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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bishop Wulfila

image by Gustave Doré
(published in madamepickwickartblog)
no copyright infringement intended

Gustave Doré: Bishop Ulfilas, in the fourth century, undertook the task of translating the Bible into the Gothic language with a curious omission: he left out the Book of Kings. The Goths, in his opinion, were already too fond of fighting, and “needed in that matter the bit, rather than the spur.” I can’t say that I blame him.

(click here for the Romanian version)

About my interest for Bishop Wulfila, that is a long story. It began in the high school, when our history teacher told us about him and about his translation of the Bible. Wulfila had been the bishop of the Goths sometime in the fourth century, and his writings are now kept in a Swedish university, at the venerable Uppsala. He had worked on the translation while he was living near the borders of Danube, in a land inhabited by Thracian populations, and so his output was the first literary achievement in this part of the world: Thracian populations in the long process of Romanization.

There are several spellings in use for his name: Wulfila, Ulfilas, Ulfila, Ulphilas, Orphila. The differences are minor, of course, but otherwise almost every aspect of his life is matter of scholarly controversy. Actually a few things can be considered certain: mainly that he translated the Bible while he was the bishop of Nicopolis ad Istrum, in the South of Danube.

To search for data on Wulfila is fascinating, as controversial these data might be. Maybe also because each piece of information brings new lights on a period so distant in time, about the people that lived then, about places on the South and North of Danube, how they have been in those remote times, how they are today, about events related to those places, during Wulfila's times and also during the centuries that followed, and about so many other things.

So I would love to come back here on this topic, only I would do it in a very informal way. Somehow it is also my own story: well, I don't think that I am Wulfila, don't take me wrong, but looking for data related to him is kind of time travel (and of course it's not my domain of expertize, it's just my pleasure). I will come back on this for sure.

(German and Nordic Literature)



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