Jordanes, as he himself tells us a couple of times, was of Gothicdescent and wrote this work as a summary of Cassiodorus' much longertreatment of the history of the Goths. Because Cassiodorus' book nolonger survives, Jordanes' treatment is often our only source forsome of the Gothic history it describes. He wrote the Geticaduring the later stages of the reign of Justinian, not too long afterthe demise of the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy.
Jordanes divided his work, apart from the brief introduction andconclusion, into four main sections (reflected in the contentsbelow). These are 1) a Geographical Introduction; 2) the UnitedGoths; 3) the Visigoths; 4) and the Ostrogoths. Other large sections,such as the discussion of the Huns, he treats as digressions of asort (the more interesting or important of these have been added tothe contents below). Mierow prefaces his translation with a detailedliterary analysis of all the topics in the text; this is not,however, reproduced here.
The text of the translation presented here was scannedfrom a printed copy of Mierow's book and checked carefully for errors(a few misprints in that book have been corrected as well). Thishypertext version has been designed for the use of students ofAncient History at the University of Calgary. I have included the(Roman) chapter and (arabic) section numbers to facilitate specificcitation (or to find a specific reference; these numbers may be foundin Mierow's translation as well, though the section numbers are inhis margins) and have added internal links for purposes ofnavigation.
The United Goths
The Goths in the Third CenturyA.D.
Origin of the Huns
The Divided Goths (Visigoths)
Attila the Hun; The Battle of theCatalaunian Fields
The Divided Goths (Ostrogoths)
(1) Though it had been my wish to glide in my little boat by theshore of a peaceful coast and, as a certain writer says, to gatherlittle fishes from the pools of the ancients, you, brother Castalius,bid me set my sails toward the deep. You urge me to leave the littlework I have in hand, that is, the abbreviation of the Chronicles, andto condense in my own style in this small book the twelve volumes ofthe Senator on the origin and deeds of the Getae from olden time tothe present day, descending through the generations of the kings. (2)Truly a hard command, and imposed by one who seems unwilling torealize the burden of the task. Nor do you note this, that myutterance is too slight to fill so magnificent a trumpet of speech ashis. But above every burden is the fact that I have no access to hisbooks that I may follow his thought. Still--and let me lie not--Ihave in times past read the books a second time by his steward's loanfor a three days' reading. The words I recall not, but the sense andthe deeds related I think I retain entire. (3) To this I have addedfitting matters from some Greek and Latin histories. I have also putin an introduction and a conclusion, and have inserted many things ofmy own authorship. Wherefore reproach me not, but receive and readwith gladness what you have asked me to write. If aught beinsufficiently spoken and you remember it, do you as a neighbor toour race add to it, praying for me, dearest brother. The Lord be withyou. Amen.
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(4) Our ancestors, as Orosius relates, were of the opinion that thecircle of the whole world was surrounded by the girdle of Ocean onthree sides. Its three parts they called Asia, Europe and Africa.Concerning this threefold division of the earth's extent there arealmost innumerable writers, who not only explain the situations ofcities and places, but also measure out the number of miles and pacesto give more clearness. Moreover they locate the islands interspersedamid the waves, both the greater and also the lesser islands, calledCyclades or Sporades, as situated in the vast flood of the Great Sea.(5) But the impassable farther bounds of Ocean not only has no oneattempted to describe, but no man has been allowed to reach; for byreason of obstructing seaweed and the failing of the winds it isplainly inaccessible and is unknown to any save to Him who made it.(6) But the nearer border of this sea, which we call the circle ofthe world, surrounds its coasts like a wreath. This has becomeclearly known to men of inquiring mind, even to such as desired towrite about it. For not only is the coast itself inhabited, butcertain islands off in the sea are habitable. Thus there are to theEast in the Indian Ocean, Hippodes, Iamnesia, Solis Perusta (whichthough not habitable, is yet of great length and breadth), besidesTaprobane, a fair island wherein there are towns or estates and tenstrongly fortified cities. But there is yet another, the lovelySilefantina, and Theros also. (7) These, though not clearly describedby any writer, are nevertheless well filled with inhabitants. Thissame Ocean has in its western region certain islands known to almosteveryone by reason of the great number of those that journey to andfro. And there are two not far from the neighborhood of the Strait ofGades, one the Blessed Isle and another called the Fortunate.Although some reckon as islands of Ocean the twin promontories ofGalicia and Lusitania, where are still to be seen the Temple ofHercules on one and Scipio's Monument on the other, yet since theyare joined to the extremity of the Galician country, they belongrather to the great land of Europe than to the islands of Ocean. (8)However, it has other islands deeper within its own tides, which arecalled the Baleares; and yet another, Mevania, besides the Orcades,thirty-three in number, though not all inhabited. (9) And at thefarthest bound of its western expanse it has anotherislandnamed Thule, of which the Mantuan bard makes mention:
"And Farthest Thule shall serve thee."
The same mighty sea has also in its arctic region, that is in thenorth, a great island named Scandza, from which my tale (by God'sgrace) shall take its beginning. For the race whose origin you ask toknow burst forth like a swarm of bees from the midst of this islandand came into the land of Europe. But how or in what wise we shallexplain hereafter, if it be the Lord's will.
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(10) But now let me speak briefly as I can concerning the island ofBritain, which is situated in the bosom of Ocean between Spain, Gauland Germany. Although Livy tells us that no one in former days sailedaround it, because of its great size, yet many writers have heldvarious opinions of it. It was long unapproached by Roman arms, untilJulius Caesar disclosed it by batttles fought for mere glory. In thebusy age which followed it became accessible to many through tradeand by other means. Thus it revealed more clearly its position, whichI shall here explain as I have found it in Greek and Latin authors.(11) Most of them say it is like a triangle pointing between thenorth and west. Its widest angle faces the mouths of the Rhine. Thenthe island shrinks in breadth and recedes until it ends in two otherangles. Its long doubled side faces Gaul and Germany. Its greatestbreadth is said to be over two thousand three hundred and ten stadia,and its length not more than seven thousand one hundred andthirty-two stadia. (12) In some parts it is moorland, in others thereare wooded plains, and sometimes it rises into mountain peaks. Theisland is surrounded by a sluggish sea, which neither gives readilyto the stroke of the oar nor runs high under the blasts of the wind.I suppose this is because other lands are so far removed from it asto cause no disturbance of the sea, which indeed is of greater widthhere than anywhere else. Moreover Strabo, a famous writer of theGreeks, relates that the island exhales such mists from its soil,soaked by the frequent inroads of Ocean, that the sun is coveredthroughout the whole of their disagreeable sort of day that passes asfair, and so is hidden from sight.
(13) Cornelius also, the author of the Annals, says that in thefarthest part of Britain the night gets brighter and is very short.He also says that the island abounds in metals, is well supplied withgrass and is more productive in all those things which feed beastsrather than men. Moreover many large rivers flow through it, and thetides are borne back into them, rolling along precious stones andpearls. The Silures have swarthy features and are usually born withcurly black hair, but the inhabitants of Caledonia have reddish hairand large loose-jointed bodies. They are like the Gauls or theSpaniards, according as they are opposite either nation. (14) Hencesome have supposed that from these lands the island received itsinhabitants, alluring them by its nearness. All the people and theirkings are alike wild. Yet Dio, a most celebrated writer of annals,assures us of the fact that they have all been combined under thename of Caledonians and Maeatae. They live in wattled huts, a shelterused in common with their flocks, and often the woods are their home.They paint their bodies with iron-red, whether by way of adornment orperhaps for some other reason. (15) They often wage war with oneanother, either because they desire power or to increase theirpossessions. They fight not only on horseback or on foot, but evenwith scythed two-horse chariots, which they commonly call essedae.Let it suffice to have said thus much on the shape of the islandof Britain.
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(16) Let us now return to the site of the island of Scandza,which we left above. Claudius Ptolemaeus, an excellent describer ofthe world, has made mention of it in the second book of his work,saying: "There is a great island situated in the surge of thenorthern Ocean, Scandza by name, in the shape of a juniper leaf withbulging sides that taper down to a point at a long end." PomponiusMela also makes mention of it as situated in the Codan Gulf of thesea, with Ocean lapping its shores. (17) This island lies in front ofthe river Vistula, which rises in the Sarmatian mountains and flowsthrough its triple mouth into the northern Ocean in sight of Scandza,separating Germany and Scythia. The island has in its eastern part avast lake in the bosom of the earth, whence the Vagus river springsfrom the bowels of the earth and flows surging into the Ocean. And onthe west it is surrounded by an immense sea. On the north it isbounded by the same vast unnavigable Ocean, from which by means of asort of projecting arm of land a bay is cut off and forms the GermanSea. (18) Here also there are said to be many small islands scatteredround about. If wolves cross over to these islands when the sea isfrozen by reason of the great cold, they are said to lose theirsight. Thus the land is not only inhospitable to men but cruel evento wild beasts.
(19) Now in the island of Scandza, whereof I speak, there dwellmany and divers nations, though Ptolemaeus mentions the names of butseven of them. There the honey-making swarms of bees are nowhere tobe found on account of the exceeding great cold. In the northern partof the island the race of the Adogit live, who are said to havecontinual light in midsummer for forty days and nights, and wholikewise have no clear light in the winter season for the same numberof days and nights. (20) By reason of this alternation of sorrow andjoy they are like no other race in their sufferings and blessings.And why? Because during the longer days they see the sun returning tothe east along the rim of the horizon, but on the shorter days it isnot thus seen. The sun shows itself differently because it is passingthrough the southern signs, and whereas to us the sun seem to risefrom below, it seems to go around them along the edge of the earth.There also are other peoples. (21) There are the Screrefennae, who donot seek grain for food but live on the flesh of wild beasts andbirds' eggs; for there are such multitudes of young game in theswamps as to provide for the natural increase of their kind and toafford satisfaction to the needs of the people. But still anotherrace dwells there, the Suehans, who, like the Thuringians, havesplendid horses. Here also are those who send through innumerableother tribes the sappherine skins to trade for Roman use. They are apeople famed for the dark beauty of their furs and, though living inpoverty, are most richly clothed. (22) Then comes a throng of variousnations, Theustes, Vagoth, Bergio, Hallin, Liothida. All theirhabitations are in one level and fertile region. Wherefore they aredisturbed there by the attacks of other tribes. Behind these are theAhelmil, Finnaithae, Fervir and Gauthigoth, a race of men bold andquick to fight. Then come the Mixi, Evagre, and Otingis. All theselive like wild animals in rocks hewn out like castles. (23) And thereare beyond these the Ostrogoths, Raumarici, Aeragnaricii, and themost gentle Finns, milder than all the inhabitants of Scandza. Likethem are the Vinovilith also. The Suetidi are of this stock and excelthe rest in stature. However, the Dani, who trace their origin to thesame stock, drove from their homes the Heruli, who lay claim topreëminence among all the nations of Scandza for their tallness.(24) Furthermore there are in the same neighborhood the Grannii,Augandzi, Eunixi, Taetel, Rugi, Arochi and Ranii, over whom Roduulfwas king not many years ago. But he despised his own kingdom and fledto the embrace of Theodoric, king of the Goths, finding there what hedesired. All these nations surpassed the Germans in size and spirit,and fought with the cruelty of wild beasts.
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(25) Now from this island of Scandza, as from a hive of races or awomb of nations, the Goths are said to have come forth long ago undertheir king, Berig by name. As soon as they disembarked from theirships and set foot on the land, they straightway gave their name tothe place. And even to-day it is said to be called Gothiscandza. (26)Soon they moved from here to the abodes of the Ulmerugi, who thendwelt on the shores of Ocean, where they pitched camp, joined battlewith them and drove them from their homes. Then they subdued theirneighbors, the Vandals, and thus added to their victories. But whenthe number of the people increased greatly and Filimer, son ofGadaric, reigned as king--about the fifth since Berig--he decidedthat the army of the Goths with their families should move from thatregion. (27) In search of suitable homes and pleasant places theycame to the land of Scythia, called Oium in that tongue. Here theywere delighted with the great richness of the country, and it is saidthat when half the army had been brought over, the bridge wherebythey had crossed the river fell in utter ruin, nor could anyonethereafter pass to or fro. For the place is said to be surrounded byquaking bogs and an encircling abyss, so that by this double obstaclenature has made it inaccessible. And even to-day one may hear in thatneighborhood the lowing of cattle and may find traces of men, if weare to believe the stories of travellers, although we must grant thatthey hear these things from afar.
(28) This part of the Goths, which is said to have crossed theriver and entered with Filimer into the country of Oium, came intopossession of the desired land, and there they soon came upon therace of the Spali, joined battle with them and won the victory.Thence the victors hastened to the farthest part of Scythia, which isnear the sea of Pontus; for so the story is generally told in theirearly songs, in almost historic fashion. Ablabius also, a famouschronicler of the Gothic race, confirms this in his most trustworthyaccount. (29) Some of the ancient writers also agree with the tale.Among these we may mention Josephus, a most reliable relator ofannals, who everywhere follows the rule of truth and unravels fromthe beginning the origin of causes;--but why he has omitted thebeginnings of the race of the Goths, of which I have spoken, I do notknow. He barely mentions Magog of that stock, and says they wereScythians by race and were called so by name.
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Before we enter on our history, we must describe the boundaries ofthis land, as it lies.
