At least four cultural movements have thrived under the label ‘Gothic’, and none of them has anything to do with the real Goths.
The Goths were 3rd- and 4th-century Germanic tribes with two branches, the Ostrogoths (who lived in the modern Balkans and Romania) and the Visigoths (Spain, Portugal and Western France). Both lots harassed the Roman Empire for centuries. They originated in southern Scandinavia and crossed to the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, where they defeated Germanic tribes such as the Vandals, before settling in Denmark, Germany and Northern Poland. They were known for their round shields and short swords, and for their raids on Roman provinces. In 410 they famously sacked Rome under the command of Alaric. Alaric was a Goth who had served as a Roman general.
The sack of Rome ended the Roman Empire as the world knew it and left the Goths in control of vast swathes of South Western Europe. Theirs was a turbulent regime: fratricide and infanticide were common. Of the 34 leaders of Gothic Spain only 15 died of natural causes. In AD 415 three kings reigned in a single week. Theudigisel, who was king for a year in AD 548, was murdered after being stabbed by two dozen husbands who took umbrage at his womanising.
Although the Gothic language has been extinct since the 16th century, because of early missionary work we have Gothic texts 200 years earlier than those in any other Germanic language.
The ‘Gothic’ label has been applied to medieval architecture, the Victorian medieval revival, an 18th-century literary genre and a modern subculture: none of these has anything to do with the Goths.
Bram Stoker married Florence Balcombe, who was Oscar Wilde’s first girlfriend.
Gothic art and architecture had nothing to do with the Goths. The style evolved from Norman architecture, and lasted from the mid-12th century to as late as the end of the 16th century in some areas. At the
The earliest surviving Gothic building is the abbey of Saint-Denis in Paris, begun in about 1140. The first gothic building in the UK was likely Lincoln Cathedral (begun in 1192). Notre Dame and many other Gothic churches have a slight kink in their main axes, which may have been intended as deliberate recognition that only God is perfect.
The modern connotations of the term can be traced back to the gothic novels of the late 18th century, starting with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764). These established a mood of horror, morbidity, darkness and the supernatural as well as the staple themes of ruined castles or churches, ghosts, vampires, nightmares, cursed families and being buried alive.
‘Carpenter Gothic’ was an American vernacular manifestation of the Gothic Revival; the house in the background of the 1930 painting American Gothic is in this style.
When men inquire who invented Gothic architecture, they might as well ask who invented bad Latin.
The Romans and the Goths teamed up in ad 451 against Attila and his Huns. They won, but only just.
All that survives of the Gothic language is a list of 80 words, and a song whose meaning no one now understands.
On holiday in Whitby in 1890, Bram Stoker borrowed a library book called An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (1820) by William Wilkinson, which inspired him to write Dracula. Whitby features quite centrally in the book; the Russian ship Demeter arrives there and is the location of the first encounters between Dracula and Lucy. Today there is a Bram Stoker memorial seat marking the view which inspired Stoker's Whitby scenes.
Since 1994, British Goths have descended on Whitby twice a year for the spring and autumn Whitby Gothic Weekends, or Gothfests. Rather than letting them be miserable, the default mode for a Goth, they are welcomed with open arms by the locals. The vicar is available for chats to any Goths who need some God, the locals put up banners and bats in their windows and the local pubs make ‘Ribena Cocktails’.
The look adopted by modern Goth women (a pale, predatory femme fatale) dates back to the silent movie star Theda Bara (1885-1955), whose screen name was an anagram of 'Arab Death' (she was born Theodosia Burr Goodman). The male look is based on Bela Lugosi (1882-1956), the Romanian actor who played Dracula (he was typecast, and actually used his natural accent). Lugosi was buried in a Dracula costume.
The name 'Goth' just meant 'people. It came from the Gothic word gotar meaning 'men'.
In Spain, a man acting with arrogance is said to be haciéndose los godos ('making himself act like the Goths').
The Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation is written in Gothic.
I hate the word gothic but I would like to try doing something like that. A gothic sound, not rock, but gothic. There's a difference.