Goths, Naming and Ablaut

X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Fri Mar 23 16:39:48 UTC 2001

In a message dated 3/16/2001 10:46:30 PM, JoatSimeon at writes:
<<Incidentally, I'm not aware of any evidence that the Gothic tribes who
appeared on the Danube in the 3rd century came via the Ukraine; the Gothic
tradition was that the split into eastern and western groups occurred in the
course of their migration southward from the Vistula basin. >>

According to the map on p. 42 of Heather's book, the majority of the raids of
the 3d century originated in the Ukraine.  The very first raid, on Histria at
the mouth of the Danube, has an arrow coming from the east, but I don't
believe there is any real information on that.  It may have been originally
seaborne as most of the others were.  The exception appears to be Cniva's
group breaking through the limes at Oescus, but this more westerly location
was considered a known weak point by earlier commentators and may not tell us
where that particular contingent actually came from.

<<-- since there's no evidence that the Goths ever called themselves anything
but Goths, parsimony would indicate that this was "always" their word for
themselves as an ethnic group, at the next stage up from the various tribal
identifiers like the Amals, the Teurings, etc.>>

Well, there is some evidence that the Goths called themselves other things.
You mention "Teurings".  When Ammiamus first tells of the coming of the Huns,
he records that escaping "Greuthungi" met with a king of the "Tervingi" just
west of the Dniester river.  As Heather points out although these
designations will be later reported by Jordanes to equate to "Ostrogoth" and
"Visigoth", the divisions don't hold up at all historically.  BTW,
"Greuthungi" is not a happy word as it seems to correspond to little in
written Gothic, with the off-hand possible exception of "needy."  "Tervingi"
may correspond to <<thorn>aírh-wakan>, to keep watch, used by Ulfila in
connection with shepherds.  I believe early on Grimm took the <-ing->/<-ung>
contrast to be indicative of two different dialects.  And again, in reliable,
attestable Gothic, the Goths call themselves anything but Goths.  It may mean
something that all the variants that could correspond to Goth are taken up
with other meanings.

Steve Long

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