(30) Now Scythia borders on the land of Germany as far as the sourceof the river Ister and the expanse of the Morsian Swamp. It reacheseven to the rivers Tyra, Danaster and Vagosola, and the greatDanaper, extending to the Taurus range--not the mountains in Asia butour own, that is, the Scythian Taurus--all the way to Lake Maeotis.Beyond Lake Maeotis it spreads on the other side of the straits ofBosphorus to the Caucasus Mountains and the river Araxes. Then itbends back to the left behind the Caspian Sea, which comes from thenorth-eastern ocean in the most distant parts of Asia, and so isformed like a mushroom, at first narrow and then broad and round inshape. It extends as far as the Huns, Albani and Seres. (31) Thisland, I say,--namely, Scythia, stretching far and spreadingwide,--has on the east the Seres, a race that dwelt at the verybeginning of their history on the shore of the Caspian Sea. On thewest are the Germans and the river Vistula; on the arctic side,namely the north, it is surrounded by Ocean; on the south by Persis,Albania, Hiberia, Pontus and the farthest channel of the Ister, whichis called the Danube all the way from mouth to source. (32) But inthat region where Scythia touches the Pontic coast it is dotted withtowns of no mean fame:--Borysthenis, Olbia, Callipolis, Cherson,Theodosia, Careon, Myrmicion and Trapezus. These towns the wildScythian tribes allowed the Greeks to build to afford them means oftrade. In the midst of Scythia is the place that separates Asia andEurope, I mean the Rhipaeian mountains, from which the mighty Tanaisflows. This river enters Maeotis, a marsh having a circuit of onehundred and forty-four miles and never subsiding to a depth of lessthan eight fathoms.
(33) In the land of Scythia to the westward dwells, first of all,the race of the Gepidae, surrounded by great and famous rivers. Forthe Tisia flows through it on the north and northwest, and on thesouthwest is the great Danube. On the east it is cut by theFlutausis, a swiftly eddying stream that sweeps whirling into theIster's waters. (34) Within these rivers lies Dacia, encircled by thelofty Alps as by a crown. Near their left ridge, which inclinestoward the north, and beginning at the source of the Vistula, thepopulous race of the Venethi dwell, occupying a great expanse ofland. Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans andplaces, yet they are chiefly called Sclaveni and Antes. (35) Theabode of the Sclaveni extends from the city of Noviodunum and thelake called Mursianus to the Danaster, and northward as far as theVistula. They have swamps and forests for their cities. The Antes,who are the bravest of these peoples dwelling in the curve of the seaof Pontus, spread from the Danaster to the Danaper, rivers that aremany days' journey apart. (36) But on the shore of Ocean, where thefloods of the river Vistula empty from three mouths, the Vidivariidwell, a people gathered out of various tribes. Beyond them theAesti, a subject race, likewise hold the shore of Ocean. To the southdwell the Acatziri, a very brave tribe ignorant of agriculture, whosubsist on their flocks and by hunting. (37) Farther away and abovethe Sea of Pontus are the abodes of the Bulgares, well known from thewrongs done to them by reason of our oppression. From this region theHuns, like a fruitful root of bravest races, sprouted into two hordesof people. Some of these are called Altziagiri, others Sabiri; andthey have different dwelling places. The Altziagiri are near Cherson,where the avaricious traders bring in the goods of Asia. In summerthey range the plains, their broad domains, wherever the pasturagefor their cattle invites them, and betake themselves in winter beyondthe Sea of Pontus. Now the Hunuguri are known to us from the factthat they trade in marten skins. But they have been cowed by theirbolder neighbors.
(38) We read that on their first migration the Goths dwelt in theland of Scythia near Lake Maeotis. On the second migration they wentto Moesia, Thrace and Dacia, and after their third they dwelt againin Scythia, above the Sea of Pontus. Nor do we find anywhere in theirwritten records legends which tell of their subjection to slavery inBritain or in some other island, or of their redemption by a certainman at the cost of a single horse. Of course if anyone in our citysays that the Goths had an origin different from that I have related,let him object. For myself, I prefer to believe what I have read,rather than put trust in old wives' tales.
(39) To return, then, to my subject. The aforesaid race of which Ispeak is known to have had Filimer as king while they remained intheir first home in Scythia near Maeotis. In their second home, thatis in the countries of Dacia, Thrace and Moesia, Zalmoxes reigned,whom many writers of annals mention as a man of remarkable learningin philosophy. Yet even before this they had a learned man Zeuta, andafter him Dicineus; and the third was Zalmoxes of whom I have mademention above. Nor did they lack teachers of wisdom. (40) Whereforethe Goths have ever been wiser than other barbarians and were nearlylike the Greeks, as Dio relates, who wrote their history and annalswith a Greek pen. He says that those of noble birth among them, fromwhom their kings and priests were appointed, were called firstTarabostesei and then Pilleati. Moreover so highly were the Getaepraised that Mars, whom the fables of poets call the god of war, wasreputed to have been born among them. Hence Virgil says:
"Father Gradivus rules the Getic fields."
(41) Now Mars has always been worshipped by the Goths with cruelrites, and captives were slain as his victims. They thought that hewho is the lord of war ought to be appeased by the shedding of humanblood. To him they devoted the first share of the spoil, and in hishonor arms stripped from the foe were suspended from trees. And theyhad more than all other races a deep spirit of religion, since theworship of this god seemed to be really bestowed upon their ancestor.
(42) In their third dwelling place, which was above the Sea ofPontus, they had now become more civilized and, as I have saidbefore, were more learned. Then the people were divided under rulingfamilies. The Visigoths served the family of the Balthi and theOstrogoths served the renowned Amali. (43) They were the first raceof men to string the bow with cords, as Lucan, who is more of ahistorian than a poet, affirms:
"They string Armenian bows with Geticcords."
In earliest times they sang of the deeds of their ancestors instrains of song accompanied by the cithara; chanting of Eterpamara,Hanala, Fritigern, Vidigoia and others whose fame among them isgreat; such heroes as admiring antiquity scarce proclaims its own tobe. (44) Then, as the story goes, Vesosis waged a war disastrous tohimself against the Scythians, whom ancient tradition asserts to havebeen the husbands of the Amazons. Concerning these female warriorsOrosius speaks in convincing language. Thus we can clearly prove thatVesosis then fought with the Goths, since we know surely that hewaged war with the husbands of the Amazons. They dwelt at that timealong a bend of Lake Maeotis, from the river Borysthenes, which thenatives call the Danaper, to the stream of the Tanais. (45) By theTanais I mean the river which flows down from the Rhipaeian mountainsand rushes with so swift a current that when the neighboring streamsor Lake Maeotis and the Bosphorus are frozen fast, it is the onlyriver that is kept warm by the rugged mountains and is neversolidified by the Scythian cold. It is also famous as the boundary ofAsia and Europe. For the other Tanais is the one which rises in themountains of the Chrinni and flows into the Caspian Sea. (46) TheDanaper begins in a great marsh and issues from it as from itsmother. It is sweet and fit to drink as far as half-way down itscourse. It also produces fishof a fine flavor and withoutbones, having only cartilage as the frame-work of their bodies. Butas it approaches the Pontus it receives a little spring calledExampaeus, so very bitter that although the river is navigable forthe length of a forty days' voyage, it is so altered by the water ofthis scanty stream as to become tainted and unlike itself, and flowsthus tainted into the sea between the Greek towns of Callipidae andHypanis. At its mouth there is an island named Achilles. Betweenthese two rivers is a vast land filled with forests and treacherousswamps.
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(47) This was the region where the Goths dwelt when Vesosis, king ofthe Egyptians, made war upon them. Their king at that time wasTanausis. In a battle at the river Phasis (whence come the birdscalled pheasants, which are found in abundance at the banquets of thegreat all over the world) Tanausis, king of the Goths, met Vesosis,king of the Egyptians, and there inflicted a severe defeat upon him,pursuing him even to Egypt. Had he not been restrained by the watersof the impassable Nile and the fortifications which Vesosis had longago ordered to be made against the raids of the Ethiopians, he wouldhave slain him in his own land. But finding he had no power to injurehim there, he returned and conquered almost all Asia and made itsubject and tributary to Sornus, king of the Medes, who was then hisdear friend. At that time some of his victorious army, seeing thatthe subdued provinces were rich and fruitful, deserted theircompanies and of their own accord remained in various parts of Asia.
(48) From their name or race Pompeius Trogus says the stock of theParthians had its origin. Hence even to-day in the Scythian tonguethey are called Parthi, that is, Deserters. And in consequence oftheir descent they are archers--almost alone among all the nations ofAsia--and are very valiant warriors. Now in regard to the name,though I have said they were called Parthi because they weredeserters, some have traced the derivation of the word otherwise,saying that they were called Parthi because they fled from theirkinsmen. Now when Tanausis, king of the Goths, was dead, his peopleworshipped him as one of their gods.
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(49) After hisdeath, while the army under his successors was engaged in anexpedition in other parts, a neighboring tribe attempted to carry offwomen of the Goths as booty. But they made a brave resistance, asthey had been taught to do by their husbands, and routed in disgracethe enemy who had come upon them. When they had won this victory,they were inspired with greater daring. Mutually encouraging eachother, they took up arms and chose two of the bolder, Lampeto andMarpesia, to act as their leaders. (50) While they were in command,they cast lots both for the defense of their own country and thedevastation of other lands. So Lampeto remained to guard their nativeland and Marpesia tooka company of women and led this novelarmy into Asia. After conquering various tribes in war and makingothers their allies by treaties, she came to the Caucasus. There sheremained for some time and gave the place the name Rock of Marpesia,of which also Virgil makes mention:
"Like to hard flint or the MarpesianCliff."
It was here Alexander the Great afterwards built gates and namedthem the Caspian Gates, which now the tribe of the Lazi guard as aRoman fortification. (51) Here, then, the Amazons remained for sometime and were much strengthened. Then they departed and crossed theriver Halys, which flows near the city of Gangra, and with equalsuccess subdued Armenia, Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Pisidia and all theplaces of Asia. Then they turned to Ionia and Aeolia, and madeprovinces of them after their surrender. Here they ruled for sometime and even founded cities and camps bearing their name. At Ephesusalso they built a very costly and beautiful temple for Diana, becauseof her delight in archery and the chase--arts to which they werethemselves devoted. (52) Then these Scythian-born women, who had bysuch a chance gained control over the kingdoms of Asia, held them foralmost a hundred years, and at last came back to their own kinsfolkin the Marpesian rocks I have mentioned above, namely the Caucasusmountains.
Inasmuch as I have twice mentioned this mountain-range, I think itnot out of place to describe its extent and situation, for, as iswell known, it encompasses a great part of the earth with itscontinuous chain. (53) Beginning at the Indian Ocean, where it facesthe south it is warm, giving off vapor in the sun; where it lies opento the north it is exposed to chill winds and frost. Then bendingback into Syria with a curving turn, it not only sends forth manyother streams, but pours from its plenteous breasts into theVasianensian region the Euphrates and the Tigris, navigable riversfamed for their unfailing springs. These rivers surround the land ofthe Syrians and cause it to be called Mesopotamia, as it truly is.Their waters empty into the bosom of the Red Sea. (54) Then turningback to the north, the range I have spoken of passes with great bendsthrough the Scythian lands. There it sends forth very famous riversinto the Caspian Sea--the Araxes, the Cyrus and the Cambyses. It goeson in continuous range even to the Rhipaeian mountains. Thence itdescends from the north toward the Pontic Sea, furnishing a boundaryto the Scythian tribes by its ridge, and even touches the waters ofthe Ister with its clustered hills. Being cut by this river, itdivides, and in Scythia is named Taurus also. (55) Such then is thegreat range, almost the mightiest of mountain chains, rearing aloftits summits and by its natural conformation supplying men withimpregnable strongholds. Here and there it divides where the ridgebreaks apart and leaves a deep gap, thus forming now the CaspianGates, and again the Armenian or the Cilician, or of whatever namethe place may be. Yet they are barely passable for a wagon, for bothsides are sharp and steep as well as very high. The range hasdifferent names among various peoples. The Indian calls it Imaus andin another part Paropamisus. The Parthian calls it first Choatras andafterward Niphates; the Syrian and Armenian call it Taurus; theScythian names it Caucasus and Rhipaeus, and at its end calls itTaurus. Many other tribes have given names to the range. Now that wehave devoted a few words to describing its extent, let us return tothe subject of the Amazons.
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(56) Fearing theirrace would fail, they sought marriage with neighboring tribes. Theyappointed a day for meeting once in every year, so that when theyshould return to the same place on that day in the following yeareach mother might give over to the father whatever male child she hadborne, but should herself keep and train for warfare whateverchildren of the female sex were born. Or else, as some maintain, theyexposed the males, destroying the life of the ill-fated child with ahate like that of a stepmother. Among them childbearing was detested,though everywhere else it is desired. (57) The terror of theircruelty was increased by common rumor; for what hope, pray, wouldthere be for a captive, when it was considered wrong to spare even ason? Hercules, they say, fought against them and overcame Menalippe,yet more by guile than by valor. Theseus moreover, took Hippolytecaptive, and of her he begat Hippolytus. And in later times theAmazons had a queen named Penthesilea, famed in the tales of theTrojan war. These women are said to have kept their power even to thetime of Alexander the Great.
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(58) But say not "Why does a story which deals with the men of theGoths have so much to say of their women?" Hear, then, the tale ofthe famous and glorious valor of the men. Now Dio, the historian anddiligent investigator of ancient times, who gave to his work thetitle "Getica" (and the Getae we have proved in a previous passage tobe Goths, on the testimony of Orosius Paulus)--this Dio, I say, makesmentionof a later king of theirs named Telefus. Let no onesay that this name is quite foreign to the Gothic tongue, and let noone who is ignorant cavil at the fact that the tribes of men make useof many names, even as the Romans borrow from the Macedonians, theGreeks from the Romans, the Sarmatians from the Germans, and theGoths frequently from the Huns. (59) This Telefus, then, a son ofHercules by Auge, and the husband of a sister of Priam, was oftowering stature and terrible strength. He matched his father's valorby virtues of his own and also recalled the traits of Hercules by hislikeness in appearance. Our ancestors called his kingdom Moesia. Thisprovince has on the east the mouths of the Danube, on the southMacedonia, on the west Histria and on the north the Danube. (60) Nowthis king we have mentioned carried on wars with the Greeks, and intheir course he slew in battle Thesander, the leader of Greece. Butwhile he was making a hostile attack upon Ajax and was pursuingUlysses, his horse became entangled in some vines and fell. Hehimself was thrown and wounded in the thigh by a javelin of Achilles,so that for a long time he could not be healed. Yet, despite hiswound, he drove the Greeks from his land. Now when Telefus died, hisson Eurypylus succeeded to the throne, being a son of the sister ofPriam, king of the Phrygians. For love of Cassandra he sought to takepart in the Trojan war, that he might come to the help of her parentsand his own father-in-law; but soon after his arrival he was killed.
