In his book Getica, the Gothic historian Jordanes claimed that the Goths originated in southern Scandinavia, but this is controversial. They are first documented by Roman writers in the 1st century AD as living along the lower Vistula, where they are associated with the Wielbark culture. During the subsequent centuries, the Wielbark culture expanded southwards towards the Black Sea, where it by the late 3rd century AD contributed to the formation of the Chernyakhov culture, which is associated with the Goths. During this time, Goths were in frequent conflict and contact with the Roman Empire. By the 4th century AD at the latest, they had separated into several groups, among whom the Thervingi and Greuthungi were the most powerful.
In the late 4th century, the lands of the Goths were invaded from the east by the Huns. In the aftermath of this event, several groups of Goths fell under Hunnic rule, while others migrated into the Roman Empire, where they inflicted a devestating defeat upon the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. These Goths became known as the Visigoths, and under their king Alaric I they began a long migration, which culminated in them establishing a Visigothic Kingdom with its capital at Toledo. Meanwhile, Goths under Hunnic rule regained their freedom in the 5th century AD, and eventually became known as the Ostrogoths. Under their king Theodoric the Great, these Goths established an Ostrogothic Kingdom at Ravenna.
The Ostrogothic Kingdom was destroyed by the Eastern Roman Empire in the 6th century AD, while the Visigothic Kingdom was conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate in the early 8th century AD. Remnants of Gothic communities in the Crimea, known as the Crimean Goths, lingered on for several centuries, although Goths would eventually cease to exist as a distinct people.
— Henry Bradley, The Story of the Goths (1888)
In the Gothic language of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy, the Goths were called the *Gut-þiuda "Gothic people" (attested as dative singular Gut-þiudai). The simplex variant of this name, *Gutans, or possibly *Gutôs, is inferred from a presumed genitive plural form gutani in the Pietroassa inscription. The Demonym is also attested in Greek as γόθοι, γότθοι, γόθθοι and in Latin as Gothi.
The word "Goths" derives from the stem Gutan-. This stem produces the singular *Gutô, plural *Gutaniz in Proto-Germanic. It survives in the modern Scandinavian tribal name Gutes, which is what the inhabitants of the present-day Swedish island Gotland in Baltic Sea call themselves (In Gutnish - Gutar, in Swedish "Gotlänningar"). Another modern Scandinavian tribal name, Geats (in Swedish "Götar"), which is what the (original) inhabitants of present-day Götaland call themselves, derives from a related Proto-Germanic word, *Gautaz (plural *Gautôz). Both *Gautaz and *Gutô relate to the Proto-Germanic verb *geutaną, meaning "to pour". The Proto-Indo-European root of the word "geutan" and its cognates in other language is *gʰewd-. This same root may be connected to the name of a river that flows through Västergötland in Sweden, the Göta älv, which drains Lake Vänern into the Kattegat at the city of Gothenburg. It is plausible that a flowing river would be given a name that describes it as "pouring", and that, if the original home of the Goths was near that river, they would choose an ethnonym that described them as living by the river. Another possibility is that the name of the "Geats" developed independently from that of the Gutar/Goths.
The Goths and other East Germanic-speaking groups, such as the Vandals and Gepids, lived outside of Germania, and they were never considered Germani by ancient Roman authors, who consistently categorized them among the "Scythians" or other peoples who had historically inhabited the area.
Both the Goths and the Gutes were called Gotar in Old West Norse, and Gutar in Old East Norse (for example in the Gutasaga and in runic inscription on the Rökstone). In contrast, the other tribe, the Geats, were clearly differentiated from the Goths / Gutes. Since Old Norse literature does not distinguish between the Goths and the Gutes, but does clearly distinguish between the Goths or Gutes on the one hand, and the Geats on the other (as does Old English literature), it is plausible that the Goths supposed to have migrated out of Scandinavia were members of the Gutes tribe. The Gotlanders themselves have oral traditions of a mass migration towards southern Europe, recorded in the Gutasaga. If the facts are related, this would be a unique case of a tradition that endured for more than a thousand years and that actually pre-dates most of the major splits in the Germanic language family.
The traditional account of the Goths' early history depends on the work Getica, written by the Goth Jordanes c. 551 AD. Getica is based on an earlier lost work by Cassiodorus, which was in turn based upon an even earlier work by the Gothic historian Ablabius. According to Jordanes the earliest migrating Goths sailed from Scandza (Scandinavia) under King Berig in three ships and named the place Gothiscandza, after themselves. Although the exact location of Gothiscandza is unclear, Jordanes tells us that one shipload "dwelled in the province of Spesis on an island surrounded by the shallow waters of the Vistula." From there, the Goths then moved into an area along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea which was inhabited by the "Ulmerugi" (Rugii), expelled them, and also subdued the neighboring Vandals. Jordanes' account is controversial, and it has not been possible to confirm it archaeologically.
