History Of The Goth

The third-century Great Ludovisi sarcophagus depicts a battle between Goths and Romans. (Jastrow/Wikimedia Commons)

When you hear the word "Goth," you may think of black clothing, macabre imagery, or melancholic music, but have you ever wondered where this subculture's name came from? The Goths were a real people or rather a name for various Germanic peoples who were famous for pushing back against the ever-expanding Roman Empire during the fourth and fifth centuries. In fact, it was in large part due to the Goths (alongside the Vandals, who famously sacked Rome) that Europe broke away from Roman rule and divided into smaller regions, with the Visigoths controlling much of what is now France and Spain and the Ostrogoths taking lands in the east, thus ushering in the medieval era.

Known to many as the Dark Ages, the medieval era was marked by an intense period of religious fervor, plagues, wars, and ongoing peasant revolts against the feudal system. European society shifted greatly after the fall of the Roman Empire, and architecture reflected that shift as the grand marble columns and stately arches that graced the important buildings of the classical age gave way to new, bold designs with vaulted ceilings, flying buttresses, stained glass windows, and ornately carved walls.