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(61) Then Cyrus, king of the Persians, after a long interval ofalmost exactly six hundred and thirty years (as Pompeius Trogusrelates), waged an unsuccessful war against Tomyris, Queen of theGetae. Elated by his victories in Asia, he strove to conquer theGetae, whose queen, as I have said, was Tomyris. Though she couldhave stopped the approach of Cyrus at the river Araxes, yet shepermitted him to cross, preferring to overcome him in battle ratherthan to thwart him by advantage of position. And so she did. (62) AsCyrus approached, fortune at first so favored the Parthians that theyslew the son of Tomyris and most of the army. But when the battle wasrenewed, the Getae and their queen defeated, conquered andoverwhelmed the Parthians and took rich plunder from them. There forthe first time the race of the Goths saw silken tents. Afterachieving this victory and winning so much booty from her enemies,Queen Tomyris crossed over into that part of Moesia which is nowcalled Lesser Scythia--a name borrowed from great Scythia,--and builton the Moesian shore of Pontus the city of Tomi, named after herself.
(63) Afterwards Darius, king of the Persians, the son ofHystaspes, demanded in marriage the daughter of Antyrus, king of theGoths, asking for her hand and at the same time making threats incase they did not fulfil his wish. The Goths spurned this allianceand brought his embassy to naught. Inflamed with anger because hisoffer had been rejected, he led an army of seven hundred thousandarmed men against them and sought to avenge his wounded feelings byinflicting a public injury. Crossing on boats covered with boards andjoined like a bridge almost the whole way from Chalcedon toByzantium, he started for Thrace and Moesia. Later he built a bridgeover the Danube in like manner, but he was wearied by two briefmonths of effort and lost eight thousand armed men among the Tapae.Then, fearing the bridge over the Danube would be seized by his foes,he marched back to Thrace in swift retreat, believing the land ofMoesia would not be safe for even a short sojourn there.
(64) After his death, his son Xerxes planned to avenge hisfather's wrongs and so proceeded to undertake a war against the Gothswith seven hundred thousand of his own men and three hundred thousandarmed auxiliaries, twelve hundred ships of war and three thousandtransports. But he did not venture to try them in battle, beingoverawed by their unyielding animosity. So he returned with his forcejust as he had come, and without fighting a single battle.
(65) Then Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, made alliancewith the Goths and took to wife Medopa, the daughter of King Gudila,so that he might render the kingdom of Macedon more secure by thehelp of this marriage. It was at this time, as the historian Diorelates, that Philip, suffering from need of money, determined tolead out his forces and sack Odessus, a city of Moesia, which wasthen subject to the Goths by reason of the neighboring city of Tomi.Thereupon those priests of the Goths that are called the Holy Mensuddenly opened the gates of Odessus and came forth to meet them.They bore harps and were clad in snowy robes, and chanted insuppliant strains to the gods of their fathers that they might bepropitious and repel the Macedonians. When the Macedonians saw themcoming with such confidence to meet them, they were astonished and,so to speak, the armed were terrified by the unarmed. Straightwaythey broke the line they had formed for battle and not only refrainedfrom destroying the city, but even gave back those whom they hadcaptured outside by right of war. Then they made a truce and returnedto their own country.
(66) After a long time Sitalces, a famous leader of the Goths,remembering this treacherous attempt, gathered a hundred and fiftythousand men and made war upon the Athenians, fighting againstPerdiccas, King of Macedon. This Perdiccas had been left by Alexanderas his successor to rule Athens by hereditary right, when he drankhis destruction at Babylon through the treachery of an attendant. TheGoths engaged in a great battle with him and proved themselves to bethe stronger. Thus in return for the wrong which the Macedonians hadlong before committed in Moesia, the Goths overran Greece and laidwaste the whole of Macedonia.
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(67) Then when Buruista was king of the Goths, Dicineus came toGothia at the time when Sulla ruled the Romans. Buruista receivedDicineus and gave him almost royal power. It was by his advice theGoths ravaged the lands of the Germans, which the Franks now possess.(68) Then came Caesar, the first of all the Romans to assume imperialpower and to subdue almost the whole world, who conquered allkingdoms and even seized islands lying beyond our world, reposing inthe bosom of Ocean. He made tributary to the Romans those that knewnot the Roman name even by hearsay, and yet was unable to prevailagainst the Goths, despite his frequent attempts. Soon Gaius Tiberiusreigned as third emperor of the Romans, and yet the Goths continuedin their kingdom unharmed. (69) Their safety, their advantage, theirone hope lay in this, that whatever their counsellor Dicineus advisedshould by all means be done; and they judged it expedient that theyshould labor for its accomplishment. And when he saw that their mindswere obedient to him in all things and that they had natural ability,he taught them almost the whole of philosophy, for he was a skilledmaster of this subject. Thus by teaching them ethics he restrainedtheir barbarous customs; by imparting a knowledge of physics he madethem live naturally under laws of their own, which they possess inwritten form to this day and call belagines. He taught themlogic and made them skilled in reasoning beyond all other races; heshowed them practical knowledge and so persuaded them to abound ingood works. By demonstrating theoretical knowledge he urged them tocontemplate the twelve signs and the courses of the planets passingthrough them, and the whole of astronomy. He told them how the discof the moon gains increase or suffers loss, and showed them how muchthe fiery globe of the sun exceeds in size our earthly planet. Heexplained the names of the three hundred and forty-six stars and toldthrough what signs in the arching vault of the heavens they glideswiftly from their rising to their setting. (70) Think, I pray you,what pleasure it was for these brave men, when for a little spacethey had leisure from warfare, to be instructed in the teachings ofphilosophy! You might have seen one scanning the position of theheavens and another investigating the nature of plants and bushes.Here stood one who studied the waxing and waning of the moon, whilestill another regarded the labors of the sun and observed how thosebodies which were hastening to go toward the east are whirled aroundand borne back to the west by the rotation of the heavens. When theyhad learned the reason, they were at rest. (71) These and variousother matters Dicineus taught the Goths in his wisdom and gainedmarvellous repute among them, so that he ruled not only the commonmen but their kings. He chose from among them those that were at thattime of noblest birth and superior wisdom and taught them theology,bidding them worship certain divinities and holy places. He gave thename of Pilleati to the priests he ordained, I suppose because theyoffered sacrifice having their heads covered with tiaras, which weotherwise call pillei. (72) But he bade them call the rest oftheir race Capillati. This name the Goths accepted and prized highly,and they retain it to this day in their songs.
(73) After the death of Dicineus, they held Comosicus in almostequal honor, because he was not inferior in knowledge. By reason ofhis wisdom he was accounted their priest and king, and he judged thepeople with the greatest uprightness.
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When he too haddeparted from human affairs, Coryllus ascended the throne as king ofthe Goths and for forty years ruled his people in Dacia. I meanancient Dacia, which the race of the Gepidae now possess. (74) Thiscountry lies across the Danube within sight of Moesia, and issurrounded by a crown of mountains. It has only two ways of access,one by way of the Boutae and the other by the Tapae. This Gothia,which our ancestors called Dacia and now, as I have said, is calledGepidia, was then bounded on the east by the Roxolani, on the west bythe Iazyges, on the north by the Sarmatians and Basternae and on thesouth by the river Danube. The Iazyges are separated from theRoxolani by the Aluta river only.
(75) And since mention has been made of the Danube, I think it notout of place to make brief notice of so excellent a stream. Rising inthe fields of the Alamanni, it receives sixty streams which flow intoit here and there in the twelve hundred miles from its source to itsmouths in the Pontus, resembling a spine inwoven with ribs like abasket. It is indeed a most vast river. In the language of the Bessiit is called the Hister, and it has profound waters in its channel toa depth of quite two hundred feet. This stream surpasses in size allother rivers, except the Nile. Let this much suffice for the Danube.But let us now with the Lord's help return to the subject from whichwe have digressed.
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(76) Now after along time, in the reign of the Emperor Domitian, the Goths, throughfear of his avarice, broke the truce they had long observed underother emperors. They laid waste the bank of the Danube, so long heldby the Roman Empire, and slew the soldiers and their generals. OppiusSabinus was then in command of that province, succeeding Agrippa,while Dorpaneus held command over the Goths. Thereupon the Goths madewar and conquered the Romans, cut off the head of Oppius Sabinus, andinvaded and boldly plundered many castles and cities belonging to theEmperor. (77) In this plight of his countrymen Domitian hastened withall his might to Illyricum, bringing with him the troops of almostthe entire empire. He sent Fuscus before him as his general withpicked soldiers. Then joining boats together like a bridge, he madehis soldiers cross the river Danube above the army of Dorpaneus. (78)But the Goths were on the alert. They took up arms and presentlyoverwhelmed the Romans in the first encounter. They slew Fuscus, thecommander, and plundered the soldiers' camp of its treasure. Andbecause of the great victory they had won in this region, theythereafter called their leaders, by whose good fortune they seemed tohave conquered, not mere men, but demigods, that is Ansis. Theirgenealogy I shall run through briefly, telling the lineage of eachand the beginning and the end of this line. And do thou, O reader,hear me without repining; for I speak truly.
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(79) Now the firstof these heroes, as they themselves relate in their legends, wasGapt, who begat Hulmul. And Hulmul begat Augis; and Augis begat himwho was called Amal, from whom the name of the Amali comes. This Amalbegat Hisarnis. Hisarnis moreover begat Ostrogotha, and Ostrogothabegat Hunuil, and Hunuil likewise begat Athal. Athal begat Achiulfand Oduulf. Now Achiulf begat Ansila and Ediulf, Vultuulf andHermanaric. And Vultuulf begat Valaravans and Valaravans begatVinitharius. Vinitharius moreover begat Vandalarius; (80) Vandalariusbegat Thiudimer and Valamir and Vidimer; and Thiudimer begatTheodoric. Theodoric begat Amalasuentha; Amalasuentha bore Athalaricand Mathesuentha to her husband Eutharic, whose race was thus joinedto hers in kinship. (81) For the aforesaid Hermanaric, the son ofAchiulf, begat Hunimund, and Hunimund begat Thorismud. Now Thorismudbegat Beremud, Beremud begat Veteric, and Veteric likewise begatEutharic, who married Amalasuentha and begat Athalaric andMathesuentha. Athalaric died in the years of his childhood, andMathesuentha married Vitiges, to whom she bore no child. Both ofthem were taken together by Belisarius to Constantinople. WhenVitiges passed from human affairs, Germanus the patrician, a cousinof the Emperor Justinian, took Mathesuentha in marriage and made hera Patrician Ordinary. And of her he begat a son, also calledGermanus. But upon the death of Germanus, she determined to remain awidow. Now how and in what wise the kingdom of the Amali wasoverthrown we shall keep to tell in its proper place, if the Lordhelp us.
(82) But let us now return to the pointwhence we made our digression and tell how the stock of this peopleof whom I speak reached the end of its course. Now Ablabius thehistorian relates that in Scythia, where we have said that they weredwelling above an arm of the Pontic Sea, part of them who held theeastern region and whose king was Ostrogotha, were called Ostrogoths,that is, eastern Goths, either from his name or from the place. Butthe rest were called Visigoths, that is, the Goths of the westerncountry.
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(83) As already said, they crossed the Danubeand dwelt a little while in Moesia and Thrace. From the remnant ofthese came Maximinus, the Emperor succeeding Alexander the son ofMama. For Symmachus relates it thus in the fifth book of his history,saying that upon the death of Caesar Alexander, Maximinus was madeEmperor by the army; a man born in Thrace of most humble parentage,his father being a Goth named Micca, and his mother a woman of theAlani called Ababa. He reigned three years and lost alike his empireand his life while making war on the Christians. (84) Now after hisfirst years spent in rustic life, he had come from his flocks tomilitary service in the reign of the Emperor Severus and at the timewhen he was celebrating his son's birthday. It happened that theEmperor was giving military games. When Maximinus saw this, althoughhe was a semi-barbarian youth, he besought the Emperor in his nativetongue to give him permission to wrestle with the trained soldiersfor the prizes offered. (85) Severus marvelling much at hisgreat size--for his stature, it is said, was more than eightfeet,--bade him contend in wrestling with the camp followers, inorder that no injury might befall his soldiers at the hands of thiswild fellow. Thereupon Maximinus threw sixteen attendants with sogreat ease that he conquered them one by one without taking any restby pausing between the bouts. So then, when he had won the prizes, itwas ordered that he should be sent into the army and should take hisfirst campaign with the cavalry. On the third day after this, whenthe Emperor went out to the field, he saw him coursing about inbarbarian fashion and bade a tribune restrain him and teach him Romandiscipline. But when he understood it was the Emperor who wasspeaking about him, he came forward and began to run ahead of him ashe rode. (86) Then the Emperor spurred on hishorse to a slowtrot and wheeled in many a circle hither and thither with variousturns, until he was weary. And then he said to him "Are you willingto wrestle now after your running, my little Thracian?" "As much asyou like, O Emperor," he answered. So Severus leaped from his horseand ordered the freshest soldiers to wrestle with him. But he threwto the ground seven very powerful youths, even as before, taking nobreathing space between the bouts. So he alone was given prizes ofsilver and a golden necklace by Caesar. Then he was bidden to servein the body guard of the Emperor. (87) After this he was an officerunder Antoninus Caracalla, often increasing his fame by his deeds,and rose to many military grades and finally to the centurionship asthe reward of his active service. Yet afterwards, when Macrinusbecame Emperor, he refused military service for almost three years,and though he held the office of tribune, he never came into thepresence of Macrinus, thinking his rule shameful because he had wonit by committing a crime. (88) Then he returned to Eliogabalus,believing him to be the son of Antoninus, and entered upon histribuneship. After his reign, he fought with marvellous successagainst the Parthians, under Alexander the son of Mama. When he wasslain in an uprising of the soldiers at Mogontiacum, Maximinushimself was made Emperor by a vote of the army, without a decree ofthe senate. But he marred all his good deeds by persecuting theChristians in accordance with an evil vow and, being slain byPupienus at Aquileia, left the kingdom to Philip. These matters wehave borrowed from the history of Symmachus for this our little book,in order to show that the race of which we speak attained to the veryhighest station in the Roman Empire. But our subject requires us toreturn in due order to the point whence we digressed.