The 5th century Hispano-Roman historian Orosius wrote that the Goths were of the same stock as the Suiones (Swedes), the Vandals, and the other Scandinavian (North Germanic) tribes. Procopius noted that the Goths, Gepids and Vandals were physically and culturally identical, suggesting a common origin. According to Isidore of Seville, the Goths were descended from Gog and Magog, and of the same race as the Getae.
Sometime around the 1st century AD, there may have been a large migration out of Scandinavia. Early archaeological evidence in the traditional Swedish province of Östergötland suggests a general depopulation during this period. However, there is no archaeological evidence for a substantial emigration from Scandinavia, and a Scandinavian origin of the Goths can therefore not be confirmed archaeologically. Frederik Kortlandt has suggested that they originated in continental Europe.
The early Goths are associated with the Wielbark culture. The Swedish archaeologist Anders Kaliff believes that this culture largely developed from earlier cultures in Pomerania. According to the Polish archaeologist Andrzej Kokowski however, it replaced the local Oksywie culture in the 1st century AD, when a Scandinavian settlement developed in a buffer zone between the Oksywie culture and the Przeworsk culture.
Archaeological finds show close contacts between southern Sweden and the Baltic coastal area on the continent, and further towards the south-east, evidenced by pottery, house types and graves. Rather than a massive migration, similarities in the material cultures may be products of long-term regular contacts. However, the archaeological record could indicate that while his work is thought to be unreliable, Jordanes' story was based on an oral tradition with some basis in fact. The settlement in today's Poland may correspond to the introduction of Scandinavian burial traditions, such as the stone circles and the stelae especially common on the island of Gotland and other parts of southern Sweden.
A 2019 genetic study published in Scientific Reports examined the remains of individuals identified with the Wielbark culture and the Goths. Close genetic relations to populations of Iron Age Scandinavia and modern Norwegians and Swedes were detected, The authors of the study cited this as supporting the theory of a Scandinavian origin of the Goths.
In 2019, a genetic study of various cultures of the Eurasian Steppe was published in Current Biology. Samples from three individuals thought to belong to the Gothic component of the Chernyakhov culture were analyzed. The results appeared to confirm the theory that the Chernyakhov culture emerged as a result of a Gothic migration from the north.
Pliny the Elder wrote that Pytheas, an explorer who visited Northern Europe in the 4th century BC, reported that the Gutones, a people of Germania, inhabit the shores of an estuary of at least 6,000 stadia called Mentonomon (i.e., the Baltic Sea), where amber is cast up by the waves. Pliny further notes that the Gutones sold this amber to their neighbors, the Teutones. The account of Pytheas is considered authentic by Winfred P. Lehmann. Strabo connects the Gutones with the Lugians. In an earlier chapter, describing the peoples of Germania, Pliny states that the Gutones, along with the Burgundiones, Varini and Carini, belong to the Vandili. Pliny considers the Vandili one of the five principal "German races", along with the Ingvaeones, Istvaeones, Irminones and the Peucini. The Vandals and Lugians are often equated with one another.
Tacitus wrote that the Gothones and the neighboring Rugii and Lemovii were Germanic peoples who carried round shields and short swords. He writes that the Gothones were "ruled by kings, a little more strictly than the other German tribes". The Gothones of Tacitus are usually treated as the same as the later Goths, although this has been disputed by some.
Beginning in the middle 2nd century, the Wielbark culture shifted to the southeast, towards the Black Sea. The part of the Wielbark culture that moved was the oldest portion, located west of the Vistula and still practicing Scandinavian burial traditions. It has been suggested that the Goths maintained contact with southern Sweden during their migration.
Around 160 AD, in Central Europe, the first movements of the Migration Period were occurring, as several Germanic tribes, such as the Rugii, Goths, Gepids, Vandals and Burgundians, began moving south-east from their ancestral lands, putting pressure on their southern neighboors. As a result, other Germanic tribes were pushed towards the Roman Empire, leading to the Marcomannic Wars. This conflict resulted in widespread destruction and the first invasion of what is now Italy in the Roman Empire period. The source of the turmoil occuring in Germania at the time has been ascribed to population growth.
According to Jordanes, the Goths entered Oium, part of Scythia, under their king Filimer, where they subdued the Spali (Sarmatians). On the Pontic Steppe, the Goths installed themselves as the rulers of the local Zarubintsy culture, forming the new Chernyakhov culture (c. 200 – c. 400). This strikingly uniform culture came to be stretch from the Danube in the west to the Don in the east. The Chernyakhov culture is believed to have been dominated by the Goths and other Germanic groups such as the Heruli. It nevertheless also included Iranian, Dacian, Roman and probably Slavic elements as well.
The first Greek references to the Goths call them Scythians, since this area, known as Scythia, had historically had been occupied by an unrelated people of that name. The application of that designation to the Goths appears to be not ethnological but rather geographical and cultural - Greeks regarded both the ethnic Scythians and the Goths as "barbarians". Upon their arrival on the Pontic Steppe, the Goths quickly adopted several nomadic customs from the Sarmatians, who had dominated the steppes before the appearance of the Goths. They came to excel at horsemanship, archery and falconry, and were also accomplished agriculturalists and seafarers. J. B. Bury describes the Gothic period as "the only non-nomadic episode in the history of the steppe." William H. McNeill compares the migration of the Goths to that of the early Mongols, who migrated southward from the forests and came to dominate the eastern Eurasian steppe around the same time as the Goths in the west.
