13. The Goths II
15. Danes, Heruls, Angles and Jutes
|1. Goths in Spain||2. The Goths' Religion|
|3. The Goths' Society||4. The Last Goths|
King of the Western Goths Alaric 2. - of present-day Spain and southern France -
fell at the Battle of the Vougle south of Poitiers in 507 AD. Almost all the territories of the Goths in Gaul were lost to the Franks. The king's men brought his five-year-old son, Amalaric, across the Pyrenees to Spain. However, thanks to the alliance with Theoderic the Great in Italy, the Western Goths retained a narrow strip of land in Gaul along the French Mediterranean coast. Theoderic the Great became guardian of the young Amalaric, but in practice his general, Theudis, ruled the land of the Western Goths as a king.
There is not much that testifies to the Goths in modern Spain. There are some golden crowns and crosses but also four churches, two of which are in present Portugal and two in Spain. This is San Pedro de la Nave church in Zamora west of Valladolid - Los Godos Encuentro Ediciones.
When Theoderik died in 526 AD Amalarik was 24 years old. He was recognized as the ruler of all Goths west of the Rhone, and the Western Goths royal treasure was sent from Ravenna to Narbonne, where the young king had his court.
Amalaric managed to be married to the Frankish princess Clotilda, and thus he had neutralized the Franks, his dangerous northern neighbors - he thought. But Clotilda was a devout Catholic, and prior to the wedding, she had managed to secure that she was allowed to keep her own religion among the Arian Goths. This promise, however, was broken, and Clotilda sent her bloodstained scarf to her brother, King Hildebert of Paris, indicating that she had been wronged.
Before long, a strong Frankish army was marching towards Narbonne. The Goths were defeated and fled to Spain. The capital Narbonne was taken, and Hildebert returned home to Paris enriched with the loot from the Aryan churches. By order of Theudis, King Amalaric was killed in a church in Barcelona, and the people then elected Theudis as their king.
The royal line of the Western Goths - Spellings and exact years may differ from other sources. Fellow-kings are not included.
At the instigation of King Hildibad, who was Gothic king of Italy, King Theudis around 540 AD led an army to Africa to attack the cities, which Belisarius had captured from the Vandals. However, the Goths were repulsed with heavy losses and their king escaped barely alive.
The Franks attacked the Goths in Spain again around 548 AD where they besieged Caesaraugusta, now called Saragossa. However, they were somehow defeated. The Goths catched up with the fleeing Franks at the foot of the Pyrenees, and the Frankish army would have been completely wiped out if not its generals had bribed the Gothic general with a large sum of money to be allowed to escape back to France through a mountain pass.
Shortly after these events, Theudis was murdered in his palace of one of his own soldiers. The dying king expressed remorse for his share in the murder of Amalaric.
The Goths then elected Theudigisel as their new king. He was the general who had led them to victory over the Franks. However, he turned out to be a tyrant, and the Goths cheered when he was killed by one of his guests at a banquet in the palace after only 18 months on the throne.
Then the northern provinces chose Agila as king, but he was not recognized by the south of Spain. The southern rebellion was led by Athanagild that appealed to Constantinople for help. The emperor did not hesitate to send a strong army led by the general Patrician Liberius. The civil war lasted five years until Agila was killed by his own soldiers, and Athanagild became only king.
Athanagild reign lasted 14 years that would have been peaceful, had it not been for the wars with the dangerous allies, which he himself had invited to the country. The Emperor's soldiers occupied many cities in Spain, and the Goths found it impossible to chase them out.
As several other Gothic kings, Athanagild sought security against his strong Frankish neighbors through marital relations. His youngest daughter Brunihilde married King Sigebert of the Eastern Franks. His brother, Chilperik, king of the North Western Franks, proposed to Athanagilds eldest daughter, Geleswintha. Despite her tears and prayers, she was forced by her parents to accept the suitor. Both princesses converted to the Catholic faith of their husbands.
After a short time, Chilperik's love for his queen was cooled due to his acquaintance with a woman named Fredegunda, and he had Geleswintha killed. Brunihild spurred her husband to avenge the murder of her sister.
In the war between the two Frankish kingdoms, Sigebert fell, and Brunihild then had a long and stormy reign as widow-queen. She was a woman of great energy and strong will, a great ruler, but tyrannical and unscrupulous. It was said that ten kings and queens lost their lives in the intrigues she created. Eventually, she lost power to her enemy Fredegunda, who had her tied up behind a horse and dragged over the ground until she died. Then her torn corpse was thrown into the fire.
Ruin of Gothic basilica in Recopolis at Zorita de los Canes in Guadaljara about 60 km
east of Madrid - John of Biclar wrote: "King Leovigild returned home after everywhere having destroyed the usurpers and destroyers of Spain to try to rest with his own people, and he built a city in Celtiberia, which was named Reccopolis after his son" (Reccared) - Los Godos Encuentro Ediciones.
The sisters' father, Athanagild, died in 567 AD. in Toledo, unaware of the fate of his eldest daughter, loved by the people, and respected by foreign nations. He was the first king of the Western Goths, since Eurik, who died a natural death.
Learned from painful experiences of civil war, the Goths now peacefully chose a certain Leuva as the new king. He preferred to stay in his hometown of Narbonne on the present French Mediterranean coast and left the actual government in Spain to his brother, Leovigild, who after a few years was elected king.
Column heads in the Gothic church of San Pedro de la Nave at Zamora west of Valladolid.
Top: Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac.
Bottom left: Daniel in the lions' den.
Bottom right: A face.
Leovigild was one of the great kings of the Goths. He was a skilled general who subdued the Suebi, who still lived in the northwestern part of Spain. He deprived the emperor's soldiers of several of the cities they still held. He built fortresses, founded cities, and gave new laws.
