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Re: [gothic-l] Wielbark Culture

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  • Tore Gannholm
    Wolframs paper is available on http://www.stavgard.com/Gotland/romaniron_/origo/default.htm Tore Professor Wolframs paper apppeard as Origo et religio. Ethnic
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 4 1:45 PM
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      Wolframs paper is available on


      Professor Wolframs paper apppeard as Origo et religio. Ethnic
      traditions and literature in early medieval texts. Early Medieval
      Europe 3 (1994) 19-38.

      Some quotes: "A striking example is Walter Goffart, /The/ Narrators
      /of B,arbarian History, A.D. 550-800/ (Princeton, 1989), P. 77, n.
      276: 'Wolfram ... claims that these incidents (notablv the Gothic
      acclamation of their proceres as Ansis: see below n. 40) take place
      "in grauer Vorzeit", a halfmillenium before the time counting.' The
      quoted reference, however, shows that Goffart simply replaced
      Jordanes by Wolfram to prove his point that the latter's Geschichte
      der Goten 'seems to have been conceived in the form of an updated

      "Misrepresentation does not release us, however, from the obligation
      of reconsidering the traditions abused in the manner described above.
      Can we indeed properly speak of 'archaic traditions' in the first
      place?24 Scholars have already made up their minds in their critique
      of the sources. Whence comes our information? How much credit do our
      informants deserve? Are they really the 'Narrators of Barbarian
      History'? Are Walter Goffart and his supporters correct in denying
      their corporate identity and interpreting these works as harmless
      literature or irony, or even love stories?25 But how could it be
      otherwise when modern scholars search in Christian, classically
      educated, medieval authors for concepts and traditions which are
      supposed to mirror pre-Christian ethnic historicity, that is, 'real'
      archaic pagan life ?26"

      "These observations give us something to think about. First of all,
      heroic saga and heroic poetry are not the same. Secondly, ethnic
      traditions in early medieval texts cannot be studied as mere
      literature belonging only to the time they came to be written down.
      The methods, skills and techniques of exegesis are also required.
      Northrop Frye is highly praised, and rightly so, but in his brilliant
      book The Great Code one looks in vain for Matthew I, 1 ff., where
      Christ's threefold fourteen-generation family tree is delivered. Thus
      The Great Code's index does not contain the entry 'genealogy'. This
      one-sided approach toward an origo gentis such as the bible is
      followed by Walter Goffart with the result that his Narrators of
      Barbarian History, though an intelligent, witty, and even amusing
      book,68 misses the point because it commits the methodological sin of
      treating every text polemically as mere literature, that is, as its
      author's creation ex nihilo. Consequently, Goffart dislikes
      continuity as a whole and neglects any archaic texture, that is, all
      the prefabricated elements of tradition, which past authors (re)used
      to construct their texts. As to Goffart's argument that his
      'Narrators' are authors of politically situated and programmatic
      literature, this is no different from every other text that was ever
      written.69 Even granting Goffart were correct that Jordanes had
      composed the Getica as an ironic piece of literature and a 'love
      story', this says nothing about, let alone against, the elements from
      which Jordanes ultimately constructed his stories. Consequently, the
      statement that something is literature is no value judgement or even
      verdict, and, certainly, does not make the exegetic historian
      jobless. The genealogies composed for Theodoric the Great, Rothari,
      the Scandinavian kings or, say, Alexander III of Scotland (1249)
      start with gods or demi-gods. These genealogies are, of course,
      literature, but their message still served its purpose, that is, to
      legitimize kingship by ethnic traditions no matter how deeply rooted
      in 'genuine' oral memoriae. Or in other words, even the most radical
      travesty of founding gods and heirs presupposes the belief in their
      existence albeit euhemeristically transformed and distorted. The gods
      of the pedigrees must have originally embodied sacred realities, and
      this is true whether in the Middle Ages they are still presented as
      sacred, or demonic, as divine, or human, as power, or as aniles
      fabulae (old women's tales).70"


      >Hi Dirk, I never received any comment regarding this post. Thoughts?
      >"My omission of the discussion of the archaeological discoveries in
      >what is now Poland is intentional. They are normally identified with
      >the Goths (the Wielbark culture). However, the basis for this
      >identification is Jordanes's Getica along with the texts
      >mentioned here, written by Strabo, Pliny, Tacitus, and Ptolemy. If
      >archaeologists did not find the name-related material here, they
      >would naturally not be able to attach any names of certain peoples to
      >their finds since, to my knowledge, no inscriptions have been found
      >that indicate any particular ethnicity. The archaeologists are
      >therefore unable to prove that the antique texts deal with Goths
      >(Christensen 2002:40)."
      >Christensen, A.S. Cassidorus Jordanses and the History of the Goths
      >Studies in a Migration Myth. Copenhagen. Museum Tusculanum Press:

      This is very interesting. Christensen is a historian and only looks
      at written sources. As there is almost no contemporary written
      sources we have to look at the archaeological evidence. The
      archaeologist can read the written sources to get a hint where to
      dig. If the written sources have any substance the archaeologists
      will find the proof they need.

      In the case of the Getica we don't know what is coming down through
      the oral tradition and what is invented by Cassiodorus and Jordanes.

      Herwig Wolfram writes "After having conquered the Romans, the Goths
      understand that their leaders are not ordinary humans but demigods,
      which is why they call them Ansis/Aesir. Do not expect to find real
      names in Theoderiks genealogy, most of them emanate from sources
      about the Getae, while the Ansis/Amal tradition is of oral Gothic
      origin. This was politically important for Theoderic in order to be
      accepted by the old Italian families.

      Some say this is all taken from litterary sources but that is not
      true. The expulsion of the witches, for example, was to be of
      Jewish-Christian origin, but since the word "halliurunnae" (witches)
      has a Gothic stem, it must be part of the original tradition."
      "Wolfram argues that the concept, that all barbarian history is
      nothing but litterature, is wrong. He feels that there is always a
      core of historical tradition hidden somewhere. He specially mentions
      Walter Goffart's "Narrators of Barbarian History" in which these
      simplifications are made."

      In recent years extensive excavations have taken place in the Vistula
      area and Elblag.
      This was presented at a symposium in Lidköing in 1992 where professor
      Jerzy Okulicz-Kozaryn, Warszawa read a paper about his latest

      see http://www.stavgard.com/Gotland/romaniron_/kulturcentrum/default.htm

      Summary page 42

      The paper was presented in German but I only have it in the Swedish
      version translated and published by Ingemar. I hope he has the
      original which I would like to include in this page.

      Afterwards there was a discussion where professor Herwig Wolfram from
      Wien was very pleased and stated that with this paper it was the
      first time he gets a view over what the Wielbark culture actually is.

      Professor Okulicz-Kozaryn was very convinced with his interpretations
      about a common Baltic culture with the center in the Elblag area. It
      is the Ember trade that is very profitable that is foundation of this

      He writes: "The preliminary discussion of research results from the
      Weklice cemetery presented here, with an attempt to present them in a
      broader historical context shows that we are not dealing here with a
      marginal and minor area of the Wielbark Culture but with one of the
      centres of the amber coast, crucial for understanding the
      far-reaching ties between the Baltic region and various areas of the
      Roman Empire and European Barbaricum. "

      "It is difficult not to associate such a strong economical position
      of the group in question with the organization of the southward
      migrations of population. It is surprising that no existing
      publications concerning the migration of Goths and Gepidae engaged in
      such a basic comprehensive confrontation of sources."

      He has no misgivings about Gotland being a part of this.



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