Page images

records of the Council of Nice, A. D. 325. The christian Goths remained in this country, until they were attacked by the Huns, a nation from the north of China or Tartary : they were consequently induced to request the protection of the emperor Valens, which was done through the intervention of their bishop Ulphilas. Moesia, (now Servia, and Bulgaria,) was assigned them as a residence, and they emigrated into that country about A. D. 376. Jornandes gives the following description of their situation : “Ad pedes enim montis gens multa sedit pauper et imbellis, nihil abundans, nisi armento diversi generis pecorum et pascuis, silvaque lignorum, patum habens tritici, caeterarum specierum est terra faecunda. Vineas vero, nec si sunt alibi, certi eorum cognoscent, ex vicinis locis sibi vinum negociantes, nam lacte aluntur.*" It seems then that their manner of living did not differ from that of the German tribes in the time of Tacitus.

But their nomadic character was not destined to endure. The influence and example of the other Goths led them on, and the long and bloody history of their contests with the Roman and Byzantine legions now commenced. Under Alaric, in 396, they made an irruption into Greece, conquered the Peloponnesus, and their leader became prefect of Illyria and king of the West Goths. Early in the fifth century, he led his armies into Italy, and twice sacked Rome, and from thence marched into Spain, where in 412 was founded a kingdom, which, after a space of about three hundred years, during the reign of Roderick, was conquered by the Saracens.

The Visigoths here disappear from history. The Ostrogoths were more unfortunate. They were not permitted to enter Moesia for protection against the ravages of the Huns, and were therefore overcome by that horde of barbarians. About the middle of the fifth century, they liberated themselves, and embraced Christianity. After the fall of the Western Empire under Odeacer, the emperor Zeno, in the year 489, induced Theodoric, the king of the Ostrogoths, to march into Italy; and in 493, the latter became king of Italy, and laid the foundation of a new Ostrogothic empire, which included within its limits, (besides Italy,) Rhaetia, Vindelicia, Noricum, Dalinatia, Pannonia, and Dacia beyond the Danube. Of this immense empire, he made Ravenna the capital. The Gothic rule lasted

* De rebus Get. c. 51.

+ De Mor. Germ. 5,


about sixty years, and was terminated by the victories of Belisarius and Narsus.

It is in the Moeso-Gothic,* that we find the first specimen of Germanic literature ; viz. the famous version of the Bible made by Ulphilas,t the bishop and primate of the Moeso-Goths. The brevity of the notices of Ulphilas, in the works of the contemporary historians, Philostorgius, Socrates, Sozomenus, and Theodoret, leaves us in great uncertainty with regard to his origin, and the prominent events of his life. The account given by Philostorgius is exceptionable, from the known partiality of that writer's views. He states that Ulpbilas was not a Goth, but a Cappadocian by birth; that his kindred and ancestors were Christians, and inhabitants of the small town Sadagottina in Cappadocia ; and were carried away prisoners by the Goths, during their great inroad into Lydia, Bythynia, Phrygia and Cappadocia in the year 266, by means of which the christian religion was introduced among the conquerors. But on the other hand, the German name of Ulphilas (Wölfein,) the great reverence in which he was held by the Goths, bis translation of the Bible into the Gothic language, in addition to the bad reputation of Philostorgius as a historian, and the opposition of his testimony to that of his contemporaries, are sufficient to prove the Gothic origin of Ulphilas. It is indeed said, that the parents of the bishop, if Cappadocian, had become domesticated among the Goths, and had so far adopted the language and habits of that people, that they might have given their son a Gothic name.

But there is no evidence to substantiate this supposition by proofs; and the charge of Arianisin equally wants confirmation.

All that is known certainly with regard to Ulpbilas may be told in a very few words. From the year 360 to about 380, he was bishop of the christian Goths in Dacia, Thrace, and Moesia. In the year 359, he attended the synod at Constantinople. Afterwards, before 376, he was twice sent by his people to the emperor Valens, and successfully executed their commission to obtain protection against the Huns: and in

* The Goths after their settlement of Moesia, were called MoesoGoths.

+ Variously written ; Urphilas, Urpbilus, Gilfulas, Gudillas, Galfilas, Gulfilas, Ulphias, Ulpias, Gulfias, Hlulfins, Wulfila, etc. Büsching.

accordance with the permission of the emperor, the Goths, in number 200,000 under Fritigern and Ablavius crossed the Danube, and settled in Moesia : with them went Ulpbilas. The time of his death is unknown, but it probably took place in 379 or 380, as under Theodosius, Theotimus went to Tomis as bishop of the Goths. No one before or after bis tiine was so useful to the Goths, and they appreciated his worth ; his learning and his virtues were so well known that they passed into a proverb : Whatever is done by Ulphilas, is well done. The two most prominent actions of his life, are the (so-called) invention of the Gothic Alphabet, and the translation of the Holy Scriptures into Moeso-Gothic. *

The testimonies of the early historians concur in ascribing the invention of the Moeso-Gothic Alphabet to Ulpbilas. Socrates, who flourished about 440 says Oùqilas olov 160 m επίσκοπος γράμματα εφεύρε Γοτθικάt. Sozomenus witnesses 7100ros de youpuurov superns aúrós éyéverof and Philostorgius gives the same account. But there are many considerations which will lead us to modify, if not to entirely set aside their relations.

