Bev Thurber has been a professor at Shimer since 2009 and has previously written on Evocations here on the topic of Euclidean ice skating. As she puts it here, her main non-academic interests are ice skating (see previous comment) and cats.
Meanwhile, read on for a Guest post on . . . .
Charles Christopher Mierow, trans. The Gothic History of Jordanes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1915.
Jordanes was a Roman, probably with Gothic ancestry, who wrote his history of the Goths in Latin in about 551. He begins by explaining his process: He read Cassiodorus's twelve-volume work on the Goths in a period of three days (granted, it was his second time through the books --- perhaps he was able to spend more time with them for his first reading) and didn't remember the words (51). What he wrote is a summary of what he recalls of the sense of Cassiodorus's work, combined some material from other Greek and Roman authors and "many things of [his] own authorship" (51). Mierow writes, in the very first sentence of his introduction, that the work "is not a model of literary evidence or originality" (1). Since both the author and translator of the book begin with comments on how bad it is, why should anyone read it?
This book's chief virtue is that it has survived when other early works on the Goths haven't. Jordanes describes how the Goths "burst forth like a swarm of bees" as they left their homeland, Gothiscandza,
for Europe (53). They encountered a variety of other peoples in their travels, including steppe peoples, Slavs, and other Germanic tribes. He describes the arrival of the Huns in Europe and Attila
became "almost the sole earthly ruler of all the tribes of Scythia" (101). Jordanes seems to have been a fan of Attila, because he spends some time describing Attila's character, calling him "a man born into
the world to shake the nations" (102). He also describes Attila's death and funeral in vivid detail --- apparently Attila died on his wedding night after drinking so much that he passed out and choked on
blood from a nosebleed that ran down his throat (123).
Shimer's reading list includes a number of texts by Roman authors, but Jordanes is not one of them. He'd fit best into Integrative Studies 5, which includes Roman history, but generally focuses more on the Roman empire itself than on the peoples outside of it. Jordanes provides an important reminder that the people who lived outside the Empire, and eventually sacked it, were also important in the formation of Europe. According to Jordanes, the Roman counsellor Dicineus taught the Goths philosophy, including ethics, physics, logic, and astronomy (70). Wulfila, a Goth himself, translated the Bible into Gothic, and some Gothic commentary on the Bible survives. The Goths didn't leave
Great Books behind like the Greeks and Romans did, but that doesn't make them less interesting. Jordanes's text is one of the major sources of information on them that is available today.
So, thanks to Bev, we meet someone new. . . If you want to explore the text, try clicking here.