Jordanes, Or Jornandes
gothic history goths rebus cassiodorius life geticis century italy probably
JORDANES, or JORNANDES, the historian of the Gothic nation, flourished about the middle of the 6th century- of 'the Christian era.' All that we certainly know about his life is contained in three sentences of his history of the Goths (cap. 50), from which, among other particulars as to the history of his family, we learn that his grandfather Peria was notary to Candac, the chief of a confederation of Alans and other tribes settled during the latter half of the 5th century on the south of the Danube in the provinces which are now Bulgaria and the Dobrudscha. Jordanes himself was a notary until he renounced his worldly calling and took the vows of a monk. This, according to the manner of speaking of that day, is 'the meaning of his words "ante conversionem mean)," though it is quite possible that he may at the same time have renounced the Arian creed of his forefathers, which it is clear that he no longer held when he wrote his Gothic history.
It is probable that the latter part at any rate of the life of Jordanes was spent in Italy. In some early editions of his works lie is called " episcopus Ravennas," but the ample details which we possess as to the bishops of Ravenna make it certain that he never occupied that see. He may have been a bishop, but the best authority for that assertion (according to the statement in Muratori's Berton lialicarmn Scriptores, i. 189) is only Sigebert of Gembloux, who lived five centuries later. Traces have been discovered of a certain Jordanes, bishop of Crotona, in 551, and a "Jordanes defensor ecclesire nostrre " is mentioned in a letter of Pope Pelagius iu 556.
We pass from the extremely shadowy personality of Jordanes to the more interesting question of his works.
The De Regnorum et Temporotnt Successione, or, as he himself called it, Breviatio Chronicorum, was probably composed in 550 or 551. It is a short and dry sketch of the history of the world from the creation, founded on the chronicles of Ensebins and Jerome. The book has no value, literary or historical, till the historian comes near to his own times ; and here, from about 450 to 550, the De P.egnorum Successions is sometimes a really important authority, owing to the extreme scarcity of other information as to this epoch."
The other work of Jordanes, De Rebus Geticis, as it is commonly called, was styled by himself De Origins Actuque Geticx Geniis, and was probably written in the year 552. He informs us that while he was engaged upon the Breviatio a friend named Castalius invited him to compress into one small treatise the twelve books - now lost - of the senator Cassiodorius, or Cassiodorus, on The Origin and Actions of the Goths. Jordanes professes to have had the work of Cassiodorius in his hands for but three days, and to reproduce the sense, not the words ; but his book, short as it is, evidently contains long verbatim extracts from the earlier author, and it may be suspected that the story of the " triduana lectio " and the apology " quamvis verba non recolo," possibly even the friendly invitation of Castalius, are mere blinds to cover his own entire want of originality. This suspicion is .strengthened by the fact (discovered by Von Sybel) that even the very preface to his book is taken almost word for word from Rufinus's translation of Origen's commentary ou the epistle to the Romans. There is no doubt, even on Jordanes's own statements, that Ids work is based upon that of Cassiodorius, and that any historical worth which it possesses is due to that fact. Cassiodorius was one of the very few men who, Roman by birth and sympathies, could yet appreciate the greatness of the barbarians by whom the empire was overthrown. The chief adviser of Theodoric, the East Gothic king in Italy, he accepted with ardour that monarch's great scheme, if indeed be did not himself originally suggest it to his master, of welding Roman and Goth together into one harmonious state, which should preserve the social refinement and the intellectual culture of the Latin-speaking races, without losing the hardy virtues of their Teutonic conquerors. To this aim everything in the political life of Cassiodorius was subservient, and this aim he evidently kept before him in his Gothic history. He translated into his somewhat stilted prose the sagas which were still sung by the Gothic warriors round their camp-fires,1 telling of the past migrations and dangers of their people. He reduced into form the pedigree which traced the descent of the Amals, Theodoric's kingly house, from gods and heroes. In all this he worked on such lines as a modern historical inquirer would have him work on. Unfortunately, he also accepted the current theory of his age which identified the Goths with the Scythians, whose country Darius Hystaspis invaded, and with the Getm of Dacia whom Trajan conquered. Tins double identification enabled him to bring the favoured race in line with the people of classical antiquity, to interweave with their history stories about Hercules and the Amazons, to make them invade Egypt, to claim for them a share in the wisdom of the semi-mythical Scythian philosopher Zamolxis. He was thus able with some show of plausibility to represent the Goths as " wiser than all the other barbarians and almost like the Greeks" (Jord., De Reb. Get., cap. v.), and to send a son of the Gothic king Telephus to fight at the siege of Troy, on the eight side, in rank with the ancestors of the Romans. All this we can now perceive to have no relation to history, but .at the R time it may have made the subjugation of the Roman less bitter to feel that he was not after all bowing down before a race of barbarian upstarts, but that his Amal sovereign was as firmly rooted in classical antiquity as any Julius or Claudius who ever wore the purple. A grateful king of the Goths, the young Athalaric, truly said of Cassiodorius, " Originem Gothicam historian fecit esse Romanam, colligens quasi in unam coronam germen floriclum, quod per librorum campos passim fuerat ante dispersant"(Cassiod., Var. ix. 25).
