_DE ORIGINE ACTIBUSQUE GETARUM_ (_"The Origin and Deeds of the
Getae/Goths"_ ), or the _GETICA_, written in
Late Latin by Jordanes
(or _Iordanes/Jornandes_) in or shortly after 551 AD, claims to be a
summary of a voluminous account by
Cassiodorus of the origin and
history of the Gothic people , which is now lost. However, the extent
Jordanes actually used the work of
Cassiodorus is unknown. It
is significant as the only remaining contemporaneous resource that
gives the full story of the origin and history of the
Goths . Another
aspect of this work is its information about the early history and the
* 1 Synopsis of the work
* 2 Importance and credibility
* 2.1 Similarities with Gutasaga
* 3 Editions
* 4 Sources
* 5 The late Latin of Jordanes * 6 Citations * 7 Annotations * 8 References * 9 External links * 10 English translation
SYNOPSIS OF THE WORK
The _Getica_ begins with a geography/ethnography of the North,
Scandza (16-24). He lets the history of the Goths
commence with the emigration of
Berig with three ships from
Gothiscandza (25, 94), in a distant past. In the pen of
Cassiodorus), Herodotus' Getian demi-god
Zalmoxis becomes a king of
Jordanes tells how the
Goths sacked "
IMPORTANCE AND CREDIBILITY
Because the original work of Cassiodorus has not survived, the work of Jordanes is one of the most important sources for the period of the migration of the European tribes, and the Ostrogoths and Visigoths in particular, from the 3rd century CE. Cassiodorus had claimed to have the Gothic "folk songs" — _carmina prisca_ (Latin) — as an important source; recent scholarship regards this as highly questionable. Its main purpose was to give the Gothic ruling class a glorious past, to match the past of the senatorial families of Roman Italy.
Jordanes stated that
Getae are the same as the Goths, on the
Orosius Paulus . A controversial passage identifies the
ancient people of Venedi mentioned by
Pliny the Elder and
The book is important to some medieval historians because it mentions
the campaign in
One of the major questions concerning the historicity of the work is whether the identities mentioned are as ancient as stated or date from a later time. The evidence allows a wide range of views, the most skeptical being that the work is mainly mythological, or if Jordanes did exist and is the author, that he describes peoples of the 6th century only. According to the latter, his main source's credibility is questionable for a number of reasons. First, the originality of his main source, Cassiodorus , is debatable because large part of it consists of culling of ancient Greek and Latin authors for descriptions of peoples who _might_ have been Goths. Not only that but it seems that Jordanes has distorted Cassiodorus's narrative by presenting us a cursory abridgement of the latter, mixed with 6th century ethnic names.
Some scholars claim, that while acceptance of
Jordanes at face value
may be too naive, a totally skeptical view is not warranted. For
Jordanes says that the
Goths originated in
Danish scholar Arne Søby Christensen on the other hand claims that
the _Getica_ was an entirely fabricated account, and that the origin
Goths in the book is a construction based on popular Greek and
Roman myths as well as a misinterpretation of recorded names from
Northern Europe. The purpose of this fabrication, according to
Christensen, was to establish a glorious identity for the peoples that
had recently gained power in post-Roman Europe. Canadian scholar
Walter Goffart suggests another incentive: _Getica_ was part of a
conscious plan by emperor
Justinian and the propaganda machine at his
court. He wanted to affirm that
Goths (and their barbarian cousins)
did not belong to the Roman world, thus justifying the claims of the
SIMILARITIES WITH GUTASAGA
The migration of the
_This Thielvar had a son called Hafthi. And Hafthi's wife was called Whitestar. Those two were the first to settle on Gotland. The first night they slept together she dreamt that three snakes were coiled in her lap. And it seemed to her that they slid out of her lap. She told this dream to her husband Hafthi. He interpreted it thus:_
_"All is bound with bangles,_ _it will be inhabited, this land,_ _and we shall have three sons."_
_While still unborn, he gave them all names:_
_"Guti will own Gotland,_ _Graip will be the second,_ _and Gunfiaun third."_
_These later divided Gotland into three parts, so that Graip the eldest got the northern third, Guti the middle third, and Gunfjaun the youngest had the south. Then, over a long time, the people descended from these three multiplied so much that the land couldn't support them all. So they selected every third person by lot to leave, with the right to keep and take away with them everything they owned except for their land. They were unwilling to leave then, but went to instead Torsburgen and settled there. But afterwards the country (i.e. Gotland) would not tolerate them, and drove them away._
_Then they went away to Fårö and settled there. They couldn't support themselves in that place, so they went to a certain island off the coast of Estland, called Dagö, and settled there and built a town that can still be seen. But they couldn't support themselves there either, so they went up the river Dvina, up through Russia. They went so far that they came to the land of the Greeks (i.e. the Byzantine empire). They asked leave of the Greek king to stay there while the moon waxed and waned. The king granted that, thinking it was just for one month. Then after a month, he wanted to send them away, but they answered that the moon waxed and waned for ever and always, and so they said they were allowed to stay. Word of this dispute of theirs reached the queen. She said, "My lord king, you granted them permission to dwell while the moon waxed and waned; now that's for ever and always, so you can't take it off them." So they settled there, and live there still, and still have something of our language._
Goths should have gone "to the land of the Greeks" is
consistent with their first appearance in classical sources: Eusebius
of Caesarea reported that they devastated "Macedonia ,
The emigration would have taken place in the 1st century AD, and loose contact with their homeland would have been maintained for another two centuries, the comment that the emigrant's language "still has something" in common shows awareness of dialectal separation. The events would have needed to be transmitted orally for almost a millennium before the text was written down.
