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Papers relating to the Society's Dictionary.
This volume was issued in December 1860. The volume for
1.-ON THE GEPIDÆ. By R. G. LATHAM, M.D.
[Read January the 15th.] Of the nations whose movements are connected with the decline and fall of the Roman empire, though several are more important than the Gepide, few are of a greater interest. This is because the question of their ethnological relations is more obscure than that of any other similar population of equal historical prominence. How far they were Goths rather than Vandals, or Vandals rather than Goths, how far they were neither one nor the other, has scarcely been investigated. Neither has their origin been determined, nor have the details of their movements been ascertained. That the current account, as it stands in the pages of Paulus Diaconus, is anything but unexceptionable, will be shown in the present paper. It is this account, however, which has been adopted by the majority of inquirers.
The results to which the present writer commits himself are widely different from those of his predecessors; he believes them, however, to be of the most ordinary and common-place character. Why, then, have they not been attained long ago ? Because certain statements, to a contrary effect, being taken up without a due amount of preliminary criticism, have directed the views of historians and ethnologists towards a wrong point.
These, however, for the present will be ignored, and nothing, in the first instance, be attended to but the primary facts upon which the argument, in its simplest form, depends. These being adduced, the ordinary interpretation of them will be suggested; after which, the extent to which it is modified by the statements upon which the current doctrines are founded will be investigated.
If we turn to Strabo's account of the parts on the northeastern side of the Adriatic, the occupancies of the numerous tribes of the Roman province of Illyricum, we shall find no slight prominence given to the population called 'Idrodes. They join the Carni. The Culpa (KoNaTis) flows through their land. They stretch along the coast to the river Tedanius; Senia is their chief town. The Moentini, the Avendeatæ, the Auripini, are their chief tribes. Vendos (Avendo) is one of their occupancies. Such are the notices of Strabo, Ptolemy, Appian, and Pliny; Pliny's form of the word being Japydes.
The Iapodes, then, or Japydes, of the authors in question, are neither an obscure nor an inconsiderable nation. They extend along the sea-coast of the Adriatic. They occupy the valley of the Culpa. They are Illyrian, but conterminous with Pannonia.
As Pliny seems to have taken his name from Strabo, the authors just quoted may all be called Greek. With the latest of them we lose the forms 'Iatrodes or Japydes.
As the Roman empire declines and its writers become less and less classical, their geographical records become less systematic and more fragmentary; and it is not till we get to the times of Probus and Maximian that we find any name approaching 'Iámodes. Probus, however, plants a colony of Gepide within the empire (Vopiscus, Vit. Pub. c. 18). The Tervings also fight against the Vandals and Gipedes (Mamertinus in Genethl. Max. c. 17). Sidonius makes the fierce Gepida (Gepida trux) a portion of the army of Attila. Finally, we have the Gepidæ, the Lombards, and the Avars, as the three most prominent populations of the sixth century.
The Gepid locality in the fifth century is the parts about Sirmium and Singidunum-Alt Schabacz and Belgradewithin the limits of Pannonia, and beyond those of Illyricum, i.e. a little to the north of the occupancy of the Iapodes and Japydes of Strabo and Pliny.
There is a little difference in name between Japydes and Gepidæ, and a little difference in locality between the Gepids and Iapodes. I ask, however, whether this is sufficient to raise
any doubt as to the identity of the two words ? Whether the populations they denoted were the same is another matter. I only submit that, word for word, Japyd and Gepid are one. Yet they have never been considered so. On the contrary, the obscure history of the Japydes is generally made to end with Ptolemy; the more brilliant one of the Gepidæ to begin with Vopiscus. This may be seen in Gibbon, in Zeuss, in any author whatever who notices either, or both, of the two populations.
There is a reason for this : it does not, however, lie in the difference of name. Wider ones than this are overlooked by even the most cautious of investigators. Indeed, the acknowledged and known varieties of the word Gepidä itself, are far more divergent from each other than Gepidæ is from Japydes. Thus Gypides, I'“traides, Terimaides, are all admitted varieties,—varieties that no one has objected to.
Nor yet does the reason for thus ignoring the connexion between Gepide and Japydes lie in the difference of their respective localities. For a period of conquests and invasions, the intrusion of a population from the north of Illyricum to the south of Pannonia is a mere trifle in the eye of the ordinary historian, who generally moves large nations from one extremity of Europe to another as freely as a chess-player moves a queen or castle on a chess-board. In fact, some change, both of name and place, is to be expected. The name that Strabo, for instance, would get through an Illyrian, Vopiscus or Sidonius would get through a Gothic, Procopius through (probably) an Avar, authority—directly or indirectly.
The true reason for the agreement in question having been ignored, lies in the great change which had taken place in the political relations of the populations, not only of Illyricum and Pannonia, but of all parts of the Roman empire. The Japydes are merely details in the conquest of Illyricum and Dalmatia; the Gepid history, on the contrary, is connected with that of two populations eminently foreign and intrusive on the soil of Pannonia,—the Avars and the Lombards. How easy, then, to make the Gepidæ foreign and intrusive also. Rarely mentioned, except in connexion with the exotic Goth, the exotic Vandal, the exotic Avar, and the still more exotic Lombard, the Gepid becomes, in the eyes of the historian, exotic also.
This error is by no means modern. It dates from the reign of Justinian ; and occurs in the writings of such seeming authorities as Procopius and Jornandes. With many scholars this may appear conclusive against our doctrine ; since Procopius and Jornandes may reasonably be considered as competent and sufficient evidence, not only to their foreign origin, but also to their Gothic affinities. Let us, however, examine their statements. Procopius writes, that “the Gothic nations are many, the greatest being the Goths, Vandals, Visigoths, and Gepaides. They were originally called the Sauromatæ and Melanchlæni. Some call them the Getic nations. They differ in name, but in nothing else. They are all whiteskinned and yellow-haired, tall and good-looking, of the same creed, for they are all Arians. Their language is one, called Gothic.” This, though clear, is far from unexceptionable (B. Vand. i. 2). Their common language may have been no older than their common Arianism.
Again, the Sciri and Alani are especially stated to be Goths, which neither of them were,—the Alans, not even in the eyes of such claimants for Germany as Grimm and Zeuss.
Jornandes writes: “Quomodo vero Geta Gepidæque sint parentes si quæris, paucis absolvam. Meminisse debes, me initio de Scanziæ insulæ gremio Gothos dixisse egressos cum Berich suo rege, tribus tantum navibus vectos ad citerioris Oceani ripam; quarum trium una navis, ut assolet, tardius vecta, nomen genti fertur dedisse; nam lingua eorum pigra Gepanta dicitur. Hinc factum est, ut paullatim et corrupte nomen eis ex convitio nasceretur. Gepidæ namque sine