Sunday, May 22, 2011

Are the European Goths named after Hagoth?

Someone wrote me a while back regarding the name Hagoth. “What of the white tribes who marched out of Central Asia as Goths (Hagoths?) to help found the Feudal systems of the Vikings and of all of Europe?”

First of all, though this is not a history site, the Goths, who were basically a Germanic tribe, attacked Rome in 387 A.D., signing a treaty with Theodosius I. Later, under the name of Visigoths (the eastern branch of the Goths—the other branch were the Ostrogoths—both east Germanic tribes), sacked and conquered Rome in 410 A.D., and claimed all the land clear to Thrace.

The feudal system of Europe began 500 years later, and was not instituted by the Goths, but established when the monarchs of central governments lost power because of their inability to stop the incursions. At this time a new type of government evolved called Feudalism, which began in France around 900 A.D., and spread throughout the remainder of Europe within 150 years. This reciprocal legal and military obligation among the warrior nobility was established, based on the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs in an effort to provide strong resistance to the incursions—a system that worked and continued from about 900 A.D. to the 15th century.

Now for Hagoth, who built many ships (Alma 63:5,7-8). He is never recorded as leaving the Land of Promise in one of those ships as many theorists erroneously claim. While his ships were venturing into the West Sea and taking their course northward, he was busy building more ships (Alma 63:7).

One of those ships “did sail forth; and whither she did go we know not” (Alma 63:8). It would seem evident it did not go north where the others ships went, and south would have been down the coast of the Lamanite lands. Therefore, it seems likely this ship went west. Now the currents from the area of the Bay of Guayaquil in Ecuador, would have taken a ship heading west out into the South Pacific Current and directly to Polynesia (see any atlas of sea currents).

While in religious matters, many people of Polynesia claim to be the people of Hagoth, this has more to do with their origination coming on Hagoth’s ships—an attestation to the importance of this man and his stature among the Nephites in the Land of Promise—than being descended from him unless the ship was captained by one of Hagoth’s sons which would strictly be an unconfirmable assumption.

As an example, “the people of Hagoth” is more a label than a descendency. Like “the people of Israel” would be both a descendency (the children of Israel) and a location, Israel as a land. While “the people of America” would not be a descendency (how many Americans know of Amerigo Vespucci) but strictly a label.

As for the Goths of the 3rd century A.D., they had many names, possibly due to their population being composed of many separate ethnic groups. The name Goths derives from the Germanic Guton to Gutaniz and Gutar, the self-designation of the Gotlanders. There was also the Scandinavian tribal name Geat, from Gautoz derived from geutan, meaning "to pour.” The Indo-European root of the "pour,” is connected with the name of a river flowing through Vastergötlamd in Sweden, the Göta-aly, which drains Lake Vanern into the Kattegat. Old Norse records do not distinguish between the Goths from the Gutar and the Gotlanders—both are called Gotar in Old West Norse. The Old East Norse term found on the Rökstone and elsewhere for both Goths and Gotlanders was Gutar, At some time in European prehistory, consonant changes created a “g” from the “gh” and “t” from the “d.” Thus, what has come down in history as Goths, was originally Ghöd. This is hardly a convincing argument for Hagoth originations.

It is always dangerous to start playing around with names that, on the surface, may seem to have some relationships, but typically in reality have nothing to do with one another. Many errors have been made by Mesoamerican theorists regarding this issue, beginning with Hugh Nibley, a linguist of the first rank and speaker of seven languages, who ought to have known better.

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