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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Gutones (also spelled Guthones, Gotones etc) were a Germanic people who were reported by Roman era writers in the 1st and 2nd centuries to have lived in what is now Poland. The most accurate description of their location, by the geographer Ptolemy, placed them east of the Vistula river.

The Gutones are of particular interest to historians, philologists and archaeologists studying the origins of the Goths and other related Germanic-speaking peoples, who lived north of the Black sea and Lower Danube, and first appear in Roman records in that region in the 3rd century. The name of the Gutones is believed to be a representation of the Goths' own name in their own language, and the archaeological remnants of the two groups of peoples, the Wielbark culture and Chernyakhov culture respectively, show signs of significant contact.

Possible attestations

The Roman Empire under Hadrian,  showing the location of the Gothones, then inhabiting the east bank of the Vistula
The Roman Empire under Hadrian, showing the location of the Gothones, then inhabiting the east bank of the Vistula

Pliny the Elder wrote that the 4th century BC traveler Pytheas reported a northern people called the Guiones who lived on a very large bay called Metuonis and bought amber from the Isle of Abalus, one day's sail away.[1] Some scholars have equated these "Guiones" with the Gutones. However, other proposals for amendment of this name include Inguiones, or Teutones, both of whom are mentioned by Pliny in this same region.[2][3][4]

Around 15 AD, Strabo mentioned the "Butones" (Greek: Βούτωνας), Lugii, and Semnones and others as making-up a large group of peoples who came under the domination of the Marcomannic king Maroboduus.[5] Because the Butones are only mentioned once, and the Gutones were mentioned by Tacitus in connection with Maroboduus, they are often equated with the Gutones, and the "B" is assumed to be an error.[6][7][8]. The Lugii, their neighbours who were also mentioned by Tacitus, have sometimes been considered the same people as the Vandals.[9] Both are associated with the Przeworsk culture, which was located to the south of the Wielbark culture.[10] Historian Herwig Wolfram has suggested that the Gutones were clients of the Lugii and Vandals in the 1st century AD.[9]

In 77 AD, Pliny the Elder mentioned the Gutones as one of the Germanic peoples of Germania, and, along with the Burgundiones, Varini and Carini a member of the larger group called the Vandili, probably the Vandals. Pliny classifies the Vandili as one of the five principal "Germanic races" (germanorum genera), along with the Ingvaeones, Istvaeones, Irminones and Peucini.[11][9][12]

In his work Germania from around 98 AD, Tacitus wrote that the Gotones or Gothones formed a group of similar Germanic peoples together with the neighboring Rugii and Lemovii. He reported that this group had some distinct characteristics compared to other Germanic peoples. These three peoples carried round shields and short swords, and lived between the Baltic Sea and the Lugii. (He does not mention the Vandals in this region.) He described them as "ruled by kings, a little more strictly than the other German tribes".[13][14][15]

In another work, The Annals, Tacitus wrote that the Gotones had assisted Catualda, a young Marcomannic exile, in overthrowing the rule of Maroboduus.[16][17] Prior to this, according to Wolfram, it is probable that both the Gutones and Vandals had been subjects of the Marcomanni.[14]

In his work Geography from around 150 AD, Ptolemy mentions the Gutones/Gythones as living east of the Vistula, and thus not in Germania, but in "Sarmatia", between the Veneti and the Fenni.[18][19][20]

Comparison to Jordanes' Getica

The 6th century writer Jordanes wrote a history of the Goths referred to today as Getica. Some parts of it are considered unreliable. For example it claimed to extend back to 1490 BC. On the other hand, its claim that the Goths had indeed come from the Vistula is taken more seriously by many historians including Peter Heather and Herwig Wolfram.

Historians do not agree upon how much of his narrative was derived from his reading of classical sources such as Ptolemy, and how much came from Gothic traditions, and other sources which could have helped him confirm details. In Getica (IV 25 and XVII) Jordanes gave the following account about the Gothic time in an area near the Vistula, more than 1000 years before Christ. The timing of this period, supposedly lasting about 5 generations and starting in 1490 BC, is not accepted by historians. Historians do debate other aspects of the account:

  • He described the Vistula Goths as having lived near the ancestors of the Gepids, who were relatives of the Goths, and lived on an island in the Vistula called Spesis. According to Jordanes, these two related groups had common origins in Scandza (Scandinavia), having come over in three boats — one for the Gepids and two for the Goths.
  • He stated that the name of the area where the Goths first lived in this area was Gothiscandza, and that this name still existed in the time of Jordanes.
  • According to Jordanes, the Goths then moved to an area near the coast inhabited by the "Ulmerugi", thought by some historians to be related to the Rugii named by Tacitus in this region in the first century. The Goths ejected them and took over this country.
  • After defeating the Ulmerugi who lived near on Baltic coast, the Goths turned to other neighbours, the Vandals, who they fought and defeated. Wolfram believes that the Gutones did indeed free themselves from Vandalic domination at the beginning of the 2nd century AD.[9]
  • After this the population became bigger and the Goths were led by their leader to Scythia, which they called Oium. In this area they defeated a people called the Spali, before moving into the positions around the north of the Black Sea and Lower Danube in which Roman records first mention the Goths in the third century. (Jordanes however has them arriving here as the Getae, more than one thousand years earlier than the third century. The equation of the Getae and Goths has not been accepted by historians since Jakob Grimm.[21])


  1. ^ Pliny, Natural History, Book XXXVIII, Chap. 11
  2. ^ Rübekeil 2002, pp. 603-604.
  3. ^ Christensen 2002, pp. 25-31.
  4. ^ Pliny, Natural History, mentions the Teutones in the same section as the Guiones (XXXVII 11); the Inguaeones are mentioned at Book IV, Chap. 27 (aka 13)
  5. ^ Strabo 1903, Book VII, Chap. 1
  6. ^ Wolfram 1988, p. 38.
  7. ^ Christensen 2002, p. 33.
  8. ^ Andersson 1998, p. 402.
  9. ^ a b c d Wolfram 1988, p. 40.
  10. ^ Wolfram 1988, pp. 394-395.
  11. ^ Pliny 1855, Book IV, Chap. 28 (aka 40)
  12. ^ Christensen 2002, pp. 34-35.
  13. ^ Tacitus 1876a, XLIV
  14. ^ a b Wolfram 1988, pp. 40-41.
  15. ^ Christensen 2002, pp. 35-36.
  16. ^ Tacitus 1876b, 62
  17. ^ Christensen 2002, pp. 36-38.
  18. ^ Ptolemy 1932, 3.5
  19. ^ Wolfram 1988, pp. 37-39.
  20. ^ Christensen 2002, pp. 38-39.
  21. ^ Christensen 2002, p. 247.


  • Andersson, Thorsten (1998). "Goten: § 1. Namenkundliches". In Beck, Heinrich; Steuer, Heiko; Timpe, Dieter (eds.). Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (in German). 12. De Gruyter. pp. 402–403. ISBN 3-11-016227-X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Christensen, Arne Søby (2002). Cassiodorus, Jordanes and the History of the Goths: Studies in a Migration Myth. Translated by Flegal, Heidi. Museum Tusculanum Press. ISBN 87-7289-7104.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Rübekeil, Ludwig (2002). "Scandinavia In The Light of Ancient Tradition". In Bandle, Oskar (ed.). The Nordic Languages. 1. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 593–604. ISBN 9783110148763.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wolfram, Herwig (1988). History of the Goths. Translated by Dunlap, Thomas J. University of California Press. ISBN 0520069838.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
This page was last edited on 18 June 2020, at 11:27
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