The Goths (Gothic: , Gutans) were East Germanic tribes who, in the 3rd and 4th centuries, harried the Roman Empire and later adopted Arianism. In the 5th and 6th centuries, divided as the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, they established powerful successor-states of the Roman Empire in the Iberian peninsula and Italy, respectively.
Meanwhile close contact with Roman civilization brought about a gradual conversion of the Goths to Catholicism. One of the most notable early instances of such a conversion was that of the Gothic missionary, Wulfila, who then found it necessary to leave Gothic country for the vicinity of Bulgaria with his congregation, where he translated the Bible into Gothic. Although for a time masters of Italy and Spain, the Goths were defeated by the forces of Justinian I in a final effort to restore the empire. Subsequently they were struck by the Vandals and the Lombards.
Reccared, late 6th century king of Gothic Spain, became Catholic with the remainder of the yet unconverted Goths. Assimilation of the Goths accelerated when the last of them were defeated by the Moors in the early 8th century. The language and culture disappeared except for fragments in other cultures. In the 18th century a small remnant of Ostrogoths may have turned up in the Crimea, but this identification is not certain.
Etymologically the oldest (300 BC) ethnonym for the Goths, "Guton-", derives from the same root as that of the Gotlanders ("Gutar"): the Proto-Germanic *Gutaniz. Related, but not the same, is the Scandinavian tribal name Geat, from the Proto-Germanic *Gautoz (plural *Gautaz). Both *Gautoz and *Gutaniz are derived (specifically they are two ablaut grades) from the Proto-Germanic word *geutan, meaning "to pour. The Indo-European root of the pour derivation would be *gheu-d- as it is listed in the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD). *gheu-d- is a centum form. The AHD relies on Julius Pokorny for the same root.
Thus, the Gothic tribes may be designated as "pourers of semen", i.e. "men, people". Another theory connects the people with the name of a river flowing through Västergötland in Sweden, the Göta älv, which drains Lake Vänern into the Kattegat.
Old Norse records do not separate the Goths from the Gutar (Gotlanders) and both are called Gotar in Old West Norse. The Old East Norse term for both Goths and Gotlanders seems to have been Gutar (for instance in the Gutasaga and in the runic inscription of the Rökstone). However the Geats are clearly distinguished from the Goths/Gutar in both Old Norse and Old English literature.
At some time in prehistory, consonant changes according to Grimm's Law created a *g from the *gh and a *t from the *d. This same law more or less rules out *ghedh-, The *dh in that case would become a *d instead of a *t.
According to the rules of Indo-European ablaut, the full grade (containing an *e), *gheud-, might be replaced with the zero-grade (the *e disappears), *ghud-, or the o-grade (the *e changes to an *o), *ghoud-, accounting for the various forms of the name. The zero-grade is preserved in modern times in the Lithuanian ethnonym for Belarusians, Gudai, and in certain Polish names: Gdynia, Gdansk. The use of all three grades suggests that the name derives from an Indo-European stage; otherwise, it would be from a line descending from one grade. However, when and where the ancestors of the Goths assigned this name to themselves and whether they used it in Indo-european or proto-Germanic times remain unsolved questions of historical linguistics and prehistoric archaeology.
A compound name, Gut-þiuda, at root the "Gothic people", appears in the Gothic Calendar (aikklesjons fullaizos ana gutþiudai gabrannidai). Parallel occurrences indicate that it may mean "country of the Goths": Old Icelandic Sui-þjòd, "Sweden"; Old English Angel-þēod, "Anglia"; Old Irish Cruithen-tuath, "country of the Picts.. Evidently this way of forming a country- or people-name is not unique to Germanic.
Gapt, an early Gothic hero, recorded by Jordanes, is generally regarded as a corruption of Gaut.
According to Jordanes, the earliest migrating Goths sailed from Scandza under King Berig in three ships and named the place at which they landed after themselves. Today (says Jordanes) it is called Gothiscandza ("Scandza of the Goths"). From there they entered the land of the Ulmerugi (Rügen?), drove them out, and also subdued the Vandals, their neighbors.
As for the location of Gothiscandza, Jordanes says that one shipload "dwelled in the province of Spesis on an island surrounded by the shallow waters of the Vistula." Today's Gdansk, a large city, is at the mouth of the Vistula, but the terrain has changed due to the deposition of mud. The origin of the city remains undetermined. The name is generally conceded to be from "Goth" but not necessarily from Gothiscandza. That this is a legend of the origin of Gdansk cannot be ruled out.
