You are here

17 XII (4.45 Warsaw time): Marta Szada (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń), The Gothic language and the Homoian identity in the post-Roman successor kingdoms


The Gothic was one of the languages spoken in the fifth- and sixth-century Italy, Gaul, and Hispania but as it was linked with political actors who had a decisive influence on the transformation of the post-Roman West, the role of Gothic in the social practice acquired complex political, ethnic, and cultural meanings. Gothic could be used as a distinctive marker of a given class of people (e.g. the military) or a tool to maintain the cohesion of Gothic communities. But Gothic played also an important place in the tradition of the Homoian church: reinvented in the fourth century by Bishop Wulfila as a literary language capable of expressing the complexity of the Scripture, it remained throughout the fifth and sixth centuries a venerable way to transmit Christian doctrine, pray and worship. In this paper, I would like to investigate how the ethnic aspects of the use of the Gothic influenced the Homoian Christian identity. Several questions will underlie my discussion: 

  1. Were the Gothic Christian tradition (Wulfila’s translation of the Bible, for example) meaningfully and recognizably Homoian?
  2. Was the use of Gothic interpreted by the outsiders as something characteristic for Homoians? Was it crticized as a difference in religious practice suggesting heresy? 
  3. Did Homoians use the Gothic to set themselves apart from the Nicenes?
  4. Was the Gothic absent from the Nicene communities?

I will also consider a more general problem of Christian approaches to the plurarlity of languages, especially asking whether there was a concept that some languages suit better to communicate with God and teach orthodox doctrines.