It will be granted that Ulphilas, in translating the Scriptures into his native tongue, designed that they should be extensively circulated, and that they should be accessible to all who could read. If then he invented the characters in which the translation was to be written, who would have read it after it was completed ?-particularly if the countrymen of Ulphilas were acquainted with other alphabets, and even had one of their own before, as we shall prove. Even supposing that the bishop invented it, is it not in the last degree surprising that the alphabet (with the exception of two letters only) should coincide in the forın of its characters with the alphabets of nations with whom his people had intercourse ?

Had the Germanic nations an alphabet, and were letters in use among them ?

We have the strongest reason to believe that the Runic letters were in actual use throughout the whole North of Europe from the remotest ages. They originated in the East, and were carried into Europe by the Teutonic and Scandina

* Zabn's Ulphilas. Hist. Crit. Einleitung, p. 19–21.
† Hist. Eccles. L. IV. c. 33.
| Hist. Eccl. L. VI. 37.

$ Hist. Eccl. L. II. 5.

vian tribes.

Runic inscriptions have been found in Tartary, * which fact will not appear strange when we learn that the family of Gothic nations once occupied large tracts of Tartary, that some of its branches inhabited Transoxana, and were found even as far as the Altai mountains. They were well known to the people of Eastern Asia who could not fail to be struck by the singularity of their language, their light hair, blue eyes, and white complexions ; traits particularly remarkable in the midst of men dark-colored, with brown eyes and dark hair, who have in the end occupied their place. The distinguished orientalist, M. Abel-Remusat, from whose valuable researches the above is taken, adds, “ the facts which I have collected on these points are so numerous and so positively set for the Chinese writers, that no doubt can remain."'Death prevented him from publishing these proofs.

But the learned geographer, professor Ritter of Berlin, has since solved all difficulties, by proving that the Chinese writers refer frequently to nomadic races, having blue eyes and red hair, and that they relate, that in the second century (B. C. 177) before Christ, a portion of one of these tribes, having been driven westward by the Hiong-nu, inhabited the shores of Lake Bhalkush, and the river Ili, under the name of U-sun or U-siun ;f afterwards, probably during the fourth century, they emigrated southward. Five other races are mentioned by the Chinese annalists, as having blue eyes and red hair: viz., the Schu-le or Kbin-scha; the Khute, west of the U-sun; the Ting-ling, north of the U-sun, and west of lake Baikal; the Kian-kuan or Hakas, on the Yenesei; and the Alan or Yan-thsai, north of the Caspian Sea. Il We regret that our limits forbid us to enter more deeply upon this bighly interesting subject.

But to return to the Runic letters. In an ode quoted by Bartholin, I the poet ascribes their invention to Odin : letters which the great ancient traced out; which the gods com


* Mallet's Northern Antiquities. Vol. I. p. 312. note.

| Recherches sur les Langues Tartares. Prelim. p. xliv. and xlv. Wiseman's Lectures, p. 101. Am. Ed.

Called Hieou-siun by the older, and Ou-siun by the later Chinese writers. An etymologist might perhaps imagine that he has here discovered the original form of the word Suiones.

Ś Ritter's Erdkunde, Vol. II. Part I. p. 194. and 431-7. || Ib. p. 434.

Edda Isl.



posed; which Odin the sovereign of the gods engraved." This is equivalent to a declaration that they had been so long in use that their origin was unknown. The attempt indeed has been made to prove that the ancient Germans had no written alphabet, but the passage in Tacitus* on which the assertion is founded, is now decided to have been misunderstood. It is at least certain that they were extensively in use among the heathen nations in the north of Europe. That they were not derived from the Roman alphabet, as has been supposed by some, is shown by their difference of forination, and by the smaller number (sixteen) of the Runic letters, which likewise is a proof of their great antiquity, and perhaps too, of their eastern origin. Runic staves are mentioned by Venantius Fortunatus, a Latin poet of the sixth century:

Barbara fraxineis pingatur Runa tabellis

Quodque Papyrus agit, virgula plana valet.f If then Runic characters were in use, among any of the German tribes, from their close connection, and the identity or similarity of their customs, it may safely be inferred that they were known and in use among the Goths.

But the Goths were likewise acquainted with the Greek and Latin alphabets. After the Gothic settlement of Dacia and Moesia, the new inhabitants were in habits of constant and intimate intercourse with the Greeks and Romans. MSS. and epistles in both these languages were within the reach of the more intelligent. Knowing then that the learned Ulphilas was acquainted with the Runic, Greek and Roman alphabets, it would be natural to suppose that he would have made use of them in the formation of a new alphabet. This would have been probable, even if every vestige of the language and alphabet had been lost. Let us then compare the Moeso-Gothic characters with the Runic, Greek, and Latin alphabets, and from the points of agreement, and difference, we shall be able to decide how far Ulphilas was indebted to them, and what is original with himself.

Ulphilas, then, drew from the Greeks the forms of g (c), 1, P, u (y), and x. From the Latin were borrowed u (qu), h, g (3 and j), d. The forms common to both languages are e,

. Germ. 19.
† Lib. VII. epig. 18. Vid. Wormii Literat. Runic. p. 7.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »