attila vid Katalauniska fälten år 451, varvid kung Teoderik I stupade och Attilas framryckning i Europa stoppades. Som en bieffekt kom också den andra halvan av goterna, ostrogoterna, att härigenom befrias från hunnersk överhöghet.

De självständiga Visigoterna

Under förvirringen vid västromerska rikets fall år 476 frigjorde sig visigoterna helt från beroendet av Rom, under ledning av Theoderik I:s son Eurik, som konsoliderade sitt välde i södra Gallien och erövrade större delen av Spanien. Euriks son Alarik II (484-507) besegrades 507 av den frankiske kungen Klodvig I. Detta gjorde att visigoterna bad den östromerske kejsaren Justinianus om hjälp. Denne intog därefter sydöstra Spanien och det tog 80 år innan visigoterna lyckades fördriva dem därifrån under sin konung Leovigild. [2] I detta rike, liksom i Odovakars och Teoderiks, lät man befolkningen ha kvar sina egna lagar och statsinrättningar, vilket ledde till att det visigotiska väldet huvudsakligen blev ett spanskt rike ("riket Toledo"). Riket kom under Roderik (710-711) att krossas av araberna - om detta, se artikeln Spaniens historia.

Den muslimske ståthållaren Musa fullbordade Afrikas underkuvande och sände år 711 sin beprövade fältherre Tariq ibn-Ziyad till Spanien. Denne besatte den branta höjd, då kallad Calpe, som alltsedan dess bär erövrarens namn, Tariks berg (Djebel-al-Tarik, varav Gibraltar), och påträffade Roderik (västgoternas härskare) vid Salada, inte långt från Cadiz (nordväst om Jerez de la Frontera). Striden rasade den 25 och 26 juli. Enligt sagan pågick den en hel vecka. Förmodligen avgjordes den genom förräderi till halvmånens fördel. Därmed följde västgotarikets fall. Roderik stupade och hans folk betedde sig till den grad fegt, att ingen gotisk här ånyo vågade ställa sig i inkräktarens väg. På så sätt kunde muslimerna inta den ena staden efter den andra. De missnöjda och förtryckta, framför allt judarna, gick dem till mötes och öppnade portarna. Endast högt uppe i norr, i de asturiska bergen, förmådde de kristna hålla sig kvar. Troligen skulle de ha dukat under och erövringen redan nu utbrett sig över Pyreneerna, varvid muslimerna funnit frankernas rike splittrat av inre söndring, om inte Tarik och Musa hade blivit oense med varandra. Nu blev istället den muslimska hären kallad tillbaka. Västgoterna utvecklade privaträtten först bland germanerna, men lyckades aldrig skapa en varaktig författning.

Sociala förhållanden i de visigotiska rikena

Efter bosättningen i Gallien och Spanien erhöll visigoterna två tredjedelar av jorden där, och förblev länge en från den romerska befolkningen åtskild folkgrupp eftersom giftermål dem emellan var förbjudna i lag. De två folken hade också skilda lagar - romarna levde under lagar fastställda av Alarik II (ett sammandrag av den romerska rätten, kallat Breviarium Alarici), visigoterna levde under gotiska rättssedvänjor (antagligen kodifierade under kung Reccared I (586-601) under namnet Antiqua). Goterna dömdes i första hand av särskilda kungliga domare, den högre domsrätten utövades däremot av gemensamma sådana, hertigar (duces) i provinserna och under dem grevar (comites) i grevskapen (civitates). Till skillnad från förhållandet i östgotariket (se Theoderik den store) var den romerska befolkningen underkastad krigstjänstskyldighet. Detta blev det första steget mot en sammansmältning mellan folken.

Bland goterna hade ursprungligen funnits en bördsadel, vilken dock försvann efter erövringarna, och istället uppkom en kunglig tjänstadel i vilken på grund av den gemensamma krigstjänstskyldigheten både romare och goter ingick. I samband med detta genomgicks en betydande social ombildning. Liksom hos andra germanska folk hade hos visigoterna folkets huvudmassa utgjorts av "folkfria", och vid bosättningen hade dessa erhållit egen jord, men i Gallien och Spanien hade under romartiden jorden till största delen varit uppdelad i stora egendomar tillhöriga adliga (senatoriska) släkter och med en talrik ofri befolkning. De inträngande visigoterna bibehöll till en stor del dessa jordförhållanden och den nya tjänsteadeln, vare sig av romanskt eller gotiskt ursprung, blev innehavare av de gamla jordegendomarna eller av nya sådana som bildades genom tilldelande av kronogods. Vid sidan av dessa kunde inte de små fria jordegendomarna bestå, och medan å ena sidan de mäktigare visigotiska släkterna sammansmälte med de gamla romerska adelssläkterna till en härskande adel, sammansmälte å andra sidan massan av de folkfria visigoterna med den "höriga" romerska befolkningen till en samhällsklass som stod i stort beroende (eller var rent ofri) till de stora andliga eller världsliga makthavarna.

Hur drastiskt de folkfrias antal minskats visas av kung Vambas (672-680) påbud att 9 av 10 trälar skulle vara krigstjänstskyldiga - de folkfria hade tidigare varit basen för krigsmaktens personaltillgång. Denna utveckling, som i det Frankiska riket skulle ge upphov till feodalismen, försiggick tidigare i Västgotariket men ledde inte till en fullständig feodalisering eftersom egendomarna inte tog formen av län. Den genom de sociala förändringarna påbörjade sammansmältningen mellan folkgrupperna visigoter och romaner fullbordades efter att visigoterna under kung Reccared konverterat från arianismen till katolicismen, och till följd av detta kunde kungarna Kindasvind (641-652) och dennes son Reccesvind (652-672) genomdriva en gemensam lag, Lex visigothorum och Reccesvind upphävde också förbudet mot blandade äktenskap. Eftersom den romanska befolkningen var betydligt talrikare än den gotiska kom den romanska kulturen också att i högre grad forma den efterföljande kulturen. Lex visigothorum var i huvudsak grundad på den romerska rätten och visigoterna utbytte sitt språk mot det av den romerska befolkningen talade vulgärlatinet vilket förändrades (se spanska).

Även om riket och befolkningen förändrades bibehöll det till sitt fall namnet Goternas rike (lat. Regnum gothorum).


Världshistoria, band II. Utgiven av Hans Hildebrand, Harald Hjärne och J. von Pflugk-Harttung. Buchdruckerei Otto Regel GmbH, Leipzig 1921. Artikeln författad av Prof. Dr. J. von Pflugk-Harttung, Geheimer Archivrat vid Geheimes Staatsarchiv, Berlin.

Bachrach, Bernard S. "A Reassessment of Visigothic Jewish Policy, 589-711." American Historical Review 78, no. 1 (1973): 11-34.

Collins, Roger. The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710-797. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1989. Reprint, 1998.

Constable, Olivia Remie. "A Muslim-Christian Treaty: The Treaty of Tudmir (713)." In Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, ed. Olivia Remie Constable, 37-38. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.

Constable, Olivia Remie, and Jeremy duQ. Adams. "Visigothic Legislation Concerning the Jews." In Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, ed. Olivia Remie Constable, 21-23. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.

Garcia Moreno, Luis A. "Spanish Gothic consciousness among the Mozarabs in al-Andalus (VIII-Xth centuries." In The Visigoths. Studies in Culture and Society, ed. Alberto Ferreiro, 303-323. Leiden-Boston-Köln: Brill, 1999.

