"Gothi" (timeline)

Hans-Werner Hatting hwhatting at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 5 10:39:40 UTC 2001

On Sat, 24 Feb 2001 03:03:43 EST steve Long posted a concise recapitulation
of the attestation of the "Goth" name. Here some comments:

>The word <Gothi>, with that spelling, does not appear in Latin until after
>Tacitus, who uses <Gotones> if in fact he was referring to the same word that
>later emerges.  Ptolemy uses <Gythones> to refer to a "minor" tribe located
>east of the Vistula in the 2d century AD.

So we have both /u/ and /o/ attested in the root part of the n-stem. With
Tacitus, the /o/ instead of a presumed Gothic /u/ may be due to his sources
(probably West Gmc.).

>Inscriptions from the very early 3d century AD from a legion post in Arabia,
>written in Greek, use <<gouththa>> and in the late 3 century AD, a Sassinid
>Greek inscription used <<gouththton>> ("...tes romaion arches gouththton te
>kai germanon ethnon.")

While "Gothi" can go back to *Gauta-, it is hard to argue the same for
"gouththa" and "gouththon ... ethnon". Either we have conflation of *guto:n-
and *gauta-, or Greek and Latin "Goth-" must go back to *gut-, so we have a
third element.

BTW, what is "gouththa" supposed to be? Acc. Sg. of a Consonant stem? Nom.
or Acc. pl. of a neuter o-stem?

>Throughout this time, <Gothi> and <Getae> are often taken by contemporaries
>to be alternative versions of the same name for the same people, although
>Getae is a much older form used by Herodotus, Strabo and others to refer to
>peoples north of the eastern Danube taken to be Thracian or Dacian or even
>Scythian at different times.  The Goths themselves are also often referred
>to as Scythians, according to Heather.

The latter is a good case for summary nameing - "Scythian" was a default
name for every ethnic group to the North-East of the Mediterranean, as
"Celt" was for everybody in the North-West. The case with "Getae" is a
little different - the Goths suddenly popped up in the area where the Getae
were living, had a similar - sounding name, so people mixed them up. This
use of "Getae" for the Goths must have been quite far-spread and popular, as
Iordanes - AFAIK, himself a Goth - uses this designation for his own people
in his "Historia Getarum".

Another point - it seems that the variant with the n-stem
("gu/oton-")belongs to the older sources, when the Goths were just a faraway
tribe, known only from indirect (other Gmc?) sources. Later, when the
contact becomes close (and violent), we find the stem "guta- / gauta-" >
"Gothi". So maybe this indicates that "Goth" (in the form "guta- / gauta-")
was a self-name, and "gu/oton-" was the form used by other Gmc. tribes?

Best regards,
Hans-Werner Hatting

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