Divided Goths: Greuthungi and Ostrogothi
A division of the Goths is first attested in 291.[a] The Tervingi are first attested around that date; the Greuthungi, Vesi, and Ostrogothi are all attested no earlier than 388. The Greuthungi are first named by Ammianus Marcellinus, writing no earlier than 392 and perhaps later than 395, and basing his account on the words of a Tervingian chieftain who is attested as early as 376. The Ostrogoths are first named in a document dated September 392 from Milan. Claudian mentions that they together with the Greuthungi inhabit Phrygia. According to Herwig Wolfram, the primary sources either use the terminology of Tervingi/Greuthungi or Vesi/Ostrogothi and never mix the pairs. All four names were used together, but the pairing was always preserved, as in Gruthungi, Ostrogothi, Tervingi, Vesi. That the Tervingi were the Vesi/Visigothi and the Greuthungi the Ostrogothi is also supported by Jordanes. He identified the Visigothic kings from Alaric I to Alaric II as the heirs of the fourth-century Tervingian king Athanaric and the Ostrogothic kings from Theodoric the Great to Theodahad as the heirs of the Greuthungian king Ermanaric. This interpretation, however, though very common among scholars today, is not universal. According to the Jordanes' Getica, around 400 the Ostrogoths were ruled by Ostrogotha and derived their name from this "father of the Ostrogoths", but modern historians often assume the converse, that Ostrogotha was named after the people.
Both Herwig Wolfram and Thomas Burns conclude that the terms Tervingi and Greuthungi were geographical identifiers used by each tribe to describe the other. This terminology therefore dropped out of use after the Goths were displaced by the Hunnic invasions. In support of this, Wolfram cites Zosimus as referring to a group of "Scythians" north of the Danube who were called "Greuthungi" by the barbarians north of the Ister. Wolfram asserts that it was the Tervingi who remained behind after the Hunnic conquest. He further believes that the terms "Vesi" and "Ostrogothi" were used by the peoples to boastfully describe themselves. On this understanding, the Greuthungi and Ostrogothi were more or less the same people.
The nomenclature of Greuthungi and Tervingi fell out of use shortly after 400. In general, the terminology of a divided Gothic people disappeared gradually after they entered the Roman Empire. The term "Visigoth", however, was an invention of the sixth century. Cassiodorus, a Roman in the service of Theodoric the Great, invented the term Visigothi to match Ostrogothi, which terms he thought of as "western Goths" and "eastern Goths" respectively. The western-eastern division was a simplification and a literary device of sixth-century historians where political realities were more complex. Furthermore, Cassiodorus used the term "Goths" to refer only to the Ostrogoths, whom he served, and reserved the geographical term "Visigoths" for the Gallo-Hispanic Goths. This usage, however, was adopted by the Visigoths themselves in their communications with the Byzantine Empire and was in use in the seventh century.
Other names for the Goths abounded. A "Germanic" Byzantine or Italian author referred to one of the two peoples as the Valagothi, meaning "Roman [walha] Goths". In 484 the Ostrogoths had been called the Valameriaci (men of Valamir) because they followed Theodoric, a descendant of Valamir. This terminology survived in the Byzantine East as late as the reign of Athalaric, who was called του Ουαλεμεριακου (tou Oualemeriakou) by John Malalas.
The Gothic name makes its first appearance sometime between 16 and 18 AD with earlier indications related to the Guti of Scandia or possibly attributable to the Gutones. Procopius wrote of the Gauts in Thule and Cassiodorus mentioned the Gauthigoths amid his list of Scandinavian peoples. Two distinct groups of Gothic peoples are first attested to in 291, the western Tervingi-Vesi and the eastern Greutungi-Ostrogothi. "Greuthungi" may mean "steppe dwellers" or "people of the pebbly coasts". The root greut- is probably related to the Old English greot, meaning "flat". This is supported by evidence that geographic descriptors were commonly used to distinguish people living north of the Black Sea both before and after Gothic settlement there and by the lack of evidence for an earlier date for the name pair Tervingi-Greuthungi than the late third century.
However, that the name "Greuthungi" has pre-Pontic, possibly Scandinavian, origins has support. It may mean "rock people", (related to the Old Norse grjut huningi) to distinguish the Ostrogoths from the Geats (referred as Goths in Scandinavia) from Götaland (Gothland) in southern Sweden. The Roman historian Jordanes refers to an Evagreotingi (Greuthung island) in Scandza, as part of his description of Gothiscandza. It has also been suggested that Greuthungi may be related to certain place names in Poland, but this has met with little support.
"Ostrogothi" means "Goths of (or glorified by) the rising sun". This has been interpreted as "gleaming Goths" or "east Goths". By the 4th century the Ostrogoths had developed a distinct language known as Gothic. Classified by linguists as an east Germanic language, Gothic eventually died out sometime in the Middle Ages as the Visigoths and Ostrogoths were absorbed by other European peoples.
While none of the eastern Germanic languages are still spoken, Gothic is the only one with "continuous texts" remaining. Singularly the most important work amid the surviving Gothic texts is the translation of the Bible by the Visigothic bishop Ulfilas, comprising the earliest remnants of the Germanic languages known. Smatterings of the Gothic language can be found in Italian but its presence is minimal. A language related to Gothic was still spoken sporadically in Crimea as late as the 16th and 17th centuries (Crimean Gothic language). Much of the disappearance of the Gothic language is attributable to the Goths' cultural and linguistic absorption by other European peoples during the Middle Ages.