But Leovigild is best known because he tragically killed his own son, Ermengild.
The prince married a Frankish princess, Ingunthis, who was the daughter of Sigebert and Brunihild. As a Frankish princess, she was, of course, a Catholic. However, Leovigild's queen, Goiswintha, was an avid Aryan and pressured the young princess by many means to convert to the Aryan faith. For the sake of peace, the king sent the young couple to southern Spain, which Ermengild was assigned to rule on behalf of the king.
Gothic Spain at Leovigilds death 586 e.Ke. The green areas represent areas occupied by
the Byzantine army, which Athanagild had invited to the country. The Suebi kingdom existed no longer, and also the Basques were subject to the Gothic rule, even though they often rebelled. - From spainthenandnow.com
Not long after, Hermengild was persuaded by his wife and his uncle Leander, who was
Catholic bishop of Seville, to leave his ancestral faith and convert to the
catholic faith. Thereafter he made common cause with the remains of the imperial army and took charge of a rebellion against his heretic father.
By appealing and persuasion, the king sought to bring his favorite son to his senses, but Ermengild refused to listen. Eventually the king had to mobilize the army, and before long he had surrounded the last rebels in Seville. The siege lasted for two years and thousands of inhabitants starved to death. King Leovigild found his son in a church. The son begged his father for mercy, and he burst into tears and hugged his son in his arms. The king asked him to stay in Valencia as a private person and stay out of politics, which he promised to do.
But not one year had passed before King Leovigild heard that his son had broken his promise and was on his way to the Frankish kingdom. He had left his wife to the imperial officers from Constantinople; and it seems to have been his intention to get the Franks to help him in yet another attempt to depose his father.
He was captured by the king's men in Tarragona south of Barcelona and thrown into a dungeon. Messengers from his father, the king, repeatedly promised him freedom and rehabilitation if only he would give up his new faith. But Ermengild scornfully rejected all appeals, calling the Aryan bishop the devil's servant. King Leovigild then ordered that his son to be killed. An executioner was sent to prison and the prince was killed with a blow of an axe without prior trial.
Ermengild was elevated to martyr and saint of the Catholic Church on April 13. 586 AD - Painted by Francisco de Herrera in 1654.
When Leovigild died, he was succeeded by his second son, Reccared, who already had qualified as an able general, and who had triumphed over the Franks. He showed wisdom and energy as a ruler.
Reccared saw clearly that the Goths would pull the short straw in the struggle against the growing power of the Catholic Church. He decided to convert to the Catholic faith and encourage the Goths to follow his example. Thereby the Goths would have the same religion as the vast majority of their subjects. Reccared saw clearly that the Goths would draw the short straw in the confrontation with the Catholic Church's growing power. He decided to convert to the Catholic faith and encourage the Goths to follow his example. The Goths would then get the same religion as the great majority of their subjects.
He convened bishops from both churches, urging them to have a public discussion in which they argued for their respective faiths. He was eager to know the truth, he said. Scholars on both sides unleashed all their eloquence, and when the discussion was over, the king proclaimed his conviction that the Catholic faith was the right one because it was supported by overwhelming evidence from Scripture and many miracles. Not only Gothic lay people but also clergy, including many bishops, quickly followed the king's example. He called together bishops from both churches and urged them to lead a public discussion in which they argued for their respective faith. He was eager to know the truth, he said. Scholars on both sides unfolded all their oratorical skills, and when the discussion was finished, the king proclaimed his conviction that the Catholic faith was the right one, because it was backed by overwhelming evidence from Scripture and many miracles. Not only Gothic laymen but even clerics, including many bishops, quickly followed the king's example.
During Reccared's reign, the Frankish king Guntram once again tried to conquer the Gothic territories of southern Gaul. A huge army invaded the province of Narbonnese and began a siege of the city of Carcassonne. But Reccared's general, Claudius, inflicted a crushing defeat on the Franks. It was the last time the Franks tried to attack the Gothic territory of southern Gaul, and the Gothic Empire remained as before.
Reccared died of disease in the year 601 AD. and the Goths then chose his young son Leuva as the new king. However, he ruled for only two years until a nobleman named Witerik overthrew him and got himself elected king. Leuva had her right hand chopped off and soon died in prison.
It is said that Witerik wanted to reintroduce the Aryan religion. He reigned for 7 years until he was killed at a banquet in the year 610 AD and then buried in unconsecrated soil. His successor, Gundemar, ruled for only two uneventful years. It is said that Witerik wanted to reintroduce the Arian religion. He reigned for seven years, until he was killed at a banquet in the year 610 AD and then buried in unconsecrated soil. His successor, Gundemar, ruled for only two uneventful years.
Reccared's conversion to Catholicism. Painted by Mutoz Degrain exhibited in Senate Palace in Madrid.
Then Sisebut was elected king in 612 AD. In his time, almost all the remaining Greeks from Constantinople were forced to give up their possessions in Spain.
The Goths had already sold the Greeks as slaves, but King Sisebut bought them free for his own money.
He was the first Gothic king to persecute the Jews. "Baptism within a year or flogging, exile and confiscation of goods," such was the choice that Sisebut asked the Jews to face. Thousands of Jews pretended to accept the gospel. Until then, the Jews had supported the Goths, as both groups stood in a certain antagonism to the Catholic majority, but the forced conversions under Sisebut turned them into enemies, and when the kingdom was later invaded by Muslims, they eagerly supported invaders.
When Sisebut died in 621 AD his general Swinthila was elected king. He was the first king to rule over the entire Iberian Peninsula. The Greeks of Constantinople, whose territory Sisebut had confined to a small strip of land, became under Swinthila subjects of the Gothic kingdom, and their soldiers served in the Gothic armies. The rebellious Basques were brought to complete submission. Swinthila sought to limit the power of the Gothic nobility and clergy. Ordinary people showed their devotion by calling him "Father of the poor" .