In the first attested incursion in Thrace, the Goths were mentioned as Boranoi by Zosimus, and then as Boradoi by Gregory Thaumaturgus. The first incursion of the Roman Empire that can be attributed to Goths is the sack of Histria in 238. Several such raids followed in subsequent decades, in particular the Battle of Abrittus in 251, led by Cniva, in which the Roman Emperor Decius was killed. By this time, there were at least two groups of Goths, who were separated by the Dniester River: the Thervingi and the Greuthungi. Goths were at the time heavily recruited into the Roman Army to fight in the Roman-Persian Wars, notably participating at the Battle of Misiche in 242.
The first seaborne raids took place in three subsequent years, probably 255-257. An unsuccessful attack on Pityus was followed in the second year by another, which sacked Pityus and Trabzon and ravaged large areas in the Pontus. In the third year, a much larger force devastated large areas of Bithynia and the Propontis, including the cities of Chalcedon, Nicomedia, Nicaea, Apamea Myrlea, Cius and Bursa. By the end of the raids, the Goths had seized control over Crimea and the Bosporus and captured several cities on the Euxine coast, including Olbia and Tyras, which enabled them to engage in widespread naval activities.
After a 10-year gap, the Goths, along with the Heruli, raiding on 500 ships, sacked Heraclea Pontica, Cyzicus and Byzantium. They were defeated by the Roman navy but managed to escape into the Aegean Sea, where they ravaged the islands of Lemnos and Scyros, broke through Thermopylae and sacked several cities of southern Greece (province of Achaea) including Athens, Corinth, Argos, Olympia and Sparta. Then an Athenian militia, led by the historian Dexippus, pushed the invaders to the north where they were intercepted by the Roman army under Gallienus. He won an important victory near the Nessos (Nestos) river, on the boundary between Macedonia and Thrace, the Dalmatian cavalry of the Roman army earning a reputation as good fighters. Reported barbarian casualties were 3,000 men. Subsequently, the Heruli leader Naulobatus came to terms with the Romans.
After Gallienus was assassinated outside Milan in the summer of 268 in a plot led by high officers in his army, Claudius was proclaimed emperor and headed to Rome to establish his rule. Claudius' immediate concerns were with the Alamanni, who had invaded Raetia and Italy. After he defeated them in the Battle of Lake Benacus, he was finally able to take care of the invasions in the Balkan provinces.
In the meantime, a second and larger sea-borne invasion had started. An enormous coalition consisting of Goths (Greuthungi and Thervingi), Gepids and Peucini, led again by the Heruli, assembled at the mouth of river Tyras (Dniester). The Augustan History and Zosimus claim a total number of 2,000–6,000 ships and 325,000 men. This is probably a gross exaggeration but remains indicative of the scale of the invasion. After failing to storm some towns on the coasts of the western Black Sea and the Danube (Tomi, Marcianopolis), the invaders attacked Byzantium and Chrysopolis. Part of their fleet was wrecked, either because of the Gothic inexperience in sailing through the violent currents of the Propontis or because it was defeated by the Roman navy. Then they entered the Aegean Sea and a detachment ravaged the Aegean islands as far as Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus. The fleet probably also sacked Troy and Ephesus, destroying the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While their main force had constructed siege works and was close to taking the cities of Thessalonica and Cassandreia, it retreated to the Balkan interior at the news that the emperor was advancing.
Learning of the approach of Claudius, the Goths first attempt to directly invade Italy.}} They are engaged near Naissus by a Roman army led by Claudius advancing from the north. The battle most likely took place in 269, and was fiercely contested. Large numbers on both sides were killed but, at the critical point, the Romans tricked the Goths into an ambush by pretended flight. Some 50,000 Goths were allegedly killed or taken captive and their base at Thessalonika destroyed. It seems that Aurelian who was in charge of all Roman cavalry during Claudius' reign, led the decisive attack in the battle. Some survivors were resettled within the empire, while others were incorporated into the Roman army. The battle ensured the survival of the Roman Empire for another two centuries.
In 270, after the death of Claudius, Goths under the leadership of Cannabaudes again launched an invasion on the Roman Empire, but were defeated by Aurelian, who however surrendered Dacia beyond the Danube.
Around 275 the Goths launched a last major assault on Asia Minor, where piracy by Black Sea Goths was causing great trouble in Colchis, Pontus, Cappadocia, Galatia and even Cilicia. They were defeated sometime in 276 by Emperor Marcus Claudius Tacitus.
In the late 3rd century, as recorded by Jordanes, the Gepids, under their king Fastida, utterly defeated the Burgundians, and then attacked the Goths and their king Ostrogotha. Out of this conflict, Ostrogotha and the Goths emerged victorious.
