Where did Gepida get its name?

Gepida is the Latin name for the Gepids, an Eastern Germanic tribe that spoke the same language as the Goths, although they are thought to have had a distinct dialect. The Gepids did not intermarry with other peoples and had strained relations even with tribes of similar origins.

The Gepid race was of medium, well proportioned build and of typical northern European appearance, although a more mixed people developed with the passage of time. The first clear archaeological traces of this people, who described themselves as wealthy and generous, were found at the delta of the River Vistula and date back to the 2nd century. They appeared in the Carpathian Basin near the Szamos, Tisza and Maros rivers in the 3rd or 4th century. It was from here that they made regular incursions to the east and south to fight for new territories. The Gepids initially lived under tribal leadership in village communities with the real power exercised by a national assembly. A king was only elected in response to major historical developments.

With the emergence of the Hunnic empire, the Gepids maintained their identity even as they became allies to the all-conquering Huns. Following Attila's death, the Gepids are thought to have seized upon his wealth and occupied large territories in all directions. Recognising their importance, the Byzantine emperor also welcomed the Gepids as allies. The Kingdom of Gepidia was allowed to flourish in the Eastern Roman Empire, although unified leadership of the Gepids only emerged in the late 6th century. It was at this time that the Gepids occupied the city of Sirmium, establishing it as the seat of the kingdom as they took further swathes of the Eastern Roman Empire. When the Byzantine Empire withdrew its support and agreed to an alliance with the Lombards, the Gepids lost much of their territory and influence.

The two Germanic peoples were at war for almost 30 years, in which time the Gepids often suffered defeat at he hands of the Lombard knights. They lost the territories of the Eastern Roman Empire and were only able to hold the city of Sirmium. This became the royal seat and the site where the first silver coins in the Carpathian Basin were minted. The Byzantine Empire later terminated their alliance with the Lombards, who continued to fight for Gepid territories in league with the Avars. The Gepid army suffered a crushing defeat, losing their king and fleeing with their treasure to Byzantium, while the population migrated to modern-day Italy.

During the Avar invasion, Gepidia ceased to exist with only small Transylvanian settlements surviving. By the 7th century, even these had merged into their surroundings. The most valuable Gepida relics were the gold treasures unearthed in ªimleu Silvaniei, Transylvania.