When Swinthila appointed his son Reccimer as his fellow-king without asking the Gothic nobles and clergy, they revolted led by a nobleman named Sisenanth. By promising the Frankish king Dagobert a famous jeweled gold bowl from the royal treasury, Sisenanth achieved the support of the Franks for the revolt. It was a gold bowl or tablet, richly studded with jewels weighing five hundred pounds. Aetius had given it to Thorismund, as part of his share of the booty from the victory over Attila in 453 AD.
Gothic column heads in Abd al-Rahman's mosque in Cordoba built 784 AC over the Gothic church, San Vicente - Los Godos Encuentro Ediciones.
As agreed the Franks marched down in Spain, Swinthila's followers gave up, and Sisenanth was crowned in Saragossa. The Frankish army then returned to Paris, and Dagobert sent trusted ambassadors to pick up the promised gold bowl. Sisenanth handed them the precious object, as he had promised. But the Goths became so indignant and outraged at the thought of losing their famous treasure that they by force took it back from the Frankish ambassadors and triumphantly brought it back to Toledo. Sisenanth did not dare to oppose the will of the people, and he had to pay the Franks a large sum of money in compensation.
The general development was that after the Goths had accepted the Catholic faith, the clergy gained more and more power.
In the year 633 AD 69 bishops affirmed Sisenanth's right to the throne. The bishops then decreed that in the future, when a king died, his successor should be elected by a council of nobles and clergy. A king who tried to make his son a fellow-king without the consent of the council would suffer eternal damnation. It was further agreed that from now on priests and bishops should be free from all taxation.
Kindila was elected as his successor in 638 AD. In his day, the bishops gained even more power. It was decided that for the future the kings should be of noble Gothic descent and before the coronation they should take the oath not to tolerate Jews and other heretics in the kingdom.
Kindila died in 640, and according to the new rules, he was succeeded by his son Tulga, who aspired to become a king who followed the bishops' instructions. This, however, did not prevent a nobleman named Kindaswinth from taking the lead in a successful revolt which brought himself to the throne.
Kindaswinth was a strong-willed and determined ruler. During his reign, both clergy and nobles were made to feel that it was the king who was lord of the kingdom. Two hundred Goths of the noblest families and five hundred of lower rank were punished with death for conspiracy against the king. Many others were banished, and their possessions confiscated and given to the king's faithful followers. The kingdom was experiencing a state of peace and order that it had not known before.
Kong Recceswinths Gothic law, which decreed that everyone in the kingdom should be judged by the same law, the Gothic law. Some call it Lex Visigothorum. Frontpage from a reprint in the year 1600.
In 649 AD he was succeeded by his son Recceswinth, who seems to have inherited his father's energy - but not his toughness. In his time, it became law that the wealth that a king had accumulated during his reign should belong to the king's office and thus future kings, and not be inherited by a individual king's family. For 23 years, Recceswinth ruled his people with such success that the kingdom enjoyed unbroken peace except for a Basque revolt, led by a Gothic nobleman named Froya. The leader was captured and executed; but the Basques prevailed in their complaints, and they were then able to accept the rule of the Gothic king.
Recceswinth continued the work that Leovigild and Reccared had begun, namely to integrate the Goths and the other inhabitants of the kingdom into one nation. The ban on mixed marriages between the two peoples was abolished. In addition, he abolished the use of Roman law. Until then, Goths had been ruled by Gothic law, and the rest of the kingdom by Roman law. He decided that in future all inhabitants should be ruled following Gothic law.
Around 672 AD Recceswinth died at the castle of Gerticos near Valladolid. The kingdom's best men were gathered around his deathbed to discuss who should succeed him. Everyone knew that difficult times awaited, and they unanimously pointed to a nobleman named Wamba. But even after heavy pressure, Wamba continued to excused himself on the grounds that he was an older man and did not have the powers required of a king in difficult times. At last an officer of the Royal Guard grabbed his spear and exclaimed, "Wamba, you must never leave this chamber except as a dead man or as a king!" The assembly gave its applause, and then Wamba understood the seriousness in their recommendation and accepted.
Crown from King Recceswinth's time found between 1858 and 1861 along with eleven others in an orchard called Guarranzar near Toledo. It is made of gold and precious stones and can be seen in National Archaeological Museum in Madrid. The treasure also contained many gold crosses. Part of the crowns disappeared and was melted down in connection with the finding, and the rest of the treasure is split between several museums - The Guarranzar treasure represents a highlight of Gothic goldsmith work; it was probably buried in 711 AD when the muslims approached Toledo - photo: Mediaevalmusings.
Not long after Wamba had been crowned in Toledo, the message came that both the Basques
and the kingdom's provinces in southern Gaul and north-eastern Spain were in open
King Wamba sent his general Paul against the rebels in the Gallic provinces. But as soon as this one had arrived in Narbonne, he called his officers together, urging them to give up their allegiance to such a foolish old man who had allowed himself to be forced to accept the crown. It was suggested to choose Paul as king instead. The rebel Wittimer and his followers joined the proposal, and after a few weeks Paul was crowned in Narbonne as King of the Goths.
When King Wamba received the news that his treacherous general had been elected king of the Gallic cities and a large part of northeastern Spain, he was in battle against the rebellious Basques. Before long he had suppressed the Basque uprising, and only then did he lead his forces into the rebel provinces south of the Pyrenees. In a short time all the cities had opened their gates, or they had been taken by storm. When Paul heard that Wamba was on his way to Narbonne, he withdrew to Nimes, handing Narbonne over to the leadership of the rebel leader Wittimer.
Shortly afterwards, King Wamba, at the head of his army, appeared before the walls of Narbonne and urged Wittimer to surrender. The call was scornfully rejected, and after a bloody battle the city was taken. Wittimer and his followers were then whipped through the streets of Narbonne.