Under their 5th king, Filimer, son of Gadaric, the Goths entered Oium, a land of bogs, part of Scythia, defeated the Spali and moved to the vicinity of the Black Sea. There they became divided into the Visigoths ruled by the Balthi family and the Ostrogoths ruled by the Amali family. Ostrogoths means "eastern Goths" and Visigoths means "Goths of the western country.
In Pliny's only other mention of the Gutones he says that the Vandals are one of the five races of Germany, and that the Vandals include the Burgodiones, the Varinnae, the Charini and the Gutones. The location of those Vandals is not stated, but there is a match with his contemporary Ptolemy's east German tribes. As those Gutones are put forward as Pliny's not Pytheas', the early date is unconfirmed, but not necessarily invalid.
Major sources for Gothic history include Ammianus Marcellinus' Res gestae, mentioning Gothic involvement in the civil war between emperors Procopius and Valens of 365 and recounting the Gothic refugee crisis and revolt of 376-382 and Procopius' de bello gothico, describing the Gothic War of 535-552. In the 3rd century, there were at least two groups of Goths, the Thervingi, and the Greuthungi. The Thervingi launched one of the first major "barbarian" invasions of the Roman Empire from 262, sacking Byzantium in 267. A year later, they suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Naissus and were driven back across the Danube River by 271. This group then settled north of the Danube and established an independent kingdom centered on the abandoned Roman province of Dacia. In 332 Constantine, in order to enforce the roman empire border, helped the Sarmatians to settle on the north banks of the Danube to defend against the Goths' attacks. 100,000 goths were killed in battle, and Ariaricus, the son of the King of the Goths, was captured. In 334 Constanine evacuated 300,000 Sarmatians from the north bank of the Danube (after a local revolt of the sarmatian's slaves),still in 335-336 Constantine continued the Danube campaign, defeating many goth tribes. Both the Greuthungi and Thervingi became heavily Romanized during the 4th century by the influence of trade with the Byzantines, and by their membership of a military covenant centered in Byzantium to assist each other militarily. They converted to Arianism during this time. Hunnic domination of the Gothic kingdom in Scythia began in the 370s, and under pressure of the Huns, the king of the Thervingi, Fritigern in 376 asked the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. Valens permitted this, and even helped the Goths cross the river, probably at the fortress of Durostorum, but following a famine the Gothic War (376-382) erupted, and Valens was killed at the Battle of Adrianople.
The Visigoths were one of two main branches of the Goths, (the Ostrogoths being the other) during the fifth century. Together these tribes were among the Germanic peoples who disturbed the late Roman Empire during the Migration Period. A Visigothic force led by Alaric I sacked Rome in 410. Honorius granted the Visigoths Aquitania, where they defeated the Vandals and by 475 ruled most of the Iberian peninsula.
The Ostrogoths in the meantime freed themselves of government of the Huns following the Battle of Nedao in 454. At the behest of emperor Zeno, Theodoric the Great from 488 conquered all of Italy. The Goths were briefly reunited under one crown in the early sixth century under Theodoric the Great, who became regent of the Visigothic kingdom following the death of Alaric II at the Battle of Vouillé in 507. Procopius, writing at this time, interpreted the name Visigoth to mean "western Goths", and the name Ostrogoth as "eastern Goth" which corresponded to the current distribution of the Gothic realms.
The Ostrogothic kingdom persisted until 553 under Teia, when Italy briefly fell back under Byzantine control, until the conquest of the Langobards in 568. The Visigothic kingdom lasted longer, until 711 under Roderic, when it had to yield to the Muslim Umayyad invasion of Spain Andalusia.
In today's Poland, the earliest material culture identified with the Goths is the Wielbark Culture, which replaced the local Oksywie culture in the 1st century. This replacement happened when a Scandinavian settlement was established in a buffer zone between the Oksywie culture and the probably Vandal Przeworsk culture.
However, as early as the late Nordic Bronze Age and early Pre-Roman Iron Age (ca 1300 BC–ca 300 BC), this area had influences from southern Scandinavia. In fact, the Scandinavian influence on Pomerania and today's northern Poland from ca 1300 BC (period III) and onwards was so considerable that this region is sometimes included in the Nordic Bronze Age culture.
During the period ca 600 BC–ca 300 BC the warm and dry climate of southern Scandinavia deteriorated considerably, which not only dramatically changed the flora, but forced people to change their way of living and to leave settlements.
