The Goths (Gothic: *Gut-þiuda, *, Gutans; Old Norse: Gutar/Gotar; Latin: Gothi; Greek: Γότθοι, Gótthoi) were an East Germanic people, two of whose branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe.
An important source of knowledge of the Goths is Getica, a semi-fictional account, written in the 6th century by the Roman historian Jordanes, of their migration from southern Scandza (Scandinavia), into Gothiscandza—believed to be the lower Vistula region in modern Pomerania—and from there to the coast of the Black Sea. Archaeological evidence from the Pomeranian Wielbark culture and the Chernyakhov culture, northeast of the lower Danube, confirms that some such migration did in fact take place. In the 3rd century, the Goths crossed either the lower Danube or the Black Sea, ravaged the Balkans and Anatolia as far as Cyprus, and sacked Athens, Byzantium, and Sparta. By the 4th century, the Goths had captured Dacia, and were divided into at least two distinct groups separated by the Dniester River, the Thervingi (led by the Balti dynasty) and the Greuthungi (led by the Amali dynasty).
The Goths dominated a vast area, which at its peak under the King Ermanaric and his sub-king Athanaric possibly extended all the way from the Danube to the Ural Mountains, and from the Black to the Baltic Sea. In the late 4th century, the Huns came from the east and invaded the region controlled by the Goths. Although the Huns successfully subdued many of the Goths, who joined their ranks, a group of Goths led by Fritigern fled across the Danube. They then revolted against the Roman Empire, winning a decisive victory at the Battle of Adrianople. By this time the Gothic missionary Wulfila, who devised the Gothic alphabet to translate the Bible, had converted many of the Goths from paganism to Arian Christianity. In the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries the Goths separated into two main branches, the Visigoths, who became federates of the Romans, and the Ostrogoths, who joined the Huns.
After the Ostrogoths successfully revolted against the Huns at the Battle of Nedao in 454, their leader Theodoric the Great settled his people in Italy, founding a kingdom which eventually gained control of the whole peninsula. Shortly after Theodoric’s death in 526, the country was captured by the Byzantine Empire, in a war that devastated and depopulated the peninsula. After their able leader Totila was killed at the Battle of Taginae, effective Ostrogothic resistance ended, and the remaining Goths were assimilated by the Lombards, another Germanic tribe, who invaded Italy and founded a kingdom in the northern part of the country in 567 AD.
The Visigoths sacked Rome under Alaric I in 410, defeated Attila at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains under Theodoric I in 451, and founded a kingdom in Aquitaine. The Visigoths were pushed to Hispania by the Franks following the Battle of Vouillé in 507. By the late 6th century, the Visigoths had converted to Catholicism. They were conquered in the early 8th century by the Muslim Moors, but began to regain control under the leadership of the Visigothic nobleman Pelagius, whose victory at the Battle of Covadonga began the centuries-long Reconquista. The Visigoths founded the Kingdom of Asturias, which eventually evolved into modern Spain and Portugal.
Gothic language and culture largely disappeared during the Middle Ages, although its influence continued to be felt in small ways in some western European states. As late as the 16th century a small number of people in the Crimea may still have been speaking the Gothic language known as Crimean Gothic.