Heather, Peter. The Goths. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

Kennedy, Hugh. Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus. Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1996.

Mathisen, Ralph W. "Barbarian Bishops and the Churches ‘in Barbaricis Gentibus’ During Late Antiquity." Speculum 72, no. 3 (1997): 664-697.

Mierow, Charles Christopher (translator). The Gothic History of Jordanes. In English Version with an Introduction and a Commentary, 1915. Reprinted 2006. Evolution Publishing, ISBN 1-889758-77-9.

Nirenberg, David. "The Visigothic Conversion to Catholicism." In Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, ed. Olivia Remie Constable, 12-20. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.

Rosales, Juratė. Los Godos. Barcelona, Ed. Ariel S.A., 2nd edition, 2004.

Sivan, Hagith. "On Foederati, Hospitalitas, and the Settlement of the Goths in A.D. 418." American Journal of Philology 108, no. 4 (1987): 759-772.

Velázquez, Isabel. "Jural Relations as an Indicator of Syncretism: From the Law of Inheritance to the Dum Inlicita of Chindaswinth." In The Visigoths from the Migration Period to the Seventh Century: An Ethnographic Perspective, ed. Peter Heather, 225-259. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1999.

Wolf, Kenneth Baxter, ed. and trans. Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain. Vol. 9, Translated Texts for Historians. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

Wolfram, Herwig. History of the Goths. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

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Historiebloggen: Visigoths Thervingi

The Visigoths (UK: /ˈvɪzɪˌɡɒθs/; US: /ˈvɪzɪˌɡɑːθs/, Latin: Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, or Wisi) were branches of the nomadic tribes of Germanic peoples referred to collectively as the Goths. These tribes flourished and spread during the late Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, or the Migration Period. The Visigoths emerged from earlier Gothic groups (possibly the Thervingi) who had invaded the Roman Empire beginning in 376 and had defeated the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. Relations between the Romans and the Visigoths were variable, alternately warring with one another and making treaties when convenient. The Visigoths invaded Italy under Alaric I and sacked Rome in 410. After the Visigoths sacked Rome, they began settling down, first in southern Gaul and eventually in Spain and Portugal, where they founded the Visigothic Kingdom and maintained a presence from the 5th to the 8th centuries AD.

The Visigoths first settled in southern Gaul as foederati of the Romans – a relationship established in 418. However, they soon fell out with their Roman hosts (for reasons that are now obscure) and established their own kingdom with its capital at Toulouse. They next extended their authority into Hispania at the expense of the Suebi and Vandals. In 507, however, their rule in Gaul was ended by the Franks under Clovis I, who defeated them in the Battle of Vouillé. After that, the Visigoth kingdom was limited to Hispania, and they never again held territory north of the Pyrenees other than Septimania. A small, elite group of Visigoths came to dominate the governance of that region at the expense of those who had previously ruled there, particularly in the Byzantine province of Spania and the Kingdom of the Suebi.

In or around 589, the Visigoths under Reccared I converted from Arianism to Nicene Christianity, gradually adopting the culture of their Hispano-Roman subjects. Their legal code, the Visigothic Code (completed in 654) abolished the longstanding practice of applying different laws for Romans and Visigoths. Once legal distinctions were no longer being made between Romani and Gothi, they became known collectively as Hispani. In the century that followed, the region was dominated by the Councils of Toledo and the episcopacy. (Little else is known about the Visigoths' history during the 7th century, since records are relatively sparse.) In 711 or 712, a force of invading Arabs and Berbers defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Guadalete. Their king and many members of their governing elite were killed, and their kingdom rapidly collapsed. Gothic identity survived, however, especially in Marca Hispanica and the Kingdom of Asturias, which had been founded by the Visigothic nobleman Pelagius of Asturias after his victory over the Moors at the Battle of Covadonga.

During their governance of the Kingdom of Hispania, the Visigoths built several churches that survive. They also left many artifacts, which have been discovered in increasing numbers by archaeologists in recent times. The Treasure of Guarrazar of votive crowns and crosses is the most spectacular. They founded the only new cities in western Europe from the fall of the Western half of the Roman Empire until the rise of the Carolingian dynasty. Many Visigothic names are still in use in modern Spanish and Portuguese. Their most notable legacy, however, was the Visigothic Code, which served, among other things, as the basis for court procedure in most of Christian Iberia until the Late Middle Ages, centuries after the demise of the kingdom.

Nomenclature: Vesi, Ostrogothi, Tervingi, Greuthungi

Contemporaneous references to the Gothic tribes use the terms "Vesi" (Latin for Visigoths), "Ostrogothi", "Thervingi", and "Greuthungi." Most scholars have concluded that the terms "Vesi" and "Tervingi" were both used to refer to one particular tribe, while the terms "Ostrogothi" and "Greuthungi" were used to refer to another. Herwig Wolfram points out that while primary sources occasionally list all four names (as in, for example, Gruthungi, Austrogothi, Tervingi, Visi), whenever they mention two different tribes, they always refer either to "the Vesi and the Ostrogothi" or to "the Tervingi and the Greuthungi", and they never pair them up in any other combination. This conclusion is supported by Jordanes, who identified the Visigoth (Vesi) kings from Alaric I to Alaric II as the heirs of the 4th century Tervingian king Athanaric, and the Ostrogoth kings from Theoderic the Great to Theodahad as the heirs of the Greuthungi king Ermanaric. In addition, the Notitia Dignitatum equates the Vesi with the Tervingi in a reference to the years 388–391.

The earliest sources for each of the four names are roughly contemporaneous. The first recorded reference to "the Tervingi" is in a eulogy of the emperor Maximian (285–305), delivered in or shortly after 291 (perhaps at Trier on 20 April 292) and traditionally ascribed to Claudius Mamertinus. It says that the "Tervingi, another division of the Goths" (Tervingi pars alia Gothorum), joined with the Taifali to attack the Vandals and Gepidae. (The term "Vandals" may have been a mistaken reference to the "Victohali", since around 360 the historian Eutropius reports that Dacia was currently inhabited by Taifali, Victohali, and Tervingi.) The first recorded reference to "the Greuthungi" is by Ammianus Marcellinus, writing no earlier than 392 and perhaps later than 395, recounting the words of a Tervingian chieftain who is attested as early as 376. The first known use of the term "Ostrogoths" is in a document dated September 392 from Milan. (Claudian mentions that they, together with the Gruthungi, inhabit Phrygia.)

Gutthiuda, the country of Visigoths

Wolfram notes that "Vesi" and "Ostrogothi" were terms each tribe used to boastfully describe itself and argues that "Tervingi" and "Greuthungi" were geographical identifiers each tribe used to describe the other. This would explain why the latter terms dropped out of use shortly after 400, when the Goths were displaced by the Hunnic invasions. As an example of this geographical naming practice, Wolfram cites an account by Zosimus of a group of people living north of the Danube who called themselves "the Scythians" but were called "the Greutungi" by members of a different tribe living north of the Ister. Wolfram believes that the people Zosimus describes were those Tervingi who had remained behind after the Hunnic conquest. For the most part, all of the terms discriminating between different Gothic tribes gradually disappeared after they moved into the Roman Empire. The last indication that the Goths whose king reigned at Toulouse thought of themselves as "Vesi" is found in a panegyric on Avitus by Sidonius Apollinaris dated 1 January 456.

