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Goths

This article is about the Germanic tribes. For the late 20th century youth subculture see Goth.


The Goths were eastern Germanic tribes, who lived between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. They seem to have crossed the Baltic Sea sometime before 100 B.C. and ultimately settled in the region of modern Ukraine and Belarus. A united tribe until the third century, it was during that period that they split into the eastern Goths or Ostrogoths and the western Goths or Visigoths.

A force of Goths launched one of the first major barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire in 267. A year later, they suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Naissus and were driven back across the Danube River by 271. This group then settled on the other side of the Danube from Roman territory and established an independent kingdom centered on the abandoned Roman province of Dacia, as the Visigoths. In the meantime, the Goths still in the Ukraine established a vast and powerful kingdom along the Black Sea. This group became known as the Ostrogoths.

The Goths were briefly reunited under one crown in the early sixth century under the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great, who became regent of the Visigothic kingdom for nearly two decades.

The question of where the Goths came from is a major historical and philological puzzle. The earliest evidence for the Goths puts them in Poland in the 2nd-century AD, with a consequent rapid movement to the Black Sea area. Jordanes, a Romanized 6th century Goth, reported their origin according to Gothic tradition and legend to be in Scandinavia - or at least that's how he is used to be interpreted.

The reconstructed root *Gut- is identical to that of Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea. There are interesting correspondences between Gothic and Gutnish (the Swedish dialect of Gotland) such as "lamb" being the generic name for sheep.

It is a matter of dispute whether the Geats, a people living in the Geatish lands in Sweden, did satisfy this alleged connection. The word "Geats" (Anglo-Saxon Geatas) and the Swedish word "Götar" (East Norse Gøtar) both represent the expected outcome of proto-Germanic *Gauta-. This is different from the reconstructed root *Gut- which seems to be the origin of "Goth," which appears earliest in forms such as "Gutthones" in Greek ethnography. Philologists have reconstructed *Gut-þiuda, the "Gothic people," as a likely original form of the name. Another candidate is the Jutes, whose name could represent *Giuta-, which could be a related form.

See also: Gothic language, Gothic alphabet, Visigoth, Ostrogoth, Gothic architecture



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