Today goths are a subculture and the term refers generally to those of us who choose to wear a certain kind of apparel and have a penchant for a certain kind of music, often accompanied by keen interest in horror movies, gothic literature and other forms of often somewhat macabre entertainment. Of course no one person can be reduced to a cultural label though, so this loose definition is just that. A guide and no more.
The first Goths
But we were not the first goths to roam this planet. The first Goths came to be known after they migrated in the 3rd century from southern Scandinavia to Gothiscandza, an area which is now in eastern Germany. The migration spread as far as the Black Sea and it’s believed that the Goths crossed either the Black Sea or The Danube, pillaging and plundering all they could see.
They dominated the Balkan Peninsula and Anatolia as far as Cyprus, and showed little love for Greece either. There they sacked Athens, Byzantium and Sparta (the latter obviously not having Gerard Butler on hand to fend off their northern attackers).
The power of the Goths was well established by the 4th century, and by this time they had also taken Dacia, a territory of the Roman Empire in modern Romania. This split the Goths in two geographically, with groups either side of the Dniesta River: the Thervingi and the Greuthungi.
Here come the Huns
An attack by the Huns in the 4th century subdued and absorbed many Goths, but a group of Goths fled across the Danube. This force later revolted against the Roman Empire, winning an important battle at Adrianople.
Ostrogoths and Visigoths
In the next two centuries the Goths split into two groups: the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths. The Ostrogoths joined the Huns but revolted against them in 454, before settling in Italy. Peace would not last though and the Roman Empire launched a bitter battle against the Ostrogoths which devaststated and depopulated their kingdom. They later joined another Germanic tribe, the Lombards, founding a kingdom in northern Italy in 567.
The Visigoths could perhaps be seen as more successful. They sacked Rome in 410, defeated Attila the Hun in 451 and settled in Aquitaine, now south west France. The Franks expelled the Visigoths in 507, pushing them to Hispania (the Iberian peninsula). There they converted to Catholicism by the 6th century but were conquered by the Muslim Moors in the 8th century. However, under the leadership of Visigoth nobleman Pelagius the Goths began to regain power, and after their victory at the Battle of Covadonga around 722, the Moors were defeated and the remaining Visigoths settled in what is now Spain and Portugal.
So the Goths (who weren’t wiped out in the many battles, which they often started) were absorbed into Iberia and it’s believed some others settled in Crimea, now a peninsula of Ukraine. It is thought a small number of people in this area still spoke Crimean Gothic until the 16th century.
The old Goths’ power is gone, but their influence has been absorbed, like they were, into the cultural melting pot which has become the world today and which influences each one of us. Also, like goths today, they were pretty bad-ass.