The Way of the Goths to Literacy as a Search for Identity. It is well known that the Goths, through the work of the bishop Ulfilas around the half of the 4th century, were the first Germanic people to shift from oral to written culture. Such a prevailing opinion is not incorrect per se, but on closer inspection it can result misleading. In this period, when Ulfilas acts and writes, invents an alphabet and translates the Bible into Gothic, the Gothic world was extremely unhomogeneous and faced a profound social, religious and ethnic rearrangement; the notion of “Gothic” itself was changing and showed a wide range of meanings which are very difficult to distinguish. In other words, it was a reality very far from the one portrayed by Cassiodorus, who divulged the idea of a whole vast Gothic community, and from the supposed monolithic Gothic dimension suggested by 19th century intellectuals. Then, the hypothesis of the existence, already in the second half of the 4th century, of a solid and well defined “people of the Goths”, to whom Ulfilas had offered his translation and its own alphabet, has overshadowed the importance of the bishop’s choice and his function in both the definition and the reinforcement of the Goths’ identity through time. The creation of an alphabet, as a consequence of the encounter with Christianity, was not the only possible solution. The Anglo-Saxons, for example, followed other ways: they used Latin alphabet, integrating it with a few runic signs or modifying it according to the requirements of their phonological inventory. Ulfilas, instead, through the translation of the Bible, and, primarily, through the invention of an alphabet, joins with determination the process of transformation of the Goths’ world, and supplies a new and powerful identity element both to the Gothic community of which he is spiritual and secular chief (i.e. to the Gothi minores) and to the subsequent evolutions of the historical and political Gothic experience (the Visigoths in the southern Gaul and the Iberian Peninsula and the Ostrogoths in Italy).

Der Weg der Goten zur Schriftlichkeit als Identitätsfindung

SANTORO, Verio
2018

Abstract

The Way of the Goths to Literacy as a Search for Identity. It is well known that the Goths, through the work of the bishop Ulfilas around the half of the 4th century, were the first Germanic people to shift from oral to written culture. Such a prevailing opinion is not incorrect per se, but on closer inspection it can result misleading. In this period, when Ulfilas acts and writes, invents an alphabet and translates the Bible into Gothic, the Gothic world was extremely unhomogeneous and faced a profound social, religious and ethnic rearrangement; the notion of “Gothic” itself was changing and showed a wide range of meanings which are very difficult to distinguish. In other words, it was a reality very far from the one portrayed by Cassiodorus, who divulged the idea of a whole vast Gothic community, and from the supposed monolithic Gothic dimension suggested by 19th century intellectuals. Then, the hypothesis of the existence, already in the second half of the 4th century, of a solid and well defined “people of the Goths”, to whom Ulfilas had offered his translation and its own alphabet, has overshadowed the importance of the bishop’s choice and his function in both the definition and the reinforcement of the Goths’ identity through time. The creation of an alphabet, as a consequence of the encounter with Christianity, was not the only possible solution. The Anglo-Saxons, for example, followed other ways: they used Latin alphabet, integrating it with a few runic signs or modifying it according to the requirements of their phonological inventory. Ulfilas, instead, through the translation of the Bible, and, primarily, through the invention of an alphabet, joins with determination the process of transformation of the Goths’ world, and supplies a new and powerful identity element both to the Gothic community of which he is spiritual and secular chief (i.e. to the Gothi minores) and to the subsequent evolutions of the historical and political Gothic experience (the Visigoths in the southern Gaul and the Iberian Peninsula and the Ostrogoths in Italy).
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11386/4578294
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