The story of the Goths
The Goth culture originally developed sometime during the Nordic Bronze age and the Roman Iron Age (1300BC-300BC) somewhere in the Scandinavian region, possible Sweden. They were without doubt a Germanic culture at first.
The name “Goth” came either from the Scandinavian race called the Geats, or from the inhabitants of Gotland Island, known as the Gotlanders.
Due to droughts and dry weather, they migrated and crossed the Baltic Sea sometime during the late 2nd century, or possibly as late as 300 AD. They eventually settled on the North of the Black Sea, off the River Vistula. The area was part of the Roman Empire.
The Roman’s allowed the Goths to remain on their territory, for a price. The Goths farmed and gave some of their crop to the Romans. The Goths lived peacefully at first but before long they started getting caught in skirmishes between the Romans and their enemies. Soon, the Barbarian Invasions started. As the feared Hun moved in on the Romans, the Goths were pillaged, their supplies stolen.
The leader of the Goths, Fridigern, met with the Roman Emperor Valens and asked permission to move to a safer area, closer to Rome. Emperor Valens allowed them to move to the Danube River but no further. He liked having the Goths as a buffer between the Empire and the Barbarians. He even armed the Goths and showed them some fighting techniques, getting them to act as a first line of defense against the Barbarian tribes.
The Goths lived on reservations and were often used as forced labor for the Romans. Their men were frequently taken against their will to be a part of the Roman Legions. The Emperor took more than his fair share of their crops. From the other side, the barbarians kept attacking. Life was very hard for the Goths. Many children and elderly Goths died.
In 378, the Goths had had enough! Having been battle-hardened and armed, they decided to make a stand. They revolted, raiding small Roman villages and taking back the supplies Valens took from them. They went from being farmers to becoming bandits. Goths who had been sequestered to the Roman army fled the Empire and returned to join their Gothic brethren.
By the summer of that same year, the Romans had sent troops out to quell this rebellion and punish the Goths. There were skirmishes between the two sides, which culminated in the Battle of Adrianople in the summer of 378.
The Goths in Adrianople were entrenched and ready for the overconfident and inadequately armed Romans—led by Valens himself--who expected an easy victory. Valens didn’t anticipate that there would be as many Goths as there were, nor did he respect their fighting skill. He and his Romans marched into Adrianople in a lackadaisical manner.
Led by Fridigern, 20,000 Goths surrounded the unsuspecting Romans and set fields afire, cutting off their retreat. Attacking with unexpected savagery and superior numbers, the Goths massacred the Romans. The Romans lost Two-Thirds of the 15,000 men they sent to Adrianople. Valens himself was killed in the battle. It was the worst Roman defeat in over a century.
The Goths continued to fight the Romans and live like bandits. They became nomadic, never settling for more than a short time in any one place. They persisted in picking off Roman troops, eating away at the empire and stealing their crops.
Finally, the Romans were ready to deal, feeling that the Goths had caused them too much trouble at a time when the Empire had bigger fish to fry. New Roman leader Theodosius formed a treaty with the Goths, allowing them to settle in Bulgaria.
Over the next decade, the Goths tried to conform to the local customs but met with prejudice and contempt from the locals. This caused several violent confrontations with the Bulgarians. Also, as part of the treaty, the Goths had agreed to assist the Roman army. Theodocius began using the Goths as frontline pawns in unwinnable battles, cleverly hoping to whittle down the number of Goth warriors, making them easier to control.
One of the best Goth soldiers was Alaric the 1st, who’d fought first for the Goths and now reluctantly for the Romans. He realized what Theodosius was up to and despised the Roman leader for it. Soon, Fridigern died and the unhappy Goths were looking for a new leader. Alaric was a respected warrior. He roused his people and promised to lead them to glory. He became the new leader of the Goths in 395.
Having been trained to fight by the Romans, and having battled alongside them many times, Alaric knew the Roman tactics like the back of his hand. He wasn’t an impulsive soldier and was smart enough to bide his time and wait for the right moment. He didn’t let the Romans know he was plotting against them, and pretended to still be an ally. He slowly moved up the military hierarchy, and used his increasing clout to covertly divert food and weapons to the Goths.
When Theodosius died, Alaric considered the treaty invalid and so refused to fight for the Romans any longer. This was bad news for the Romans. Ever since Theodosius died, the Empire had become split between Roman leaders Honorius and Arcadias. Both were seeking to rule a united Rome and were counting on the Goths help. When Alaric pulled his people out of the mix, the two Roman leaders were surprised by the unexpected move. Before they could decide how to respond, Alaric made the first move. He and his Goths sacked Greece.
In 410, while Arcadias was distracted fighting the Francs, the Goths fought their way through Western Italy and overwhelmed the armies of Emperor Honorius. They attacked the city of Rome, ravaging and pillaging the capital of the Empire. They conquered Rome and controlled it for three days. But Alaric knew that holding a city was harder than conquering it. Satisfied by his morale victory, Alaric and the Goths pulled out of Rome. From then on, the Romans didn’t bother them. The Empire was starting to slowly crumble and they didn’t want any more trouble from the Goths. The Romans gave them the city of Aquatania as their own. The Goths had their victory and their own home.
Alaric died six months after his great victory over the Romans. His people mourned the passing of their great liberator. New leaders competed to take his place. This led to the Goths ultimately splitting into two groups…The Visigoths (Western Goths) and the Ostrogoths (Eastern Goths) to maintain the Goth culture after Alaric’s death.
In 488, Theodoric (leader of the Ostrigoths) conquered all of Italy. The once great Roman Empire was now only a memory.
However, things started to deteriorate for the Goths in 553 when the Ostrogoths were defeated by the Byzantine Empire. The Visigoths hung on until 711 when they went to war with the Muslims and lost. The remnants of the once formidable Goths were scattered across Asia Minor (Turkey). They were slowly assimilated into the local cultures. By the 8th century, the Goths had completely vanished.