Wikijunior:Ancient Civilizations/Goths

Who were the Goths?


The Goths were a Germanic tribe that later formed two branches, the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths. The Goths are believed to have immigrated to Poland in the first century A.D. from Gotland. They later moved by the Black Sea in what is now the Ukraine. The Gothic People greatly influenced later Roman culture.

When did they live?


The Goths lived from the 2nd century to the 6th century. During the 5th and 6th centuries, the Goths were divided into the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths.

What country did they live in?


They are theorized to have originated in southern Scandinavia. But they quickly expanded into general Europe and into the Roman Empire. After the Empire's fall they split into two groups, Visigoths and Ostrogoths, who later went on to populate Western Europe —Germany, France, Spain— and Eastern Europe —around the black sea— respectively.

What did their buildings look like?


Gothic Architecture started in Northern France. It had great success in 1200 A.D. Gothics were well known for their churches. The churches were tall and thin with pointed arches. The walls were massive to carry weight. Inside the church there were tall stain glassed windows. Figures of saints, animals, and flowers were painted on the stained glass windows. Frescos (done in plaster that are put onto walls and ceiling) were painted on them.

What did they eat?


They ate mostly sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, rabbits and chickens that they raised for their meat. They would also hunt deer and elk for food. They also ate some plant based foods such as wheat, barley, rye, cabbages, and turnips.

What did they wear?


Goths wore a Sagum, an open robe or cloak that looks like those worn by ancient Roman soldiers. These cloaks were fastened using a thorn or a spina, a spike made out of bone. They also wore furs blankets, coats and warm clothes made from animals they hunted or raised and then skinned.

What did their writing look like?


By the 4th century CE, the Goths were becoming Christianized. At this time, the Goths wrote their language using their version of the Futhark alphabet, but it was deemed to be a pagan invention. Instead, Bishop Wulfila (or Ulfilas), a Greek missionary responsible for the conversion of the Goths to Christianity, took the Greek alphabet, added letters from Latin and Futhark alphabets, and created a new alphabet to write the Gothic language.

Note that there are two letters that don't stand for any sounds. This is because they were adopted from Greek only for their numeric value. The Classical Greek alphabet doubled as a number system, and each letter had a number associated with it. The Gothic alphabet continued this tradition, and so in the case of Gothic, the first row of letters have numeric values of 1 to 9, the second row from 10 to 90, and the third row from 100 to 900.

The Goths spoke a Germanic language, and it is unique not only in that it is the earliest documented Germanic language, but also in that it is the only language in a completely separate branch of the Germanic family unrelated to any other surviving Germanic languages.

In most of Europe, the Gothic alphabet and language slowly faded into obscurity by the 9th century CE. The Gothic language survived in the Crimea but it too became extinct around the 17th century CE.

What did they believe?


The ancient Goths were originally pagan, but converted to Christianity by the 4th century CE.

Are some of them famous even today?


They are famous in the present because of the brilliant things and culture they gave us. Studying ancient civilizations like the Goths can help us to understand other culture and can help us in the future.

What is left of them today?


Gothic ancestry can be found in North Africa, Southern Europe, Scandinavia, and Poland.