Next, Wamba sent the army to attack Nimes. Paul and his men bravely defended themselves all day long. The next day the Goths received reinforcements, and after five hours of fierce fighting, the gates were broken down and Wamba's troops poured into the city, killing everybody that got in their way. Paul and his men fortified themselves in the great Roman amphitheater, the ruins of which are still to be found in Nimes; but they had not prepared adequate supplies of water and food and had to surrender within a few days. The rebel leaders were punished with scalping and imprisonment for life.
King Wamba ruled wisely and decisively, and during his reign peace and prosperity reigned. He was no enemy of the Church, but he kept priests and bishops on a short leash. He decided that clergy at all levels should have a duty to bear arms to defend the country like other citizens when necessary. Wamba also decided that men born as slaves, that is freed men, could also serve in the army.
Another gold crown with gems from the Guarranzar treasure found near Toledo.
Wamba was the last great king of the Goths. Some believe that the society had developed into a real feudal society, where the formerly numerous class of free men, who were the army's elite warriors, had been reduced to a small group of very rich landowners, and the daily life of the ordinary people was controlled by an army of priests, monks and bishops.
Seven years after the revolt in the Gallic provinces, perhaps around 680 AD. he abdicated and was succeeded by Erwig, who was anointed and crowned by Archbishop Julian of Toledo. Erwig was little more than a puppet in the hands of the archbishop. Erwig's legislation was mostly about repealing the laws that Wamba had given. The sanctions for those who evaded conscription were eased; Priests and bishops were no longer obliged to take part in the defense of the kingdom; Those who had rebelled against the former ruler were given back their lost titles and estates; and all taxes due at the end of Erwig's first year of government were canceled.
In the year 687 AD, the country was ravaged by a great famine, which Erwig regarded as God's punishment for his crimes. He retired to a monastery where he died the same year.
King Erwig had appointed Wamba's nephew Egica as his successor and given him his daughter as a wife. In return, Egica had to swear that he would protect the widow queen and the entire royal family and all their property.
Egica's first act as king was to convene the council of the kingdom consisting of nobles and clergy. He asked them the question: "When I married King Erwig's daughter, he forced me to swear that I would always protect his widow and children in the enjoyment of their property. But when I was anointed king, I swore to pursue equal justice to all my subjects, it is impossible for me to keep both of these oaths, for much of the wealth which Erwig left behind was gained by extortion. In order to protect his crown, Erwig reduced many noblemen to slaves and seized their property. They or their heirs will now demand compensation. My coronation oath leads me to comply, but the oath I took to Erwig forbids this. I ask you, venerable fathers, to tell me what is my duty to do."
The bishops replied that the promise to the nation disregarded private obligations. They further added that since Erwig, by appointing Egica as his successor, had caused him to take the second oath, thus had released him from his previous obligations which were incompatible with it. In this way, Egica succeeded in overcoming the carefully devised plans of its predecessor for the interests of his family.
Egica died in 701 and was succeeded by his son Witica. The new king pardoned many whom his father had exiled and rehabilitated them with their estates. Egica had forced some wealthy people to sign debt documents, which made them debtors to the treasury; Witica ordered these papers burned in public. There seems to have been a financial crisis for the Treasury in the first years of his reign; perhaps it was due to the king's excessive generosity towards tax debtors.
The entrance to the muslim Alcazaba flanked by two Gothic columns in the city of Merida.
It seems as Witica was loved by the people, and hated and feared by the clergy because he was trying to reform the church. A clergyman complained that Sindered, the Archbishop of Toledo, "was inspired by a zeal for holiness, but not according to knowledge," and obeyed the King's orders by continually harassing and persecuting high-ranking men among the clergy."
It has been made probable that he encouraged priests to marry and that he showed some understanding for the Jews. It is easy to understand why he in later religious literature has been accused of all sorts of horrible crimes, and that he should have been the great sinner whose wickedness drew the wrath of Heaven upon the unfortunate nation.
Witica died in AD 710 leaving behind two minor sons. He pointed to one of his sons as successor, but the kingdom's council preferred a nobleman named Roderic, who was the army commander. Perhaps they knew that storm clouds were gathering over Gothic Spain.
The Goths were defeated by a large Islamic army at the Battle of Guadalete in the year 711 near Seville. The details hide in darkness and mystery. The great battle took place on the banks of the river Guadalete about 16 km. southeast of Jerez de la Frontera south of Seville. It is said that the battle lasted 7-8 summer days. No one knows very much about how it could happen that a warlike nation like the Gothic Spain could be overrun by a Muslim army in such a short time.
There are myths that tell of the disunity of the Goths, how Roderic avenged his father, who had been blinded by the cruel King Witica. Another myth tells of Count Julian, who commanded Cetua, the Gothic outpost in Africa. When Julian learned that King Roderic had misused his daughter, the beautiful Florinda, he made common cause with the Muslims and showed them how they to invade Spain. Led by a Berber chief named Tarik and guided by Julian they immediately set sail and landed at Gibraltar, which they since have called Jebel Tarik.
The Gothic king Roderic speaks to his troops before the Battle of Guadalete. Foto Fitzroy. Painting by Bernardo Blanco, 1871. Prado Museum.
It is said that the governor of the southern provinces, Theudemer, was caught off guard and sent word to King Roderic and asked for support. The king, who was fighting the
rebellious Basques in the Pyrenees, broke his camp up and hurried southward. He ordered his army from all parts of the country to meet with him at Cordova. Hundred thousands of men gathered under his banner, it is said. But in the large army, only a few were loyal to their king. The Gothic noblemen, who only reluctantly had submitted to his rule, said to each other: "Why should we risk our lives in defense of the usurper. The Moors are only interested in plundering; when Roderic have been beaten, they will go home with their spoil, and then we can give the throne to whomever we want." Contrary, Roderic thought that the country was now under threat from an infidel enemy, and his rivals would put their selfish goals aside and unite against the common danger. Trusting he confided the command of the army's wings to Witica's two sons.