In 332, Constantine helped the Sarmatians to settle on the north banks of the Danube to defend against the Goths' attacks and thereby enforce the Roman border. Around 100,000 Goths were reportedly killed in battle, and Aoric, son of the Thervingian king Ariaric, was captured. Eusebius, an historian who wrote in Greek in the third century, wrote that in 334, Constantine evacuated approximately 300,000 Sarmatians from the north bank of the Danube after a revolt of the Sarmatians' slaves. From 335 to 336, Constantine, continuing his Danube campaign, defeated many Gothic tribes.
Having been driven from the Danube by the Romans, the Thervingi invaded the territoy of the Sarmatians of the Tisza. In this conflict, the Thervingi were led by Vidigoia, "the bravest of the Goths" and were victorious, although Vidigoia was killed. Jordanes states that Aoric was succeeded by Geberic, "a man renowned for his valor and noble birth", who waged war on the Hasdingi Vandals and their king Visimar, forcing them to settle in Pannonia under Roman protection.
Both the Greuthungi and Thervingi became heavily Romanized during the 4th Century. This came about through trade with the Romans, as well as through Gothic membership of a military covenant, which was based in Byzantium and involved pledges of military assistance. Reportedly, 40,000 Goths were brought by Constantine to defend Constantinople in his later reign, and the Palace Guard was thereafter mostly composed of Germanic warriors, as Roman soldiers by this time had largely lost military value. The Goths increasingly became soldiers in the Roman armies in the 4th Century AD leading to a significant Germanization of the Roman Army. Without the recruitment of Germanic warriors in the Roman Army, the Roman Empire would not have survived for as long as it did. Goths who gained prominent positions in the Roman military include Gainas, Tribigild, Fravitta and Aspar. Mardonius, a Gothic eunuch, was the childhood tutor and later adviser of Roman emperor Julian, on whom he had an immense influence.
The Gothic penchant for wearing skins became fashion in Constantinople, which was heavily denounced by conservatives. The 4th century Greek historian Eunapius described the Goths' powerful build in a pejorative way: "Their bodies provoked contempt in all who saw them, for they were far too big and far too heavy for their feet to carry them, and they were pinched in at the waist – just like those insects Aristotle writes of." The 4th century Greek bishop Synesius compared the Goths to wolves among sheep, mocked them for wearing skins and questioned their loyalty towards Rome:
A man in skins leading warriors who wear the chlamys, exchanging his sheepskins for the toga to debate with Roman magistrates and perhaps even sit next to a Roman consul, while law-abiding men sit behind. Then these same men, once they have gone a little way from the senate house, put on their sheepskins again, and when they have rejoined their fellows they mock the toga, saying that they cannot comfortably draw their swords in it.
In the 4th century, Geberic was succeeded by the Greuthungian king Ermanaric, who embarked on a large-scale expansion. Jordanes states that Ermanaric conquered a large number of warlike tribes, including the Heruli (who were led by Alaric), the Aesti and the Vistula Veneti, who, although militarily weak, were very numerous, and took up a strong fight. Jordanes compares the conquests of Ermanaric to those of Alexander the Great, and states that he "ruled all the nations of Scythia and Germany by his own prowess alone." Interpreting Jordanes, Herwig Wolfram estimates that Ermanaric dominated a vast area of the Pontic Steppe stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea as far eastwards as the Ural Mountains. Peter Heather on the other hand, contends that the extent of Ermanaric's power is exaggerated. Ermanaric's possible dominance of the Volga-Don trade routes has made historian Gottfried Schramm consider his realm as a forerunner of the Viking founded state of Kievan Rus'.
According to Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks (The Saga of Hervör and Heidrek), a 13th-century legendary saga, Árheimar was the capital of Reidgotaland, the land of the Goths. The saga states that it was located on the Dnieper river. Jordanes refers to the region as Oium.
In the 360s, Athanaric, son of Aoric and leader of the Thervingi, supported the usurper Procopius against the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens. In retaliation, Valens invaded the territories of Athanaric and defeated him, but was unable to achieve a decisive victory. Athanaric and Valens thereupon negotiated a peace treaty, favorable to the Thervingi, on a boat at the Danube river, as Athanaric refused to set his feet within the Roman Empire. Soon afterwards, Fritigern, a rival of Athanaric, converted to Arianism, gaining the favor of Valens. Athanaric and Fritigern thereafter fought a civil war in which Athanaric appears to have been victorious. Athanaric thereafter carried out a crackdown on Christianity in his realm.
Around 375 AD the Huns overran the Alans, an Iranian people living to the east of the Goths, and then, along with Alans, invaded the Goths themselves. A source for this period is Ammianus Marcellinus. He wrote that Hunnic domination of the Gothic kingdoms in Scythia began in the 370s. It is possible that the Hunnic attack came as a response to the Gothic eastwards expansion.