The Goths are believed to have crossed the Baltic Sea sometime between the end of this period, ca 300 BC, and 100. According to earlier research, in the traditional Swedish province of Östergötland, archaeological evidence shows that there was a general depopulation during this period. However, this is not confirmed in the recent publications The settlement in today's Poland probably corresponds 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, which indicates that the early Goths preferred to bury their dead according to Scandinavian traditions. The Polish archaeologist Tomasz Skorupka states that a migration from Scandinavia is regarded as a matter of certainty:
However, the Gothic culture also appears to have had continuity from earlier cultures in the area, suggesting that the immigrants mixed with earlier populations, perhaps providing their separate aristocracy. The Oxford scholar Heather suggests that it was a relatively small migration from Scandinavia. This scenario would make their migration across the Baltic similar to many other population movements in history, such as the Anglo-Saxon Invasion, where, according to some theories, migrants have imposed their own culture and language on an indigenous one. The Willenberg/Wielbark culture shifted south-eastwards towards the Black Sea area from the mid-2nd century. It was the oldest part of the Wielbark culture, located west of the Vistula and which had Scandinavian burial traditions, that pulled up its stakes and moved. In Ukraine, they imposed themselves as the rulers of the local Zarubintsy culture forming the new Chernyakhov Culture (ca 200–ca 400). They were ultimately assimilated into the local population.
There is archaeological and historic evidence of continued contacts between the Goths and southern Sweden during their migrations, into the 6th century.
Chernyakhov settlements cluster in open ground in river valleys. The houses include sunken-floored dwellings, surface dwellings, and stall-houses. The largest known settlement (Budesty) is 35 hectares. Most settlements are open and unfortified; some forts are also known.
Chernyakhov cemeteries include 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 almost never any weapons.
According to at least one theory, there are closer linguistic connections between Gothic and Old Norse (especially the Old Gutnish dialect) than between Gothic and the West Germanic languages (see East Germanic languages and Gothic). Moreover, there were two tribes that probably are closely related to the Goths sex remained in Scandinavia, the Gutar (Gotlanders), whose name is identical to Goths, and the Geats. These tribes were considered to be Goths by Jordanes (see Scandza).
The fact is that virtually all of those phonetic and grammatical features that characterize the North Germanic languages as a separate branch of the Germanic language family (not to mention the features that distinguish various Norse dialects) seem to have evolved at a later stage than the one preserved in Gothic. Gothic in turn, while being an extremely archaic form of Germanic in most respects, has nevertheless developed a certain number of unique features that it shares with no other Germanic language.
However, this does not exclude the possibility of the Goths, the Gutar and the Geats being related as tribes. Similarly, the Saxon dialects of Germany are hardly closer to Anglo-Saxon than any other West Germanic language that hasn't undergone the High German consonant shift (see Grimm's law), but the tribes themselves are definitely identical. The Jutes (Dan. jyder) of Jutland (Dan. Jylland, in Western Danmark) are at least etymologically identical to the Jutes that came from that region and invaded Britain together with the Angles and the Saxons in the 5th century AD. Nevertheless, there are no remaining written sources to associate the Jutes of Jutlandia with anything but North Germanic dialects, or the Jutes of Britain with anything but West Germanic dialects. Thus, language is not always the best criterion for tribal or ethnic tradition and continuity.
The Gutar (Gotlanders) themselves had oral traditions of a mass migration towards southern Europe, written down in the Gutasaga. If the facts are related, that would be a unique case of a tradition that survived in more than a thousand years and that actually pre-dates most of the major splits in the Germanic language family.
Since 1278, when Magnus III of Sweden mounted the throne, it has been included in the title of the King of Sweden. "We N.N. by Gods Grace of the Swedes, the Goths and the Vends King". In 1973, with the death of King Gustaf VI Adolf, the title was changed to solely "King of Sweden"
Somebody acting with arrogance would be said to be "haciéndose los godos" ("making himself to act like the Goths"). Because of this, in Chile, Argentina and the Canary Islands, godo was an ethnic slur used against European Spaniards, who in the early colony period would feel superior to the people born locally (criollos).
This claim of Gothic origins led to a clash with the Swedish delegation at the Council of Basel, 1434. Before the assembled cardinals and delegations could undertake the theological discussions, they had to decide how to sit during the proceedings. The delegations from the more prominent nations were to sit closest to the Pope, and there were also disputes about who was to have the finest chairs and who was 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, the bishop of Växjö, Nicolaus Ragvaldi 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 then retorted that it was only the lazy and unenterprising Goths who had remained in Sweden, whereas the heroic Goths, on the other hand, had left Sweden, invaded the Roman empire and settled in Spain.