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The Origin and Deeds of the Goths   By:

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in English Version

Part of a Thesis Presented to the Faculty of Princeton University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy





For the first time the story of the Goths recorded in the Getica of Jordanes, a Christian Goth who wrote his account in the year 551, probably in Constantinople, is now put in English form, as part of an edition of the Getica prepared by Mr. Mierow. Those who care for the romance of history will be charmed by this great tale of a lost cause and will not find the simple hearted exaggerations of the eulogist of the Gothic race misleading. He pictured what he believed or wanted to believe, and his employment of fable and legend, as well as the naïve exhibition of his loyal prejudices, merely heightens the interest of his story. Those who want coldly scientific narrative should avoid reading Jordanes, but should likewise remember the truthful, words of Delbrück: "Legende und Poesie malen darum noch nicht falsch, weil sie mit anderen Farben malen als die Historie. Sie reden nur eine andere Sprache, und es handelt sich darum, aus dieser richtig ins Historische zu übersetzen."



The following version of the Getica of Jordanes is based upon the text of Mommsen, as found in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 5 (Berlin 1882). I have adhered closely to his spelling of proper names, especially the Gothic names, except in the case of a very few words which are in common use in another form (such as Gaiseric and Belisarius).

I wish to express my sincere thanks to Dean Andrew F. West of the Princeton Graduate School for his unfailing interest in my work. It was in one of his graduate courses that the translation was begun, three years ago, and at his suggestion that I undertook the composition of the thesis in its present form. He has read the entire treatise in the manuscript, and has been my constant adviser and critic. Thanks are also due to Dr. Charles G. Osgood of the English Department of Princeton University for reading the translation.


Classical Seminary, Princeton University, July 1908.



Though it had been my wish to glide in my little boat 1 by the shore of a peaceful coast and, as a certain writer says, to gather little fishes from the pools of the ancients, you, brother Castalius, bid me set my sails toward the deep. You urge me to leave the little work I have in hand, that is, the abbreviation of the Chronicles, and to condense in my own style in this small book the twelve volumes of the Senator on the origin and deeds of the Getae from olden time to the present day, descending through the generations of the kings. Truly a hard command, 2 and imposed by one who seems unwilling to realize the burden of the task. Nor do you note this, that my utterance is too slight to fill so magnificent a trumpet of speech as his. 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. To 3 this I have added fitting matters from some Greek and Latin histories. I have also put in an introduction and a conclusion, and have inserted many things of my own authorship. Wherefore reproach me not, but receive and read with gladness what you have asked me to write. If aught be insufficiently spoken and you remember it, do you as a neighbor to our race add to it, praying for me, dearest brother. The Lord be with you. Amen.

(Geographical Introduction)

[Sidenote: Ocean and Its Lesser Isles.]

I Our ancestors, as Orosius relates, were of the 4 opinion that the circle of the whole world was surrounded by the girdle of Ocean on three sides... Continue reading book >>

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