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(89) Now the Gothicrace gained great fame in the region where they were then dwelling,that is in the Scythian land on the shore of Pontus, holdingundisputed sway over great stretches of country, many arms of the seaand many river courses. By their strong right arm the Vandals wereoften laid low, the Marcomanni held their footing by paying tributeand the princes of the Quadi were reduced to slavery. Now when theaforesaid Philip--who, with his son Philip, was the only Christianemperor before Constantine--ruled over the Romans, in the second yearof his reign Rome completed its one thousandth year. He withheld fromthe Goths the tribute due them; whereupon they were naturally enragedand instead of friends became his foes. For though they dwelt apartunder their own kings, yet they had been allied to the Roman stateand received annual gifts. (90) And what more? Ostrogotha and his mensoon crossed the Danube and ravaged Moesia and Thrace. Philip sentthe senator Decius against him. And since he could do nothing againstthe Getae, he released his own soldiers from military service andsent them back to private life, as though it had been by theirneglect that the Goths had crossed the Danube. When, as he supposed,he had thus taken vengeance on his soldiers, he returned to Philip.But when the soldiers found themselves expelled from the army afterso many hardships, in their anger they had recourse to the protectionof Ostrogotha, king of the Goths. (91) He received them, was arousedby their words and presently led out three hundred thousand armedmen, having as allies for this war some of the Taifali and Astringiand also three thousand of the Carpi, a race of men very ready tomake war and frequently hostile to the Romans. But in later timeswhen Diocletian and Maximian were Emperors, the Caesar GaleriusMaximianus conquered them and made them tributary to the RomanEmpire. Besides these tribes, Ostrogotha had Goths and Peucini fromthe island of Peuce, which lies in the mouths of the Danube wherethey empty into the Sea of Pontus. He placed in command Argaithus andGuntheric, the noblest leaders of his race. (92) They speedilycrossed the Danube, devastated Moesia a second time and approachedMarcianople, the famed metropolis of that land. Yet after a longsiege they departed, upon receiving money from the inhabitants.
(93) Now since we have mentioned Marcianople, we may brieflyrelate a few matters in connection with its founding. They say thatthe Emperor Trajan built this city for the following reason. Whilehis sister's daughter Marcia was bathing in the stream calledPotamus--a river of great clearness and purity that rises in themidst of the city--she wished to draw some water from it and bychance dropped into its depths the golden pitcher she was carrying.Yet though very heavy from its weight of metal, it emerged from thewaves a long time afterwards. It surely is not a usual thing for anempty vessel to sink; much less that, when once swallowed up, itshould be cast up by the waves and float again. Trajan marvelled athearing this and believed there was some divinity in the stream. Sohe built a city and called it Marcianople after the name of hissister.
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(94) From this city, then, as we were saying,the Getae returned after a long siege to their own land, enriched bythe ransom they had received. Now the race of the Gepidae was movedwith envy when they saw them laden with booty and so suddenlyvictorious everywhere, and made war on their kinsmen. Should you askhow the Getae and Gepidae are kinsmen, I can tell you in a few words.You surely remember that in the beginning I said the Goths went forthfrom the bosom of the island of Scandza with Berig, their king,sailing in only three ships toward the hither shore of Ocean, namelyto Gothiscandza. (95) One of these three ships proved to be slowerthan the others, as is usually the case, and thus is said to havegiven the tribe their name, for in their language gepantameans slow. Hence it came to pass that gradually and bycorruption the name Gepidae was coined for them by way of reproach.For undoubtedly they too trace their origin from the stock of theGoths, but because, as I have said, gepanta means somethingslow and stolid, the word Gepidae arose as a gratuitous name ofreproach. I do not believe this is very far wrong, for they are slowof thought and too sluggish for quick movement of their bodies.
(96) These Gepidae were then smitten by envy while they dwelt inthe province of Spesis on an island surrounded by the shallow watersof the Vistula. This island they called, in the speech of theirfathers, Gepedoios; but it is now inhabited by the race of theVividarii, since the Gepidae themselves have moved to better lands.The Vividarii are gathered from various races into this one asylum,if I may call it so, and thus they form a nation. (97) So then, as wewere saying, Fastida, king of the Gepidae, stirred up his quietpeople to enlarge their boundaries by war. He overwhelmed theBurgundians, almost annihilating them, and conquered a number ofother races also. He unjustly provoked the Goths, being the first tobreak the bonds of kinship by unseemly strife. He was greatly puffedup with vain glory, but in seeking to acquire new lands for hisgrowing nation, he only reduced the numbers of his own countrymen.(98) For he sent ambassadors to Ostrogotha, to whose rule Ostrogothsand Visigoths alike, that is, the two peoples of the same tribe, werestill subject. Complaining that he was hemmed in by rugged mountainsand dense forests, he demanded one of two things,--that Ostrogothashould either prepare for war or give up part of his lands to them.(99) Then Ostrogotha, king of the Goths, who was a man of firm mind,answered the ambassadors that he did indeed dread such a war and thatit would be a grievous and infamous thing to join battle with theirkin,--but he would not give up his lands. And why say more? TheGepidae hastened to take arms and Ostrogotha likewise moved hisforces against them, lest he should seem a coward. They met at thetown of Galtis, near which the river Auha flows, and there both sidesfought with great valor; indeed the similarity of their arms and oftheir manner of fighting turned them against their own men. But thebetter cause and their natural alertness aided the Goths. (100)Finally night put an end to the battle as a part of the Gepidae weregiving way. Then Fastida, king of the Gepidae, left the field ofslaughter and hastened to his own land, as much humiliated with shameand disgrace as formerly he had been elated with pride. The Gothsreturned victorious, content with the retreat of the Gepidae, anddwelt in peace and happiness in their own land so long as Ostrogothawas their leader.
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(101) After hisdeath, Cniva divided the army into two parts and sent some to wasteMoesia, knowing that it was undefended through the neglect of theemperors. He himself with seventy thousand men hastened to Euscia,that is, Novae. When driven from this place by the general Gallus, heapproached Nicopolis, a very famous town situated near the Iatrusriver. This city Trajan built when he conquered the Sarmatians andnamed it the City of Victory. When the Emperor Decius drew near,Cniva at last withdrew to the regions of Haemus, which were not fardistant. Thence he hastened to Philippopolis, with his forces in goodarray. (102) When the Emperor Decius learned of his departure, he waseager to bring relief to his own city and, crossing Mount Haemus,came to Beroa. While he was resting his horses and his weary army inthat place, all at once Cniva and his Goths fell upon him like athunderbolt. He cut the Roman army to pieces and drove the Emperor,with a few who had succeeded in escaping, across the Alps again toEuscia in Moesia, where Gallus was then stationed with a large forceof soldiers as guardian of the frontier. Collecting an army from thisregion as well as from Oescus, he prepared for the conflict of thecoming war. (103) But Cniva took Philippopolis after a long siege andthen, laden with spoil, allied himself to Priscus, the commander inthe city, to fight against Decius. In the battle that followed theyquickly pierced the son of Decius with an arrow and cruelly slew him.The father saw this, and although he is said to have exclaimed, tocheer the hearts of his soldiers: "Let no one mourn; the death of onesoldier is not a great loss to the republic", he was yet unable toendure it, because of his love for his son. So he rode against thefoe, demanding either death or vengeance, and when he came toAbrittus, a city of Moesia, he was himself cut off by the Goths andslain, thus making an end of his dominion and of his life. This placeis to-day called the Altar of Decius, because he there offeredstrange sacrifices to idols before the battle.
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(104) Then upon thedeath of Decius, Gallus and Volusianus succeeded to the Roman Empire.At this time a destructive plague, almost like death itself, such aswe suffered nine years ago, blighted the face of the whole earth andespecially devastated Alexandria and all the land of Egypt. Thehistorian Dionysius gives a mournful account of it and Cyprian, ourown bishop and venerable martyr in Christ, also describes it in hisbook entitled "On Mortality". At this time the Goths frequentlyravaged Moesia, through the neglect of the Emperors. (105) When acertain Aemilianus saw that they were free to do this, and that theycould not be dislodged by anyone without great cost to the republic,he thought that he too might be able to achieve fame and fortune. Sohe seized the rule in Moesia and, taking all the soldiers he couldgather, began to plunder cities and people. In the next few months,while an armed host was being gathered against him, he wrought nosmall harm to the state. Yet he died almost at the beginning of hisevil attempt, thus losing at once his life and the power he coveted.(106) Now though Gallus and Volusianus, the Emperors we havementioned, departed this life after remaining in power for barely twoyears, yet during this space of two years which they spent on earththey reigned amid universal peace and favor. Only one thing was laidto their charge, namely the great plague. But this was an accusationmade by ignorant slanderers, whose custom it is to wound the lives ofothers with their malicious bite. Soon after they came to power theymade a treaty with the race of the Goths. When both rulers were dead,it was no long time before Gallienus usurped the throne.
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(107) While he was given over to luxurious living of every sort,Respa, Veduc and Thuruar, leaders of the Goths, took ship and sailedacross the strait of the Hellespont to Asia. There they laid wastemany populous cities and set fire to the renowned temple of Diana atEphesus, which, as we said before, the Amazons built. Being drivenfrom the neighborhood of Bithynia, they destroyed Chalcedon, whichCornelius Avitus afterwards restored to some extent. Yet even to-day,though it is happily situated near the royal city, it still showssome traces of its ruin as a witness to posterity. (108) After theirsuccess, the Goths recrossed the strait of the Hellespont, laden withbooty and spoil, and returned along the same route by which they hadentered the lands of Asia, sacking Troy and Ilium on the way. Thesecities, which had scarce recovered a little from the famous war withAgamemnon, were thus destroyed anew by the hostile sword. After theGoths had thus devastated Asia, Thrace next felt their ferocity. Forthey went thither and presently attacked Anchiali, a city at the footof Haemus and not far from the sea. Sardanapalus, king of theParthians, had built this city long ago between an inlet of the seaand the base of Haemus. (109) There they are said to have stayed formany days, enjoying the baths of the hot springs which are situatedabout twelve miles from the city of Anchiali. There they gush fromthe depths of their fiery source, and among the innumerable hotsprings of the world they are esteemed as specially famous andefficacious for their healing virtues.
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(110) After these events, the Goths hadalready returned home when they were summoned at the request of theEmperor Maximian to aid the Romans against the Parthians. They foughtfor him faithfully, serving as auxiliaries. But after Caesar Maximianby their aid had routed Narseus, king of the Persians, the grandsonof Sapor the Great, taking as spoil all his possessions, togetherwith his wives and his sons, and when Diocletian had conqueredAchilles in Alexandria and Maximianus Herculius had broken theQuinquegentiani in Africa, thus winning peace for the empire, theybegan rather to neglect the Goths.
(111) Now it had long been a hard matter for the Roman army tofight against any nations whatsoever without them. This is evidentfrom the way in which the Goths were so frequently called upon. Thusthey were summoned by Constantine to bear arms against his kinsmanLicinius. Later, when he was vanquished and shut up in Thessalonicaand deprived of his power, they slew him with the sword ofConstantine the victor. (112) In like manner it was the aid of theGoths that enabled him to build the famous city that is named afterhim, the rival of Rome, inasmuch as they entered into a truce withthe Emperor and furnished him forty thousand men to aid him againstvarious peoples. This body of men, namely, the Allies, and theservice they rendered in war are still spoken of in the land to thisday. Now at that time they prospered under the rule of their kingsAriaric and Aoric. Upon their death Geberich appeared as successor tothe throne, a man renowned for his valor and noble birth.
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(113) For he wasthe son of Hilderith, who was the son of Ovida, who was the son ofNidada; and by his illustrious deeds he equalled the glory of hisrace. Soon he sought to enlarge his country's narrow bounds at theexpense of the race of the Vandals and Visimar, their king. ThisVisimar was of the stock of the Asdingi, which is eminent among themand indicates a most warlike descent, as Dexippus the historianrelates. He states furthermore that by reason of the great extent oftheir country they could scarcely come from Ocean to our frontier ina year's time. At that time they dwelt in the land where the Gepidaenow live, near the rivers Marisia, Miliare, Gilpil and the Grisia,which exceeds in size all previously mentioned. (114) They then hadon the east the Goths, on the west the Marcomanni, on the north theHermunduli and on the south the Hister, which is also called theDanube. At the time when the Vandals were dwelling in this region,war was begun against them by Geberich, king of the Goths, on theshore of the river Marisia which I have mentioned. Here the battleraged for a little while on equal terms. But soon Visimar himself,the king of the Vandals, was overthrown, together with the greaterpart of his people. (115) When Geberich, the famous leader of theGoths, had conquered and spoiled the Vandals, he returned to his ownplace whence he had come. Then the remnant of the Vandals who hadescaped, collecting a band of their unwarlike folk, left theirill-fated country and asked the Emperor Constantine for Pannonia.Here they made their home for about sixty years and obeyed thecommands of the emperors like subjects. A long time afterward theywere summoned thence by Stilicho, Master of the Soldiery, Ex-Consuland Patrician, and took possession of Gaul. Here they plundered theirneighbors and had no settled place of abode.