Most recent scholars (notably Peter Heather) have concluded that Visigothic group identity emerged only within the Roman Empire. Roger Collins believes that the Visigothic identity emerged from the Gothic War of 376–382 when a collection of Tervingi, Greuthungi, and other "barbarian" contingents banded together in multiethnic foederati (Wolfram's "federate armies") under Alaric I in the eastern Balkans, since they had become a multiethnic group and could no longer claim to be exclusively Tervingian.

The term "Visigoth" was an invention of the 6th century. Cassiodorus, a Roman in the service of Theoderic the Great, invented the term "Visigothi" to match that of "Ostrogothi", terms he thought of as signifying "western Goths" and "eastern Goths" respectively. The western–eastern division was a simplification (and a literary device) of 6th century historians; political realities were more complex. Further, Cassiodorus used the term "Goths" to refer only to the Ostrogoths, whom he served, and reserved the geographical term "Visigoths" for the Gallo-Spanish Goths. This usage, however, was adopted by the Visigoths themselves in their communications with the Byzantine Empire and was still in use in the 7th century.

Other names for other Gothic divisions abounded. A "Germanic" Byzantine or Italian author referred to one of the two peoples as the Valagothi, meaning "Roman Goths", and in 469 the Visigoths were called the "Alaric Goths".

Etymology of Tervingi and Vesi/Visigothi[edit] The name Tervingi may mean "forest people". This is supported by evidence that geographic descriptors were commonly used to distinguish people living north of the Black Sea both before and after Gothic settlement there, by evidence of forest-related names among the Tervingi, and by the lack of evidence for an earlier date for the name pair Tervingi–Greuthungi than the late 3rd century. That the name Tervingi has pre-Pontic, possibly Scandinavian, origins still has support today.

The Visigoths are called Wesi or Wisi by Trebellius Pollio, Claudian, and Sidonius Apollinaris. The word is Gothic for "good", implying the "good or worthy people", related to Gothic iusiza "better" and a reflex of Indo-European *wesu "good", akin to Welsh gwiw "excellent", Greek eus "good", Sanskrit vásu-ş "id.". Jordanes relates the tribe's name to a river, though this is most likely a folk etymology or legend like his similar story about the Greuthung name. The name Visigothi is an invention of Cassiodorus, who combined Visi and Gothi under the misapprehension that it meant "west Goths".

Early Origins

The Visigoths or 'western Goths' as connoted by Cassiodorus emerged from the Gothic tribes, most likely a derivative name for the Gutones, a people believed to have their origins in Scandinavia and who migrated southeastwards into eastern Europe. Such understanding of their origins is largely the result of Gothic traditions and their true genesis as a people is as equally obscure as those of the Franks and Alamanni. The Visigoths spoke an eastern Germanic language which by the 4th century AD was distinct. Eventually the Gothic language died as a result of contact with other European people during the Middle Ages.

Long struggles between the neighboring Vandili and Lugii people with the Goths may have contributed to their earlier exodus into mainland Europe. The vast majority of them settled between the Oder and Vistula rivers until overpopulation (according to Gothic legends) forced them to move south and east, where they settled just north of the Black Sea in Ukraine. Unfortunately this legend is not supported by archaeological evidence so its validity is disputable. Historian Malcolm Todd contends that while this large en masse migration is possible, the movement of Gothic peoples south-east was more likely the result of warrior bands moving closer to the wealth of the Ukraine and the cities of the Black Sea coast. Perhaps what is most notable about the Gothic people in this regard was that by the middle of the 3rd century AD, they were "the most formidable military power beyond the lower Danube frontier."

Contact with Rome

Throughout the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, there were numerous conflicts and exchanges of varying types between the Goths and their neighbors. In AD 238 the Goths invaded across the Danube into the Roman province of Moesia, pillaging and exacting payment through hostage taking. During that same year consequent the war with the Persians in AD 238, Goths also appear in the Roman armies of Gordian III. When subsidies to the Goths were stopped, the Goths organized and in AD 250 joined a major barbarian invasion led by the Germanic king, Kniva. Success on the battlefield against the Romans inspired additional invasions into the northern Balkans and deeper into Asia Minor. Starting in approximately AD 255, the Goths added a new dimension to their attacks by taking to the sea and invading harbors which brought them into conflict with the Greeks as well. When the city of Pityus fell to the Goths in 256, the Goths were further emboldened. Sometime between AD 266-267 the Goths raided Greece but when they attempted to move into the Bosporus straits to attack Byzantium, they were repulsed. Along with other Germanic tribes, they attacked further into Asia Minor, assaulting Crete and Cyprus on the way; shortly thereafter, they pillaged Troy and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Throughout the reign of emperor Constantine I, the Visigoths continued to conduct raids on Roman territory south of the Danube River. By AD 332, relations between the Goths and Romans were stabilized by a treaty but this was not to last.

War with Rome (376–382)

The Goths remained in Dacia until 376, when one of their leaders, Fritigern, appealed to the Roman emperor Valens to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. Here, they hoped to find refuge from the Huns. Valens permitted this, as he saw in them "a splendid recruiting ground for his army." However, a famine broke out and Rome was unwilling to supply them with either the food they were promised or the land. Generally, the Goths were abused by the Romans who began exchanging food for slaves from among the Goths. Open revolt ensued leading to 6 years of plundering and destruction throughout the Balkans, the death of a Roman Emperor and the destruction of an entire Roman army.

The Battle of Adrianople in 378 was the decisive moment of the war. The Roman forces were slaughtered and the Emperor Valens was killed during the fighting. Precisely how Valens fell remains uncertain but Gothic legend tells of how the emperor was taken to a farmhouse which was set on fire above his head, a tale made more popular by its symbolic representation of a heretical emperor receiving hell's torment. Many of Rome's leading officers and some of their most elite fighting men died during the battle which struck a major blow to Roman prestige and the Empire's military capabilities. Adrianople shocked the Roman world and eventually forced the Romans to negotiate with and settle the tribe within the empire's boundaries, a development with far reaching consequences for the eventual fall of Rome. Fourth-century Roman soldier and historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, ended his chronology of Roman history with this battle.

Despite the severe consequences for Rome, Adrianople was not nearly as productive overall for the Visigoths and their gains were short-lived. Still confined to a small and relatively impoverished province of the Empire, another Roman army was being gathered against them, an army which also had amid its ranks, other disaffected Goths. Intense campaigns against the Visigoths followed their victory at Adrianople for upwards of three years. Approach routes across the Danube provinces were effectively sealed off by concerted Roman efforts and while there was no decisive victory to claim, it was essentially a Roman triumph ending in a treaty in AD 382. The treaty struck with the Goths was to be the first foedus on imperial Roman soil. It required these semi-autonomous Germanic tribes to raise troops for the Roman army in exchange for arable land and freedom from Roman legal structures within the Empire.

Reign of Alaric I

The new emperor, Theodosius I, made peace with the rebels, and this peace held essentially unbroken until Theodosius died in 395. In that year, the Visigoths' most famous king, Alaric I, took the throne. Theodosius was succeeded by his incapable sons: Arcadius in the east and Honorius in the west. In AD 397, Alaric was named commander of the eastern Illyrician prefecture by Arcadius.