Cassiodorins completed his history of the Goths probably about the year 531. In the eighteen years which elapsed between that date and the composition of the De Rebus Geticis of Jordanes, great events, and most disastrous fur the Romano-Gothic monarchy of Theodoric, had transpired. It was no longer possible to write as if the whole civilization of the Western world would sit down contentedly under the shadow of East Gothic dominion and Amal sovereignty. And moreover, the instincts of Jordanes, as churchman and Catholic, predisposed him to flatter the sacred majesty of Justinian, by whose victorious arms the overthrow of the barbarian kingdom in Italy had been effected. Hence we perceive two currents of tendency in the De Rebus Geticis. On the one hand, as a Goth himself and as a transcriber of the philoGoth Cassiodorius, he magnifies the race of Alaric and Theodoric, and claims for them their full share, perhaps more than their full share, of glory in the past. On the other hand, he speaks of the great anti-Teuton emperor Justinian, and of his reversal of the German conquests of the 5th century, in language which would certainly have grated on the ears of Totila and his heroes. Gelimer the Vandal is " overtaken by the revenge of Justinian," and Africa " long subject to the Vandal yoke is recalled into the liberty of the Roman kingdom." When Ravenna is taken, and Vitigis carried into captivity, Jordanes almost exults in the fact that " the nobility of the Amals and the illustrious offspring of so many mighty men have surrendered to a yet more illustrious prince and a yet mightier general, whose fame shall not grow dim through all the centuries."
This laudation, both of the Goths and of their Byzantine conquerors may perhaps help us to understand the political motive with which the De Rebus Geticis was written. In the year 551 Germanus, nephew of Justinian, accompanied by his bride, Matasuntha, granddaughter of Theodoric, set forth to reconquer Italy for the empire. His early death (in 552) prevented any schemes for a revived Romano-Gothic kingdom which may have been based on his personality. His widow, however, bore a posthumous child, also named Germanus, of whom Jordanes speaks (cap. 60) as " blending the blood of the Anicii and the Amals, and furnishing a hope under the divine blessing of one clay uniting their glories." This younger Germanus did nothing in after life to realize these anticipations ; but the somewhat pointed way.in which his name and his mother's name are mentioned by Jordanes lends some probability to the idea that the De Rebus Geticis was put forth in the interests of a third party, Italian rather than Gothic or Byzantine, and possibly headed by Pope Vigilius, who may have wished to advocate the claims of this infant to an independent sovereignty in Italy.
The De Rebus Getieis falls naturally into four parts. The first (chaps. i. - xiii.) commences with a geographical description of the three quarters of the world, and in more detail of Britain and "Seanzia" (Sweden), from which the Goths under their king Berig migrated to the southern coast of the Baltic. Their migration across what has since been called Lithuania, to the shores of the Euxine, and their differentiation into Visigoths and Ostrogoths, follow. Chaps. v. - xiii. contain an account of the intrusive GctoScythian element before alluded to.
The second section (chaps. xiv.- xxiv.) returns to the true history of ' the Gothic nation, sets forth the genealogy of the Atrial kings, and describes the inroads of the Goths into the Homan empire in the 3d century, with the foundation and the overthrow of the great but somewhat shadowy kingdom of Hermanric. The author here probably rests to sonic extent on °rosins, Ammianus, and other Latin historians, but draws partially at least from native sources.
The third section (chaps. xxv. - xlvii.) traces the history of the West Goths from the Hunnish invasion to the downfall of the Gothic kingdom in Gaul under Alarie II. (376 to 507 A.D.). The best part of this section, and indeed of the whole book, is the seven chapters devoted to Attila's invasion of Gaul and the battle of the Mauriac plains. Here we have in all probability a verbatim extract from Cassiodorius, who has interwoven with his narrative large portions of the Gothic sagas. The celebrated expression " certaminis gaudia " assuredly carne at first neither from the suave minister Cassiodorius nor from the small-souled notary Jordanes, but is the translation of some thought which first found utterance through the lips of a Gothic minstrel.
The fourth section (chaps. xlviii. - lx.) traces the history of the East Goths from the same Hunnish invasion to the first overthrow of the Gothic monarchy in Italy (376-539). In this fourth section are inserted, somewhat out of their proper place, some valuable details as to the Gothi Minores, " an immense people dwelling in the region of Nicopolis, with their high priest and primate Vulfilas, who • is said also to have taught them letters." The book closes with the allusion to Germanus and the panegyric on Justinian as the conqueror of the Goths referred to above.