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(116) SoonGeberich, king of the Goths, departed from human affairs andHermanaric, noblest of the Amali, succeeded to the throne. He subduedmany warlike peoples of the north and made them obey his laws, andsome of our ancestors have justly compared him to Alexander theGreat. Among the tribes he conquered were the Golthescytha, Thiudos,Inaunxis, Vasinabroncae, Merens, Mordens, Imniscaris, Rogas, Tadzans,Athaul, Navego, Bubegenae and Coldae. (117) But though famous for hisconquest of so many races, he gave himself no rest until he had slainsome in battle and then reduced to his sway the remainder of thetribe of the Heruli, whose chief was Alaric. Now the aforesaid race,as the historian Ablabius tells us, dwelt near Lake Maeotis in swampyplaces which the Greeks call hele;hence they werenamed Heluri. They were a people swift of foot, and on that accountwere the more swollen with pride, (118) for there was at that time norace that did not choose from them its light-armed troops for battle.But though their quickness often saved them from others who made warupon them, yet they were overthrown by the slowness and steadiness ofthe Goths; and the lot of fortune brought it to pass that they, aswell as the other tribes, had to serve Hermanaric, king of the Getae.(119) After the slaughter of the Heruli, Hermanaric also took armsagainst the Venethi. This people, though despised in war, was strongin numbers and tried to resist him. But a multitude of cowards is ofno avail, particularly when God permits an armed multitude to attackthem. These people, as we started to say at the beginning of ouraccount or catalogue of nations, though off-shoots from one stock,have now three names, that is, Venethi, Antes and Sclaveni. Thoughthey now rage in war far and wide, in punishment for our sins, yet atthat time they were all obedient to Hermanaric's commands. (120) Thisruler also subdued by his wisdom and might the race of the Aesti, whodwell on the farthest shore of the German Ocean, and ruled all thenations of Scythia and Germany by his own prowess alone.
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(121) But after a short space of time, as Orosiusrelates, the race of the Huns, fiercer than ferocity itself, flamedforth against the Goths. We learn from old traditions that theirorigin was as follows: Filimer, king of the Goths, son of Gadaric theGreat, who was the fifth in succession to hold the rule of the Getaeafter their departure from the island of Scandza,--and who, as wehave said, entered the land of Scythia with his tribe,--found amonghis people certain witches, whom he called in his native tongueHaliurunnae. Suspecting these women, he expelled them from the midstof his race and compelled them to wander in solitary exile afar fromhis army. (122) There the unclean spirits, who beheld them as theywandered through the wilderness, bestowed their embraces upon themand begat this savage race, which dwelt at first in the swamps,--astunted, foul and puny tribe, scarcely human, and having no languagesave one which bore but slight resemblance to human speech. Such wasthe descent of the Huns who came to the country of the Goths.
(123) This cruel tribe, as Priscus the historian relates, settledon the farther bank of the Maeotic swamp. They were fond of huntingand had no skill in any other art. After they had grown to a nation,they disturbed the peace of neighboring races by theft and rapine. Atone time, while hunters of their tribe were as usual seeking for gameon the farthest edge of Maeotis, they saw a doe unexpectedly appearto their sight and enter the swamp, acting as guide of the way; nowadvancing and again standing still. (124) The hunters followed andcrossed on foot the Maeotic swamp, which they had supposed wasimpassable as the sea. Presently the unknown land of Scythiadisclosed itself and the doe disappeared. Now in my opinion the evilspirits, from whom the Huns are descended, did this from envy of theScythians. (125) And the Huns, who had been wholly ignorant thatthere was another world beyond Maeotis, were now filled withadmiration for the Scythian land. As they were quick of mind, theybelieved that this path, utterly unknown to any age of the past, hadbeen divinely revealed to them. They returned to their tribe, toldthem what had happened, praised Scythia and persuaded the people tohasten thither along the way they had found by the guidance of thedoe. As many as they captured, when they thus entered Scythia for thefirst time, they sacrificed to Victory. The remainder they conqueredand made subject to themselves. (126) Like a whirlwind of nationsthey swept across the great swamp and at once fell upon theAlpidzuri, Alcildzuri, Itimari, Tuncarsi and Boisci, who bordered onthat part of Scythia. The Alani also, who were their equals inbattle, but unlike them in civilization, manners and appearance, theyexhausted by their incessant attacks and subdued. (127) For by theterror of their features they inspired great fear in those whomperhaps they did not really surpass in war. They made their foes fleein horror because their swarthy aspect was fearful, and they had, ifI may call it so, a sort of shapeless lump, not a head, withpin-holes rather than eyes. Their hardihood is evident in their wildappearance, and they are beings who are cruel to their children onthe very day they are born. For they cut the cheeks of the males witha sword, so that before they receive the nourishment of milk theymust learn to endure wounds. (128) Hence they grow old beardless andtheir young men are without comeliness, because a face furrowed bythe sword spoils by its scars the natural beauty of a beard. They areshort in stature, quick in bodily movement, alert horsemen, broadshouldered, ready in the use of bow and arrow, and have firm-setnecks which are ever erect in pride. Though they live in the form ofmen, they have the cruelty of wild beasts.
(129) When the Getae beheld this active race that had invaded manynations, they took fright and consulted with their king how theymight escape from such a foe. Now although Hermanaric, king of theGoths, was the conqueror of many tribes, as we have said above, yetwhile he was deliberating on this invasion of the Huns, thetreacherous tribe of the Rosomoni, who at that time were among thosewho owed him their homage, took this chance to catch him unawares.For when the king had given orders that a certain woman of the tribeI have mentioned, Sunilda by name, should be bound to wild horses andtorn apart by driving them at full speed in opposite directions (forhe was roused to fury by her husband's treachery to him), herbrothers Sarus and Ammius came to avenge their sister's death andplunged a sword into Hermanaric's side. Enfeebled by this blow, hedragged out a miserable existence in bodily weakness. (130) Balamber,king of the Huns, took advantage of his ill health to move an armyinto the country of the Ostrogoths, from whom the Visigoths hadalready separated because of some dispute. Meanwhile Hermanaric, whowas unable to endure either the pain of his wound or the inroads ofthe Huns, died full of days at the great age of one hundred and tenyears. The fact of his death enabled the Huns to prevail over thoseGoths who, as we have said, dwelt in the East and were calledOstrogoths.
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(131) The Visigoths,who were their other allies and inhabitants of the western country,were terrified as their kinsmen had been, and knew not how to planfor safety against the race of the Huns. After long deliberation bycommon consent they finally sent ambassadors into Romania to theEmperor Valens, brother of Valentinian, the elder Emperor, to saythat if he would give them part of Thrace or Moesia to keep, theywould submit themselves to his laws and commands. That he might havegreater confidence in them, they promised to become Christians, if hewould give them teachers who spoke their language. (132) When Valenslearned this, he gladly and promptly granted what he had himselfintended to ask. He received the Getae into the region of Moesia andplaced them there as a wall of defense for his kingdom against othertribes. And since at that time the Emperor Valens, who was infectedwith the Arian perfidy, had closed all the churches of our party, hesent as preachers to them those who favored his sect. They came andstraightway filled a rude and ignorant people with the poison oftheir heresy. Thus the Emperor Valens made the Visigoths Ariansrather than Christians. (133) Moreover, from the love they bore them,they preached the gospel both to the Ostrogoths and to their kinsmenthe Gepidae, teaching them to reverence this heresy, and they invitedall people of their speech everywhere to attach themselves to thissect. They themselves as we have said, crossed the Danube and settledDacia Ripensis, Moesia and Thrace by permission of the Emperor.
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(134) Soon famine and want came upon them, asoften happens to a people not yet well settled in a country. Theirprinces and the leaders who ruled them in place of kings, that isFritigern, Alatheus and Safrac, began to lament the plight of theirarmy and begged Lupicinus and Maximus, the Roman commanders, to opena market. But to what will not the "cursed lust for gold" compel mento assent? The generals, swayed by avarice, sold them at a high pricenot only the flesh of sheep and oxen, but even the carcasses of dogsand unclean animals, so that a slave would be bartered for a loaf ofbread or ten pounds of meat. (135) When their goods and chattelsfailed, the greedy trader demanded their sons in return for thenecessities of life. And the parents consented even to this, in orderto provide for the safety of their children, arguing that it wasbetter to lose liberty than life; and indeed it is better that one besold, if he will be mercifully fed, than that he should be kept freeonly to die.
Now it came to pass in that troubIous time that Lupicinus, theRoman general, invited Fritigern, a chieftain of the Goths, to afeast and, as the event revealed, devised a plot against him. (136)But Fritigern, thinking no evil, came to the feast with a fewfollowers. While he was dining in the praetorium he heard the dyingcries of his ill-fated men, for, by order of the general, thesoldiers were slaying his companions who were shut up in another partof the house. The loud cries of the dying fell upon ears alreadysuspicious, and Fritigern at once perceived the treacherous trick. Hedrew his sword and with great courage dashed quickly from thebanqueting-hall, rescued his men from their threatening doom andincited them to slay the Romans. (137) Thus these valiant men gainedthe chance they had longed for--to be free to die in battle ratherthan to perish of hunger--and immediately took arms to kill thegenerals Lupicinus and Maximus. Thus that day put an end to thefamine of the Goths and the safety of the Romans, for the Goths nolonger as strangers and pilgrims, but as citizens and lords, began torule the inhabitants and to hold in their own right all the northerncountry as far as the Danube.
(138) When the Emperor Valens heard of this at Antioch, he madeready an army at once and set out for the country of Thrace. Here agrievous battle took place and the Goths prevailed. The Emperorhimself was wounded and fled to a farm near Hadrianople. The Goths,not knowing that an emperor lay hidden in so poor a hut, set fire toit (as is customary in dealing with a cruel foe), and thus he wascremated in royal splendor. Plainly it was a direct judgment of Godthat he should be burned with fire by the very men whom he hadperfidiously led astray when they sought the true faith, turning themaside from the flame of love into the fire of hell. From this timethe Visigoths, in consequence of their glorious victory, possessedThrace and Dacia Ripensis as if it were their native land.
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(139) Now in theplace of Valens, his uncle, the Emperor Gratian establishedTheodosius the Spaniard in the Eastern Empire. Military disciplinewas soon restored to a high level, and the Goth, perceiving that thecowardice and sloth of former princes was ended, became afraid. Forthe Emperor was famed alike for his acuteness and discretion. Bystern commands and by generosity and kindness he encouraged ademoralized army to deeds of daring. (140) But when the soldiers, whohad obtained a better leader by the change, gained new confidence,they sought to attack the Goths and drive them from the borders ofThrace. But as the Emperor Theodosius fell so sick at this time thathis life was almost despaired of, the Goths were again inspired withcourage. Dividing the Gothic army, Fritigern set out to plunderThessaly, Epirus and Achaia, while Alatheus and Safrac with the restof the troops made for Pannonia. (141) Now the Emperor Gratian had atthis time retreated from Rome to Gaul because of the invasions of theVandals. When he learned that the Goths were acting with greaterboldness because Theodosius was in despair of his life, he quicklygathered an army and came against them. Yet he put no trust in arms,but sought to conquer them by kindness and gifts. So he entered on atruce with them and made peace, giving them provisions.
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(142) When theEmperor Theodosius afterwards recovered and learned that the EmperorGratian had made a compact between the Goths and the Romans, as hehad himself desired, he took it very graciously and gave his assent.He gave gifts to King Athanaric, who had succeeded Fritigern, made analliance with him and in the most gracious manner invited him tovisit him in Constantinople. (143) Athanaric very gladly consentedand as he entered the royal city exclaimed in wonder "Lo, now I seewhat I have often heard of with unbelieving ears," meaning the greatand famous city. Turning his eyes hither and thither, he marvelled ashe beheld the situation of the city, the coming and going of theships, the splendid walls, and the people of divers nations gatheredlike a flood of waters streaming from different regions into onebasin. So too, when he saw the army in array, he said "Truly theEmperor is a god on earth, and whoso raises a hand against him isguilty of his own blood." (144) In the midst of his admiration andthe enjoyment of even greater honors at the hand of the emperor, hedeparted this life after the space of a few months. The emperor hadsuch affection for him that he honored Athanaric even more when hewas dead than during his life-time, for he not only gave him a worthyburial, but himself walked before the bier at the funeral. (145) Nowwhen Athanaric was dead, his whole army continued in the service ofthe Emperor Theodosius and submitted to the Roman rule, forming as itwere one body with the imperial soldiery. The former service of theAllies under the Emperor Constantine was now renewed and they wereagain called Allies. And since the Emperor knew that they werefaithful to him and his friends, he took from their number more thantwenty thousand warriors to serve against the tyrant Eugenius who hadslain Gratian and seized Gaul. After winning the victory over thisusurper, he wreaked his vengeance upon him.
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(146) But afterTheodosius, the lover of peace and of the Gothic race, had passedfrom human cares, his sonsbegan to ruin both empires by theirluxurious living and to deprive their Allies, that is to say theGoths, of the customary gifts. The contempt of the Goths for theRomans soon increased, and for fear their valor would be destroyed bylong peace, they appointed Alaric king over them. He was of a famousstock, and his nobility was second only to that of the Amali, for hecame from the family of the Balthi, who because of their daring valorhad long ago received among their race the name Baltha, thatis, The Bold. (147) Now when this Alaric was made king, he tookcounsel with his men and persuaded them to seek a kingdom by theirown exertions rather than serve others in idleness. In the consulshipof Stilicho and Aurelian he raised an army and entered Italy, whichseemed to be bare of defenders, and came through Pannonia and Sirmiumalong the right side. Without meeting any resistance, he reached thebridge of the river Candidianus at the third milestone from the royalcity of Ravenna.