Another myth says that after several days of fighting Witicas sons concluded an agreement with the Moors, which led to a complete defeat of King Roderic, who himself fell in the battle. Thereafter, the Muslims could almost without resistance spread across the country and take city after city, until the "prophet's green flag flew from the towers of the Royal Palace in Toledo."
The story of Witica's sons who defected to the enemy, may well be another Catholic effort to blacken Witica. The battle took place in 711 or 712 AD. just one or two years after Roderic's coronation, on which occasion Witica's sons were minors. Then they probably also were minors at the time of the battle a littel more than a year after, when the Moors invaded, and therefore unsuitable for leading an army.
It is difficult to understand that a warlike people like the Goths in this manner totally collapsed in front of the muslims. But when studying their history, you will see that they have had a history filled with intense internal rivalry with many rebellions and civil wars, which repeatedly resulted in that one of the rival parties invited foreign armies to participate in internal conflicts.
In a civil war between the southern and northern provinces in 554 AD the southern king Athanagild appealed to Constantinople for help. Ermengild was leading a revolt against his royal father, Leovigild, and wanted the support of the Franks. Witerik led a successful revolt against the young King Leuva. Sisenanth promised the Frankish King Dagobert gold from the Goths' Treasury in exchange for Frankisk support to his rebellion. Kindaswinth led a revolt that overthrew the young king Tulga. The generals Paul and Wittimer rebelled against King Wamba. It is easy to imagine that a party in the intense political rivalry called the Moors to fight their political rivals.
The battle of Guadalete - unknown artist - TW wiki.
Transferring a large army with many thousands of men and horses over the Strait of Gibraltar with that time ships must have been an operation that had taken weeks or rather months. It is unlikely that the Moors could have transferred so many thousands of men, horses and equipment in small boats that landed on a secret beach. They must have used a port, fully visible to everybody, and even then it would have taken months. One must wonder, why they allowed a large islamic army with cavalry to go ashore and did not stop the invasion in time. The only plausible explanation is that a political fraction had invited them to fight against their rivals.
We do not know what happened, we just have to face that the Western Goths lost.
Jordanes says that the Goths initially worshipped the God of war by sacrificing prisoners of war and other cruel rituals. They believed that when he was a war-god, it was necessary to shed human blood to appease him. They have most likely conducted rituals, much like those, which Cimbri performed some hundred years earlier.
Top: Arian Baptistery in Ravenna, built by Theoderik the Great - Photo Wikipedia.
Bottom: Ceiling mosaic in the Arian Baptistery in Ravenna, depicting the Father, the Son and John the Baptist. Foto TravelMarx.
They devoted the first part of the booty to the god of war, says Jordanes. For him, they hung the enemy's weapons in sacred trees. They had more than all other races a deep spirit of religion, as the worship of this god really seemed to have been handed down from their distant ancestor, who was Gaut.
The Germanic peoples took over the seven-day week from antiquity but replaced the Roman names with the names of their own gods - with the exception of Saturday. The weekdays were thus named after Sun, Moon, Tyr, Odin, Thor and Frigg or Freya. Saturday fell outside the system, it came to be called laugardag, meaning "laundry day".
Left: Mural in the church of Dole in Greece showing the heretic Arius engulfed by
the big animal with the fires of hell in the background. Photo: zorbas.de.
Right: Graphical representation of the Catholic and Protestant Trinity.
The Romans originally had an eight-day week; the seven-day week was introduced around 0 AD but did immediately become popular. First, emperor Emperor Constantine stated in 321 AD that the week has seven days, most likely in connection with the victory of Christianity. The Germanic peoples, including the Goths, could probably have become acquainted with the seven-day week no earlier than about 200 AD. The naming of the days of the week after the ancient gods must surely have occurred before the tribes became Christian, which the Goths became around 370-380 AD. Therefore, we must assume that faith of the Ase-gods, Tyr, Odin, Thor and Freya, in all probability was widespread among the Goths when they lived at the coast of the Black Sea.
Constantine I monitors burning of Arian Books - Illustration in a book on canonical
law from around 825 AD - Photo Wikipedia.
Almost all the Germanic migratory peoples quickly converted to Christianity in the form of the Arian faith. Arianism was characterized by the thought that the Father (God) is eternal and uncreated, while the Son (Jesus) is derived from the Father and has not existed always and that the Father is superior to the Son.
The Christian cross appears on coins from the Eudoses Goths on Crimea after 311 AD. The Western Goths probably became Christians immediately upon their arrival to the Roman Empire in 376 AD. It is not known when the Eastern Goths became Christians, but when they arrived in Italy in 489 AD, they were convinced Arians.
Arius is said to have been inspired by John's Gospel verses 14 to 28, especially 28, where Jesus says: "You have already heard me say that I will leave you, and I will come back to you. If you really love me, you should be happy that I will go back to the Father, because he's bigger than me."
Contrary, the Catholic and Protestant thesis of the Trinity defines God as a unit composed of three units namely: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is only one God, who, however, is composed of three.
There is very little material preserved that may shed light over the Migration Age's Arian faith. Almost everything has long since been burned and destroyed by the Catholics. Already emperor Constantine decreed: "In addition, if any writing composed by Arius should be found, it should be handed over to the flames, so that not only will the wickedness of his teaching be obliterated, but nothing will be left even to remind anyone of him. And I hereby make a public order, that if someone should be discovered to have hidden a writing composed by Arius, and not to have immediately brought it forward and destroyed it by fire, his penalty shall be death. As soon as he is discovered in this offense, he shall be submitted for capital punishment."
