1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Jordanes

By

This profile of Jordanes is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Jordanes was also known as:

Jornandes; also spelled Jordanis

Jordanes was known for:

writing the earliest extant history of the Goths. Though a Goth himself, Jordanes wrote in Latin. He also wrote a history of Rome from its earliest days to what was for Jordanes the present (the 550s C.E.)

Occupations:

Places of Residence and Influence:

About Jordanes:

Very little is know about Jordanes the man, aside from the sparse information he shares in his work. From his comments we can glean that he was of Gothic descent and that he worked as a secretary to "the Master of the Soldiery" of an Ostrogothic clan, Gunthigis Baza. He also underwent a conversion, probably from the Arian form of Christianity to a more orthodox version, perhaps even Catholicism. The conversion he mentions might also refer to entering a monastery or becoming a cleric. Other sources refer to Jordanes as a bishop, though there is no direct evidence to support this.

Jordanes wrote two histories that are still extant. In the mid-sixth century, when he had been working on a history of the Roman people, his friend Castalius requested he write a summary of the extensive, 12-volume history of the Goths by Cassiodorus. Having read it only once, Jordanes managed to borrow the books for a mere three days to refresh his memory, and then set to work. The result, De origine actibusque Getarum (“On the Origin and Deeds of the Getae”), known more commonly as the Getica, would become an invaluable source for scholars, because the work of Cassiodorus was subsequently lost.

The Getica is believed to have been completed in 551 C.E. That same year (or possibly, some scholars argue, the next year), Jordanes finished the Roman history he'd been working on: De summa temporum vel origine actibusque gentis Romanorum (“The High Point of Time, or the Origin and Deeds of the Roman People”), known as the Romana.

Because it is the sole documentary source for early Gothic history originating in Late Antiquity, the Getica is considered by far the more valuable of the two histories written by Jordanes, and a great deal of scholarship has been conducted on it. The fact that the author did not have the original books by Cassiodorus to hand as he wrote has led some to assert that Jordanes must have already been well-versed in much of Gothic history. This is a valid assumption, especially when one considers that, as a Goth, Jordanes could very well have been taking an interest in the history of his own people for quite some time.

The Romana covers the history of Rome from its legendary origins (for which Jordanes provides an alternative, "historical" interpretation) to the reign of Justinian, who was emperor in Eastern Rome until 565.

We have no dates for either the birth of Jordanes or for his death.

More Jordanes Resources:

Jordanes in Print

The Gothic History of Jordanes
by Charles Christopher Mierow

The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550-800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon
(ND Publications Medieval Studies)
by Walter Goffart

Cassiodorus, Jordanes and the History of the Goths: Studies in a Migration Myth
by Arne Soby Christinsen

Jordanes on the Web

The Aims of Jordanes
Scholarly investigation into the work of the Gothic historian, by James J. O'Donnell.

Jordanes: The Origin and Deeds of the Goths
Translation by Charles C. Mierow, made available at the University of Calgary.

Early Europe
Ostrogoths
Visigoths



Who's Who Directories:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Chronological Index

Geographical Index

Index by Profession, Achievement, or Role in Society

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Medieval History
  4. People & Places
  5. Who's Who
  6. J Who
  7. Jordanes - Historian of the Goths

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.