(148) This city lies amid the streams of the Po between swamps andthe sea, and is accessible only on one side. Its ancient inhabitants,as our ancestors relate, were called Ainetoi, that is,"Laudable". Situated in a corner of the Roman Empire above the IonianSea, it is hemmed in like an island by a flood of rushing waters.(149) On the east it has the sea, and one who sails straight to itfrom the region of Corcyra and those parts of Hellas sweeps with hisoars along the right hand coast, first touching Epirus, thenDalmatia, Liburnia and Histria and at last the Venetian Isles. But onthe west it has swamps through which a sort of door has been left bya very narrow entrance. To the north is an arm of the Po, called theFossa Asconis. (150) On the south likewise is the Po itself, whichthey call the King of the rivers of Italy; and it has also the nameEridanus. This river was turned aside by the Emperor Augustus into avery broad canal which flows through the midst of the city with aseventh part of its stream, affording a pleasant harbor at its mouth.Men believed in ancient times, as Dio relates, that it would hold afleet of two hundred and fifty vessels in its safe anchorage. (151)Fabius says that this, which was once a harbor, now displays itselflike a spacious garden full of trees; but from them hang not sailsbut apples. The city itself boasts of three names and is happilyplaced in its threefold location. I mean to say the first is calledRavenna and the most distant part Classis; while midway between thecity and the sea is Caesarea, full of luxury. The sand of the beachis fine and suited for riding.
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(152) But as I wassaying, when the army of the Visigoths had come into the neighborhoodof this city, they sent an embassy to the Emperor Honorius, who dweltwithin. They said that if he would permit the Goths to settlepeaceably in Italy, they would so live with the Roman people that menmight believe them both to be of one race; but if not, whoeverprevailed in war should drive out the other, and the victor shouldhenceforth rule unmolested. But the Emperor Honorius feared to makeeither promise. So he took counsel with his Senate and considered howhe might drive them from the Italian borders. (153) He finallydecided that Alaric and his race, if they were able to do so, shouldbe allowed to seize for their own home the provinces farthest away,namely, Gaul and Spain. For at this time he had almost lost them, andmoreover they had been devastated by the invasion of Gaiseric, kingof the Vandals. The grant was confirmed by an imperial rescript, andthe Goths, consenting to the arrangement, set out for the countrygiven them.
(154) When they had gone away without doing any harm in Italy,Stilicho, the Patrician and father-in-law of the EmperorHonorius,--for the Emperor had married both his daughters, Maria andThermantia, in succession, but God called both from this world intheir virgin purity--this Stilicho, I say, treacherously hurried toPollentia, a city in the Cottian Alps. There he fell upon theunsuspecting Goths in battle, to the ruin of all Italy and his owndisgrace. (155) When the Goths suddenly beheld him, at first theywere terrified. Soon regaining their courage and arousing each otherby brave shouting, as is their custom, they turned to flight theentire army of Stilicho and almost exterminated it. Then forsakingthe journey they had undertaken, the Goths with hearts full of ragereturned again to Liguria whence they had set out. When they hadplundered and spoiled it, they also laid waste AemiIia, and thenhastened toward the city of Rome along the Flaminian Way, which runsbetween Picenum and Tuscia, taking as booty whatever they found oneither hand. (156) When they finally entered Rome, by Alaric'sexpress command they merely sacked it and did not set the city onfire, as wild peoples usually do, nor did they permit serious damageto be done to the holy places. Thence they departed to bring likeruin upon Campania and Lucania, and then came to Bruttii. Here theyremained a long time and planned to go to Sicily and thence to thecountries of Africa.
Now the land of the Bruttii is at the extreme southern bound ofItaly, and a corner of it marks the beginning of the Apenninemountains. It stretches out like a tongue into the Adriatic Sea andseparates it from the Tyrrhenian waters. It chanced to receive itsname in ancient times from a Queen Bruttia. (157) To this place cameAlaric, king of the Visigoths, with the wealth of all Italy which hehad taken as spoil, and from there, as we have said, he intended tocross over by way of Sicily to the quiet land of Africa. But sinceman is not free to do anything he wishes without the will of God,that dread strait sunk several of his ships and threw all intoconfusion. Alaric was cast down by his reverse and, whiledeliberating what he should do, was suddenly overtaken by an untimelydeath and departed from human cares. (158) His people mourned for himwith the utmost affection. Then turning from its course the riverBusentus near the city of Consentia--for this stream flows with itswholesome waters from the foot of a mountain near that city--they leda band of captives into the midst of its bed to dig out a place forhis grave. In the depths of this pit they buried Alaric, togetherwith many treasures, and then turned the waters back into theirchannel. And that none might ever know the place, they put to deathall the diggers. They bestowed the kingdom of the Visigoths onAthavulf his kinsman, a man of imposing beauty and great spirit; forthough not tall of stature, he was distinguished for beauty of faceand form.
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(159) WhenAthavulf became king, he returned again to Rome, and whatever hadescaped the first sack his Goths stripped bare like locusts, notmerely despoiling Italy of its private wealth, but even of its publicresources. The Emperor Honorius was powerless to resist even when hissister Placidia, the daughter of the Emperor Theodosius by his secondwife, was led away captive from the city. But Athavulf was attractedby her nobility, beauty and chaste purity, and so he took her to wifein lawful marriage at Forum Julii, a city of Aemilia. When thebarbarians learned of this alliance, they were the more effectuallyterrified, since the Empire and the Goths now seemed to be made one.Then Athavulf set out for Gaul, leaving Honorius Augustus stripped ofhis wealth, to be sure, yet pleased at heart because he was now asort of kinsman of his. (161) Upon his arrival the neighboring tribeswho had long made cruel raids into Gaul,--Franks and Burgundiansalike,--were terrified and began to keep within their own borders.Now the Vandals and the Alani, as we have said before, had beendwelling in both Pannonias by permission of the Roman Emperors. Yetfearing they would not be safe even here if the Goths should return,they crossed over into Gaul. (162) But no long time after they hadtaken possession of Gaul they fled thence and shut themselves up inSpain, for they still remembered from the tales of their forefatherswhat ruin Geberich, king of the Goths, had long ago brought on theirrace, and how by his valor he had driven them from their native land.And thus it happened that Gaul lay open to Athavulf when he came.(163) Now when the Goth had established his kingdom in Gaul, he beganto grieve for the plight of the Spaniards and planned to save themfrom the attacks of the Vandals. So Athavulf left at Barcelona histreasures and the men who were unfit for war, and entered theinterior of Spain with a few faithful followers. Here he foughtfrequently with the Vandals and, in the third year after he hadsubdued Gaul and Spain, fell pierced through the groin by the swordof Euervulf, a man whose short stature he had been wont to mock.After his death Segeric was appointed king, but he too was slain bythe treachery of his own men and lost both his kingdom and his lifeeven more quickly than Athavulf.
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THE AIMS OF JORDANES
by James J. O'Donnell
Historia 31(1982) 223-240
The history of Jordanes scholarship[[*]] has been dominated by two preoccupations: his sources and the events recounted in his works. The present writer has been guiltier than most in limiting his view to these subjects.[] Attention has focused on the Getica, which contains much interesting information not available elsewhere, to the neglect of the Romana, an epitome of epitomes. My own work has exemplified this tendency superbly.
What is lost with these limitations is the writer Jordanes himself. His biography and ancestry merit attention, perhaps, but Jordanes the historian, with an independent intelligence or (if that be denied) at least his own pen and ink, disappears in the shuffle.
Briefly put, the scholarly consensus to date runs something like this. Jordanes was a Christian of Germanic origin, probably a bishop, writing at Constantinople in 551 or 552 A. D. His Romana is an epitome of Roman history of little interest, dedicated to Pope Vigilius, then resident in Constantinople. His Getica is merely an abridgement of Cassiodorus' Gothic History (since lost to us) begun after the Romana was begun but finished before the Romana was finished. Since the Getica reflects the most urgent of contemporary political events, it must have had a political purpose.
Disagreement persists on several issues. A minority of scholars denies that Jordanes the bishop and Vigilius the pope were the people involved in writing and receiving the Romana. Since E. Stein's Histoire du Bas-Empire II (1949), a majority has insisted on dating the works to 552, while others hold out for 551. The exact nature and extent of Jordanes' borrowing from his sources (and consequently the precise identity of the sources he used) remain unclear. The [p. 224]universal assumption, however, is that Jordanes was not a particularly clever fellow. The principal evidence for this claim is his slovenly grammar, on the good classicizing principle that cleverness and good grammar are always found together.
I propose in this paper to attempt to throw a little more light on Jordanes' works, and even on some of the oldest chestnuts in the scholarly debate, by turning aside from the traditional questions for a moment to look at him from a different angle. Where earlier scholars have begun with the circumstances in which he wrote in an attempt to deduce his arguments, it seems to me necessary (and enlightening) to work the other way around.[] Let us begin where Jordanes began, with the Romana. The purpose of the work was to summarize the history of the world from a Roman point of view. The original title (De summa temporum vel origine actibusque Romanorum) reveals both the work's Rome-centered quality and its general chronographic purpose.[] The Romana summarizes Jerome's version (and expansion) of Eusebius's chronicle, with interspersed material probably from Florus, then shifts from Jerome to Marcellinus comes, the continuator of Jerome. Much of Jordanes' worst grammar is in the Jerome-summarizing sections.
The Romana is dedicated to a certain nobilissime frater Vigilii in a short preface. If Jordanes were a bishop and Vigilius a pope, this would be an extraordinarily inept form of address, not likely even from a man whose grasp of Latin grammar was imprecise. The appropriate titles of civil and religious dignitaries were a matter, after all, not merely of written but also of spoken language in this period. Punctilio was possible, indeed necessary, even for poorly-educated people. I could probably strengthen the case I am about to make for the religious overtones of Jordanes' works if I accepted the bishop/pope identifications, but I will have to decline the opportunity out of respect for the limits of even Jordanes' ineptitude.
What Jordanes says in his Romana preface is important for our purposes, so I will paraphrase it in English and provide the text in my notes. "What you want to know," he says to Vigilius, "is the history of the calamities of this world here below from beginning right down to the present. You add that you would also be glad if I could summarize from my ancient sources how the Roman empire began, how it grew, how it subjected virtually the whole world to its dominion, and how it continues to hang on to its hegemony (at least in pretense) even now."[] Vigilius and Jordanes seem to share no very flattering [p. 225]view of Roman history. In this shrewd assessment of the flimsiness of Justinian's pretensions to world-wide empire, we see our first distinct clue that Jordanes may not be as obtuse as we have been prone to assume.
A little further on in the preface, Jordanes points the moral of his work. He has put together his Romana and Getica (written originally for his other friend, Castalius) in one volume, "so that when you understand the devastation of the various nations you may long to be freed from all worldly tribulation and turn yourself towards God, who is true freedom. As you read these two little books, know that Necessity ever looms over the head of the man who loves this fading world. Give an ear to the apostle John when he says, 'Beloved, do not love this world or the things in it. This world and its desires pass away; but he who does the will of God shall abide forever.' (1 John 2.15, 17) Love God and your neighbor with your whole heart, obey his law, and pray for me, nobilissime et magnifice frater.''[] The express function of the work, then, is limited to religious edification. An understanding of history should lead, not to patriotism and pride in Roman grandeur, but to conversio and a turning away from the world. Jordanes elsewhere speaks of his own conversion, after an earlier career in public life (Get. 266). The plain sense of his words here is that he hopes for the same change of life in his secular friend Vigilius.
Parenthetically, we should remember that the other known people in Constantinople around 551 with whom Jordanes may have been connected were his sources Cassiodorus and Marcellinus, both of whom were already in just the same position of having left worldly careers to devote themselves to the religious life.[] If anything is to be made of Jordanes' social milieu, we should conclude that its impact on his writings would be religious rather than political or nationalistic.
Throughout Jordanes' works there is refreshingly little of the moral pointing and homiletics which characterized ancient historiography, pagan as well as Christian. For the most part he simply recounts the facts tersely and concisely, leaving us to draw our own conclusions (presumably in accord with the purposes enunciated in his preface). By and large, the Romana follows its sources, even on sensitive subjects. In one place Jordanes tells the Romulus/[p. 226]Remus story following Jerome and accordingly demythologizes the legend: Rhea Silvia's claim of divine paternity was a lie and the nourishing wolf was a hooker named Lupa (Rom. 51); but a few pages later the same story recurs when Jordanes is following Florus, so the tale is told in the traditional way, with a single clumsy insert (Rom. 87): "Romulus fuit Marte, ut ipsorum verbis loquamur, genitus." That the insert is clumsy cannot be denied, but it should be observed that at least its presence gives some evidence that the epitomator was paying attention to his work and knew that his earlier version of the story was inconsistent with the one he was picking up from Florus. There is a similar insertion when Jordanes comes to the establishment of the consulship in 509 B. C.; we hear his own voice as he looks up from the interminable consular lists before him in Jerome and explains that if it is all the same with us, he will spare us the comprehensive treatment and concentrate on the high spots (Rom. 1 14).
It is only in the last sections of the Romana that Jordanes comes into his own as a writer. He treats the events of his own time as a tragedy worthy of detailed treatment.[] In paragraphs 378-388, the whole sordid course of the Gothic-Byzantine war unfolds, with much more detail than Jordanes has the stomach for in the Getica. Totila, the last successful Gothic king in Italy resisting Byzantine forces, gets his due here, as well as both of the barbarian marriages engineered from Constantinople around 550 for strategic purposes: Mathesuentha with Germanus to link Ostrogoths with Justinian's family and the niece of Theodahad (the Gothic king under whom the war had begun) with the king of the Lombards. Despite these diplomatic efforts, the story ends grimly. Again, only detailed paraphrase and textual quotation can do justice to Jordanes.