Isidore of Seville from medieval book illustration.
However, Isidore of Seville wrote about the year 600 AD: "Then Ulfilas, these Goth's bishop, created the Gothic fonts and translated the New and Old Testament scriptures into that language. And as soon as the Goths began to have writing and law, they established their own churches, which honored their own doctrine that has such rules, as Arius himself had about the actual divine nature, since they believed that the Son is inferior to the Father in majesty, and later than Him in eternity. They thought that the Holy Spirit is neither God nor has its existence from the Father, but that he was created by the Son, he is available for both and is located under the authority of both. They also stated that quite as the Father's person and nature are separated (perhaps independent) from the Son's person and nature, which is also separated, and finally, that the Holy Spirit's person and nature are also separated, so that they do not (according to the scriptural tradition) worship one God and Lord, but as in the superstition's idolatry they worship three Gods".
Isidor was a contemporary of King Reccared, who converted from Arianism to Catholicism together with all his people. Perhaps Isidor was present in the forum that Reccared held to discuss the two faiths.
In connection with the mention of Reccared's Synod, Isidore of Seville wrote: "Along with all of his subjects, he has renounced the lie, that the Goth's nation until now had learned from Arius, and proclaimed the unity of the three persons in God, who says that the Son was born from the Father from the same substance and nature, that the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son and of the same spirit as both, why they are one." - It must be acknowledged that Christianity is a true mystery religion.
Procopius gives us a glimpse of the Arian religion in his report on the war against the Vandals in Africa. Some time after the emperor's troops had defeated the Vandals in Africa, some of them mutinied in connection with the arrival of an imperial delegate named Solomon. Procopius tells about the reasons of the mutiny: "In the Roman army there were, as it happened, not less than one thousand soldiers of the Arian faith; and the most of these were barbarians, some of these being of the Erulian nation. Now, these men were urged on to the mutiny by the priests of the Vandals with the greatest zeal. For it was not possible for them to worship God in their accustomed way, but they were excluded both from all sacraments and from all sacred rites. For the Emperor Justinian did not allow any Christian who did not espouse the orthodox faith to receive baptism or any other sacrament. But most of all they were agitated by the feast of Easter, during which they found themselves unable to baptize their own children with the sacred water, or do anything else pertaining to this feast."
"And when the rest were about to celebrate the Easter festival, the Arians, being vexed by their exclusion from the sacred rites, purposed to attack them vigorously - And it seemed best to their leading men to kill Solomon in the sanctuary on the first day of the feast, which they call the great day."
Also Gregory of Tours, in his "Historia Francorum" tells us something about the Arian faith: "But of that day and that hour knoweth no one not even the angels in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father alone. Moreover, we shall here give an answer to the heretics, who attack us asserting that the Son is inferior to the Father since he is ignorant of this day. Let them learn that the Son here is the name applied to the Christian people, of whom God says: "I shall be for them a father and they shall be for me sons. For if he had spoken these words of the only-begotten Son he would never had given the Angles first place."
And another place in "Historia Francorum": "Now they belonged to the Arian sect, and as it is their custom that of those going to the altar the kings receive one cup and the lesser people another" - "But for us, who confess the Trinity is one similar equality and omnipotence, even we should drink a deadly draught in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the true and incorruptible God, it would do us no harm."
But perhaps the most important clue of the nature of the Arian faith we get from the original name of the church in Ravenna, which today is called the Basilica of Saint Apollinare Nuovo. In 504 AD Theoderic inaugurated the newly built church to "Christ the Redeemer". It's only a guess, but when one specifically name Christ as the redeemer, then one must mean that no others have the authority to redeem, that is giving absolution.
The Latter-day Saints and probably many Protestants believe that only Christ has the power to redeem us from our sins, and the same may have been true with the Arians. This would stand in marked contrast to the Catholic Church, in which all priests and monks can give absolution.
In the migration time, death was a frequent visitor, and anyone could die any time, and therefore there was a greater interest in life after death than typically is today. Perhaps the Goths' subjects were more anxious types that were not completely satisfied with the invisible presence of Christ. They wanted a man, a priest, who could look them in the eyes and assure them that they were forgiven and saved.
It is easy to understand that the Catholic priesthood thus had something that everyone wanted, which was a source of power and wealth.
However, one Arian book has miraculously survived centuries of religious fanaticism, namely the Gothic Bible or Ulfilas Bible, a Bible translated from Greek to Gothic in the fourth century by the Goths' Apostle, Ulfilas. It is translated rather loyal, however, most of the Old Testament is missing. We do not know why, maybe Arians put most emphasis on the New Testament, or the pages containing the Old Testament have simply been lost.
An important cause why most Gothic peoples ceased to exist as peoples must have been their Arian faith that by the countries' large Catholic majorities was considered scandalous heresy.
One of the Goths' great qualities was their strong leadership. Tacitus wrote in his description of Germania's tribes: "Beyond the Lygians dwell the Gothones, under the rule of a King; and thence held in subjection somewhat stricter than the other German nations, yet not so strict as to extinguish all their liberty." Procopius stated: "One of their national virtues was faithfulness to their elected leaders, even in adversity."
The Germanic States of the Migration period left many law books; from these, it has been deduced that the Germanic nations, including the Goths, fundamentally were divided into three castes: Free men, freed men and thralls. Their status was generally hereditary, and it was forbidden to marry outside one's caste. A quite similar conclusion can be drawn from a careful reading of Procopius' books on the Gothic war that Peter Heather has done. The three castes in Gothic society can remind about the situation in the countryside in Denmark for more than hundred years ago, when there were three informal ranks, namely farmers, smallholders and farmworkers.
