Goth-like Names

X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Wed Apr 4 19:27:36 UTC 2001

<<Then there's the whole question of the initial "G".  There is a rather
large group of names that share the time and place with the Goths that might
even be considered as referring to the Goths if the loose orthography of the
time were also considered.  I have a folder full of examples of "c" and "g"
and "k" interchangeability that applies to a wide range of persons, peoples
and things, but never it seems to the Gothic name. >>

In a message dated 3/29/2001 12:26:01 AM, hwhatting at replied:
<< Going back to examples you quoted, we know, e.g., that the Chatti have
been sitting on the right bank of the Rhine for quite a time, and that the
name of the area of Hesse derives from their name, so we have a confirmation
that the name had to be pronounced /(c)hat-/ in Tacitus time, and that they
basically stayed there afterwards.

Now, we can of course say that they are identical with the Goths, that their
name just got mangled by intermediaries, and look for reasons why the Goths
"invented" a Scandinavian origin and forgot about their Hessian cousins. But
does this get us any further?>>

Once again, thanks for your patience.  I think I haven't been clear about
My point is not that the Goths were "identical" with the Chatti, Chauci,
Cotti, Cotini, Codan(i), Cotensi, Quadi, Atta Cotti (3d Century invaders of
Roman Britain), Jutes, Geats, Getae, Gitae, -gatae, Chudi, Goe:tae, etc., nor
whether or not they were even distant cousins.  (Not any more than Bretons
and Britains, or American Indians and Asiatic Indians, or Vlakhs and Welsh
need to be.)

I'd like to return to the Chatti and their name later, but my point does not
go to the people but to the source of the various names which was used to
describe the Goths.  Recognizing that those initial consonants were often
interchangeable might suggest -- and I think does suggest -- that the Gothic
name(s) were not unique to this group.  Other people may have used the same
or related names across northern Europe.  The need for an ablaut explanation
might suggest the same thing -- that these names were all approximations of
each other rather than the constant renaming of one specific people.

<<But does this get us any further?>>

Yes, it appears to.  It opens up the meaning and source of the Gothic name to
more reasonable interpretations than something like "the ejaculates" which is
what some Scandinavian scholars are suggesting.  It allows us to consider the
source of those other names involving perhaps different IE or Germanic
speakers and see if there isn't a broader and deeper origin for the name Goth.

For example, it is very common for scholars on the subject to see the
"Butones" mentioned by Strabo (writing in the first part of the 1st Cent AD)
as a reference to the Goths.  Text are frequently "emendated" to replace the
B with a G.  This works happily with the notion of the Goths being a tribe
worth mentioning, supports Tacitus in connecting them with the Marcomanni and
places them somewhere out there, at least in the general direction of the

But making the Butones the Goths has a serious downside.  One of these is
that the tribe being described might well be the "Cotini".  These people,
whom Tacitus tells us spoke Celtic, were a significant factor in this region.
 Ptolemy places them thusly:
"the Corconti and the Lugi Buri up to the head of the Vistula river; and
below them first the Sidones, then the Cotini, then the Visburgii above the
Orcynius valley."  Tacitus tells us they should be embarrassed because they
pay tribute to neighboring tribes even though they are the ones who control
the IRON MINES.  (This becomes important because there is some evidence that
the Goth name may have something to do with forging, casting, iron and the
metal trade.)

Now, at the time Strabo was writing, the Marcomanni under Marobodus are the
main force north of the middle Danube and it is in this context that he
mentions his "Butones".  It is often reported (in Heather for example) that
this is evidence that the Goths, way up east of the Vistula, were part of the
Marcomanni's Danubian "alliance" of tribes.

But a closer read shows that this is not what Strabo wrote.   Strabo
statement of the relationship is a much stronger description of Marobodus'
dominance ("edunasteuse kai katekte:sato") - literally, to take power over
and possession of the "Butones". If these are the Goths, Strabo says they
were subdued and occupied by the Marcomanni.  On Ptolemy's map, the Gythones
are about 20 tribes, forty cities and 700 miles from Marobodum, where all
this is happening.  All this would suggest therefore that these are
references to the Cotini rather than the Goths.  (On the other hand, is all
this related to the old wives' tale Jordanes mentions of Gothic servitude to
Celtic folk?  Does this have anything to do with Tacitus' description of "a
youth named Cotwalda from among the Gotones" being supported by the Goths
against Marbodus?  Was Tacitus confusing Cotini and Gotoni?)

There are other tribes (including the Cotti of the Alps) that present similar
ambiguity in names if not in people.  And this confusion about names even
extended to Jordanes, as much as I think he tried to avoid it.

In naming the tribes of Scandinavia, Jordanes mentioned two groups that
deserves special attention.  He writes:

"Now in the island of Scandza, whereof I speak, there dwell many and divers
nations, though Ptolemaeus mentions the names of but seven of them....
Behind these are the Ahelmil, Finnaithae, Fervir and GAUTHIGOTH, a race of
men bold and quick to fight. Then come the Mixi, Evagre, and Otingis... And
there are beyond these the OSTROGOTHS, Raumarici, Aeragnaricii, and the most
gentle Finns, milder than all the inhabitants of Scandza." (from John
Vanderspoel's translation on the web).

Who are the Gautigoths - a name Jordanes never uses otherwise?  Recall that
this name is according to Jordanes in addition to Ptolemy's "Gutae".  What
this says, prima facia, is that Gauti, Goth and Gutae were not equivalent.  A
friendly interpretation can be made, but if we are going to apply any kind of
objective standard here, the plain interpretation is that these may be
similar names, but they are not the same name. Note that there are also
Ostrogoths in Scandinavia, up there with the Finns, but no Visigoths or just
plain original "Goths."

These names do not support a single, well-defined Gothic name, but instead a
good number of similar names for different people.

Where does this take us?  Well, a suggestion I have is that the Goths
acquired their name because of their association with a vital factor in the
economics and history of the region they were in.  I think there is some
linguistic support for this, some of it I've tried to suggest in past posts.
 (And it offers a better and more respectable origin than some of the ones
being offered these days.)  I'll try to clarify all this in the next post.

Steve Long

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