East Germanic

The first of the Germanic tribes to migrate from the Danish Isles and southern Sweden were the Goths, who presumably departed from the Common Germanic area around 100 bc. After crossing the Baltic they were joined by the Rugians, the Vandals and the Burgundians. Together these tribes constitute the eastern branch of Germanic known to us primarily from biblical translations from around ad 350. These translations, the majority of which have been attributed to Wulfila, the Bishop of the Western Goths, were undertaken after the Goths had settled on the Black Sea and become Christians.

The manuscript fragments which have come down to us containing a translation of the Bible into Gothic are not contemporary with Wulfila but were transcribed in Italy around ad 500. The most important are the Codex Argenteus in the University Library in Uppsala (330 leaves, of which 187 are still preserved, of the four Gospels), the Codex Carolinus in the library in Wolfenbiittel (four leaves containing about 42 verses from the Epistle to the Romans), the Codices AmbrosianU 5 fragments in the Ambrosian Library in Milan (185 leaves containing portions of Epistles, a small fragment of a Gothic Calendar, St Matthew, Nehemiah and a commentary on St John), the Codex Turinensis in Turin (4 damaged leaves containing fragments of Epistles), and the Codex Gissensis, discovered in Egypt near the ancient town of Antinoe (a double sheet of parchment containing fragments from St Luke in Latin and Gothic).

Due to the early migration of the Gothic tribes, the language of the Goths developed differently from that of the West and North Germanic peoples, and as a consequence of subsequent migration into Italy, France and Spain, the Goths gradually became absorbed by other tribes and nations, thus leaving us with little more than Wulfila's Bible translation as evidence of an East Germanic variety of the Germanic languages.

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