Over the next 15 years, an uneasy peace was broken by occasional conflicts between Alaric and the powerful Germanic generals who commanded the Roman armies in the east and west, wielding the real power of the empire. Finally, after the western general Stilicho was executed by Honorius in 408 and the Roman legions massacred the families of 30,000 barbarian soldiers serving in the Roman army, Alaric declared war. After two defeats in Northern Italy and a siege of Rome ended by a negotiated pay-off, Alaric was cheated by another Roman faction. He resolved to cut the city off by capturing its port. On August 24, 410, however, Alaric's troops entered Rome through the Salarian Gate, to plunder its riches in the sack of Rome. While Rome was no longer the official capital of the Western Roman Empire (it had been moved to Ravenna for strategic reasons), its fall severely shook the Empire's foundations. Material resources in hand after taking the western Empire’s capital, Alaric and the Visigoths extracted as much as they could from Italy and then made their way into northern Africa. Unfortunately, Alaric died before reaching Africa and was succeeded by his wife’s brother Ataulf.

Visigothic Kingdom

The Visigothic Kingdom was a Western European power in the 5th to 7th centuries, created in Gaul when the Romans lost their control of the western half of their empire. In response to the invasion of Roman Hispania of 409 by the Vandals, Alans and Suevi, Honorius, the emperor in the West, enlisted the aid of the Visigoths to regain control of the territory. In 418, Honorius rewarded his Visigothic federates by giving them land in Gallia Aquitania on which to settle. This was probably done under hospitalitas, the rules for billeting army soldiers. The settlement formed the nucleus of the future Visigothic kingdom that would eventually expand across the Pyrenees and onto the Iberian peninsula. That Visigothic settlement proved paramount to Europe's future as had it not been for the Visigothic warriors who fought side-by-side with the Roman troops under general Flavius Aetius, it quite probable that Attila the Hun would have seized control of Gaul and not the Romans.

The Visigoths' second great king, Euric, unified the various quarreling factions among the Visigoths and, in 475, forced the Roman government to grant them full independence. At his death, the Visigoths were the most powerful of the successor states to the Western Roman Empire and were at the very heights of their power.

At this point, the Visigoths were also the dominant power in the Iberian Peninsula, quickly crushing the Alans and forcing the Vandals into north Africa. By 500, the Visigothic Kingdom, centred at Toulouse, controlled Aquitania and Gallia Narbonensis and most of Hispania with the exception of the Suevic kingdom in the northwest and small areas controlled by the Basques and Cantabrians. However, in 507, the Franks under Clovis I defeated the Visigoths in the Vouillé and wrested control of Aquitaine. King Alaric II was killed in battle.

After Alaric's death, Visigothic nobles spirited his heir, the child-king Amalaric, first to Narbonne, which was the last Gothic outpost in Gaul, and further across the Pyrenees into Hispania. The center of Visigothic rule shifted first to Barcelona, then inland and south to Toledo. From 511 to 526, the Visigoths were ruled by Theoderic the Great of the Ostrogoths as de jure regent for the young Amalaric.

In 554, Granada and southernmost Hispania Baetica were lost to representatives of the Byzantine Empire (to form the province of Spania) who had been invited in to help settle a Visigothic dynastic struggle, but who stayed on, as a hoped-for spearhead to a "Reconquest" of the far west envisaged by emperor Justinian I.

The last Arian Visigothic king, Liuvigild, conquered most of the northern regions (Cantabria) in 574, the Suevic kingdom in 585, and regained part of the southern areas lost to the Byzantines, which King Suintila reconquered completely in 624. The kingdom survived until 711, when King Roderic (Rodrigo) was killed while opposing an invasion from the south by the Umayyad Muslims in the Battle of Guadalete on July 19. This marked the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Hispania in which most of the peninsula came under Islamic rule by 718.

A Visigothic nobleman, Pelayo, is credited with beginning the Christian Reconquista of Iberia in 718, when he defeated the Umayyads in battle and established the Kingdom of Asturias in the northern part of the peninsula. Other Visigoths who refused to adopt the Muslim faith or live under their rule, fled north to the kingdom of the Franks, and Visigoths played key roles in the empire of Charlemagne a few generations later. In the early years of the Emirate of Córdoba, a group of Visigoths who remained under Muslim dominance constituted the personal bodyguard of the Emir, the Al-Haras.

During their long reign in Spain, the Visigoths were responsible for the only new cities founded in Western Europe between the 5th and 8th centuries. It is certain (through contemporary Spanish accounts) that they founded four: Reccopolis, Victoriacum (modern Vitoria-Gasteiz, though perhaps Iruña-Veleia), Luceo, and Olite. There is also a possible fifth city ascribed to them by a later Arabic source: Baiyara (perhaps modern Montoro). All of these cities were founded for military purposes and three of them in celebration of victory. Oddly enough, despite that the Visigoths reigned in Spain for upwards of 250 years, there are almost no recognizable remnants of the Gothic language borrowed into Spanish.

VisiGothic Law

The Visigothic Code of Law (forum judicum), which had been part of aristocratic oral tradition, was set in writing in the early 7th century— and survives in two separate codices preserved at the Escorial. It goes into more detail than a modern constitution commonly does and reveals a great deal about Visigothic social structure.

One of the greatest contributions of the Visigoths to family law was their protection of the property rights of married women, which was continued by Spanish law and ultimately evolved into the community property system now in force in part of the United States.

Visigothic Religion

Prior to the Middle Ages, the Visigoths, as well as other Germanic peoples, followed what is now referred to as Germanic paganism. While the Germanic peoples were slowly converted to Christianity by varying means, many elements of the pre-Christian culture and indigenous beliefs remained firmly in place after the conversion process, particularly in the more rural and distant regions.

The Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Vandals were Christianized while they were still outside the bounds of the Roman Empire; however, they converted to Arianism rather than to the Nicean ("Catholic") version followed by most Romans, who considered them heretics. The Visigothic leadership maintained its Arianism up until at least the reign of King Liuvigild.

There was a religious gulf between the Visigoths, who had for a long time adhered to Arianism, and their Catholic subjects in Hispania. The Iberian Visigoths continued to be Arians until 589. There were also deep sectarian splits among the Catholic population of the peninsula. The ascetic Priscillian of Avila was martyred by the Catholic usurper Magnus Maximus in 385, who was trying to prove his correct religious credentials against heretics, before the Visigothic period, and the persecution continued in subsequent generations as "Priscillianist" heretics were rooted out. At the very beginning of Leo I's pontificate, in the years 444–447, Turribius, bishop of Astorga in León, sent to Rome a memorandum warning that Priscillianism was by no means dead, reporting that it numbered even bishops among its supporters, and asking the aid of the Roman See. The distance was insurmountable in the 5th century. Nevertheless, Leo intervened, by forwarding a set of propositions that each bishop was required to sign: all did. But if Priscillianist bishops hesitated to be barred from their sees, a passionately concerned segment of Christian communities in Iberia were disaffected from the more orthodox hierarchy and welcomed the tolerant Arian Visigoths. The Visigoths scorned to interfere among Catholics but were interested in decorum and public order.

When the Visigoths took over Spain, Jews constituted a large and very ancient proportion of the population. Many were farmers, but they worked in a wide range of occupations, and were a major component of the urbanized population of the larger towns particularly of eastern Spain. During the period in which the Visigoths adhered to Arianism, the situation of the Jews seems to have remained relatively good. Previous Roman and Byzantine law determined their status, and it already sharply discriminated against them, but royal jurisdiction was in any case quite limited: local lords and populations related to Jews as they saw fit. We read of rabbis being asked by non-Jews to bless their fields, for example. "Some Jews held ranking posts in the government or the army; others were recruited and organized for garrison service; still others continued to hold senatorial rank." In general, then, they were well respected and well treated.