The mention of the Dvina river is in good agreement with the Wielbark
Culture . Historically, the
Goths followed the
Vistula , but during
Viking Age , the Dvina-
Dniepr waterway succeeded the
the main trade route to
A manuscript of the text was rediscovered in
The classic edition is that of 19th-century German classical scholar
Theodor Mommsen (in _
Monumenta Germaniae Historica
Jordanes' work had been well known prior to Mommsen's 1882 edition.
It was cited in
Edward Gibbon 's classic 6 volumes of _The History of
the Decline and Fall of the
Jordanes admits that he did not then have direct access to Cassiodorus's book, and could not remember the exact words, but that he felt confident that he had retained the substance in its entirety. He goes on to say that he added relevant passages from Latin and Greek sources, composed the Introduction and Conclusion, and inserted various things of his own authorship. Due to this mixed origin, the text has been examined in an attempt to sort out the sources for the information it presents.
Main article: Jordanes
Former notarius to a Gothic magister militum Gunthigis, Jordanes would have been in a position to know traditions concerning the Gothic peoples without necessarily relying on anyone else. However, there is no evidence for this in the text, and some of the instances where the work refers to _carmina prisca_ can be shown to depend on classical authors.
Main article: Cassiodorus
Cassiodorus was a native Italian ( Squillace , Bruttium ), who rose to become advisor and secretary to the Gothic kings in various high offices. His and the Goths' most successful years were perhaps the reign of Theodoric . The policy of Theodoric's government at that time was reconciliation and in that spirit he incorporated Italians into the government whenever he could. He asked Cassiodorus to write a work on the Goths that would, in essence, demonstrate their antiquity, nobility, experience and fitness to rule.
Theodoric died in 526 and
Cassiodorus went on to serve his successors
in the same capacity. He had not by any means forgotten the task
assigned to him by his former king. In 533 a letter ostensibly written
What Cassiodorus did with the manuscripts after that remains unknown. The fact that Jordanes once obtained them from a steward indicates that the wealthy Cassiodorus was able to hire at least one full-time custodian of them and other manuscripts of his; i.e., a private librarian (a custom not unknown even today).
Jordanes says in the preface to _Getica_ that he obtained them from the librarian for three days in order to read them again (relegi). The times and places of these readings have been the concern of many scholars, as this information possibly bears on how much of _Getica_ is based on Cassiodorus .
There are two main theories, one expressed by the Mierow source below, and one by the O'Donnell source below. Mierow's is earlier and does not include a letter cited by O'Donnell.
Gothic sovereignty came to an end with the reconquest of Italy by
Belisarius , military chief of staff for
Justinian , ending in 539.
Cassiodorus' last ghost writing for the Gothic kings was done for
Witiges , who was removed to
Cassiodorus retired in 540 to his home town of Squillace, where he used his wealth to build a monastery with school and library, _Vivarium_.
AUTHORS CITED BY _GETICA_
The events, persons and peoples of _Getica_ are put forward as being up to many centuries prior to the time of Jordanes. Taken at face value, they precede any other history of Scandinavia.
Jordanes does cite some writers well before his time, to whose works he had access but we do not, and other writers whose works are still extant. Mierow gives a summary of these, which is reviewed below, and also states other authors he believed were used by Jordanes but were not cited in _Getica_ (refer to the Mierow source cited below). Mierow's list of cited authors is summarized as follows:
* Ablabius. Otherwise unknown historian, author of the work
_Gothorum gentis_ ("of the Gothic people"), now lost.
Dexippus on the
THE LATE LATIN OF JORDANES
Late Latin of
Jordanes evidences a certain variability in
the structure of the language which has been taken as an indication
that the author no longer had a clear standard of correctness.
Jordanes tells us in _Getica_ that he interrupted work on the _Romana
_ to write _Getica_, and then finished _Romana_.
Jordanes states in
_Romana_ that he wrote it in the 24th year of the emperor
which began April 1, 551. In _Getica_ he mentions a plague of nine
years previous. This is probably the Plague of
Justinian , that began
in Egypt in 541, reached
Jordanes refers to himself as _agrammaticus_ before his conversion. This obscure statement is sometimes taken to refer to his Latin. Variability, however, characterizes all Late Latin, and besides, the author was not writing just after his conversion (for the meaning of the latter, see under Jordanes ), but a whole career later, after associating with many Latin speakers and having read many Latin books. According to him, he should have been grammaticus by that time. More likely, his style reflects the way Latin was under the Goths.