"These are the evils," he begins his last paragraph, "that have befallen the Roman empire, except of course the daily harassment of the Bulgars, Antae, and Slavs -- if you want to know about these, turn your unwearying gaze to the annals and consular chronicles[] and you will find the empire of our day fully worthy of tragedy. By now you should know how the Roman empire began, how it grew, how it subjected the whole world to its sway, and how it lost the world again under inept leadership. We have told this briefly to the best of our ability, so that the patient reader may understand them by reading us."[] The [p. 227]last paragraph is fully consonant with the preface, even echoes its language. The view of history expounded is neither pro-Byzantine nor pro-Gothic, but pro-Christian, plainly and simply. Though it is hard to pinpoint the influence of Augustine on Jordanes,[] the Augustinian view of secular history clearly predominates and even inspires this work.
There are plenty of reasons for believing that the Getica was written by the same man as the one who wrote the Romana; but the current interpretations of the Tendenz of the Getica are so much at variance with the obvious import of the Romana that the casual reader would be excused for entertaining a doubt. The closest anyone comes to explaining the inconcinnity is by saying that when the Getica was written (mid-551? see below), optimism was a possible attitude, while by the time the Romana was written (552?), Narses' expedition to Italy had dashed all hopes of Gothic-Roman cooperation. I hope to show that this view is unacceptable.
The preface to the Getica (properly: De origine actibusque Getarum, clearly intending a parallel to the Romana) is much less helpful than that of the Romana, for less of it is directly attributable to Jordanes. Much of the preface is borrowed in what Mommsen called an impudent act of plagiarism from the preface of Rufinus to his translation of Origen's commentary on Romans. It should not go unnoticed that this particular choice of a work to plagiarize implies that the man who wrote the Augustinian treatment of Roman history in his first work was also familiar with some serious theology, at a time when Origen was a hot point of controversy in church circles at Constantinople. Let us listen to Jordanes' voice again (but this time the parts lifted from Rufinus will be italicized).
"I only wanted to paddle my little boat by the quiet shore and pluck a few little fishes from the pools of ancient writings (as someone once said), but you compel me, brother Castalius, to spread my sails again on the deep and abandon the work which I have in hand providing an abridged version of the chronicles and you persuade me to draw together in this one little book in my own words the twelve books of [Cassiodorus] Senator on the history of the Goths from 'once upon a time' all the way to the present."[]
The contrast depicted here between the two works (Romana and Getica) is instructive. The Romana was a simple matter, just shooting fish in a barrel to twist the metaphor slightly; but the Getica is another thing entirely, much [p. 228]more difficult and challenging. Why should this be, if Jordanes was merely abbreviating Cassiodorus the way he abbreviated the chroniclers ? Why should Jordanes insist on the phrase nostris verbis (changing Rufinus' voce to verbis) if he did not mean to claim by this preface that his own contribution to the work was necessarily substantial? We shall return to this point later. Let us hear Jordanes again.
"This is a tall order, made by someone who little suspects how much he asks. You do not see how feeble is the breath with which I will have to try to fill this mighty horn. It is all the harder, because I do not have the books themselves at hand to follow word-by-word, but (I am not lying) by the courtesy of his [sc. Cassiodorus'] steward, I have just had time to skim over the books again for three days. I do not recall them word-for-word, but I think I have the story straight."[] Scholars have generally just refused outright to believe this part of the preface, which makes it all the more interesting to consider what it means. Jordanes must have been someone with some known connection with the study of Gothic history (even if mainly in Cassiodorus' version) in order to generate the request at all. The plaint at the outset of this paragraph that Castalius does not know how burdensome his request is probably indicates that Jordanes wants to claim (in what may be mock humility) that his reputation for expertise is overdone and that he has quite a task before him. In spite of this, he has only managed to lay his hands on the twelve books of Cassiodorus for three days and now must write from memory. The plain sense of the business about the steward is that Cassiodorus was not inclined to cooperate with such a project at this time and that it was carried out without his knowledge.[] Jordanes again:
"To what Cassiodorus wrote I have added some appropriate material from certain Greek and Latin historians, mixing them in at the beginning, at the end, and frequently in the middle in my own words. Please accept graciously the work you asked for and read it with pleasure. Since you are close to the Gothic [p. 229]race, if you find anything missing, feel free to add it, praying for me, dearest brother. The Lord be with you. Amen.''[] Once again, the plain sense is all we require. Some unspecified amount of what follows (enough to be called plura) has been added by Jordanes himself with reference to both Greek and Latin historians. There is no evidence that Cassiodorus himself ever could read Greek, so Jordanes, competent in Greek and working at Constantinople, might well have had important material to add.
The closing words of this preface revive the religious tone familiar from the Romana, reminding us that Jordanes was some kind of conversus after all. The only hint of the purpose of the work to be derived from the preface is that Castalius, vicinus genti (which may mean that he was living near Goths, but there is literally no telling where this may have been), wanted the work done for his own use. Note that the genesis of the work is expressly a transaction between two otherwise unknown people, Jordanes and Castalius. Cassiodorus is explicitly ruled out and there is no reference in the preface to any contemporary events.
If the preface is not overly helpful in unearthing any Tendenz for this particular book, what then of the text itself ? Much of what comes out of this work must be attributed, of course, to Cassiodorus. This is the case, I believe, in the frequent references to the province of lower Moesia in Scythia, references which compelled Mommsen to conclude that Jordanes wrote from that province himself. These references are so frequent (Get. 62, 93, 267, etc.) that the most logical explanation is that they are meant to glorify the Gothic attachment to just that piece of real estate where Theoderic had spent the best years of his early life, in the 480's, as king of his own people and honored friend of the emperor Zeno. Note particularly how the career of one of the best of the early Gothic kings, Ostrogotha (Get. 90-100), is situated in this area. Theoderic would undoubtedly have been glad to be reminded by his pedantic Roman historian, Cassiodorus, that his own early career had been played out on turf already hallowed in Gothic history.
Similarly, we are safe in assuming that those features of the Getica which strike a particularly impolitic note when considered in light of the circumstances of 551 both go back to Cassiodorian authorship and indicate that neither Cassiodorus nor anyone else had vetted the abridged edition with any particular care to bring it into line with any current political position. All the material devoted to the history of the Visigoths was highly pertinent when the [p. 230]Gothic History was written (c. 519-523), when Theoderic was suzerain to his cousins in Spain, but at least irrelevant in 551 and possibly gauche, if Justinian's interest in Spanish affairs with a view to interfering in them was already known. Note as well the passage describing Theoderic's first military campaign after his return from a youth spent as a hostage in Constantinople:
Singidunum dehinc civitatem, quam ipsi Sarmatae occupassent, invadens, non Romanis reddidit, sed suae subdedit dicioni. (Get. 282)It was perfectly appropriate for Cassiodorus to point out Theoderic's disloyalty to Roman authority to the Gothic king himself, but it was indelicate to stress truculent Gothic independence in a work written in Constantinople in 551 -- if the work's author cared one whit about politics.
It is also undeniable, however, that Jordanes was at work with an editorial pencil throughout the work himself. Describing the emperor Valens, he permits himself a vehement anti-Arian bit of polemic which could never have appeared in the original Cassiodorian version:
et quia tunc Valens imperator Arrianorum perfidia saucius nostrarum partium omnes ecclesias obturasset, suae parti fautores ad illos dirigeret praedicatores, qui venientes rudibus et ignaris ilico perfidiae suae virus infundunt. sic quoque Vesegothae a Valente imperatore Arriani potius quam Christiani effecti. (Get. 132)Had Jordanes meant to flatter current theological opinion in imperial circles by attacking Gothic Arianism, he certainly could have done so without insulting a Roman emperor in the bargain; and he certainly could have done a more consistent job of it in the whole work. It is just the naivete of this bit of theological stricture that proves that Jordanes added it himself, for religious rather than political reasons.
That Jordanes was in command of the work and knew what he was about is also proven by the pattern of cross-references contained within the work. There are numerous references from one passage back to an earlier one -- in every single case, these references are true and accurate. They must therefore have been made by Jordanes himself, not merely borrowed from the original edition of the work. Had Jordanes followed the latter course of action, he would almost certainly have inadvertently included at least a few dead-end cross-references, that is, references back to material contained in the original Gothic History but abridged out of the Getica. This never happens.[] Jordanes' preface to the Getica reminded us that the beginning and end of the work were the places which would show his touch the most clearly; this is particularly true of the end. The tone of the last paragraphs, covering the years which had elapsed after the original edition of Cassiodorus' Gothic History, is elegiac and sober, with no disagreeable sound of axe-grinding in the [p. 231]background. Jordanes writes for an audience already sympathizing with the Goths but puzzled by their downfall; if the counsels anything, it is resigned acceptance of Roman superiority. It is particularly worthy of note that the Getica treats the defeat and capture of Witigis in 540 by Belisarius as the end of the war -- later events under other Gothic kings and other generals go completely unmentioned, even though they are treated in the Romana. The purpose of the Romana had been to reflect the continuing misery of Roman might; but the purpose of the Getica, it now emerges, was to tell a story that had already ended, even if the moribund Gothic people continued to struggle fruitlessly against the inevitable. Let us hear Jordanes again, as he concludes his sad story.
"And so after almost 2300 years of glory, the renowned kingdom and the doughty race long accustomed to rule were conquered by the all-conquering Justinian through his faithful consul Belisarius. Justinian had Witigis brought to Constantinople and bestowed upon him the honor of a patrician's title; Witigis remained there for two more years, secure in the emperor's favor, before he passed away.''[] We need not take too seriously these polite noises about the glory of Justinian and his kindness towards his royal prisoner. Jordanes, writing in a totalitarian capital, knew better than to fail to make such noises.
"The emperor then joined Witigis' widow Mathesuentha to his relative, the patrician Germanus. From this union there was born, after the father's death, a son also named Germanus. In this boy the fortunes of the Amals and the Anicians are joined to hold out hope for both families for the future (God willing)."[] Earlier scholars, myself included, have been deceived by the imperial strategy implicit in the marriage of Germanus and Mathesuentha. We have assumed that some concrete dynastic policy must be inferred from this passage. But the crucial fact is that at the time Jordanes was writing, Germanus the elder was dead. His mission as a conquering general to Italy with a Gothic princess for his wife to conciliate the vanquished had been a total failure. In that atmosphere of failure, Jordanes is making polite noises again. The tiny infant in whose veins run the blood of the most glorious of the Gothic families [p. 232]and the best-known of the First Families of Rome is presented, rather pathetically, to our consideration as a sign of hope for the future.[] So here is how the Getica ends:
"So far and no farther goes the story of the Gothic race, the royal Amals, and all their heroic deeds. This noble race yielded before a nobler prince and surrendered to a more heroic general. No age will forget the glory of the Goths, but the glorious emperor Justinian and his consul Belisarius will rejoice in the epithets of Vandalicus, Africanus, and even Geticus. [More polite noises, of course.] You who read these things, know that I have selected these few flowers from the broad meadow of earlier writers' works, to weave a little crown for myself as best I can. Do not think that I have added or taken away anything to make the Gothic race look good (as you might expect of someone of my ancestry); I have written just what is in the sources. If I have written it all down as I have found it, you will see it redounds not so much to the credit of the Goths as to the credit of the man who conquered them.''[] In all this we see Jordanes' regret for what has passed (and whatever the truth of his ancestry,[] he clearly felt a personal stake in the story), barely masked behind the conventional deference to Justinian. If we assume that this work was written by the same man who wrote the Romana, we can see immediately the same view of history. There are no happy stories in history. The Getica shows the mightiest German race brought low by a Roman conqueror, while the Romana shows the fading of Roman glory despite pretenses to the contrary. Goths and Romans alike are left without an earthly [p. 233]patria in which to seek repose -- they must hearken back to the preface to the Romana (which was really a preface to the whole corpus) to recall that the message of all this is not political but theological: convert, and find, in the love of God and neighbor, the true repose in the true patria common to all men, both Goths and Romans.
If this is what Jordanes was up to, what implications can we draw for the ancient controversies concerning his sources? A few pages may throw some new light in this area. First we can consider the general question of dependences, then focus on three controversial individual sources: Cassiodorus, Symmachus, and Marcellinus comes. The reader who follows the course of the Romana in Mommsen's edition has little trouble discerning the basic pattern of chronicles abbreviated by Jordanes: Jerome (with a little Florus mixed in) and Marcellinus comes. Other sources are trivial when measured either qualitatively or quantitatively for what they offer the work as a whole. The only point worth comment is the question of the so-called ignotus source.[] Perhaps ten items from the last sixth of the Romana are attributed by Mommsen to some source other than Marcellinus (the years in question run from c. 450-c. 514). It has been suggested that all these items can be attributed to a single source, to wit Symmachus. A conspectus of the passages in question will reveal the unlikelihood of this attribution and teach us, perhaps, to be content to admit ignorance:
- Rom. 332: on the emperor Marcian
- Rom. 335: on the emperor Leo
- Rom. 336: on the murder of a Gothic kinglet by the general Ardaburius
- Rom. 338: on the elevation of the emperor Julius Nepos, sent to Italy by Constantinople in the 470's
- Rom. 340: on the election of Zeno
- Rom. 341-42: on the usurpation of Basiliscus
- Rom. 348: on Theoderic's triumph celebrated at Constantinople in his consulship
- Rom. 349-52: on the revolt of Illus (at length)
- Rom. 354: on certain details of the accession of Anastasius
- Rom. 358-59: on Anastasius' troubles of the 510's, especially the revolt of Vitalian
What is immediately clear when these passages are brought together is that they may very well come from a single source, but this source is writing from a resolutely eastern point of view, closely concerned with the details of imperial succession and revolts of usurpers. There is no reason to suspect that this author might be Symmachus, nor, as we shall see, need we assume that [p. 234]Jordanes used, not Marcellinus, but a common source also used by Marcellinus. We must simply admit that for these few details, Jordanes had reference to some other author now unknown to us. This ignotus remains unknown.
