« PreviousContinue »
of Bohemia, and subdued or brought into their alliance all the neighbouring clans. It appears from expressions of Tacitus and Strabo, which have been compared by Luden and Voigt, that various German tribes entered into the confederacy of Maroboduus. Strabo says that he made himself supreme chieftain over the Lugii, a great and numerous people, and the Zumi, the Butones, or rather the Gutones, the Mugilones and Sibini, and the Semnones, a principal division of the Suevi.* A revolt at length took place, and a warrior of the Gothones at the head of the rebelling tribes overturned the power of Maroboduus. At this time we are assured that numerous bands from the north forced themselves upon the kingdom of the Marcomanni. In the time of Domitian the war of the Marcomanni with the Romans commenced. Sarmatian, Lygian tribes, Roxolani, Costoboces, and Bastarnæ joined in hordes in supporting the cause of the Marcomanni. The contest continued for ten years after its termination great changes appear to have taken place in the local position of many tribes. The most important of these was, as M. Voigt has observed, an advance of the Venedi from their position further eastward into the tracts previously occupied by the Gothones, who appear either to have been drawn towards the south in the warlike movements which accompanied that contest, or to have been driven out of their country by the Venedi. Ptolemy recognises no other inhabitants of the sea-coast, from the mouth of the Vistula towards Samland and the Kurisch-Haff, than Venedi. During the same period we discover various traces of a movement towards the east among the northern tribes. In the reign of Domitian Suevic hordes in alliance with Sarmatian Jazyges passed the Danube,§ and in the same direction we find the great body of the Gothic nation moving under the kings whose exploits are recorded by Jornandes.
* Strabo, lib. vii. p. 290.
"Victovalis et Marcomannis cuncta turbantibus, aliis etiam gentibus quæ pulsæ a superioribus gentibus, nisi reciperentur, bellum inferentibus." (Capitolin. M. Anton. Philos. c. 14. Zeuss, ubi supra.)
The former supposition is supported by the fact that when the Wends and Obotrites entered the country in the north of Germany, which they long possessed. they found it, according to Helmoldus their historian, destitute of inhabitants. (See Helmold. Chron. Slavorum.)
§ Sueton. Domit.-Voigt, lxiii.
Ptolemy is the latest writer who mentions the Goths on the banks of the Vistula: in the second half of the second century they appear to have advanced to the banks of the Danube and the shores of the Euxine. An account of their progress is only to be found in their own history, which was collected by Cassiodorus and Jornandes in the fifth century, partly from the earlier writings of the Gothic historians Ablavius and Dexippus.
Paragraph 3.-History of the Goths from their own writers.
"In the furthest North," says Jornandes, on the authority of ancient sagas, "hostile tribes long divided the island of Scanzia" or Scandinavia, "a region extending to the limit of the habitable globe, where in the winter a gloomy night covers the earth with darkness during forty days, and in the summer the sun remains above the horizon for an equal time. The Suethones dwell nearest to us, who with swift horses chase the few wild animals of their woods, and transport their valuable skins through a hundred different nations to us in Italy. In the same part of the world, continues the historian, dwell the gentle race of Finns, and in an adjoining country the Danes, a nation of great stature. "Ex hâc Scanziæ insula quasi officina gentium aut certe vagina nationum, cum rege suo, nomine Berich Gothi quondam memorantur egressi: qui ut primum è navibus exeuntes, terras attigere, ilico nomen loco dederunt, nam hodie ut fertur Gothiscanzia vocatur."* Hence they advanced and settled in the country of the Ulmerugians, who dwelt on the shore of the ocean, namely, of the Baltic: they expelled those people, and conquered the neighbouring tribe of Vandals. Here their multitude having greatly increased, they proceeded, under their king Filimer, the fifth in descent from Berich, "ad Scythiæ terras quæ linguâ eorum Ovin vocabantur." Into this country a part of the Gothic host obtained entrance by passing over a river, and they made their way victoriously "ad extremam Scythiæ partem, quæ Pontico mari vicina est." All these accounts, says Jornandes, are related "in priscis. eorum carminibus, pæne historico ritu," and they are at
It is evident that Jornandes had here in his recollection the very style and manner of the Roman legend of the landing of Eneas. At the same time he had some local knowledge of the Baltic and the coast of the Guttones.
