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Gepid

From Academic Kids

The Gepids (Latin Gepidae) were a Germanic tribe most famous in history for defeating the Huns after the death of Attila.

The Gepids were first mentioned around A.D. 260, when they participated with the Goths in an invasion in Dacia, where they were settled in Jordanes' time, the mid 6th century. Their early mythic origins are reported in Jordanes' Origins and Deeds of the Goths, where he claims that their name derives from their later and slower migration from Scandinavia:

You surely remember that in the beginning I said the Goths went forth from the bosom of the island of Scandza with Berig, their king, sailing in only three ships toward the hither shore of Ocean, namely to Gothiscandza. One of these three ships proved to be slower than the others, as is usually the case, and thus is said to have given the tribe their name, for in their language gepanta means slow.. (xvii.94-95) [1] (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/jgoth/009.php)

It has been hypothesized that Jordanes tacitly offered another explanation for the name when he mentions that all the Goths drew their descent from "Gapt, who begat Hulmul..." (Jordanes, xiv.79). The most common inpretation is, however, that Gapt was a corruption or misspelling of Gaut (Odin), in Norse mythology, the founder of the kingdom of the Geats, a tribe that is often considered to be Goths remaining in Scandinavia (Scandza).

Jordanes traced the Gepids to "the province of Spesis on an island surrounded by the shallow waters of the Vistula", an area he saw as the westernmost extension of Scythia, where they were "surrounded by great and famous rivers. For the Tisia flows through it on the north and northwest, and on the southwest is the great Danube. On the east it is cut by the Flutausis, a swiftly eddying stream that sweeps whirling into the Ister's [i.e. Danube] waters." Thus at the time Jordanus was writing, the Gepidae had succeeded in settling the ancient Dacia, Upper Moesia, on the eastern bank of the Tisza, a river that winds through the plains of Hungary to empty into the Danube (Jordanes, v.33; xxii.113).

Their first named king, Fastida, stirred up his quiet people to enlarge their boundaries by war and overwhelmed the Burgundians, almost annihilating them in the 4th century, then fruitlessly demanded of the Goths a portion of their territory, a demand which the Goths successfully repulsed in battle. Like the Goths, the Gepids were converted to Arian Christianity.

Then in 375 they had to submit to the Huns along with their Ostrogoth overlords. They became the favored Hun vassals. Under their king Ardaric, warriors of the Gepidae joined Attila the Hun's forces in the Battle of Chalons (the "Catalaunian fields") in Gaul (451). On the eve of the main encounter between allied hordes, the Gepidae and Franks met each other, the Franks fighting for the Romans and the Gepidae for the Huns, and seem to have fought one another to a standstill, with 15,000 dead reported by Jordanes, our main source.

Such loyalties were personal bonds among kings, and after Attila's death of a drunken nosebleed in 453, the Gepids and other people allied to defeat Attila's horde of would-be successors, who were dividing up the subjugated peoples like cattle, and led by Ardaric the king, they broke the Hunnic power in the Battle at the River Nedao in 454,

a most remarkable spectacle, where one might see the Goths fighting with pikes, the Gepidae raging with the sword, the Rugii breaking off the spears in their own wounds, the Suevi fighting on foot, the Huns with bows, the Alani drawing up a battle-line of heavy-armed and the Heruli of light-armed warriors. (Jordanes, l.259)

After the victory they finally won a place to settle in the Carpathian Mountains.

The Gepidae by their own might won for themselves the territory of the Huns and ruled as victors over the extent of all Dacia, demanding of the Roman Empire nothing more than peace and an annual gift as a pledge of their friendly alliance. This the Emperor freely granted at the time, and to this day that race receives its customary gifts from the Roman Emperor. (Jordanes, l.262)

Not long after the battle at the Nedao the old rivalry between the Gepids and the Ostrogoths spurred up again and they were driven out of their homeland in 504 by Theodoric the Great.

They reached the zenith of their power after 537, settling in the rich area around Belgrade. In 546 the Byzantine Empire allied themselves with the Longobards to expel the Gepids from this region. In 552 the Gepids suffered a disastrous defeat in the Battle of Asfeld and were finally conquered by the Avars in 567.

External link

  • Jordanes (http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/jordgeti.html): e-textde:Gepiden

eo:gepidoj hu:Gepida pl:Gepidowie sv:gepider

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