However, this changed with the conversion of King Reccared to Catholicism in 589. Catholic conversion across Visigothic society reduced much of the friction between their people and the native Spanish population. One chief purpose of this conversion was to unify the realm under the Church, and one of the key complaints of the Church had long been that Jews had too much status, prosperity and influence. Local nobles relied on their Jewish and non-Jewish sectors of the population to enhance the local economy and the noble's independent power. Visigothic political structure had traditionally given extensive powers to local nobles (who even elected their kings), so the king was in many ways merely 'the first amongst equals,' and central authority was weak. The status of the Jews therefore impacted both symbolically and politically on local aristocrats. Almost immediately, therefore, King Reccared convened the first Council of Toledo to "regulate" relations between Christians and Jews. The discriminatory laws passed at this Council seem not to have been well nor universally enforced, however, as indicated by several more Councils of Toledo that were held in subsequent years that repeated these laws, and extended their stringency. These entered canon law and became legal precedents in other parts of Europe as well. The culmination of this process occurred under King Sisibut, in 613, with a decree ordering the forced conversion of all Jews in Spain. However, even this apparently achieved only partial success: similar decrees were repeated with increasing irritation and effect by later kings, as central power was consolidated. These laws either decreed the forcible baptism of the Jews or forbade circumcision, Jewish rites and observance of the Sabbath and festivals. Throughout the 7th century, Jews were flogged, executed, had their property confiscated, were subjected to ruinous taxes, forbidden to trade and, at times, dragged to the baptismal font. Many were obliged to accept Christianity but continued privately to observe the Jewish religion and practices. The decree of 613 set off a century of torment for Spanish Jewry, which was only ended by the Muslim conquest.

The political aspects of the imposition of Church power cannot be ignored in these matters. With the conversion of the Visigothic kings to Chalcedonian Christianity, the bishops increased in power, until, at the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633 AD, they took upon themselves the right that the nobles had previously had to select a king from among the royal family. This was the same synod that declared that all Jews must be baptised.

In the eighth through 11th centuries the muwallad clan of the Banū Qāsī claimed descent from the Visigothic Count Cassius.


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Burns, Thomas (2003). Rome and the Barbarians, 100 B.C.-A.D. 400. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801873065.

Collins, Roger. The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710-797. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1989. Reprinted 1998.

Collins, Roger. Law, Culture, and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain. Great Yarmouth: Variorum, 1992. ISBN 0860783081.

Collins, Roger (1999). Early Medieval Europe, 300-1000. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780333658086.

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Constable, Olivia Remie. "A Muslim-Christian Treaty: The Treaty of Tudmir (713)." In Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, ed. Olivia Remie Constable, 37-38. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.

Constable, Olivia Remie, and Jeremy duQ. Adams. "Visigothic Legislation Concerning the Jews." In Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, ed. Olivia Remie Constable, 21-23. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.

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Historiebloggen: Oium

Oium or Aujum was a name for an area in Scythia, where arguably the Goths under their king Filimer settled after leaving Gothiscandza, according to the Getica by Jordanes, written around 551. Jordanes does not give the etymology, but many scholars interpret this word as a dative plural to the widespread Germanic words *aujō- or *auwō- and means "well-watered meadow" or "island".

According to some historians, Jordanes' account of the Goths' history in Oium was constructed from his reading of earlier classical accounts and from oral tradition. According to other historians, Jordanes narrative has little relation to Cassiodorus, no relation to oral traditions, and little relation to actual history.

Archaeologically, the Chernyakhiv culture (and Sântana de Mureș) contained Ukraine, Moldova, and parts of Romania corresponds with Gothic Scythia.


Jordanes states that king Filimer led the Goths in a search for suitable lands and when they arrived in Oium, they were delighted with the richness of the land. They crossed a bridge to get there, but when half the army had made it across, the bridge fell into ruin, and so no one else could pass into the area anymore. According to Jordanes, the Goths claimed the land for themselves and defeated the previous inhabitants, the Spali.

The Goths left Oium in a second migration to Moesia, Dacia and Thrace, but eventually returned, settling north of the Black Sea. Upon their return, they were divided under two ruling dynasties. The Visigoths were ruled by the Balþi and the Ostrogoths by the Amali. This account fits the patterns of the Wielbark culture and the Chernyakhiv culture/Santana de Mureṣ, which show a Germanic migration from the Vistula Basin to Ukraine.

Merger with Scythian, Dacian, Thracian and Hittite history from classic sources

Jordanes made a number of dubious and/or unverifiable statements regarding the Goths: suggesting that the Getae were Goths "on the testimony of Orosius Paulus"; the Goths were descendents of both Scythians and Thracians and that all three had a shared history; the royal line of the Goths had originated near the Sea of Azov, before moving northward toward Scandia where it established a separate priest-king line on the island of Gotland, and; Tanausis, a "Gothic" king fought Vesosis, the king of Egypt in a battle at the river of Phasis and then pursued the Egyptians all the way back to Egypt. Classical writers used the name Phasis to refer both to the Rioni River in Georgia, and to the Aras River, especially its upper reaches in what is now eastern Turkey.

After Tanausis death, the Goths were said to have embarked on another expedition, and a neighbouring tribe tried to kidnap the Gothic women. However, the women defended themselves and defeated the attackers under the leaders Lampedo and Marpesia. The two leaders cast lots, and Marpesia pursued the enemy into Asia where she conquered many tribes and apparently formed the Amazons.

The story continues with the Gothic (Getic) king Antyrus, also known as Dromihete, being approached by Lisimachus, former general of Alexander the AGreat who wanted to conquer Dacia for its gold and rich land. However Dromihete (Antyrus) defeated and captured Lisimachus. Instead of killing Lisimachus, Dromihete invited Lisimachus and his generals to sit down and eat all together. The meal for Lisimachus and his generals was served in gold plates whilst the meal for Dromihete and his men in wooden plates. When Lisimachus asked why he chose wooden plates, Dromihete answers that this is just to show Lisimachus his generosity for everyone coming as a guest-visitor. By eating from the wooden plates, Dromihete wanted to show that there is nothing of value in Dacia.

At another point in the narrative, Philip II allied with the Goths by marrying Medopa who was the daughter of king Gudila. However, Philip needed gold and wanted to pillage the town of Odessos, a town belonging to the Goths. The Goths sent out their goðis who were dressed in white and played harps, chanting to their gods to help them. This stunned the Macedonians so much that they returned.

According to Jordanes, a king named Sitalces wanted revenge much later, and gathered 150 000 men to attack the Athenians. He fought Perdiccas II, whom Alexander I had left as a ruler, and the Goths laid Greece waste.

When Burebista was king, he had a priest named Decaeneus. He gave the Goths (Getae) (Dacians) laws, named bi-lageineis, taught them logic, philosophy and astrology. Then he selected a priestly elite who was taught theology and named them the Pilleati. The remainder of the Goths (Dacian) were called the Capillati.

Julius Caesar tried to subdue the Goths (Dacians) without success, and the Goths (Dacians) also remained free during the reign of Tiberius.

When Decaeneus was dead, Comosicus took his place, and after Comosicus, Scoryllus ruled the Goths-Getae in Dacia.