The Getica is much more explicit in the way it names the sources it quotes. It is traditional to assume that some of this complexity goes back to Cassiodorus himself. Take, for example, the famous case of the otherwise unknown historian of the Goths Ablabius, who keeps cropping up in all the most legendary stretches of the Getica, and who is (almost certainly) mentioned by Cassiodorus himself in his Variae.[] Less frequently noticed are the definite traces in the Getica of a reliance on oral sources (which Cassiodorus had also told us about already, even while minimizing their importance).[] Two passages are worth quoting:
"ante quos etiam cantu maiorum facta modulationibus citharisque canebant, Eterpamara, Hanale, Fridigerni, Vidigoiae et aliorum, quorum in hac gente magna opinio est, quales vix heroas fuisse miranda iactat antiquitas." (Get. 43)
Of the polymath Dicineus (who may be meant to bear a flattering resemblance to Theoderic): "reliquam vero gentem capillatos dicere iussit, quod nomen Gothi pro magno suscipientes adhuc odie suis cantionibus reminiscent."[]
Ablabius and the oral sources of the Goths are clearly carryovers from Cassiodorus, then. The same is probably true of the unknown source of the extensive narrative history of the Goths in the time of Attila. This passage would repay further research, since it is the best story-telling in all the Getica, and the relatively recent date of the events recounted inclines us all the more to trust its evidently sober narrative. Paradoxically the presence in this passage of virtually all the represented speeches of the Getica increases our trust in the basic narrative, since they represent a good ancient historian at work.[] It is just possible that the 'source' may really be Cassiodorus himself, whose grandfather had been a person of some importance in those days, and had even visited the camp of Attila on a diplomatic mission.[] If this hypothesis is true, we may have here the clearest example of what Cassiodorus the historian was really like: a creditable scholar and writer by ancient standards.
Another feature of the acknowledged sources of the Getica will emerge only if we summarize all that is known of them. The following is a complete list of [p. 235]all the sources expressly cited by Jordanes in the Getica, in order of their first appearance:
- Orosius (4,121,58)
- Livy (10 -- perhaps only at about third hand)
- Strabo (12)
- Tacitus (13 -- also referred to the same way by Cassiodorus at Var. 5.2.2)
- Dio Chrysostom (14,40, 58,65)
- Ptolemy (16,19)
- Pomponius Mela (16)
- Ablabius (28,82,117)
- Josephus (29)
- Pompeius Trogus (61)
- Symmachus (83,88 -- on him, see below)
- Dionysius (104)
- Deuxippus (113)
- Priscus (123, 178, 183, 222, 254, 255)
Of these fourteen writers, only Orosius, Livy, Tacitus, Pomponius Mela (all in the early geographical chapters) and Symmachus wrote in Latin. The other nine wrote in Greek. But there is no reason to think that Cassiodorus ever read Greek at all.[] The irresistible conclusion to which we are led is that these are the named sources which Jordanes himself had occasion to consult -- and the presence of Symmachus in the part of the work where all the sources seem to be Jordanes' own lends itself to the suspicion that consulting Symmachus was something Jordanes himself did.
To summarize at this point, then, it would seem that Jordanes' procedure in both Romana and Getica was what he said it was. In the former work, he abridged a few obvious chronicles. In the latter work, he used a cursory abridgement of Cassiodorus' work as the basis for a work of his own in which he really did insert a fair amount of fresh material which had not been available to Cassiodorus writing thirty years before in the west. What does this say for Jordanes' relation to his most controversial sources?
Take Cassiodorus first. Could he have been the éminence grise behind the production of the Getica? We have already seen from Jordanes' preface that he seems to be at pains to rule out this possibility. We have seen that the content of the Getica does not seem to have been revised with any political purpose in mind. The only purely Cassiodorian material discoverable in the Getica can all be explained as coming from the original Gothic History.[] On the other side, it must be recognized that ten years after the Getica was written Cassiodorus was [p. 236]back in Italy writing a bibliographical guide which included works of recent history. Two points emerge from an examination of this catalogue: First, that not only are Jordanes and his work left entirely unmentioned, even Cassiodorus' own Gothic History has gone by the boards -- which presumably explains why that work was lost; in 540 Cassiodorus may have thought it worth taking with him to Constantinople, but by 554, he did not think it worth bringing back with him. Second, Cassiodorus does know Marcellinus comes, but it is clear from the way he refers to him that he knows only the first edition, since he says (Inst. 1.17.2) that Marcellinus' work ran: "usque ad fores imperii triumphalis Augusti Iustiniani," which can only refer to the first edition ending with 518 (and the virtual rise to power of Justinian) and not to the second (which ran to 534). But Jordanes knows both the second edition and the continuator (whose work ran at least to 548).[] If Cassiodorus were the power behind Jordanes, it would be strange for him neither to mention his protégé nor know his sources. It would be all the stranger, indeed, now that I have shown that Jordanes' purpose in writing was not political. The common explanation of Cassiodorus' silence on Jordanes was the old monk's inclination to turn his back on his political past -- an argument which only holds if Jordanes was part of a political past.
Cassiodorus, then, was only a written source for Jordanes, not a living guide. What of Symmachus ? I have already argued that Symmachus' book was probably consulted directly to produce the quotation in the Getica (Get. 83-88). This one quotation led Wilhelm Ensslin to argue that Symmachus' Roman History stood behind the Romana in somewhat the way that Cassiodorus' Gothic History stood behind the Getica. This was a hypothesis worth testing, but it is now clear that there is no point to it at all. It does now seem, as M. A. Wes demonstrated while attempting to shore up the Ensslin hypothesis,[] that Symmachus wrote his own work after Cassiodorus wrote his Gothic History; and thus the one bit of information about Gothic history which his work contained was available for Jordanes to insert in his own abridgement. The one episode, the comical story of Maximinus Thrax, the first "Gothic" emperor, probably appeared in Symmachus as an ironical counterpoint to the hero-worship indigenous to Cassiodorus' work, as Wes saw. But it is also clear that Symmachus was less of a scholar than we might wish, since his episode is plagiarized directly (even impudently) from the Historia Augusta, that whimsical outpouring of an earlier generation of dilettantes.
Apart from this one quotation, the thing about Jordanes that has smelled of Symmachus to earlier scholars is his treatment of the events of the year 476. M. [p. 237]A. Wes argued that the similarity of wording on this point between the Romana, the Getica, and Marcellinus comes, taken together with the lament for the lost western imperial presence, was evidence of a common source namely Symmachus.[] Everything we have seen so far indicates how unlikely this is. Wes's elaborate reconstruction of a senatorial world-view to support this thesis is much too dependent on the modern fashion of taking the gens Anicia too seriously and finally just too devoid of concrete support. To take only the most important point, Wes's analysis fails utterly to take into account the true significance of the so-called Laurentian schism of the early sixth century; no understanding of the mind of the Roman aristocracy at this period will be possible until we have plumbed the depths of that mysterious sequence of events.[] All that is necessary for our present purposes is to show briefly that Jordanes used Marcellinus directly. If there is any Symmachus to be found then, it will be entirely the product of Marcellinus' researches, not Jordanes'; but even this is unlikely. Let us look at Jordanes and Marcellinus together. Note first that Jordanes begins to use Marcellinus for material in the Getica beginning with the year 411 (Get. 165). But this period was already covered in Cassiodorus' Gothic History; yet on the other hand, Cassiodorus' original work cannot have made use of Marcellinus, for even Marcellinus' first edition was written at the same time or slightly later than Cassiodorus' Gothic History. Where Jordanes quotes Marcellinus, he frequently follows him word-for word, even, paradoxically enough, when paraphrasing him. Compare these passages:
Jordanes: "quo tempore in Constantinopolim Aspar primus patriciorum et Gothorum genere clarus cum Ardabure et Patriciolo filiis, illo quidem [p. 238] olim patricio, hoc autem Caesare generoque Leonis principis appellato, spadonum ensibus in palatio vulneratus interiit." (Get. 239)
Marcellinus: "Aspar primus patriciorum cum Ardabure et Patriciolo filiis, illo quidem olim patricio, hoc autem Caesare generoque Leonis principis appellato, Arrianus cum Arriana prole spadonum ensibus in palatio vulneratus interiit." (s. a. 471)
Such similarities all but rule out a common source in favor of direct dependence of Jordanes on Marcellinus; and such close dependency absolutely guarantees that if a common source is in question, it must have been a chronicle equally jejune. But the only thing we know of Symmachus' history is that it must have been considerably more anecdotal and detailed than either Jordanes or Marcellinus, unlikely to cover such stirring events in so few words.
Jordanes' parallels with Marcellinus are all like this, close and clear. Where Jordanes departs from Marcellinus, he never improves on him (as one would expect if two authors were independently working from a common source, even if one author was inadequately familiar with the laws of grammar). For example, Marcellinus (s. a. 476) has the usurper Basiliscus and his family shut up in their castle in Cappadocia dying of hunger (fame); Jordanes has misread him and makes the cause of death (implausibly) the cold: frigore (Rom. 343). See also the passage in the Romana (Rom. 319) where Jordanes welds three different notes from Marcellinus (Marc. s. a. 395.5, 396.1, 396.2) into a single sentence, to no particular advantage.
The few places where Jordanes' relationship with Marcellinus becomes complex are those passages in the Romana where the Getica itself becomes a source.[] It is clear that when Jordanes came to the last part of the Romana, he still knew what he knew when he wrote the Getica, but had further recourse to Marcellinus, who had been ignored at these particular points when Jordanes was writing the Getica. Such cases, however, demonstrate only that when Jordanes wrote the Romana, all he had in front of him was Marcellinus, the ignotus eastern source, and his own Getica. Poor Jordanes begins to emerge from our analysis as a more intelligent, but less important, figure than we have been accustomed to imagine him. He is not part of the great political schemes of his day (and neither was Cassiodorus at this time for that matter[]), but he is an independent and more or less responsible historian, working almost exclusively with written sources and handling them creditably. His grammar is poor, his judgment imperfect, but his independence at least emerges intact.
One final question remains: can we say anything more definite than before about the date at which Jordanes wrote his works ? The traditional evidence is really all we have, but interpretation can throw a little new light. First, at the beginning of the Romana (Rom. 4) Jordanes says he is writing "in vicensimo quarto anno Iustiniani imperatoris," that is to say, between 1 April 550 and 31 March 551; by Rom. 363 he merely says that, "Iustinianus imperator regnat iam iubante domino ann. XXIIII." This may indicate that the twenty-fourth year has elapsed since the preface was written and that the work was completed between 1 April 551 and 31 March 552.
Second, in the Getica (Get. 104), he mentions a plague similar to the one "quod nos ante hos novem annos experti sumus," which makes us think again of the year 551 (the plague reached Constantinople in October 542).
Third, at three places, Jordanes mentions the birth of Germanus postumus the infant born of the marriage of Germanus and Mathesuentha, who was born between March and May of 551 (Get. 81 and 246-51, Rom. 383). This iteration of a fact of rapidly diminishing political significance must indicate the year 551 again. For at the time of the child's birth, there would have been a certain amount of polite forced optimism; but we would scarcely expect such an attitude to last more than a few months when the child himself was, with his father dead, of no real political significance at all.
Fourth, allusion is made to a marriage between a Gothic princess and a Lombard king, in consequence of which the Lombards went out to defeat the Gepids in the Balkans.[] This battle may have occurred as late as about May 552.
Fifth, reference is made to an expedition allegedly in progress to Spain under the distinguished but elderly patrician Liberius. This expedition, if it ever took place in the way Jordanes describes it, must have occurred in 552 (Get. 203). Hence the fourth and fifth points would speak against the first three, and postpone the completion of both Romana and Getica by a year. But it is now clear, as I have argued elsewhere, that Liberius himself never actually led any such expedition to Spain.[] Jordanes' passage (which uses, revealingly, the present tense of the crucial verb, as though to describe something still under way) can only be explained if we conclude that it was written in 551, when rumor had it that Liberius would lead the next year's expedition. By the spring of 552, such misinformation would have been corrected.
It is therefore clear that at least the Getica was written and completed in 551. The Romana was therefore begun in 551 (probably before 31 March) and completed some time after the Getica. Thus at least the conception and plan for both works can be placed firmly to 551. If we insist on dating the Lombard/[p. 240]Gepid battle to 552 (which we do only on the relative position of this detached episode in Procopius' narrative), then we may wish to assume that the Romana lay unfinished until sometime in that year. But it should be observed that this particular event is the very last item in all the Romana and that, as Wagner has suggested,[] it may have been added, as a kind of latest-calamity-in-a-row-of-calamities, by Jordanes at the time he was putting together the corpus of works in a single manuscript for Vigilius. Some time may have elapsed between the actual composition of the work and its final copying and delivery to its dedicatee. On such an hypothesis, all the problems with the relevant texts are resolved.
Thus Jordanes wrote both his works at a grim moment in Byzantine history, when the Gothic war seemed to be stretching on forever for the Byzantines (but was a hopeless cause for the Goths), when the emperor Justinian was again (and grieving over Theodora, who had died in 548) without an obvious heir, when the Three Chapters controversy seemed to be an entangling knot of obscurities, and when a variety of conversi in Constantinople were turning away from the world of politics and history to the better world their religion told them of. The work of Jordanes, like that of Augustine and -- perhaps more pertinently -- Salvian, is a work of secular history meant to deny the significance of secular history, a recounting of stirring events designed to show that stirring events do not bring happiness. Christian historiography taught a lesson which (as Momigliano rightly saw) people like Symmachus and Boethius -- and perhaps even the younger Cassiodorus -- would never have understood.[] The irony in Jordanes' work is that his message is one which the older Cassiodorus would have understood -- but Cassiodorus probably never knew the new, better use to which his early work of propaganda and empty secular optimism had been put.