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Ulfilas (ca. 310 – 383) was a missionary and translator who lived during the tumultuous era when the Roman Empire morphed into an entirely different sort of society.   His parents were Anatolians who were enslaved by mounted Gothic raiders during one of the wars of that time.   After growing up among the Goths, he was raised to the rank of bishop by Eusebius of Nicomedia, the priest who baptized Constantine the Great (the “thirteenth apostle” who remade Europe and lands beyond into Christian domains).

Bishop Ulfilas again left the Empire to proselytize among the Germanic tribes of the Goths.  When threatened by an overbearing chieftan, he was allowed to take his Christian followers into the Roman territory of Moesia (in today’s Bulgaria). There, Ulfilas created a Gothic alphabet, based largely on Greek, but with Roman and Runic letters also involved.  Bishop Wulfila (as Ulfilas came to be known in his new alphabet) translated the bible into Gothic, the oldest known Germanic tongue.  [As a personal aside for my readers, English is of course a Germanic language.] Wulfila was an Arian Christian who rejected the Trinitarian Christological dogma which is nearly universal in Catholic and Protestant churches today.

Here is the alphabet Bishop Wulfila created:

Why am I writing about this?  It serves as deep back-story for my exploration of the aesthetic & cultural concept of “Gothic”.  The history of that word is a sprawling epic which twists its way through western history with bizarre twists and dark flourishes as strange as any found in Gothic art.

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