tested by Ablavius, an excellent annalist of the Gothic nation, in his most veracious history." He then describes the country to which he affixed the name of Scythia, and makes the Vistula its western, and the Danube its southern boundary. "In the first part of Scythia, near the Mæotis, dwelt king Filimer; in the second, which included Dacia, Thrace, and Moesia, Zamolxis." Here the story of the Getæ from Herodotus is introduced, proving how prevalent, even among the Goths, had become the notion that they were to be identified with the ancient Getæ. A third seat of the Goths was on the Pontic Sea. Here they became more civilised, and lived in separate families; the Ostrogoths in the east, governed by the royal race of Amali, and the Wesegoths by the illustrious Balthi. He goes on to relate that in the reign of the emperor Philip the Goths, under a king Ostrogotha, passed the Danube and invaded Mosia and Thrace, and again, in the reign of Claudius, besieged even Marcianopolis. Then follows a relation, which is important, as it connects the origin of the Gepidi with that of the Goths, and also throws light on the history of another German tribe. "How the Getæ, that is the Goths, are related, I will satisfy you in a few words: you may remember that I declared in the beginning the departure of the Goths with their king Berich from the bosom of the isle of Scanzia: they passed to the hither shore of the ocean in three ships, one of which by slowly sailing,—' pigra' being expressed in Gothic by the word 'gepanta,'-gave name to the tribe of the Gepidi: "Quod nec ipsum credo falsissimum, sunt enim tardioris ingenii." These Gepidi, "tacti invidiâ, commanebant in insulà Visclæ amnis vadis circumactâ. Nunc eam ut fertur gens Viridaria incolit. Ergo Gepidarum rex Fastida patrios fines per arma dilatavit: Burgundiones pære ad internecionem delevit." Jornandes goes on to relate that Fastida king of the Gepida made war with Ostrogotha, who was sovereign both of the Ostrogoths and Wesegoths, notwithstanding the nearness "in blood" of the Goths and Gepida.
There is no reason to doubt that the outline of this history is true, so far as it relates to the descent of the Goths from the shore of the Baltic to that of the Euxine; the previous part of the relation, that of the voyage of the Goths across the sea from Scandinavia, "the foundery or the sheath of nations," is
a legend similar to Bede's story of the descent of the Picts in long ships from Scythia. It is, however, remarkable that a corresponding saga was recorded in the memory of other nations of northern Germany.
The Goths, after their arrival on the shores of the Pontus, spread themselves from the banks of the Don to the mouth of the Danube, and reached from the Euxine to the Carpathian hills. Here they are distinguished at first by two names descriptive of the abodes of particular hordes. In the sandy steppes towards the east lived the tribes called Greutungi,* and in the forests towards the west the Tervingi,† and these names are nearly coextensive with those of Ostrogothi and Wesegothi, or Eastern and Western Goths, afterwards adopted. On the extension of these tribes and their local relations to each other notices may be collected from Ammianus. Near the Dniester or Tyras, the valley of which was termed "Vallis Greutungorum," Athanaric the Wesegoth or Westgoth, styled "Thervingorum judex," stationed himself to defend his country. This river separated the two divisions of the Gothic nation. Ammianus terms the inhabitants of the banks of the Tanais, "Greuthungis confines."§ These Tanaites were the Alani, who dwelt on the Tanais till the invasion of the Hunns they were neighbours of the Goths on the eastern side, and between them and the river Don. Towards the north-west the Goths bordered on various German tribes, for contests are mentioned between them and the Burgundiones, Vandals, and the Gepida.||
Ammianus, who is the most instructive writer on the history of the Goths, has given a brief account of their first invasion of the Roman empire in a passage, of which the following is a translation: "Great bodies of the Scythian nations (he means the Goths from Scythia) having broken through the
• More accurately Griutingi (Griutingos), from the Gothic word Gruit. Tervingi, rather Triuingi, from triu, tree. The name of the Gruthungi occurs in the poems of Claudian:
"Ausi Danubium quondam tranare Gruthungi
In lintres fregêre nemus." (De iv. Cons. Honor.) + Pollio. Claud. vi. Zeuss, 407. § Ibid.
Ammian. xxxi. 3.
|| Mamertin. Paneg. c. xvii. Zeuss, p. 410.
Bosporus and passed to the shores of the Propontis in two thousand ships, made a dreadful slaughter by land and sea, but at length returned after losing the greatest part of their numbers. The emperors Decius, father and son, fell in battle against the barbarians. They laid siege to the cities of Pamphylia, depopulated many islands, traversed Macedonia with fire and sword: the whole multitude sat down before Thessalonica for a long time, as well as before Cyzicus." Here follows an account of several victories. "These foreign enemies wandered at leisure through Epirus and Thessaly and all Greece; but after Claudius, who was a successful general, had been declared emperor and carried off by a premature but glorious death, the barbarians were expelled by the activity and severe revenge of Aurelian, and remained for ages in quiet, except that plundering bodies now and then made incursions on the neighbouring countries, for which they were generally punished.'
It was in the reign of Valens at Byzantium, and in the 110th year of the great Gothic emperor Hermanrich, that the Hunns passing by a ford over the Mæotic morass, overwhelmed the Scythian empire of the Goths. The consequent events in their history; their occupation of Mosia, where they were converted by Ulphilas, and where their language was fortunately preserved; the establishment of the Visigoths in Gaul and Spain, and the Ostrogoths in Italy, are events well known.
The Gepidæ, a people of the same origin as the Goths and a part of the same race, are frequently mentioned as associated with the Ostrogoths; and the Taifali, whom Ammianus terms "gentem turpem ac obscœnæ vitæ flagitiis mersam,"† were in like manner allies and dependants of the Visigoths. The Bastarnæ and Peucini, German tribes who were situated to the southward of the old country of the Gothones, and preceded them in their march southward towards the Euxine, seem to have been swallowed up in the greater mass of the Gothic body.§
Notwithstanding the proverbial expression of Gothic barbarism, it is certain that the Goths were a people susceptible
Ammian. Marcell. xxxi. 5. Zeuss, 406.
† Ammian. xxxi. 9.
§ Zeuss, 442.