The free men were the Army's elite troops and the backbone of society. Compared to later times group of noblemen, the group of free men was relatively numerous. Some free men were probably richer than others, some belonged to famous families and others were parvenus, some enjoyed royal favor more than others, but by all accounts, they were equals facing the law.
Several hundred years later Adam of Bremen tells on the Saxons: "By taking very meticulous care of their birth and nobility and by not readily defile themselves with marriages with strangers or with inferior peoples, they sought to make their people distinctive, clean and only similar to themselves. Therefore, also the appearance, body size and hair color is almost similar at all of them despite the fact that the population is so big as it is. The people consist of four different layers, namely, the nobles, the free-born, the freedmen and thralls. And it is defined by law that none of them must go beyond its own limits by marriages, but a noble must only take a noble woman as wife, and a free-born only a free-born woman, a freed must only marry freed woman and a thrall a thrall women. But if any of them marry a wife, who is not his equal or more honorable by birth, then he must be punished by the loss of his life."
A traditional Gothic village may have looked like this.
The freed men were expected to fight in the army led by the free warrior and peasant, to whom they were connected. There is little evidence of rising career opportunities for the caste of the freed, but one can imagine that there may have been in periods when the army had suffered heavy losses. It required a complicated public ceremony for someone to be raised to a higher caste.
Freemen and freed could lose their status because of crimes and be reduced to thralls. Tacitus says that they could even lose their freedom by losing in a dice game.
The conditions of the thralls are well illustrated in the story of Ulfilas, the Goths' Apostle.
In the third century, the Goths on the Black Sea coast did many voyages across the sea to Asia Minor, where they kidnapped thousands of people and took them as thralls back home to the Gothic areas in present southern Ukraine and Romania. Among these were Wulfila's parents.
His name "Little Wolf" is clearly Gothic, indicating that the captives fairly quickly adopted Gothic language and culture. The fact that Ulfilas translated the Bible from Greek to Gothic also shows that he was fully familiar with the Gothic language. Greek was probably his mother tongue. It is said that the young Wulfila grew up as a kind of junior minister in the thralls' Christian church in the otherwise pagan Gothic society. The thralls from Asia Minor were probably a largely independent group of peasants, who were obliged to provide a significant part of their production to their Gothic masters, but otherwise were more or less left to themselves.
It fits very well with Tacitus' description of the slaves' conditions in the Germanic tribes beyond the Rhine some hundred years before: "The rest of their slaves have not, like ours, particular employments in the family allotted them. Each is the master of a habitation and household of his own. The master requires from him a certain quantity of grain, cattle, or cloth, as from a tenant; and so far only the subjection of the slave extends. His domestic offices are performed by his own wife and children."
In fact, the thralls' conditions in the Gothic society and in the Germanic tribes as a whole remind on the Medieval tenant serfs, which probably, in fact, represented a very old institution.
Priscus to dinner with Attila - Painted by Mor Than - Wikipedia.
When the Greek Priscus was on a diplomatic mission to Attila in Pannonia, that is Hungary, he found to his surprise a Greek fellow countryman in the Huns' camp. He told Priscus that he eight years earlier had been a businessman in the city of Viminacium, where he had been married to a rich woman and done well. But then came the Huns and burned the city and destroyed everything. He was captured and enslaved. His owner gave him the task to fight for the Huns against the Romans and the Akatziri tribe. He fought bravely and collected a large prey, which he presented his Hunnish master, who then rewarded him with his freedom. Now he lived among the Huns as one of them with Hunnish wife and children, and he was quite happy with this.
It shows that there were career opportunities also for thralls.
Procopius wrote in his section on the Justinian's wars in Persia, where the Heruli served in the Emperor's army: "And the Persians, shooting into the masses of enemies in the narrow opening, killed a large number without difficulty, and especially Heruli, who first had attacked the enemy with Narses and mostly fought without protection. For Heruls have neither helmets or breastplates or other protective armor except for a shield and a thick jacket that they bind on themselves before going into battle. And actually, Herulian slaves go to battle even without a shield, and when they have proven that they are courageous men of war, then their masters allows them to protect themselves in battle with shields. Such it is customary among the Heruli."
Huns and Heruls were probably neither Goths nor Germanics, but it is known that - at least the Huns - very rapidly absorbed Germanic customs, names and in general Germanic culture. It is quite likely that such an ascending career for a thrall also could have taken place among Goths and Germanics in general. The very word "freedman" tells us also that there were career opportunities, even for thralls. Some Germanic laws ruled, however, that unfree men did not fight in the army, it is said.
Bernard Hill as King Theoden of Rohan in the film "The Return of the King" directed by
Peter Jackson based on Tolkien's novel series "Lord of the Rings" - The Rohan people is very likely inspired by the Goths. Photo Wikipedia.
Procopius wrote in his report on the Gothic war explaining the reason for the enmity between Theodahad and Amalasuntha: "But while these things going on that I have explained, Theodatus was summoned before Amalasuntha by many Toscans, who declared that he had made violence against all people in Tuscany for no reason had seized their
estates, as he had taken not only all the private estates but especially those belonging to the royal household, which the Romans used to call "patrimonium"."
It seems as if the royal office traditionally was funded by that the king had properties across the country.
This brings us to think of the medieval Danish Valdemar's Jordebog (a kind of danish Doomsday book), which lists two kinds of royal possessions, namely the property that belonged to the royal office, called "kongelev", and the royal family's inherit land, called "patrimonium".