A long time passed and the Romans were ruled by Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). Domitian was set to conquer Dacia. As the Goths-Getae (historically, the Dacians) feared his avarice, they broke the truce with the Romans and pillaged the banks of the Danube and killed the soldiers and the generals. At this time Diurpaneus (king Duras-Diurpaneus of Dacia 69–86 or Decebalus who ruled 87-106) was king of the Goths-Getae (today Romania) and Oppius Sabinus was the governor of Moesia (having succeeded Fontejus Agrippa) (69–70). In 85 when Oppius Sabinus tried to conquer Dacians, the Goths (Dacians) beheaded Oppius Sabinus and plundered many Roman cities and fortifications. Domitian arrived with the legions to Illyria and sent Fuscus with a selected force. Fuscus used boats to build a pontoon bridge and crossed the Danube upstream from the Goths. The Gothic army defeated the Romans yet again, killed Fuscus and pillaged the Roman camp (86 AD). Several Romanian and American historians wrote about Jordanes' errors when considering that Getae were Goths.

The Goths' history

After this use of Dacian, Thracian and Scythian history, Jordanes returns to Gothic tradition by reciting the line of descent of the Gothic royal family from Gapt (Gaut or Odin).

This digression is followed by a statement that the Goths entered Moesia and Thrace in the late 2nd century where they stayed for some time. Based on Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, he writes that Emperor Maximinus Thrax (235 AD - 238 AD) was the son of a Goth who arrived at this time and an Alan woman.

Norse mythology

In the Hervarar saga, there is an account of Gothic legendary history and of battles with the Huns, and it may have been composed by Geats in southern Sweden, who have a prominent place in the poetry. The saga conveys names of historical places in Ukraine during the period c. 150-450, and they comprise for instance a form of the name for the Carpathians which most scholars agree is "a relic of extremely ancient tradition". The Goths' capital is called Árheimar and is located on the Danpar (Dnipro). The place name Árheimar has been connected to the name Oium by both Heinzel and Schütte.

In this legend, the Scandinavian Heidrek usurps the Gothic throne in Reidgotaland. Heidrek appears to establish a first contact with the Huns by kidnapping the Hun Princess Sifka, raping her and sending her back to the Huns pregnant with Hlöd. When Heidrek dies in the Carpathians, his son Angantyr succeeds him. However, his second son Hlöd, who had grown up with the Huns, claims his inheritance and attacks with a Hunnish horde comprising 187 200 mounted warriors.

The Goths are aided by the old Geatish king Gizur, and the war ends in an epic battle on the plains of the Danube, when Angantyr slays his brother Hlod.

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Historiebloggen: Ostrogoths Greuthungi

The Ostrogoths (Latin: Ostrogothi or Austrogothi) were a branch of the later Goths (the other major branch being the Visigoths). The Ostrogoths, under Theodoric the Great, established a kingdom in Italy in the late 5th and 6th centuries. The Ostrogoths traced their origins to the Greutungi and a semi-legendary kingdom north of the Black Sea in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Migrating southward from the Baltic Sea, the Ostrogoths, at the time known as the Greuthungi, built up a huge empire stretching from the Dnester to the Dnipro River and from the Black Sea to the Baltic shores. The Ostrogoths were probably literate in the 3rd century, and their trade with the Romans was highly developed. Their Danubian kingdom reached its zenith under King Ermanaric, who is said to have committed suicide at an old age when the Huns attacked his people and subjugated them in about 370.

After their subjugation by the Huns, little is heard of the Ostrogoths for about 80 years, after which they reappear in Pannonia on the middle Danube River as federates of the Romans. However, a pocket remained behind in (west and central) Ukraine and in the Crimea when the bulk of them moved to central Europe, and these Crimean Ostrogoths existed until at least the 16th century. After the collapse of the Hun empire after the Battle of Nedao (453), the Ostrogoths under Theodoric the Great first moved to Moesia (c. 475–488) and later conquered the Italian Kingdom of the German warrior Odoacer. Theodoric became king of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in 493 and died in 526. A period of instability then ensued, tempting the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian to declare war on the Ostrogoths in 535 in an effort to restore the former western provinces of the Roman Empire. Initially, the Byzantines were successful, but under the leadership of Totila, the Goths reconquered most of the lost territory until Totila's death at the Battle of Taginae. The war lasted for almost 20 years and caused enormous damage and depopulation of Italy. The remaining Ostrogoths were absorbed into the Lombards who established a kingdom in Italy in 568.

Divided Goths: Greuthungi and Ostrogothi

Ostrogothic bow-fibulae (c. 500) from Emilia-Romagna, Italy A division of the Goths is first attested in 291. The Tervingi are first attested around that date; the Greuthungi, Vesi, and Ostrogothi are all attested no earlier than 388. The Greuthungi are first named by Ammianus Marcellinus, writing no earlier than 392 and perhaps later than 395, and basing his account on the words of a Tervingian chieftain who is attested as early as 376. The Ostrogoths are first named in a document dated September 392 from Milan. Claudian mentions that they together with the Greuthungi inhabit Phrygia. According to Herwig Wolfram, the primary sources either use the terminology of Tervingi/Greuthungi or Vesi/Ostrogothi and never mix the pairs. All four names were used together, but the pairing was always preserved, as in Gruthungi, Ostrogothi, Tervingi, Vesi. That the Tervingi were the Vesi/Visigothi and the Greuthungi the Ostrogothi is also supported by Jordanes. He identified the Visigothic kings from Alaric I to Alaric II as the heirs of the fourth-century Tervingian king Athanaric and the Ostrogothic kings from Theodoric the Great to Theodahad as the heirs of the Greuthungian king Ermanaric. This interpretation, however, though very common among scholars today, is not universal. According to the Jordanes' Getica, around 400 the Ostrogoths were ruled by Ostrogotha and derived their name from this "father of the Ostrogoths", but modern historians often assume the converse, that Ostrogotha was named after the people.

Both Herwig Wolfram and Thomas Burns conclude that the terms Tervingi and Greuthungi were geographical identifiers used by each tribe to describe the other. This terminology therefore dropped out of use after the Goths were displaced by the Hunnic invasions. In support of this, Wolfram cites Zosimus as referring to a group of "Scythians" north of the Danube who were called "Greuthungi" by the barbarians north of the Ister. Wolfram asserts that it was the Tervingi who remained behind after the Hunnic conquest. He further believes that the terms "Vesi" and "Ostrogothi" were used by the peoples to boastfully describe themselves. On this understanding, the Greuthungi and Ostrogothi were more or less the same people.

The nomenclature of Greuthungi and Tervingi fell out of use shortly after 400. In general, the terminology of a divided Gothic people disappeared gradually after they entered the Roman Empire. The term "Visigoth", however, was an invention of the sixth century. Cassiodorus, a Roman in the service of Theodoric the Great, invented the term Visigothi to match Ostrogothi, which terms he thought of as "western Goths" and "eastern Goths" respectively. The western-eastern division was a simplification and a literary device of sixth-century historians where political realities were more complex. Furthermore, Cassiodorus used the term "Goths" to refer only to the Ostrogoths, whom he served, and reserved the geographical term "Visigoths" for the Gallo-Hispanic Goths. This usage, however, was adopted by the Visigoths themselves in their communications with the Byzantine Empire and was in use in the seventh century.

Other names for the Goths abounded. A "Germanic" Byzantine or Italian author referred to one of the two peoples as the Valagothi, meaning "Roman [walha] Goths". In 484 the Ostrogoths had been called the Valameriaci (men of Valamir) because they followed Theodoric, a descendant of Valamir. This terminology survived in the Byzantine East as late as the reign of Athalaric, who was called του Ουαλεμεριακου (tou Oualemeriakou) by John Malalas.