As to the style and literary character of Jordanes, every author who has used him speaks in terms of severe censure. When he is left to himself and not merely transcribing, he is sometimes scarcely grammatical. There are awkward gaps in his narrative and statements inconsistent with each other. He quotes, as if he were familiarly acquainted with their writings, about twenty Greek and Roman writers, of whom it is almost certain that he had not read more than three or four. At the same time he does not quote the chronicler 31arcellinus, from whom he has copied verbatim the history of the deposition of Augustulus. All these faults make him a peculiarly unsatisfactory authority to depend upon where we cannot check his statements by those of other authors. It may, however, be pleaded in extenuation that he is professedly a transcriber, and, if his story be correct, a transcriber under peculiarly unfavourable circumstances. He has also himself suffered much from the inaccuracy of copyists. But nothing has really been more unfortunate for the reputation of Jordanes as a writer than the extreme preciousness of the information which he has preserved to us. The Teutonic tribes whose dim original lie records have in the course of centuries attained to world-wide dominion. The battle in the Alauriae plains, of which he is really the sole historian, is now seen to have had at least as important hearings on the destinies of the world as Marathon or -Waterloo. And thus the hasty pamphlet of a half-educated Gothic monk has been forced into prominence, almost into rivalry with the finished productions of the great writers of classical antiquity. No wonder that it stands the comparison badly ; but with all its faults the De Rebus Geticis of Jordanes will probably ever retain its place side by side with the De Moribus Gennanoruin of Tacitus, as a chief source of information respecting the history, institutions, and modes of thought of our Teutonic forefathers.
mamrser2;ats. - The chief MSS. of the De Rebus Geticis are one at Heidelberg of the 8th century and one at the Vatican of the ilOth, one at Milan, two of the 11th and 12th centuries at Vienna, and one of the 12th century at Munich. Unfortunately the Heidelberg and Vienna MSS. perished in the fire at Prof. Mommsen's house, but not before he had accurately collated them.
Editions. - The editio princeps of the De Rebus Geticis was published by Pen-linger, at Augsburg, 1515. Two of the best known editions are those in Mu•atori's Reruns Italicarum Scriptores, vat. i. (which gives Garet's text collated by J. A. Saxe with the Ambresian MS., and which also contains the De liegnorunt Successione), and in Grotins's Historic Gotthortint, Votndalorunn, et Langobardornm, Amsterdam, 1635. A new edition is expected fromProfessor Momm,en. Literature. - The foregoing article is chiefly founded on Von Sybel's essay, De fontibus Jordanis (1888), Sehlrren's De ratione earn inter Jordanent of Cassiedurum interceded Connnentatio, Dorpat, 1858; Kopko's Die Anfiinge des Konigthorns tel den Gothen, Berlin, 1859; Dahn's Die .10nige der Gerntance, vol. ii., Munich, 1081; Ebert's Geschichte der Christlich-Lateinischen Literatar, Leipsie, 1874; and Wattenbach's Deutschland's Geschichtsguellen int Mittetatter, Berlin, 1877. (T. H.) JORTIN„TOHN (1698-1770), a writer on theological subjects, was the son of a Protestant refugee from Brittany, and was born in London 23d October 1698. In his tenth year he entered Charterhouse school, and in 1715 he became a pensioner of Jesus College, Cambridge, where his reputation as a Greek scholar led the classical tutor of his college to select him to translate certain passages from Eustathius for the use of Pope in his translation of Homer. He graduated B.A. in 1719 and M.A. in 1722. In the latter year he published a small volume of Latin verse entitled Lucite Poetici. Having received priest's orders in 1724, he was in 1726 presented by his college to the vicarage of Swavesey in Cambridgeshire, an appointment which he resigned in 1730 to become preacher of a chapel in New Street, London. In 1731, along with some friends, he began a publication entitled Miscellaneous Observations on Authors Ancient and Modern, which appeared at intervals durina.° two years. In 1737 he was presented to the vicarage ofEastwell in Kent, and in 1751 he became rector of St Dunstan's-in-the-East. Shortly after becoming chaplain to the bishop of London in 1762, he was appointed to a prebendal stall of St Paul's, and to the vicarage of Kensington, and in 1764 he was made archdeacon of London. He died at Kensington, September 5, 1770.
The principal works of Jortin are Discussions Concerning the Truth of the Christian Religion, 1746 ; Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, 1751 ; Life of Erasmus, 2 vols., 1750, 1760, founded on the life by Le Clerc, but containing a large amount of new matter ; and Tracts Philological, Critical, and Miscellaneous, 1790. All his works display great learning and some acuteness both of research and criticism, but though written in a livelystyle they do not bear that stamp of originality which confers permanent interest. See Disney's Life of Joplin, 1792; and the "Account of his Life and Writings " prefixed to an edition of the Remarks on Ecclesiastical History published in 1816.