Upon the suicide of Ermanaric, the Greuthungi gradually fell under Hunnic dominance. Christopher I. Beckwith suggests that the Hunnic thrust into Europe and the Roman Empire was an attempt to subdue independent Goths in the west. The Huns fell upon the Thervingi, and Athanaric sought refuge in the mountains (referred to as Caucaland in the sagas). Ambrose makes a passing reference to Athanaric's royal titles before 376 in his De Spiritu Sancto (On the Holy Ghost)
Battles between the Goths and the Huns are described in the Hlöðskviða (The Battle of the Goths and Huns), a medieval Icelandic saga. The sagas recall that Gizur, king of the Geats, came to the aid of the Goths in an epic conflict with the Huns, although this saga might derive from a later Gothic-Hunnic conflict.
Although the Huns successfully subdued many of the Goths, who joined their ranks, Fritigern approached the Eastern Roman emperor Valens in 376 with a portion of his people and asked to be allowed to settle on the south bank of the Danube. Valens permitted this, and even assisted the Goths in their crossing of the river (probably at the fortress of Durostorum). Upon arrival, the Goths were to be disarmed as according to their agreement with the Romans, although many of them still managed to keep their arms. The Moesogoths settled in Thrace and Moesia.
Mistreated by corrupt local Roman officials, the Gothic refugees were soon experiencing a famine; some are recorded having being forced to sell their children to Roman slave traders in return for rotten dog meat. Enraged by this treachery, Fritigern unleashed a widescale rebellion in Thrace, in which he was joined not only by Gothic refugees and slaves, but also by disgruntled Roman workers and peasants, and Gothic deserters from the Roman Army. The ensuing conflict, known as the Gothic War, lasted for several years. Meanwhile, a group of Greuthungi, led by the chieftains Alatheus and Saphrax, who were co-regents for Vithericus, son and heir of the Greuthungi king Vithimiris, crossed the Danube without Roman permission. The Gothic War culminated in the Battle of Adrianople in 378, in which the Romans were badly defeated and Valens was killed.
Following the decisive Gothic victory at Adrianople, Julius, the magister militum of the Eastern Roman Empire, organized a wholesale massacre of Goths in Asia Minor, Syria and other parts of the Roman East. Fearing rebellion, Julian lured the Goths into the confines of urban streets from which they could not escape and massacred soldiers and civilians alike. As word spread, the Goths rioted throughout the region, and large numbers were killed. Survivors may have settled in Phrygia.
With the rise of Theodosius I in 379, the Romans launched a renewed offensive to subdue Fritigern and his followers. Around the same time, Athanaric arrived in Constantinople, having fled Caucaland through the scheming of Fritigern. Athanaric received a warm reception by Theodosius, praising the Roman Emperor in return, and was awarded a magnificent funeral by the emperor following his death shortly after his arrival. In 382, Theodosius decided to enter peace negotiations with the Thervingi, which were concluded on 3 October 382. The Thervingi were subsequently made foederati of the Romans in Thrace and obliged to provide troops to the Roman army.
In the aftermath of the Hunnic onslaught, two major groups of the Goths would eventually emerge, the Visigoths and Ostrogoths. The Visigoths, led by the Balti dynasty, claimed descend from the Thervingi and lived as foederati inside Roman territory, while the Ostrogoths, led by the Amali dynasty, claimed descent from the Greuthungi and were subjects of the Huns. Procopius interpreted the name Visigoth as "western Goths" and the name Ostrogoth as "eastern Goth", reflecting the geographic distribution of the Gothic realms at that time. A people closely related to the Goths, the Gepids, were also living under Hunnic domination. A smaller group of Goths were the Crimean Goths, who remained in Crimea and maintained their Gothic identity well into the Middle Ages.
Following Theodosius' treaty, Visigoths received prominent positions in the Roman army. Relations with Roman civilians were sometimes uneasy; in 391, Gothic soldiers, with the blessing of Theodosius I, massacred thousands of Roman spectators at the Hippodrome in Thessalonica as vengeance for the lynching of the Gothic general Butheric.
The Visigoths suffered heavy losses while serving Theodosius in the civil war of 394 against Eugenius and Arbogast. In 395, following the death of Theodosius I, the Visigoths elected Alaric I as their king and invaded Greece, where they sacked Piraeus (the port of Athens) and destroyed Corinth, Megara, Argos, and Sparta. Athens was spared by paying a large bribe, and the Eastern emperor Flavius Arcadius subsequently appointed Alaric magister militum (“master of the soldiers”) in Illyricum in 397.
In 401 and 402, Alaric made two attempts at invading Italy, but was defeated by Stilicho. In 405-406, another Gothic leader, Radagaisus, also attempted to invade Italy, but was defeated by Stilicho. In 408, the Western Roman emperor Flavius Honorius ordered the execution of Stilicho and his family, then incited the Roman population to massacre tens of thousands of wives and children of Goths serving in the Roman military. Subsequently, around 30,000 Gothic soldiers defected to Alaric. Alaric in turn invaded Italy, seeking to pressure Honorious into granting him permission to settle his people in North Africa. In Italy Alaric liberated tens of thousands of Gothic slaves, and in 410 he sacked the city of Rome. Although the city's riches were plundered, the civilian inhabitants of the city were treated humanely, and only a few buildings were burned. Alaric died soon afterwards, and was buried along with his treasure in an unfound grave under the Busento river.
