Monsters, it seems, are currently “en vogue” again. The Frankenstein year of 2018 marking the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Mary Shelley’s story about a man-made monster demanding both fear and empathy (2003 ) brought the role of monsters in literature and other fiction high on the agenda again and directed renewed attention to figures of the monstrous, the strange, the abject, the uncanny, and more.
Near the end of the First World War a twenty-six-year-old veteran and art student, discharged from the German army due to wounds received on the Western Front, proceeded to Munich to seek his fortune. Neither born nor raised in the Reich proper, the ambitious young artist had developed a passion for Pan-Germanic ideology, spending most of his time consuming any literature he could find on the history of the Teutonic people. Shortly after arriving in Bavaria’s capital city, he joined a working group of like-minded nationalists dedicated to forging a Greater Germany devoid of Jews and Communists. Profoundly influenced by the right-wing, occult milieu of prewar Vienna, the working group adopted an elaborate array of folkish (völkisch) ideas, including pseudo-scientific racism and esoteric symbols such as the swastika. Within two years, the young artist had helped transform this discussion circle of a few dozen radical racists into the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
As a nation, the Goths materialised during the third-century CE in response to political pressures from within and without the Roman Empire, as Huns and other barbarian groups pushed them towards the safety of Rome’s borders and Rome refused to accept them. The dichotomy of Roman versus Barbarian which Romans maintained throughout these centuries of conflict helped to solidify Gothic identity. The Goths who were a creation of the Roman frontier and had only wanted admission into the Empire eventually became dominant both politically and culturally within Italy, appropriating and perpetuating Roman symbols of authority.
Founded by Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner in the early years of the twentieth-century, anthroposophy has become renowned in different parts of the world for its efforts on behalf of alternative education, holistic health care, organic farming and natural foods, environmental consciousness, and innovative forms of spiritual expression, among other causes. At the root of anthroposophy, located on the border between religion and science, lies an elaborate esoteric philosophy based on Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner’s teachings. A widely influential figure in occult circles who was raised in Austria, lived most of his adult life in Germany, and died in March 30th, 1925 in Dornach, Switzerland. Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner imparted an international character to his movement while grounding it firmly in German cultural values. In contemporary German contexts, anthroposophy is recognized as “the most successful form of alternative religion in the twentieth-century.”
The later 320s witnessed a series of disturbances beyond the Danube frontier which may have justified such disturbances. As with the displacement of the Carpi twenty years earlier, these events can be understood in terms of Tervingian threats against their neighbours. First, in 330, a number of Taifali invaded the Balkan provinces, perhaps driven there by the Tervingi. A request for Imperial aid from some of the Tervingi’s Sarmatian neighbours soon followed and developed into a major Gothic war.
As previously explained in ‘The Imperial Fall Of The Tetrarchy Northern Frontiers,’ it was between 313 and 316, that Constantine and Licinius maintained the cordial neutrality that had allowed them to work together during the last years of the civil wars, but their truce was uneasy and they came to blows in 316. The western Balkans fell to Constantine in this war. He took over Licinius’ residence at Sirmium, dividing his time between that city and Serdica, and leaving his son and Caesar Crispus in Trier to guard the Rhine frontier and campaign against the Franks and Alamanni. Constantine’s eastern ambitions were now clear, as his choice of residence could hardly fail to demonstrate, and he used the old tactic of disciplining the barbarians to provoke a final confrontation with Licinius.
As previously published, ‘The Rise Of Gothic Diocletian’s Roman Empire’ brought a new imperial strength, which meant that the constant stream of frontier wars slackened considerably in the years before 305 when the Augusti Diocletian and Maximian abdicated and passed the senior title on to their Caesars Constantius and Galerius, who then appointed two new Caesars to serve as their junior Emperors. Instead of constantly reacting to events beyond their control, the tetrarchs were increasingly able to decide when and where they wanted to fight along their frontiers. They began to co-opt powerful barbarian leaders into Imperial circles and to manage the affairs of their barbarian neighbours in what they perceived as the best interests of Roman power. This policy can be inferred from obscure, but clearly very important, disturbances along the lower Danube in the 290s and early 300s.
Attempts at explaining Gothic foundations has often taken us a very long way from the ancient world, and into a discussion of contemporary intellectual history. Observing the way contemporary accounts of Gothic migration, whether they claim to be established by historical, archaeological or linguistic evidence, are all in one way or another echo of Jordanes’ sixth-century Getica. Consciously or not, contemporary narratives of Gothic migration are rooted in the very old quest for Germanic origins, a quest to give northern Europe a past independent from Roman history. Unfortunately, as we have seen, contemporary evidence supports neither migration stories nor any narrative derived from Jordanes. On the contrary, it suggests that — like the Franks and the Alamanni further west along the frontier — the Goths were a commodity of the Roman frontier itself. That outcome not only makes sense in the evidence of the late third century, it also fits in well with the much better-understood evidence of the fourth-century.