(sixth century)
   Historian of the Goths, Jordanes has left the primary record for the early history of the Gothic people. Although probably less reliable and less complete than the now lost history of the Goths by Cassiodorus, Jordanes's history, De origine actibusque Getarum (On the Origins and Deeds of the Getae), is the earliest narrative source for the history of the Goths. Like the history of the later polymath, Isidore of Seville, Jordanes's work was intended to glorify the Goths and justify their authority over the Romans.
   Little is precisely known of the life of Jordanes, including the exact dates of his birth and death. His movements remain uncertain, but a few matters about his life can be pieced together from his surviving writings. He identifies himself as being of Gothic descent, and in the early sixth century he served as a notary to the Ostrogothic king of Italy, Theodoric the Great, who became one of the great heroes of his history. An Arian Christian, as most Goths were, Jordanes converted to Catholic Christianity at some point in his life, and some scholars have identified him with a contemporary bishop of the same name. This identification, as with most things, remains uncertain. It is generally held that he wrote his history in Constantinople around 550, but he may also have lived in one of the empire's provinces along the Danube River.
   His most important work, commonly known as the Getica, has long shaped our understanding of the origins of the Goths. The Getica itself chronicles the history of the Goths from the origins of the people until Jordanes's day. It is a distillation of the much larger history of the Goths by Cassiodorus, but Jordanes also drew upon oral traditions, thus involving the Goths in the composition of his history. The work is divided into four main sections: a geographical introduction, the history of the united Goths, the Ostrogoths, and the Visigoths and separate histories of the united Goths, etc. The work covers the reign of Theodoric the Great and other matters treated by contemporary Latin and Greek sources, but it alone treats the earliest history of the Goths. Indeed, it is this material that is the most important and controversial.
   The model of Gothic history established by Jordanes that has long been a point of debate among historians. According to Jordanes, the Goths originated in Scandinavia and then moved south and east, where they eventually divided into two main groups, Ostrogoths and Visigoths. Since much of this material has been proved wrong yet some supported by archeological research, most scholars treat it cautiously, neither completely rejecting it nor accepting it without reservation. The Getica also contains information on the movements of other barbarian peoples, including the Huns and Vandals. It describes the great Battle of the Catalaunian Plains and the funeral of Attila the Hun.
   Jordanes wrote a second work on the history of the Roman people, commonly known as the Romana. This too was a compilation based on another lost history and was probably written in Constantinople at around the same time as the Getica. It surveys the history of Rome from its legendary founding by Romulus to the age of the emperor Justinian. It is generally a less valuable and less interesting survey.
   See also
 ♦ Goffart, Walter A. The Narrators of Barbarian History (a.d. 500-800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, and Paul the Deacon. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
 ♦ Jordanes. The Gothic History of Jordanes in English Version. Trans. Charles C. Mierow. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1985.
 ♦ Laistner, Max L. W. Thought and Letters in Western Europe, a.d. 500 to 900. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. Education and Culture in the Barbarian West: From the Sixth through the Eighth Century. Trans. John Contreni. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1976.
 ♦ Wolfram, Herwig. The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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