Alaric was succeeded by his brother-in-law Athaulf, who was married to Honorius' sister Galla Placidia, who had been seized during Alaric's sack of Rome. Athaulf settled the Visigoths in southern Gaul. After failing to gain recognition from the Romans, Athaulf retreated into Hispania in early 415, and was assassinated in Barcelona shortly afterwards. He was succeeded by Sigeric and then Wallia, who succeeded in having the Visigoths accepted by Honorius as foederati in southern Gaul with their capital at Toulouse. Wallia subsequently inflicted severe defeats upon the Silingi Vandals and the Alans in Hispania. Periodically they marched on Arles, the seat of the praetorian prefect but were always pushed back. In 437 the Visigoths signed a treaty with the Romans which they kept.
Under Theodoric I the Visigoths allied with the Romans and fought Attila to a stalemate in the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, although Theodoric was killed in the battle. Under Euric, the Visigoths established an independent Visigothic Kingdom and succeeded in driving the Suebi out of Hispania proper and back into Galicia. Although the barbarians controlled Spain, they still formed a tiny minority among a much larger Hispano-Roman population, approximately 200,000 out of 6,000,000.
In 507, the Visigoths were pushed out of most of Gaul by the Frankish king Clovis I at the Battle of Vouillé. They were able to retain Narbonensis and Provence after the timely arrival of an Ostrogoth detachment sent by Theodoric the Great. The defeat at Vouillé resulted in their further penetration of Hispania and establishment of a new capital at Toledo.
Under Liuvigild in the latter part of the 6th century, they succeeded in subduing the Suebi in Gallicia and the Byzantines in the south-west, achieving dominance over most of the peninsula. Liuvigild also abolished the law which prevented intermarriage between Hispano-Romans and Goths, and he remained an Arian Christian. The conversion of Reccared I to Roman Catholicism in the late 6th century prompted the assimilation of Goths and Hispano-Romans.
At the end of the 7th century, the Visigothic Kingdom began to suffer from internal troubles. Their kingdom fell and progressively to conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate from 711 after the defeat of their last king Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete. Some nobles found refuge in the mountain areas of the Pyrenees and Cantabria. The Christians began to regain control under the leadership of the Visigothic nobleman Pelagius of Asturias, who founded the Kingdom of Asturias in 718 and defeated the Muslims at the Battle of Covadonga in ca. 722, in what is taken to be the beginning of the Reconquista. It was from the Asturian kingdom that modern Spain and Portugal evolved.
The Visigoths never became completely Romanized, as they became rather 'Hispanicized' and further became widespread over a large territory and body of population. They progressively adopted a new culture, retaining little of their original culture except for practical military customs, some artistic modalities, family traditions such as heroic songs and folklore, as well as select conventions to include Germanic names still in use in present-day Spain. It is these artifacts of the original Visigothic culture that give ample evidence of its contributing foundation for the present regional culture. Portraying themselves heirs of the Visigoths, the subsequent Christian Spanish monarchs declared their responsibility for the Reconquista of Islamic Spain, which was completed with the Fall of Granada in 1492.
Others sought refuge in the Roman Empire, where many of them were recruited into the Roman army. In the spring of 399, Tribigild, a Gothic leader in charge of troops in Nakoleia, rose up in rebellion and defeated the first imperial army sent against him, possibly seeking to emulate Alaric's successes in the west. Gainas, a Goth who along with Stilicho and Eutropius had deposed Rufinus in 395, was sent to suppress Tribigild's rebellion, but instead plotted to use the situation to seize power in the Eastern Roman Empire. This attempt was however thwarted by the pro-Roman Goth Fravitta, and in the aftermath, thousands of Gothic civilians were massacred in Constantinople, many being burned alive in the local Arian church where they had taken shelter. As late as the 6th century Goths were settled as foederati in parts of Asia Minor. Their descendants, who formed the elite Optimatoi regiment, still lived there in the early 8th century.
The Ostrogoths fought together with the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451. Following the death of Attila and the defeat of the Huns at the Battle of Nedao in 454, the Ostrogoths broke away from Hunnic rule under their king Valamir. Under his successor, Theodemir, they utterly defeated the Huns at the Bassianae in 468, and then defeated a coalition of Roman-supported Germanic tribes at the Battle of Bolia in 469, which gained them supremacy in Pannonia.
