Gothic History The Visigoths


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psychic gothic

The Goths (Visigoths and Ostrogoths were 2 separate tribes) are thought to be cruel and barbaric (the Visigoths were peaceful agriculturalists for a large part of their history) because most of the records we have about them are from the Romans. Take exception to the fact that the Celts are also viewed this way by the general population thanks to the Romans again, despite plenty of evidence that they were quite "civilized" when not under merciless attack in their own homelands. Both the Celts and the Visigoths "ransacked" Rome at different points in History and so didn't exactly endear themselves to the Roman heirachy. The "civilized" Romans used to watch people being disemboweled and eaten by predatory animals for entertainment... and yet we are happy to accept their verdict on who is barabaric?


On to different trivia: Gothic art and architecture from the middle ages does have a Germanic influence but there is also a Byzantine strand there too. Look at images of Vald Tepes/Dracul and you will see that Eastern influence again, he was brought up in exile among Turks and Transylvania / Romania was then part of the Ottoman Empire.. , I think? When you get to the Gothic Revival of Pugin and the Victorians those Ottoman influence gets mixed in again (look at F F Copolla's Dracula to see what I mean) and combine with the Romantics love of ruins, decay, death and melancholia and you get someone like Edgar Allen Poe! Take a look at the work of Romantic painter Caspar David Freidrich...


Just some personal memories of goths emergence from the punk / New Romantic scene, and I have no evidence to back it up... Back in the late seventies and early eighties I remember Siouxsie Sioux ( the queen of the Goth scene and developer of the original Gothic look for girlies, surely?) stating that she loved the silent screen actresses Louise Brooks and Theda Bara. If you look at old photos of them, Bara in particular, you can see the influence on her style and make-up. I remember being similarly interested in achieving that "Vamp" look and as we only had old B/W photos as reference, the whole look became very dark, kohl eyes and exaggerated eyebrows, the lips were probably red on the actress but looked practically black on the photos, so faces became paler and paler lips got darker too! At that time vintage clothing was very cheap and easy to pick up and I had a lot of Victorian, Edwardian and flapper dresses which I wore pretty much everyday, as you do.


I remember German Expressionist cinema was also a big influence. The still on the original cover of Bauhaus' Bela Lugosi's Dead' is from "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari" and shows the German actor Conrad Veidt, who was the original choice for the role of Dracula, which only went to Lugosi when Veidt turned it down apparently. I think it's a still from Nosferatu on the back (if I remember rightly, can't be bothered to go up in the attic and check!) so no show for poor maligned Lugosi. Were Bauhaus aware of these ironies, I imagine so as they were also art students and fans of trivia from what I remember from the time! I think the bass player even collaborated with the Alan Moore, king of the graphic novel on something or other. God, really rambling now!!! Bauhaus were quite disdainful of the term "goth" back then, as were The Banshees and The Cure to a lesser extent, but the latter two seemed to change their minds later.


I hasten to add that I never personally knew any of those people but regularly rubbed shoulders, so to speak at gigs and clubs in London back then (1980-83, pretty much) and I would suggest further research if you wanted to back up my claims, these are just my personal memories of that time and something I found really exciting. I lost interest in established "goth" around the time that the whole thing became regimented, bands like Sisters of Mercy and later Marilyn Manson seemed to see it as a brand to push and that whole "I'm an individual so will dress like every other gothic, think like every other goth and listen to what we all listen to" brain washing set in... but hey I'm old, bitter and twisted and was quite jaded even in youth, so what do I know?

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