Scandinavian Origins of the Goths

X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Mon Mar 26 07:56:40 UTC 2001

In a message dated 3/24/2001 2:27:32 AM, hwhatting at writes:
<< 2. Concerning the prestigiousness of the Scandinavian origins: It would have
been much more consistent on Cassiodorus' and Jordanes' side to stick to the
Goths = Getae - equation, as this implied that the Goths were in the area from
antiquity, and even being related by marriage to the ancestors of Alexander the
Great. This would have differentiated them satisfactorily from the other
Germanic tribes.>>

But in fact that's what exactly they did.  They apparently stuck with the
Goths = Getae - equation as far back as it could go (Homer).  That of course
still would not have answered the question as to where the Getae came from.
The Gothic genealogy in fact includes Getic kings, including some we have
never heard of.  For all we know, the Getae may also have claimed
Scandinavian origins.  But there's no dualism in Jordanes' story.  That's a
modern perception.  In Jordanes, the Goths are the Getae and they come from

<<My opinion is that they simply could not do so, as the Scandinavian origins
were too widely known among the Gothic leadership, and so they were reported
alongside with the Getae theory. >>

There isn't much folk knowledge in Jordanes. He rejects "old wives tales" and
doesn't mention Gothic leadership remembering anything.  Ironically, one of
the few instances where he does mention the content of living folk tradition
is with regard to the Getae-Dacians:

"Then when Buruista was king of the Goths, Dicineus came to Gothia at the
time when Sulla ruled the Romans. Buruista received Dicineus and gave him
almost royal power. [Burebista was of course king of the "Geto-Dacian"
confederation north of the Danube in the first century BC.]  It was by his
advice the Goths ravaged the lands of the Germans, which the Franks now
possess. (68) .... He gave the name of Pilleati to the priests he ordained, I
suppose because they offered sacrifice having their heads covered with
tiaras, which we otherwise call pillei. (72) But he bade them call the rest
of their race Capillati. This name the Goths accepted and prized highly, and
they retain it to this day in their songs."

This is not saying that Jordanes has this quite right.  But up until modern
times, no one seemed to argue with the Goth-Getae connection.  And, from all
indications, Gothic leadership found it quite logical.  It appears that the
Getae name disappears just before the Goths show up in reference to anything
else but the Goths.  So the conclusion that one was the other made simple,
straightforward sense at the time.

In all this, there is a completely different aspect that is hardly ever
mentioned.  The Goths were apparently not the first Germanic speakers to
appear just north of the Danube, in the Ukraine or along the Black Sea.  They
may not have been the first with a tradition of coming from Scandinavia.
They may not have been the first to have such a tradition in their songs.
And so if the Gothic leadership or the Gothic singers were remembering a
journey from Scandinavia, they may have been remembering when that journey
would have happened in a much more direct way at an earlier time.  Possibly
around 200BC.

Steve Long

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