Notes to J.J. O'Donnell, "The Aims of Jordanes"

[*]Jordanes studies have continued to thrive since this paper was originally published, but I see no reason to revisit its arguments or conclusions.

On the substance of Gothic history, with much to say along the way about Jordanes and his usefulness, the most important work has been that of Peter Heather, Goths and Romans, 322- 489 (Oxford 1992), which I reviewed at BMCR 3.2.12.

On Jordanes the historian, see W. Goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History (Princeton 1988), for a long chapter (pp. 20-111) on the historian, but he and I are separated by a wide gulf of differing perceptions here. To Goffart, e.g., the ideas presented here offer an "unusual theory" (p. 45, n. 115), and the chronological arguments presented at the end here are "somewhat eccentric (p. 97, n.357). I would commend the reader's attention, on the other hand, to Goffart's p. 83 for a flight of fancy apparently taken quite seriously:

"Jordanes does not strike a joyful note only at the end of his Gothic narrative; the whole book, once past the prologue, is integrated by a comprehensive plot. It traces the adventures of two lovers, Roman male and Gothic female, who have met and plighted their troth off-stage just before we first glimpse them as an engaged couple. Their union is impeded by the absurd institution of Gothic kingship, by the resultant impostors, by bad Roman emperors, and by Gothic lapses into atavistic behavior; and it is fostered by such kindly helpers as Constantine, Theodosius, Athanaric, Wallia, Justinian, and Belisarius. A Moesian rustic entertains and defines the social level that Goths are not to exceed, and a Moesian master of ceremonies keeps the action moving without excessive concern for historical accuracy. The happy outcome is an infant in whose veins the noblest Roman and Gothic blood combines to animate a single innocent body."

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the support of CCAT staff, especially Jack Abercrombie, Michael Nenashev, Phil Miraglia, and Jay Treat, for assistance in preparing this and other "postprints" supplied on this server.
J.J.O'D (18 September 1994)

[1] In my Cassiodorus (1979) 43-54, 271-72. Because this paper diverges from traditional lines of inquiry, little detailed reference is made to the scholarly literature. The most important recent work (with ample references) is contained in three studies: A. Momigliano, "Cassiodorus and Italian Culture of His Time," Secondo Contributo (1960) 191-229; M. A. Wes, Das Ende des Kaisertums im Westen des Römischen Reichs (1967) -- but see the cautions for the Romana-Symmachus dependency theory expressed in the review of A. Demandt, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 62 (1969) 96-101; and N. Wagner, Getica (1967). I have not seen O. Giordano, Jordanes e la storiografia nel VI secolo (1973), but from the lucid review of P. Courcelle (Revue des études anciennes 76 [1974] 407), it would seem to add nothing to the traditional view from which I dissent in this paper. L. Várady, "Jordanes-Studien," Chiron 6 (1976) 441-81, independently reaches conclusions similar to mine concerning the sources of the Romana and should be consulted by those who wish corroboration from a different point of view of my arguments (as should D. R. Bradley, "The Composition of the Getica," Eranos 64 [1966] 67-79). B. Luiselli, "Sul de summa temporum di Jordanes," Romanobarbarica I(1976) 83-133, presents an altogether novel hypothesis (that Jordanes was a bishop trained in the cloister of Cassiodorus' Vivarium) which is entirely fantastic and unsupportable.

[2] Mommsen came closer to the truth than anyone since, in the preface to his edition of Jordanes, MGH.AA.V, pp. VIII-XV.

[3] Cf. Get. 1, where the Romana is called an "opus . . . de adbreviatione chronicorum."

[4] Rom. 2: "vis enim praesentis mundi erumnas cognuscere aut quando coepit vel quid ad nos usque perpessus est, edoceri. addes praeterea, ut tibi, quomodo Romana res publica coepit et tenuit totumque pene mundum subegit et hactenus vel imaginariae teneat, ex dictis maiorum floscula carpens breviter referam." (imaginariae is adverbial: = imaginarie)

[5] Rom. 4-5: "quamvis breviter, uno tamen in tuo nomine et hoc parvissimo libello confeci, iungens ei aliud volumen de origine actusque Getice gentis, quam iam dudum communi amico Castalio ededissem, quatinus diversarum gentium calamitate conperta ab omni erumna liberum te fieri cupias et ad deum convertas, qui est vera libertas. legens ergo utrosque libellos, scito quod dlhgentl mundo semper necessltas imminet. tu vero ausculta Iohannem apostolum, qui ait: 'carissimi, nolite dilegere mundum neque ea que in mundo sunt. quia mundus transit et concupiscentia eius: qui autem fecerit voluntatem dei, manet in aeternum.' estoque toto corde diligens deum et proximum, ut adimpleas legem et ores pro me, novilissime et magnifice frater."

