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Gothic, Ancient

The Scythian or Gothic tribes, descended from Magog, were the second source of European population. They entered into Europe from Asia, like the Kelts, about 680 years B.C. In the time of Herodotus they were on the Danube, and extended towards the south. In Caesar's time they were called Germans; and had established themselves so far to the westward as to have obliged the Kelts to withdraw from the eastern banks of the Rhine. They became known to us in later ages by the name of Goths.

From this Scythian or Gothic stock sprung the Saxons, who occupied the north-west part of Germany. We may here observe, the terms Kimmerians and Scythian are not to be considered merely as local, but as generic appellations; each of their tribes having a peculiar denomination.

As a distinctive denomination, they prefixed to Goths the name of the country they inhabited or subdued; as, the Moeso-Gothi, Scando-Gothi, Norreno-Gothi, &c. Their chief seat is reported to have been in Gothland, now a part of the Swedish dominions. The Moeso-Goths, as their name imports, were those Goths that inhabited Moesia, on the frontiers of Thrace. The language of these Goths is not only called Moeso-Gothic, but Ulphilo-Gothic, from Ulphilas, the first bishop of the Moeso-Goths. He lived about A.D. 370, and is said to have invented the Gothic alphabet, and to have translated the whole Bible from Greek into Gothic. These Gothic characters were in use in the greater part of Europe after the destruction of the western empire. The French first adopted the Latin characters. The Spaniards, by a decree of a synod at Lyons, abolished the use of Gothic letters A.D. 1091. — Bosworth.

The ancient Goths were converted to Christianity by the Greek priests, and they probably introduced their letters with their religion, about the reign of Galienus. Towards the middle of the third century, Ascholius, Bishop of Thessalonica, and a Greek priest named Audius, spread Christianity among the Goths; the former of these is much extolled by Basil the Great, and the latter by Epiphanius. The ancient Gothic alphabet consisted of sixteen letters; they are so similar to the Greek, that their derivation cannot be doubted.

Those writers are certainly mistaken, who attribute the invention of the Gothic letters to Ulphilas, Bishop of Moesia, who lived in the fourth century. The gospels translated by him into the Gothic language, and written in ancient Gothic characters about the year 370, were formerly kept in the library of the monastery of Werden; but this MS. is now preserved in the library of Upsal, and is known among the learned, by the title of the Silver Book of Ulphilas, because it is bound in massy silver. Several editions of this MS. have been printed. See a specimen of it in Hickes's Thesaurus, vol. i. pref. p. 8. Dr. Hickes positively disallows this translation to be Ulphil's, but says it was made by some Teuton or German, either as old, or perhaps older than Ulphil; but whether this was so or not, the characters are apparently of Greek original. — Astle.

The Moeso-Gothic Alphabet

Moeso-Gothic Alphabet
Moeso-Gothic Alphabet Enlarge

  1. And as n before another g.
  2. As j in jour, or y in your.
  3. Hw in Saxon, or wh in English. The proper sound of these letters can hardly be ascertained; but that which is given appears the most probable. Astle gives this character as Q.
  4. And in middle of words sometimes c.
  5. W in the beginning, and u in the middle of a word.
  6. Astle says ch or x.

Gothic in the British Founderies

Pica. Caslon and Livermore. University of Oxford.

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