The name Amelang or Amalungi is one of ancient royal families, mighty kings and fierce queens, there can be no doubt. In German-American Names, by George F. Jones, he describes the family name, Amelung, as originating from a Germanic tribe or dynasty.(1) Not merely Gothic royalty but "the highest nobility" within the so-called "barbarian" world of Roman times. Many of the names of the actual individuals will sound strange and distant to the modern ear, especially those of us who grew up speaking English, a language we Amelangs have used for only a very small part of our long history. Even in our German "Fatherland" major language shifts over the centuries have made the old names sound at least a bit foreign to the modern ear. (5)
Any serious student of our family history should read a book called History of the Goths, by Herwig Wolfram, and what follows are a few comments about our early family history discussed at length by Wolfram. Amelang is derived from the ancient tribal name Amal, (pl. Amali) and is the genealogia Ostragotharum, the family of the Ostragoths. The Amal clan was revered among the Ostragoths who assigned divine charisma to their leaders, acclaiming the Amali as Aesir, or of the old Nordic ruling dynasty of Gods.
The Roman Cassiodorus (b. ca 484AD) recorded the Amal tribal history of the Goths, and Jordanes (6th Century AD) preserved it for posterity.
Early Amal history is both complex and rich in legend. Dietrich von Bern better known in English as Theodoric of Verona (Theodoric the Great), perhaps most famous of the Ostogothic kings, traced the family origins to Scandanavia. Cassiodorus said that King Berig led the Goths "long ago" from the island of Scandza and as soon as they set foot on land they named their landfall Gothiscandza. From there the Amali marched on settlements along the coastline, making war on the inhabitants and driving them from the land. Theodoric tells us that the Amali made the long trek through central Europe by way of eastern Pomerania and the Vistula to the Black Sea, from there to Panonia and Moesia, and finally to Italy. The long, arduous journey, beginning around the time of the birth of Christ, lasted more than a half a millennium.
Some facts can be sorted from the legends surrounding the trek of northern Goths across the Baltic to the Continent by referring to the Amal genealogy, and three of the earliest related tribal founders. Older than Ostrogotha, King of the Black Sea Goths, is Amal, with whom the history of the Amali begins. And older than Amal is King Gaut, and the Scandinavians who called themselves Gauts (or Goths). The Iron One, Hisarna, son of Amal, is an "acculturation" to the ancient Celts, a process that began long before the Amali became Goths and reached the Black sea.
Indeed, in the realm of myth and saga the Gothic name disappeared completely; one spoke of the descendants of the Amali, the Amalungi, if one meant the Goths. And, In medieval poetry and historiography the Goths are the Amalungi, the descendants of the Amal Theodoric (Dietrich von Bern).
There are several variations of the name. Amelungen is defined in the New Century Cyclopedia of Names as the ruling family of the Ostrogoths (and possibly at an earlier date, before the division of the Goths, of the Visigoths as well) which first came to prominence in the 4th century under their King Ermanric and attained their greatest fame under Theodoric the Great (c. 454-526). (2)
The Visigoths were the descendants of the branch of the Gothic race established by Aurelian in Dacia (270). The descendants of the other branch of the race, which remained in Southern Russia, were called Ostrogoths (Eastern Goths). (3) The Goths were a Germanic people who probably migrated from southern Scandinavia sometime before the time of Christ. By the 3rd century the Goths had settled in the areas around the Black Sea and were staging periodic raids on Roman territory. Those who settled in the area of the modern Ukraine came to be known as Ostrogoths. Those who settled in the region of the Danube were called Visigoths. (4)
During the 4th century the Visigoths coexisted peacefully with the Romans, farming and trading agricultural products and slaves for luxury goods. The Visigoths adopted many elements of Roman culture. Some of them became literate in Latin. In the middle of the century substantial numbers of the Visigoths accepted Arianism. (Source: Grolier Encyclopedia, CD Rom, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.) The Huns' drive westward pushed the Visigoths into territory controlled by the Roman Empire. The Ostrogoths were conquered (c.370) by the Huns. The resulting conflict culminated in a great Visigothic victory at Adrianople in 378 and led to an alliance with the empire. But the Visigoths were fickle allies; under Alaric I they sacked Rome in 410 and in 418 settled in Aquitaine in southwestern France. During the last half of the 5th century the Visigoths expanded their control to Spain, but in 507-08 the Franks under Clovis drove them from most of Aquitaine. (4)
Under Theodoric The Great the Ostrogoths moved west, and Theodoric became king of Italy (493-526). He was succeeded by his daughter Amalasuntha, who was murdered in 535 by her husband and co-ruler, Theodahad. Her allies, the Byzantines, soon attacked Italy, but the Ostrogoth forces held out until 553. The Byzantines, and later the Lombards, took control of Italy. (3)
On the death of Theodosius, the Visigoths, under Alaric, overran Greece (396) and Italy (400). After Alaric's death (410) they established a kingdom at Toulouse (418) which eventually comprised the whole of Gaul south of the Loire and west of the Rhone, as well as Provence and the greater part of Spain. (3) With the defeat and death of Alaric II by Clovis, on the field of Vougle (or Vouille, or Voclad) near Poitiers (507), the kingdom of Toulouse came to an end, and the Visigoths abandoned to the conqueror all their territories north of the Pyrenees, with the exception of a small track of country in Gaul, including the cities of Carcassone, Narbonne, and Nimes. (3)
The Visigoths in Spain conquered (585) the Suevi and drove out (629) the Byzantines. In 589, King Reccared converted the Visigoths to orthodox Christianity, and King Reccesvinth tried (c.654) to unite the various inhabitants of Spain under a single law. Social, political, religious, and regional differences in Visigothic Spain, however, led to frequent regicide and to civil war. Spain came under the domination of the Muslims in 711. (4)
(1) German-American Names, by George F. Jones, Copyright 1990, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, Pages 41 and 65.
(2) The New Century Cyclopedia of Names, Edited by Clarence L. Barnhart with assistance of William D. Halsey, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Volume 1, Page 133.
(3) Circle of Knowledge Encyclopedia, CD Rom, Copyright 1996, JLR Group.
(4) Grolier Encyclopedia, CD Rom, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.
(5) History of the Goths, by Herwig Wolfram, Copyright (c) 1988 by the Regents of the University of California.