For more than five hundred years, the Goths maintained their language and culture, even though they lived among peoples, who spoke the world's languages Greek and Latin. Isidore of Seville from about 600 AD wrote about the Goths' "barbaric murmur". Around 550 AD Jordanes wrote about the Goths' long folk songs, which enumerated the deeds of their ancestors: "Thence the victors hastened to the farthest part of Scythia, which is near the sea of Pontus; for so the story is generally told in their early songs, in almost historic fashion." - "But he bade them call the rest of their race Capillati. This name the Goths accepted and prized highly, and they retain it to this day in their songs." - "In earliest times they sang of the deeds of their ancestors in strains of song accompanied by the cithara; the chantings of Erpa-marha, Anala, Fridi-garn Widu-gauja and others, whose fame among them is great; such heroes as admiring antiquity repeatedly boasts that they were not just demigods."
Goths liked beer and wine. The excavations of Gothic settlements in southern Ukraine and Romania are dotted with shards from Roman wine-ampforas. In the sixth century Romans used the term "biberunt ut gothi", which means: "drink like a Goth" about men, who could drink much.
The Romans also believed that Goths could be quite rowdy. They had the term "shouting like a Goth". In "Life" of Saint Dosithaeus, who lived in Palestine around 540 AD, is the following passage: "Then he said to him, Oh foolish man, you shout like Goths, because, when they get angry and furious, they shout. Therefore I said to you, take a piece of bread soaked in wine, you shout like a Goth"
Several modern European nations and landscapes have preserved the names of the original
migration people, who settled there. France was founded by the Franks, the name Hungary contains the memory of the Huns, Burgundy recalls the Burgundians, Andalusia got its name from the Vandals, and Lombardy was the place, where the Lombards settled. But few places carry memories of the Goths, who was still the most numerous and most famous of them all. However, Toulouse is said to have been named by them as Toelloese.
The ruins of the Gothic Mankup fortress in the Crimea - Wikipedia.
But they have generously spread their genes throughout southern Europe and thereby contributed to that Europeans look like they do.
Several authors have written about Eudoses (a kind of Goths) and Heruli, who lived in the Crimea and then launched seaborne raids to Asia Minor; however, they do not tell which ancient sources, they rely on - but there is a quote from the contemporary anonymous "Periplus Ponti Euxini": "In the area of Sindian bay (now Anapa) to Pagrea bay (now Gelengik), where in the past a people called Kerketa (Circassians) or Toritae lived, now lives a people called Eudusians, who speaks Gothic or a remote Tauric language". However, this describes a coastline not in the Crimea, but on the other side of the Kerch Strait.
However, Goths in the Crimean are amply documented. They may have been Eudoses, let's say Eudoses Goths. They were not very many, but they held out longer than the big Gothic peoples.
Walafrid Strabo was a French monk who lived from 808 to 849 AD He mentioned that Goths, who spoke Teutonic, still lived in the Balkans in his time and used the Gothic translation of the Bible.
Gothic cave village in the Crimea - photo: Lonely Planet.
In 1433 AD troops from Genoa attacked the nation Gothia in the Crimea, which was led by Prince Alexis. The war lasted until 1441 AD and Genoa conquered some important ports.
In 1436-37 AD an Italian, Giosafat Barbaro, visited Crimea and noted: "Behind the island of Capha that is situated at the Great Sea, is Gothia, and after that Alania that runs parallel with the island against Mocastro, as I have said before. The Goths speak German, which I know from a German, my servant, who was with me there because they understood each other well enough like we understand a man from Furlan or from Fiorentine." Other travelers do not mention the Goths, so maybe it has only been a minority in the Crimea, who still spoke Gothic.
In 1446 AD the Ottoman Turks for the first time showed up off the Crimean coast. In 1453 AD the Turks conquered Constantinople, and dark clouds massed up over all groups in the Crimea. In 1475 AD first Genoa's possessions and later the nation Gothia was conquered by the Turks. Laudivius da Vezzano wrote: "After the Turks' conquest of Caffa (Genoese) Turks attacked the Goths, who live beyond the Danube, to take their fortified cities, and brought their army to these. The city's inhabitants defended themselves, however, every day more and more boldly, so that it was uncertain, who would prevail. Now, do you know the result of the tragic war that took place on the Tauric peninsula (Crimea)."
A German "gun master", Jurg of Nuremberg, who was imprisoned by the Turks for many years, also described the Goths' last battle in the capital Theodoro in 1475 AD: "Then the Turks marched against the city Santodero, where there were three kings and 15.000 men, old and young. But they could not take it and had to withdraw with loss. So three months later they surrendered voluntarily. The Turks killed the kings and all the people."
The Fleming Ogier Ghislain de Busbecqs was an ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire in
Constantinople 1560 - 1562 AD. He made a report on the last surviving Goths in Crimea.
Matthias of Miechow from Krakow wrote in 1517 a description of the Asian and European
Sarmatians. He mentions that: "The dukes of Mankup, who were Goths in their origin and language, only had the fortress of Mankup left. - Then (after Mohammed's conquest of Caffa) he killed with the sword the two Dukes and brothers of Mankup, the only survivors of the Gothic race and language, the hope for the for future of Goths, and took the fortress Mankup in possession. Thus the Goths were utterly destroyed."
In 1690 Kampfer wrote: "The language spoken on the peninsula of Crimea, or Taurica Chersonesus, in Asia, still retains many German words, brought there as it is assumed by a colony of Goths, who came to settle there about 850 years after the flood. The late Mr. Busbeq, who had been imperial ambassador to the Ottoman Port, collected and published a large number of these words in his fourth letter; and during my own travels through this country, I have noted many more."
The last known - and very uncertain - meeting with the Goths in the Crimea comes from the Archbishop of Mohilev, Stanislaw Bohusz Siestrzencewicz, who visited Crimea 1780 and noted that there were people, whose language and customs differed greatly from their neighbors, and whom he concluded had to be "Goths".
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"Adam af Bremen - De Hamburgske Aerkebispers Historie" - Skrifter udgivne af Selskabet til historiske kildeskrifters oversaettelse elvte raekke 1-4 1930.