"Greuthungi" may mean "steppe dwellers" or "people of the pebbly coasts". The root greut- is probably related to the Old English greot, meaning "flat". This is supported by evidence that geographic descriptors were commonly used to distinguish people living north of the Black Sea both before and after Gothic settlement there and by the lack of evidence for an earlier date for the name pair Tervingi-Greuthungi than the late third century.

However, that the name "Greuthungi" has pre-Pontic, possibly Scandinavian, origins has support. It may mean "rock people", (from the Old Norse grjut huningi) to distinguish the Ostrogoths from the Geats (referred as Goths in Scandinavia) from Götaland (Gothland) in southern Sweden. The Roman historian Jordanes refers to an Evagreotingi (Greuthung island) in Scandza, as part of his description of Gothiscandza. It has also been suggested that Greuthungi may be related to certain place names in Poland, but this has met with little support.

"Ostrogothi" means "Goths of (or glorified by) the rising sun". This has been interpreted as "gleaming Goths" or "east Goths". By the 4th century the Ostrogoths had developed a distinct language known as Gothic. Classified by linguists as an east Germanic language, Gothic eventually died out sometime in the Middle Ages as the Visigoths and Ostrogoths were absorbed by other European peoples.


While none of the eastern Germanic languages are still spoken, Gothic is the only one with "continuous texts" remaining. Singularly the most important work amid the surviving Gothic texts is the translation of the Bible by the Visigothic bishop Ulfilas, comprising the earliest remnants of the Germanic languages known. Smatterings of the Gothic language can be found in Italian but its presence is minimal. Gothic was still spoken sporadically in Crimea as late as the 16th and 17th centuries (Crimean Gothic language). Much of the disappearance of the Gothic language is attributable to the Goth's cultural and linguistic absorption by other European peoples during the Middle Ages.


Mentioned in several sources up to the third century AD when they apparently split into at least two groups, the Greuthungi in the east and Tervingi in the west, the two Gothic tribes shared many aspects, especially recognizing a patron deity the Romans named Mars. This so-called "split" or, more appropriately, resettlement of western tribes into the Roman province of Dacia was a natural result of population saturation of the area north of the Black Sea. The Goths in Dacia established a vast and powerful kingdom during the third and fourth centuries between the Danube and the Dniepr in what is now Romania, Moldova and western Ukraine. This was a multi-tribal state ruled by a Gothic elite but inhabited by many other interrelated but multi-tongue tribes including the Iranian-speaking Sarmatians, the Germanic-speaking Gepids, the Thracian-speaking Dacians, other minor Celtic and Thracian tribes and possibly early Slavs. Unfortunately the exact geographical dividing line between the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths is not known but in general terms, the Visigoths occupied Dacia, Moldavia and Walachia, whereas the Ostrogoths lived in the steppe regions beyond the Dniester River.

Hunnic invasions

The rise of the Huns around 370 overwhelmed the Gothic kingdoms. Many of the Goths migrated into Roman territory in the Balkans, while others remained north of the Danube under Hunnic rule. Frequently the Ostrogoths fought alongside both Alans and Huns. It was the Ostrogoths who were first subdued by the Huns. Like other tribal peoples, they became one of the many Hunnic vassals fighting in Europe, as in the Battle of Chalons in 451. Several uprisings against the Huns were suppressed. The collapse of Hunnic power in the 450s led to further violent upheaval in the lands north of the Danube, during which most of the Goths resident in the area migrated to the Balkans. Their rule was marked by turmoil with hostile neighbors all around and the land they acquired between Vindobona (Vienna) and Sirmium (Belgrade) was not well managed, a fact which rendered the Ostrogoths dependent upon Constantinople for subsidies.

Post-Hunnic movements

Their recorded history begins with their independence from the remains of the Hunnic Empire following the death of Attila the Hun in 453. Allied with the former vassal and rival, the Gepids and the Ostrogoths led by Theodemir broke the Hunnic power of Attila's sons in the Battle of Nedao in 454, although the Ostrogoth contribution to the battle's success was minimal.

The Ostrogoths now entered into relations with the Empire, and were settled on lands in Pannonia, becoming foederati (federates) to the Byzantines. During the greater part of the latter half of the 5th century, the East Goths played in south-eastern Europe nearly the same part that the Western Goths (Visigoths) played in the century before. They were seen going to and from, in every conceivable relation of friendship and enmity with the Eastern Roman power, until, just as the West Goths had done before them, they passed from the East to the West.

Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy and the Balkans

The greatest of all Ostrogothic rulers, the future Theodoric the Great (whose Gothic name meant "leader of the people") of Ostrogothic Kingdom, was born to Theodemir in or about 454, soon after the Battle of Nedao. His childhood was spent at Constantinople as a diplomatic hostage, where he was carefully educated. The early part of his life was taken up with various disputes, intrigues and wars within the Byzantine empire, in which he had as his rival Theodoric Strabo, a distant relative of Theodoric the Great and son of Triarius. This older but lesser Theodoric seems to have been the chief, not the king, of that branch of the Ostrogoths that had settled within the Empire earlier. Theodoric the Great, as he is sometimes distinguished, was sometimes the friend, sometimes the enemy, of the Empire. In the former case he was clothed with various Roman titles and offices, as patrician and consul; but in all cases alike he remained the national Ostrogothic king. Theodoric is also known for his attainment of support from the Catholic Church, which he gained by appeasing the Pope in 520. During his reign, Theodoric, who was an Arian, allowed freedom of religion, which had not been done before. However, he did try to appease the Pope and tried to keep his alliance with the church strong. He saw the Pope as an authority not only in the church but also over Rome.

Theodoric sought to revive Roman culture and government and in doing so, profited the Italian people. It was in both characters together that he set out in 488, by commission from the Byzantine emperor Zeno, to recover Italy from Odoacer. By 493 Ravenna was taken, where Theodoric would set up his capital. It was also at this time that Odoacer was killed by Theodoric's own hand. Ostrogothic power was fully established over Italy, Sicily, Dalmatia and the lands to the north of Italy. Around 500, Theodoric celebrated his thirtieth anniversary as King of the Ostrogoths. In order to improve their chances against the Roman Empire the Ostrogoths and Visigoths began again to unite in what became a loose confederation of Germanic peoples. The two branches of the nation were soon brought much more closely together; after he was forced to become regent of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse, the power of Theodoric was practically extended over a large part of Gaul and over nearly the whole of the Iberian peninsula. Theodoric forged alliances with the Visigoths, Alamanni, Franks and Burgundians, some of which were accomplished through diplomatic marriages.

The Ostrogothic dominion was now again as great in extent as and far more splendid than it could have been in the time of Hermanaric; however 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 West Roman emperors. 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. Due to his ability to foster and leverage relations between the various Germanic kingdoms, the Byzantines began to fear Theodoric's power, which led to an alliance between the Byzantine emperor and the Frankish king, Clovis I, a pact designed to counteract and ultimately overthrow the Ostrogoths. In some ways Theodoric may have been overly accommodating to both the Romans and other Gothic people as he placated Catholics and Arian Christians alike. Historian Herwig Wolfram suggests that Theodoric's efforts in trying to appease Latin and barbarian cultures in kind brought about the collapse of Ostrogothic predominance and also resulted in "end of Italy as the heartland of late antiquity." All the years of creating a protective perimeter around Italy were broke down by the Franco-Byzantine coalition. Theodoric was able to temporarily salvage some of his realm with the assistance of the Thuringians. Realizing that the Franks were the most significant threat to the Visigothic empire as well, Alaric II, (who was the son-in-law of Theodoric) enlisted the aide of the Burgundians and fought against the Franks at the urging of the magnates of his tribe, but this choice proved an error and he allegedly met his end at the hand of the Frankish king, Clovis.