Theodemir was succeeded by his son Theodoric in 471, who was forced to compete with Theodoric Strabo, leader of the Thracian Goths, for the leadership of his people. Afraid of the threat posed by Theodoric to Constantinople, the Eastern Roman emperor Zeno ordered Theodoric to invade Italy in 488. By 493, Theodoric had conquered all of Italy from the Scirian Odoacer, whom he killed with his own hands. Theodoric subsequently formed the Ostrogothic Kingdom. Theodoric settled his entire people in Italy, estimated at 100,000-200,000, mostly in the northern part of the country, and ruled the country very efficiently. The Goths in Italy constituted a small minority of the population in the country. Intermarriage between Goths and Romans were forbidden, and Romans were also forbidden from carrying arms. Nevertheless, the Roman majority was treated fairly.
The Goths were briefly reunited under one crown in the early 6th century under Theodoric, who became regent of the Visigothic kingdom following the death of Alaric II at the Battle of Vouillé in 507.
Shortly after Theodoric's death, the country was invaded by the Eastern Roman Empire in the Gothic War, which severely devastated and depopulated the Italian peninsula. The Ostrogoths made a brief resurgence under their efficient king Totila, who was however killed at the Battle of Taginae in 552. After the last stand of the Ostrogothic king Teia at the Battle of Mons Lactarius in 553, Ostrogothic resistance ended, and the remaining Goths in Italy were assimilated by the Lombards, another Germanic tribe, who invaded Italy and founded the Kingdom of the Lombards in 567 AD.
Gothic tribes who remained in the lands around the Black Sea, especially in Crimea - were known as the Crimean Goths. During the late 5th and early 6th century, the Crimean Goths had to fight off hordes of Huns who were migrating back eastward after losing control of their European empire. In the 5th century, Theodoric the Great tried to recruit Crimean Goths for his campaigns in Italy, but few showed interest in joining him. They became affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Church through the Metropolitanate of Gothia, and became closely associated with the Byzantine Empire.
In the Middle Ages, the Crimean Goths were in perpetual conflict with the Khazars. John of Gothia, the metropolitan bishop of Doros, capital of the Crimean Goths, briefly expelled the Khazars from Crimea in the late 8th century, and was subsequently canonized as an Eastern Orthodox saint.
In the 10th century, the lands of Crimean Goths were once again raided by the Khazars. As a response, the leaders of the Crimean Goths made an alliance with Sviatoslav I of Kiev, who subsequently waged war upon and utterly destroyed the Khazar Khaganate. In the late Middle Ages the Crimean Goths were part of the Principality of Theodoro, which was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century. As late as the 18th century a small number of people in Crimea may still have spoken Crimean Gothic.<}}
In ancient sources, the Goths are always described as tall and athletic, with light skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. Their physical size became a source of contempt among the Romans. Procopius noted that the Vandals and Gepids looked similar to the Goths, and on this basis, he suggested that they were all of common origin.
A genetic study published in Scientific Reports in 2018 examined the mtDNA of 60 individuals buried at the Wielbark cemetery of Kowalewko in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The majority of the individuals carried types of haplogroup H and U, and notably displayed higher frequencies of U5b (a typically Western Hunter-Gatherer lineage) than preceding and succeeding populations in the area. They were found to be most closely related to Iron Age Scandinavian populations and the Bell Beaker culture. Strong genetic similarities with modern Scandinavians, such as Norwegians and Swedes, were detected. The males and females of Kowalewko were found to be of significantly different origins, with males displaying closer links to Iron Age Scandinavia and carrying higher amounts of steppe ancestry and hunter-gatherer ancestry than the females.
A genetic study published in Scientific Reports in 2019 examined the mtDNA of 27 Goths buried at a Wielbark cemetery in Masłomęcz from the 2nd to the 4th centuries AD. They were found to be mostly carriers of haplogroup H and U. The individuals displayed even closer genetic links to Iron Age Scandinavian populations than those of Kowalewko did. Males and females at Masłomęcz were found to be more closely related to each other than those at Kowalewko were. They also carried fewer samples of U5b, and displayed less strong genetic links to the steppe than earlier Wielbark samples from Kowalewko. The results appeared to support the theory that the Goths originated in southern Scandinavia and expanded southwards through the Wielbark culture towards the Black Sea, where they mixed with local populations and established the Chernyakhov culture.
A genetic study published in Scientific Reports in 2019 examined the mtDNA of three Gothic females from the Chernyakhov culture. They carried haplogroup H1n6, H1c and T2g1 respectively. These individuals were genetically significantly different from previous populations of the area, being distinguished by a higher amount of ancestry from western and northern Europe. The results appeared to confirm the theory that the Chernyakhov culture emerged as a result of a Gothic migration from the north.
Before the invasion of the Huns, the Gothic Chernyakhov culture produced jewelry, vessels, and decorative objects in a style much influenced by Greek and Roman craftsmen. They developed a polychrome style of gold work, using wrought cells or setting to encrust gemstones into their gold objects.