[6] Cassiodorus 103-76; on Marcellinus, cf. Cassiod., Inst. 1.17.2, "Marcellinus ... meliore conditione devotus "

[7] Rom. 378: "Cladem vero quam diximus in Esperia plaga ut liquidius lector cognoscat, apertius memorabo." Cf. also Rom. 388 (n. 9 below).

[8] Probably an allusion to the continuator of Marcellinus' chronicle.

[9] Rom. 388: "hi sunt casus Romanae rei publicae preter instantia cottidiana Bulgarum, Antium et Sclavinorum, que si quis scire cupit, annales consulumque seriem revolvat sine fastidio repperietque dignam nostri temporis rem publicam tragydiae. scietque unde orta, quomodo aucta, qualiterve sibi cunctas terras subdiderit et quomodo iterum eas ab ignaris rectoribus amiserit. quod et nos pro captu ingenii breviter tetigimus, quatenus diligens lector latius ista legendo cognoscat."

[10] But see Get. 156, where it is hard to tell from what source other than Augustine the report of Alaric's mercy to Christian churches in 410 could have come.

[11] Get. 1: "Volentem me parvo subvectum navigio oram tranquilli litoris stringere et minutos de priscorum, ut quidam ait, stagnis pisciculos legere, in akum, frater Castali, laxari vela compellis relictoque opusculo, quod intra manus habeo, id est, de adbreviatione chronicorum, suades, ut nostris verbis duodecem Senatoris volumina de origine actusque Getarum ab olim et usque nunc per generationes regesque descendentem in uno et hoc parvo libello choartem."

[12] Get. 2: "dura satis imperia et tamquam ab eo, qui pondus operis huius scire nollit, inposita. nec illud aspicis, quod tenuis mihi est spiritus ad inplendam eius tam magnificam dicendi tubam: super omne autem pondus, quod nec facultas eorundem librorum nobis datur, quatenus eius sensui inserviamus, sed, ut non mentiar, ad triduanam lectionem dispensatoris eius beneficio libros ipsos antehac relegi. quorum quamvis verba non recolo, sensus tamen et res actas credo me integre retinere."

[13] It is well to emphasize that Cassiodorus' Gothic History was lost, although all of his other major works survive -- evidence in itself of a lack of care for his own work on Cassiodorus' part. Even though Marcellinus' work was kept by Cassiodorus at the Vivarium (cf. n 6 above), no mention was ever made by Cassiodorus of Jordanes (on this see further below).

[14] Get. 3: "ad quos et ex nonnullis historiis Grecis et Latinis addedi convenientia, initium finemque et plura in medio mea dictione permiscens. quare sine contumelia quod exigisti suscipe libens, libentissime lege; et si quid parum dictum est et tu, ut vicinus genti, commemoras, adde, orans pro me, frater carissime. Dominus tecum. Amen."

[15] Get. 119 refers back to Get. 34; Get. 121 to Get. 26-7; Get. 129 to Get. 116-20; Get. 130 to 82; Get. 174 to 81.

[16] Get. 313: "et sic famosum regnum fortissimamque gentem diuque regnantem tandem pene duomillensimo et tricesimo anno victor gentium diversarum lustinianus imperator per fidelissimum consulem vicit Belesarium, et perductum Vitiges Constantinopolim patricii honore donavit. ubi plus biennio demoratus imperatorisque in affectu coniunctus rebus excessit humanis."

[17>] Get. 314: "Mathesuentham vero iugalem eius fratri suo Germano patricio coniunxit imperator. de quibus post humatum patris Germani natus est filius idem Germanus. in quo coniuncta Aniciorum genus cum Amala stirpe spem adhuc utriusque generi domino praestante promittit."

[18] Why does Jordanes insist on the elder Germanus' status as a member of the gens Anicia? Jordanes, with his German origins, is clearly a writer to whom family lineage is important, but family lineage was something Justinian's family was notably short of. To a comparative newcomer in the Roman world, on the other hand, the ancient dignity of the pompous, empty-headed Anicians could inspire the same grudging respect (or in different circumstances the same insecure contempt) an Irish immigrant in Boston at the turn of this century might learn to have for the descendants of the Mayflower's boat people. It was the Anician, rather than the Justinianic, connection which guaranteed the infant Germanus acceptance in the best society. Cf. Cassiodorus 271-72.

