This book review is written by Eugene Kernes
Genre = History, Empires
There are two Gothic peoples whose names stand out in history: Visigoths, and Ostrogoths. The Goths had many diverse qualities which were even acknowledged by their enemies. Depending on the situational context, they could be brave, patient, cruel, and tolerant, even while overcoming hardships. They had many victories and many losses. From each they learned to become better. From their losses they learned strategies that could be used in the future. From their victories they learned what it meant to rule wisely. Local ties mattered for decisions, but when faced with a struggle they banned together into a massive force. Their reasons for war inspiring others to join. With leadership containing a quasi-democratic republic.
Goths had their own alphabet comprised of runes. Very few could read or write, which meant that writing had an aura of mystery, which is what rune means; a secret or mystery. Knowledge contained within the runes was kept with a learned caste. Most Gothic history is unrecorded partly because of the scarcity of literacy, but also because the events that made Gothic history were those of battle, migration, and hardship. Peace’s evanescence held no events to write about.
At times they had their own kingdom and a quasi-democratic republic government. With leaders being chosen rather than only dependent on bloodlines. Leaders needed to be accepted by the communities. But at times the Goths were ruled by others, and were not allowed to choose their own fate.
What gave the Goths their stay in popular history is their relationship with the Roman Empire. Sometimes being in battle with Rome. Sometimes being at peace with Rome. Sometimes ruling over Rome. Sometimes being employed by Rome. Making and breaking treaties based on the context of their relationship. Showing the importance and consequences of geopolitical maneuvering.
The book is a bit difficult to read, with many aspects of the Gothic people seemingly missing. Hard to understand a society when their social relations are given sporadically, and the peoples’ diversity seem to sometimes contradict. A good overall history with many details during certain events, but need to be more systematic to understand the Goths appropriately.
Questions to Consider while Reading the Book