A time of confusion followed the death of Alaric II who was slain during the Battle of Vouillé. The Ostrogothic king Theodoric stepped in as the guardian of his grandson Amalaric, and preserved for him all his Iberian and a fragment of his Gaul dominion. Toulouse passed to the Franks but the Goth kept Narbonne and its district and Septimania, which was the last part of Gaul held by the Goths and kept the name of Gothia for many ages. While Theodoric lived, the Visigothic kingdom was practically united to his own dominion. He seems also to have claimed a kind of protectorate over the Germanic powers generally, and indeed to have practically exercised it, except in the case of the Franks. From 508–511 under Theodoric's command, the Ostrogoths marched on Gaul as the Vandal king of Carthage and Clovis made concerted efforts to weaken his hold on the Visigoths. On the death of Theodoric in 526, the eastern and western Goths were once again divided. By the late 6th century, the Ostrogoths lost their political identity and assimilated into other Germanic tribes.

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 policy and culture had great influence on the Goths themselves. The rule of the prince over distinct nations in the same land was necessarily despotic; the old Germanic freedom was necessarily lost. Such a system needed a Theodoric to carry it on. It broke in pieces after his death. Meanwhile, the Frankish king Clovis fought protracted wars against various enemies while consolidating his rule, forming the embryonic stages of what would eventually become Medieval Europe.

War with Byzantium (535–554)

Coin of Theodahad (534-536), minted in Rome. He wears the barbaric moustache. Absent the unifying presence of Theodoric, the Ostrogoths and Visigoths were unable to consolidate their realms despite their common Germanic kinship. The few instances where they acted together after this time are as scattered and incidental as they were before. Amalaric succeeded to the Visigothic kingdom in Iberia and Septimania. Theodoric's grandson Athalaric took on the mantle as king of the Ostrogoths for the next five years. Provence was added to the dominion of the new Ostrogothic king Athalaric and through his daughter Amalasuntha who was named regent.[28] Both were unable to settle disputes among Gothic elites. Theodahad, cousin of Amalasuntha and nephew of Theodoric through his sister, took over and slew them; however the usurping ushered in more bloodshed.

The weakness of the Ostrogothic position in Italy now showed itself. The Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I always strove to restore as much of the Western Roman Empire as he could and certainly would not pass up the opportunity. Launched on both land and sea, Justinian began his war of reconquest.[38] In 535, he commissioned Belisarius to attack the Ostrogoths following the success he had in North Africa against the Vandals.[39] It was Justinian's intention to recover Italy and Rome from the Goths.[40] Belisarius quickly captured Sicily and then crossed into Italy where he captured Naples and Rome in December of 536. Sometime during the spring of 537, the Goths marched on Rome with upwards of 100,000 men under the leadership of Witiges and laid siege to the city, albeit unsuccessfully. Despite having a majority margin of five-to-one, the Goths could not loose Belisarius from the former western capital of the Empire.[41] After recuperating from siege warfare, Belisarius marched north, taking Mediolanum (Milan) and the Ostrogoth capital of Ravenna in 540.

With the attack on Ravenna, Witiges and his men were trapped in the Ostrogothic capital. Belisarius proved more capable at siege warfare than his rival Witiges had been at Rome and the Ostrogoth ruler, who was also dealing with Frankish enemies, was forced to surrender but not without terms. Belisarius refused to grant any concessions save unconditional surrender in lieu of the fact that Justinian wanted to make Witiges a vassal king in Trans-Padane Italy. This condition made for something of an impasse.

Totila razes the walls of Florence: illumination from the Chigi ms of Villani's Cronica. A faction of the Gothic nobility pointed out that their own king Witiges, who had just lost, was something of a weakling and they would need a new one. Eraric, the leader of the group, endorsed Belisarius and the rest of the kingdom agreed, so they offered him their crown. Belisarius was a soldier, not a statesman, and still loyal to Justinian. He made as if to accept the offer, rode to Ravenna to be crowned, and promptly arrested the leaders of the Goths and reclaimed their entire kingdom—no halfway settlements—for the Empire. Fearful that Belisarius might set himself up a permanent kingship should he consolidate his conquests, Justinian recalled him to Constantinople with Witiges in tow.

As soon as Belisarius was gone, the remaining Ostrogoths elected a new king named Totila. Under the brilliant command of Totila, the Goths were able to reassert themselves to a degree. For a period of nearly ten years, control for Italy became a seesaw battle between Byzantine and Ostrogothic forces. Totila eventually recaptured all of northern Italy and even drove the Byzantines out of Rome. The recapturing of the Roman capital by the Goth Totila afforded him the opportunity to take political control of the city, partly achieved by executing the Roman senatorial order. Many of them fled eastwards for Constantinople.

By 550 Justinian was able to put together an enormous force, an assembly designed to recover his losses and subdue any Gothic resistance. In 551, the Roman navy destroyed Totila's fleet and in 552 an overwhelming Byzantine force under Narses entered Italy from the north. Attempting to surprise the invading Byzantines, Totila gambled with his forces at Taginaei, where he was slain. Broken but not yet defeated, the Ostrogoths made one final stand at Campania under a chief named Teia, but when he was also killed in battle at Nuceria they finally capitulated. On surrendering, they informed Narses that evidently "the hand of God was against them" and so they left Italy for the northern lands of their fathers. With that final defeat, the remaining Ostrogoths went back north and (re)settled in south Austria. The Ostrogothic name wholly died. The nation had practically evaporated with Theodoric's death. "The leadership of western Europe therefore passed by default to the Franks. Consequently, Ostrogothic failure and Frankish success were crucial for the development of early medieval Europe", for Theodoric had made it "his intention to restore the vigor of Roman government and Roman culture". The chance of forming a national state in Italy by the union of Roman and Germanic elements, such as those that arose in Gaul, in Iberia, and in parts of Italy under Lombard rule, was thus lost. The failures of the barbarian kingdoms to maintain control of the regions they conquered were partly the result of leadership vacuums like those which resulted from the death of Theodoric (also the lack of male succession) and Totila but additionally as a consequence of political fragmentation amid the Germanic tribes as their loyalties waned between their kin and their erstwhile enemies. Frankish entry onto the geopolitical map of Europe also bears into play as had the Ostrogoths attained more military success against the Byzantines on the battlefield by combining the strength of other Germanic tribes, this could have changed the direction of Frankish loyalty. Military success or defeat and political legitimacy were interrelated in barbarian society.

Ostrogothic Culture

Of Gothic literature in the Gothic language we have the Bible of Ulfilas and some other religious writings and fragments. Of Gothic legislation in Latin we have the edict of Theodoric of the year 500, and the Variae of Cassiodorus may pass as a collection of the state papers of Theodoric and his immediate successors. Among the Visigothic written laws had already been put forth by Euric. Alaric II put forth a Breviarium of Roman law for his Roman subjects; but the great collection of Visigothic laws dates from the later days of the monarchy, being put forth by King Reccaswinth about 654. This code gave occasion to some well-known comments by Montesquieu and Gibbon, and has been discussed by Savigny (Geschichte des romischen 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 Visigothic kings down to Suinthila (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 groundwork of truth. The chief virtues that the Roman 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. This image must have had some basis in truth, but it is not very surprising that the later Visigoths of Iberia had fallen away from Salvian's somewhat idealistic picture.


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