[19] Get. 315-16: "haec hucusque Getarum origo ac Amalorum nobilitas et virorum fortium facta. haec laudanda progenies laudabiliori principi cessit et fortiori duci manus dedit, cuius fama nullis saeculis nullisque silebitur aetatibus, sed victor ac triumphator lustinianus imperator et consul Belesarius Vandalici Africani Geticique dicentur. haec qui legis, scito me maiorum secutum scriptis ex eorum latissima prata paucos flores legisse, unde inquirenti pro captu ingenii mei coronam contexam. nec me quis in favorem gentis praedictae, quasi ex ipsa trahenti originem, aliqua addidisse credat, quam quae legi et comperi. nec si tamen cuncta, quae de ipsis scribuntur aut referuntur, complexus sum, nec tantum ad eorum laudem quantum ad laudem eius qui vicit exponens."

[20] Jordanes was almost certainly German, but of what nation or mixture he does not make clear in his only direct reference to his family (Get. 266), on which see best Wagner, op. cit. (n. 1 above) 5-17.

[21] On this point, see L. Várady, op. cit. (n. 1 above).

[22] Get. 28: "Ablavius descriptor Gothorum gentis egregius;" Get. 82 and 117. Cf. Cassiod., Var. 10.22.2.

[23] Var. 9.25.4.

[24] Get. 72; the word capillatos has a Cassiodorian ring: cf. Var. 4.49. Another trace of an oral source may be at Get. 79: "suis in fabulis."

[25] Speeches in Get. 187-89; 202-06; 221; 231; 257.

[26] Var. 1.4.10 13; Cassiodorus 18.

[27] Cassiodorus 142-43, 215-16.

[28] E.g., Get. 78-797 with parallel at Var. 9.25.4; and the fanciful etymologies with Gothic words to explain Goth/Gepid relations at Get. 95.

[29] Note these parallels: Rom. 373/Marc. s. a. 536; Rom. 379/Marc. s. a. 542; Get. 306-7/Marc. s. a. 534.

[30] M. A. Wes, op. cit. (n. 1 above).

[31] The passages in question are Rom. 345/Get. 243/Marc. s. a. 476. The texts are virtually identical; both Get. and Marc. read: "sic quoque Hesperium regnum, quod septingentesimo nono urbls condltae anno primus Augustorum Octavianus Augustus tenere coepit, cum hoc Augustulo periit anno decessorum regni imperatorum quingentesimo vicesimo secundo: Gothorum dehinc reglbus Romam tenentibus." Rom. adds the words italicized: "Hesperium regnum Romanique populi principatum," a phrase which recurs at Rom. 349. In the face of the scholarly tendency to see in this passage some deep western lament for the loss of the Roman empire (and the passage does seem to be the ancestor of all later datings of the "Fall of the Roman Empire" to 476), I would suggest that it is more likely than the late antique penchant for word-play was attracted by the obvious resonances of the name of Romulus Augustulus and exaggerated the political significance of the event in order to point up the irony.

[32] On the Laurentian schism, see R. Cessi, "Lo Scisma Laurenziano e le origini della dottrina politica della Chiesa di Roma," Archivio della R. Società Romana di Storia Patria 42 (1919) 5-229 V. Schurr, Die Trinitätslehre des Boethius im Lichte der "skythischen Kontroversen" (1935); J. Richards, The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages (1979) 57-135. No account of the schism has yet presented a convincing account of the groupings and regroupings of ecclesiastical and aristocratic factions under the Ostrogoths; until that task is accomplished, any argument such as that of Wes will lack foundation.

[33] Compare Get. 289 with Rom. 348 and Marc. s. a. 483; see also Rom. 328b, where a datum from Get. 224 is clumsily mixed with Marc. s. a. 434. Influence of the Getica can be seen from about Rom. 436 to the end.

[34] Cassiodorus 131-76.

[35] Wagner, Op. cit. 21.

[36] J. J. O'Donnell, "Liberius the Patrician," Traditio 37 (1981).

[37] Wagner, op. cit. 28-29.

[38] Momigliano, Secondo Contributo (1960) 198.