Gothic Warrior Found Buried With a Folded Sword in Macedonian Basilica
Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, capital of Macedonia, has been the subject of intense archaeological discovery especially in the last decade. In 2010, Thessaloniki’s three-aisled Basilica cemetery was discovered, but as it turns out, not entirely. As part of the ongoing Metro project work at “the Fountain” at Thessaloniki’s Syntrivani station, a lot of hidden items buried under the Basilica were found, including a Gothic warrior buried with his weaponry. This is one of the biggest archaeological finds from the larger Macedonian region with the Gothic warrior’s grave discovery creating a lot of excitement.
"It is rare for weapons of this period to be found in excavation contexts, even in Greece. Most of the corresponding findings we have are from Balkan and Western European countries," said archaeologist Melina Paisidou.
Paisidou, along with her co-researcher, PhD candidate Erricos Maniotis will be presenting their study "Soldier's armament from a tomb of the basilica of Sidrivanios" at the 33rd Archaeological Conference, which is focused on the excavations in Macedonia and Thrace.
The Gothic Warrior Beneath the Basilica
Within the Basilica of Thessaloniki are a cluster of tombs, presumably of other warriors, especially in the southern aisle. It was here that the skeleton of a Gothic warrior was found, buried with his weapons, dated to the first half of the 5 th century AD.
He was buried with some pottery, a folded sword (in a reasonably good condition), a dagger and a shield boss (the protruding center portion of a shield).
What seems to have "unlocked" the warrior's identity is that "the sword was deliberately folded, not broken," said Melina Paisidou.
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Burial of Gothic warrior buried with folded sword (Errico Maniotis / naftemporiki.gr)
The Gothic warrior burial within the Basilica suggests a Christian burial, especially because the design was in such a manner that their tombs were a part of the larger structure, not something hastily added after construction.
The weapons were placed in a dignified manner next to the fallen warrior, creating an air of distinction and honor, and emphasizing that these were obviously experienced warriors with fearsome reputations.
The 2010 find also revealed 3,000 odd tombs in the eastern cemetery of Thessaloniki, which revealed a continuous and organized use of the site between the Hellenistic period (300 BC – 30 BC) till just before the Late Antiquity period (600-700 AD).
The Gothic warrior’s folded sword was the key clue to his identity. (Errico Maniotis / naftemporiki.gr)
The Goths were a Germanic warrior tribe from eastern Europe who played a key role in the siege and fall of the Western Roman empire, which led to the onset of the period of history in Europe known as the Medieval period. They were of alleged barbarian ancestry (as the Romans liked to pejoratively refer to all those who they perceived as savage or uncivilized), preferring swords over spears, and favoring a lance, pike or javelin to go with their mighty sword.
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In terms of weaponry, often, there was very little to distinguish Gothic warriors from Roman soldiers. This was for two reasons.
Firstly, these two groups were, more often than not, on opposite ends of the battlefield and had become familiar with each other.
Secondly, the Goths would often defeat the Romans, and then take their weapons (or vice-versa) as war trophies.
The quality of Gothic weaponry was as good, if not better, than their counterparts. Often the quality of weaponry mattered little in the hands of skilled fighters, and the Goths exemplified this greatly.
Top image: The Gothic warrior’s grave found underneath the Basilica of Thessaloniki, Greece in 2010. Source: Errico Maniotis / naftemporiki.gr
Athina. 2021. A Goth warrior in the centre of Thessaloniki. Available at: https://www.athina984.gr/en/2021/04/21/enas-gotthos-polemistis-sto-kentro-tis-thessalonikis/.
ANN. 2021. Grave of Gothic warrior buried with his weapons unearthed in downtown Thessaloniki. Available at: https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2021/04/grave-of-gothic-warrior-buried-with-his.html.
Naftemporiki. 2021. Thessaloniki: Goth warrior, buried with his weapon, in the centre of the city. Available at: https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1716993/thessaloniki-gotthos-polemistis-thammenos-me-ton-oplismo-tou-sto-kentro-tis-polis.