Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: The Goths, under the Reign of Valens, embrace Christianity.Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Chapter XXXIII.—The Goths, under the Reign of Valens, embrace Christianity.
The barbarians, dwelling beyond the Danube, called the Goths, 669 having engaged in a civil war among themselves, were divided into two parties, one of which was headed by Fritigernes, the other by Athanaric. When the latter had obtained an evident advantage over his rival, Fritigernes had recourse to the Romans, and implored their assistance against his adversary. This was reported to the Emperor Valens, and he ordered the troops which were garrisoned in Thrace to assist those barbarians who had appealed to him against their more powerful countrymen; and by means of this subsidy they won a complete victory over Athanaric beyond the Danube, totally routing the enemy. This became the occasion for the conversion of many of the barbarians to the Christian religion: 670 for Fritigernes, to express his sense of the obligation the emperor had conferred upon him, embraced the religion of his benefactor, and urged those who were under his authority to do the same. Therefore it is that so many of the Goths are even to the present time infected with the errors of Arianism, they having on the occasion preferred to become adherents to that heresy on the emperors account. Ulfilas, their bishop at that time, invented the Gothic letters, 671 and translating the Sacred Scriptures into their own language, undertook to instruct these barbarians in the Divine oracles. And as Ulfilas did not restrict his labors to the subjects of Fritigernes, but extended them to those who acknowledged the sway of Athanaric also, Athanaric regarding this as a violation of the privileges of the religion of his ancestors, subjected those who professed Christianity to severe punishments; so that many of the Arian Goths of that period became martyrs. Arius indeed, failing in his attempt to refute the opinion of Sabellius the Libyan, fell from the true faith, and asserted the Son of God to be a new God: 672 but the barbarians embracing Christianity with greater simplicity of mind despised the present life for the faith of Christ. With these remarks we shall close our notice of the Christianized Goths.
The fullest and best ancient authors on the origin and history of the Goths are Procopius of Cæsarea (Historia, IV.–VIII., de Bello Italico adversus Gothos gesto), Jornandes (de Getarum [Gothorum] origine et rebus gestis), and Isidore Hispalensis (Historia Gothorum). On the conversion of the Goths to Christianity, see Neander, Hist. of the Christ. Ch. Vol. II. p. 125–129, and Schaff, Hist. of the Christ. Ch. Vol. III. p. 640, 641.115:670
For a slightly differing account of the conversion of the Goths and the labors of Ulfilas, see Philostorgius, II. 5.115:671
By selecting from the Greek and Latin alphabets such characters as appeared to him to best suit the sounds of his native language. For a similar invention of an alphabet as a consequence of the introduction of Christianity, compare the Slavonic invented by Cyril and Methodius and a great number of instances in the history of modern missions.115:672
Cf. Deut. xxxii. 7.
Next: Admission of the Fugitive Goths into the Roman Territories, which caused the Emperor's Overthrow, and eventually the Ruin of the Roman Empire.
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