The story behind the names used by the modern day bicycle marque Gepida is unique, and is based in the fog of Dark Age central European history, in the time around and following the fall of the Roman Empire.

This was a time of great migrations of tribes and nations of nomadic peoples, displaced by war and diminishing resources, and driven by opportunities for conquest.  Gepida itself is named after a tribe of peoples known as the Gepids who, related to the Goths, spoke a Germanic language and originated in Southern Sweden. Berig (or Berik) was a legendary king of the Goths whose name is thought to be derived from the Gothic Bairika, meaning little bear.  Berig led his people on three ships from Scandza (Scandanavia) to Gothiscanda (the Vistula Basin in Pomerania) where they defeated and displaced the Rugians and neighbouring Vandals. Legend has it that one of the ships was slower than the others, and Berig henceforth gave the tribe of the slow ship the name Gepanta (meaning slow), evolving to Gepida.  In the old Norse religion to which the Goths and Gepids were thought to belong, Asgard was one of the nine worlds and home to the Ǣsir tribe of gods. Odin and his wife Frigg (Freya) were the rulers of Asgard, and Valhalla being one of its well known places.

   

In the 2nd Century AD the Gepids had moved south from the Vistula Basin region and by the 3rd Century AD had moved to the Carpathian Mountains north of Transylvania. In the 4th Century, they were subdued by the Huns originating from Central Asia, and were incorporated into the Hunnic Empire. The Gepids, like the Goths, had by this time converted to Arian Christianity.

Ruga (also known as Rugila), an uncle of Attila the Hun, was a warlord who was a major factor in the Huns early victories over the Roman Empire. In 432 AD, Ruga was mentioned as the sole ruler of the Huns and in 435 ravaged Thrace in a campaign that was ultimately unsuccessful. Ruga died being “struck dead with a thunderbolt” and his remaining army perished due to a plague epidemic.

After his death, Attila and his brother Bleda became joint rulers of the Hunnic Empire and their campaigns against the Roman Empire hastened its fall and perpetuated the mass migrations of tribes throughout Europe and Central Asia.

Under the Gepid king Ardaric, Gepidan warriors joined Attila the Hun’s forces in the Battle of Chalons in Gaul (France) in 451 AD against the Franks and Romans, and fought each other to a standstill with 15,000 dead. After the death of Attila two years later, the Gepids under Ardaric allied themselves with the Goths and others to defeat Attila’s successors at the Battle of Nedao in 454 AD. After breaking the Hunnic power, the Gepids finally won a place to settle in the Carpathian Basin- Gepidia. Their Kingdom was centred around the former Roman town of Sirmium on the Sava River.  The Gepid king Elemund had arranged the marriage of his daughter Austrigusa to the Lombard king Wacho in 512 AD in efforts to ease tensions with neighbouring realms. In a coup’d’tat Thoris or Thurisind deposed Elemund in 548, who fought numerous battles with the Lombards.  However not long after, the relations with their former allies the Ostrogoths and Byzantium disintegrated and the Gepids were forced from their new homeland. The Gepids suffered a disastrous defeat at the hand of Alboin, the King of the Lombards (Langobardi) at the Battle of Asfeld in 567 AD. The nephew of the new Gepid king Cunimund (Kunimund), Reptila was killed in the battle against the Lombards. A further defeat at the hand of the Avars (North Caucasian nomads themselves seeking refuge from the East) saw the Gepid tribe broken up, many following Alboin to Italy and founding the Kingdom of the Lombards. Others remained in the Carpathian Basin and Transylvania. Sirmium was finally destroyed by the Avars in 582 AD.

     

The Lombards, like the Gepids and Goths, originated in Southern Scandanavia and spoke a Germanic language. Their tribe were known then as the Winnili. They began their migration South in the 1st Century AD, likely due to overpopulation. By the 5th Century AD they were settled in what is today modern Austria in the region of the Danube River. The origin of the name of the Lombards is steeped in Legend. The Winnili were said to have split into three groups, with one of these seeking new lands and having come into contact with the Vandals. Outnumbered by their enemy, the Winnili women pleated their hair to the front, where the enemy viewed them as men with ‘long beards’. The ruse proved successful. The ‘Long Beards’ name was Latinised to Langobardi and Anglisised to the Lombards. Alboin and his people (and others, including Gepids, Ostrogoths, Bulgars) left Pannonia (modern day Hungary) and occupied a largely depopulated region of Italy north of the River Po. The Lombard territory in Italy was divided into 36 duchies, ruled by dukes which were subject to the Lombard King. King Alboin was murdered in Verona by a vengeful plot led by his wife Rosamund, the daughter of the slain Gepid King Kunimund. Rosamund was forced by Alboin to drink from the skull of her father, no doubt crystallising the plot against her Lombard husband. A period known as the Rule of the Dukes was ushered in, when the Dukes failed to elect a new King. It was at this time in 575 AD that Rodanus along with fellow dukes Amo and Zaban of Pavia invaded Provence, but were repelled back to Italy by forces led by the Gallo-Roman patrician Mummolus.



The Dark Age era of momentous migrations had only just begun. Many of the tribes remembered by the Gepida bicycle marque have left few traces, with their languages and customs disappearing and their folk having been absorbed into the populations of conquerors that followed them. Though the Lombard ‘Long Beards’ have long disappeared, they have given their name to Lombardy in Italy. The Gepids too have left little trace of their short-lived kingdom. Legend has it that the Huns gave rise to the small but proud Szekely community now speaking a dialect of the Hungarian (Magyar) language which today spoken 40% of Hungarians in Transylvania. In the final great migration of the Dark Ages, the conquering Magyars (ancestors of the modern Hungarians) occupied the Carpathian Basin and Mountains from the east in 895 AD, and over the coming centuries absorbed the peoples of diverse ethnicities to create one of the first nation states that survives to the present. Today Gepida bicycles are manufactured in Budapest, at the cross-roads of the great Dark Age migrations of so many peoples.

[updated 2016 for new Gepida models Sirmium, Bleda, Thoris, Nedao and Elemund]