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Member of a Germanic people whose two branches, the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths, harassed the Roman Empire for centuries. Legend holds that the Goths originated in southern Scandinavia, crossed to the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, and then migrated to the Black Sea in the 2nd century. They raided the Roman provinces in Asia Minor and the Balkan peninsula in the 3rd century and drove the Romans out of the province of Dacia during the reign of Aurelian. In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Visigoths smashed a Roman army, sacked the city of Rome, and created a kingdom in Spain that would last until the Muslim conquests of the 8th century. The Ostrogoths established an important kingdom in Italy in the late 5th century that was destroyed by Justinian in the 6th century. The adjective Gothic was applied disparagingly and inappropriately to medieval architecture by much later writers.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Goth, visit Britannica.com.