Some of the variabilities are as follows (Mierow):
ORTHOGRAPHY . The spelling of many words differs from the classical, which Jordanes would certainly have known. For example, Grecia replaces Graecia; Eoropam, Europam; Atriatici, Adriatici.
INFLECTION . Substantives migrate between declensions ; verbs between
conjugations . Some common changes are fourth to second (lacu to
laco), second declension adjective to third (magnanimus to
magnanimis), i-stems to non-i-stems (mari to mare in the ablative).
One obvious change in a modern direction is the indeclinability of many formerly declined nouns, such as corpus. Also, the -m accusative ending disappears, leaving the preceding vowel or replacing it with -o (Italian, Romanian), as in Danubio for Danubium.
SYNTAX . Case variability and loss of agreement in prepositional phrases (inter Danubium Margumque fluminibus), change of participial tense (egressi .. et transeuntes), loss of subjunctive in favor of indicative , loss of distinction between principal and subordinate clauses, confusion of subordinating conjunctions.
SEMANTICS . A different vocabulary appears: _germanus_ for _frater_, _proprius_ for _suus_, _civitas_ for _urbs_, _pelagus_ for _mare_, etc.
* ^ G. Costa, 32. Also: _De Rebus Geticis_: O. Seyffert, 329; _De
Getarum (Gothorum) Origine et Rebus Gestis_: W. Smith, vol 2 page 607
* ^ _A_ _B_ Jordanes, _The Origin and Deeds of the Goths_,
* ^ Peter Heather, _
Goths and Romans 332-489_, Oxford 1991, pp.
47-49 (year 552), Walter Goffart, _The Narrators of Barbarian
History_, Princeton 1988, p. 98 (year 554).
* ^ Herwig Wolfram, in _Die Goten_, München 2001 (or its English
translation, _History of the Goths_, University of California Press
1988), consistently uses _Origo Gothica_ as a name not only for the
work of Cassiodorus, but also, very confusingly, for the _Getica_. The
source is Cassiodorus, _Variae_ 9.25.5: "Originem Gothicam fecit esse
historiam Romanam", which can be interpreted in different ways (see
Walter Goffart, _Barbarian Tides: The Migration Age and the Later
Roman Empire_ (Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), p.
57-59). Cassiodorus' lost work is more commonly referred to as
_Historia Gothorum_ or _History of the Goths_ by modern scholarship
(A.H. Merrills, _History and Geography in Late Antiquity_ (Cambridge:
CUP, 2005), p. 102 n. 9).
* ^ _A_ _B_ A. S. Christensen
Pavel Josef Schafarik , _Slawiche Alterthümmer_, Leipzig,
1844, vol 1, 40
* ^ F. Curta, 7. See also F. Curta, 11-13 for an analysis of
Schafarik's ideas in the context of his age as well as their revival
by later Soviet historiography.
* ^ P. Geary, 60-61
* ^ F. Curta, 40
* ^ W. Goffart, 59-61
* ^ W. Herwig, 40. Walter Goffart, 59-61, harshly criticized this
* ^ D. S. Potter, 245
* ^ Questia.com Review of Cassiodorus, Jordanes, and the History of
the Goths: Studies in a Migration Myth by Peter S. Wells
* ^ Walter Goffart, 70
* ^ _Gutasagan Gutalagens_ (Vikingatidens ABC)
* ^ W. Thomas, M. Gamble, Pp vi, 202, 59
* ^ W. Smith, "Jornandes"
* ^ Lowe, C.L.A. XII.1741: 'saec. VIII, 2nd half'
Degoreus Whear (1623), _De Ratione Et Methodo Legendi
* ^ Charles
C. Mierow (1915), Preface;
Jordanes writes: "But above
every burden is the fact that I have no access to his books that I may
follow his thought. Still - and let me lie not - I have in times past
read the books a second time by his steward's loan for a three days'
reading. The words I recall not, but the sense and the deeds related I
think I retain entire."
* ^ O'Donnell, 223-240
* ^ Brian Croke, _
Cassiodorus and the
* Christensen, Arne Søby. _Cassiodorus, Jordanes, and the History of the Goths. Studies in a Migration Myth_, 2002, ISBN 978-87-7289-710-3 * Costa, Gustavo. _Le antichità germaniche nella cultura italiana da Machiavelli a Vico_, 1977. ISBN 88-7088-001-X * Curta, Florin (2001). _The Making of the Slavs: History and Archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, c. 500–700_. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. * Geary, Patric. _The Myth of Nations, the Medieval Origins of Europe_, Princeton University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-691-11481-1 * Goffart, Walter . _Barbarian Tides, The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire_, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, ISBN 0-8122-3939-3 * Jordanes. _The Origin and Deeds of the Goths_, translated by C. Mierow, Princeton University Press, 1908 * O\'Donnell, James J. _The Aims of Jordanes_, Historia, 1982, vol 31, 223-240 * Potter, David Stone. _The