A depiction of Alaric I, king of the Visigoths, in Athens, by German painter Ludwig Thiersch. (Image credit: Public domain)
The Goths were a people who flourished in Europe throughout ancient times and into the Middle Ages. Referred to at times as “barbarians,” they are famous for sacking the city of Rome in A.D. 410.
Ironically, however, they are often credited with helping preserve Roman culture. After the sacking of Rome, a group of Goths moved to Gaul (in modern-day France) and Iberia and formed the Visigothic Kingdom.
This kingdom would eventually incorporate Catholic Christianity, Roman artistic traditions and other aspects of Roman culture. The last Gothic kingdom fell to the Moors in A.D. 711.
Today, the meaning of the word "Goth" has evolved beyond any direct relationship to the ancient Goths. In the late Middle Ages, a style of architecture arose, characterized by large, imposing cathedrals and castles.
The term "Gothic" was applied to the style as a critique,
the word even at that time being a synonym for "barbaric."
During the 18th and 19th centuries, a genre of dark, romantic literature called "Gothic fiction" flourished. Characterized by novels such as Bram Stoker's "Dracula," Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and the works of Edgar Allen Poe,
the genre got its name from the Gothic locations
in which the stories took place
for example, Dracula's dark, foreboding castle.
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