The Gothic language is the Germanic language with the earliest attestation,f from the 300s, making it a language of interest in comparative linguistics. All other East Germanic languages are known, if at all, from proper names or short phrases that survived in historical accounts, and from loan-words in other languages. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a translation of the Bible. The language was in decline by the mid-500s, due to the military victory of the Franks, the elimination of the Goths in Italy, and geographic isolation. In Spain the language lost its last and probably already declining function as a church language when the Visigoths converted to Catholicism in 589. The language survived as a domestic language in the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) as late as the 8th century, and Frankish author Walafrid Strabo wrote that it was still spoken in the lower Danube area in the early 9th century.
In pockets of Crimea, a related dialect known as Crimean Gothic survived up until the early modern period, and the 4th-century Bible translation was in use there until at least the ninth century.
Archaeological evidence in Visigothic cemeteries shows that social stratification was analogous to that of the village of Sabbas the Goth. The majority of villagers were common peasants. Paupers were buried with funeral rites, unlike slaves. In a village of 50 to 100 people, there were four or five elite couples. In Eastern Europe, houses include sunken-floored dwellings, surface dwellings, and stall-houses. The largest known settlement is the Criuleni District. Chernyakhov cemeteries feature both cremation and inhumation burials; among the latter the head is to the north. Some graves were left empty. Grave goods often include pottery, bone combs, and iron tools, but hardly ever weapons.
Archaeology shows that the Visigoths, unlike the Ostrogoths, were predominantly farmers. They sowed wheat, barley, rye, and flax. They also raised pigs, poultry, and goats. Horses and donkeys were raised as working animals and fed with hay. Sheep were raised for their wool, which they fashioned into clothing. Archaeology indicates they were skilled potters and blacksmiths. When peace treaties were negotiated with the Romans, the Goths demanded free trade. Imports from Rome included wine and cooking-oil.
Roman writers note that the Goths neither claimed taxes from their own nor their subjects. The early 5th century Christian writer Salvian compared the Goths' and related people's favourable treatment of the poor to the miserable state of peasants in Roman Gaul:
For in the Gothic country the barbarians are so far from tolerating this sort of oppression that not even Romans who live among them have to bear it. Hence all the Romans in that region have but one desire, that they may never have to return to the Roman jurisdiction. It is the unanimous prayer of the Roman people in that district that they may be permitted to continue to lead their present life among the barbarians.
Initially practising Gothic paganism, the Goths were gradually converted to Arianism in the course of the 4th Century as a result of the missionary activity by the Gothic bishop Ulfilas, who devised a Gothic alphabet to write the Gothic Bible.
The Visigothic Kingdom in Hispania converted to Roman Catholicism in the late 6th Century.
The Ostrogoths (and their remnants, the Crimean Goths) were closely connected to the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the 5th Century, and became fully incorporated under the Metropolitanate of Gothia from the 9th Century.
The Goths' relationship with Sweden became an important part of Swedish nationalism, and until the 19th Century, before the Gothic origin had been thoroughly researched by archaeologists, Swedish scholars considered Swedes to be the direct descendants of the Goths. Today, scholars identify this as a cultural movement called Gothicismus, which included an enthusiasm for things Old Norse.
In Medieval and Modern Spain, the Visigoths were believed to be the origin of the Spanish nobility (compare Gobineau for a similar French idea). By the early 7th Century, the ethnic distinction between Visigoths and Hispano-Romans had all but disappeared, but recognition of a Gothic origin, e.g. on gravestones, still survived among the nobility. The 7th century Visigothic aristocracy saw itself as bearers of a particular Gothic consciousness and as guardians of old traditions such as Germanic namegiving; probably these traditions were on the whole restricted to the family sphere (Hispano-Roman nobles did service for Visigothic nobles already in the 5th century and the two branches of Spanish aristocracy had fully adopted similar customs two centuries later).
Beginning in 1278, when Magnus III of Sweden ascended to the throne, a reference to Gothic origins was included in the title of the King of Sweden:
We N.N. by the Grace of God King of the Swedes, the Goths and the Vends.
The Spanish and Swedish claims of Gothic origins led to a clash at the Council of Basel in 1434. Before the assembled cardinals and delegations could engage in theological discussion, they had to decide how to sit during the proceedings. The delegations from the more prominent nations argued that they should sit closest to the Pope, and there were also disputes over who were to have the finest chairs and who were to have their chairs on mats. In some cases, they compromised so that some would have half a chair leg on the rim of a mat. In this conflict, Nicolaus Ragvaldi, bishop of the Diocese of Växjö, claimed that the Swedes were the descendants of the great Goths, and that the people of Västergötland (Westrogothia in Latin) were the Visigoths and the people of Östergötland (Ostrogothia in Latin) were the Ostrogoths. The Spanish delegation retorted that it was only the "lazy" and "unenterprising" Goths who had remained in Sweden, whereas the "heroic" Goths had left Sweden, invaded the Roman empire and settled in Spain.
In Spain, a man acting with arrogance would be said to be "haciéndose los godos" ("making himself to act like the Goths"). In Chile, Argentina and the Canary Islands, godo was an ethnic slur used against European Spaniards, who in the early colony period often felt superior to the people born locally (criollos).
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