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WITH regard to the text of the Germania of Tacitus in this edition, a very few words will be enough. Although not exactly corresponding with any other, as far as I know, the text nearly represents that of Massmann (Quedlingburg and Leipsig, 1847), from which it only differs in a few places, where I think the other readings adopted have better manuscript authority, or are intrinsically more probable. A list of these variations will be found appended. The punctuation is my own, not his.
Tacitus apparently wrote his treatise "De Situ, Moribus, Populisque Germaniae," in A.D. 98. In c. 37 of the work he reckons about 210 years to have elapsed from the epoch when the Cimbri first became known to the Romans, to the "second consulship of the Emperor Trajan." This was in A.D. 98; and Tacitus most probably computed the years to the date of the publication of the pamphlet in question. In this case it was his third work, the dialogue "De Oratoribus being written in the 6th year of Vespasian; and the Agricola, at the close of 97, or beginning of 98, A.D.; the Historiae and Annales following at intervals. There is also an additional argument for the early composition of the Germania, derived from the fact that, although fuller information might be looked for in a work entirely devoted to the history of the Teutonic races, than from a general history of the Roman Empire, yet in the Annals and History, German tribes are
mentioned, which in the Germania are entirely omitted: for instance, the Canninefates (H. iv. 15), the Gugerni (H. iv. 15), the Tubantes (A. i. 51), the Amsivarii (A. xiii. 56), the Sugambri (A. ii. 26). Tacitus probably learned more as he advanced in years, and carried out more fully his historical researches. His aim in this work seems not simply to diffuse information about the barbarous tribes, so pertinacious in resisting Roman aggression, but also to contrast their simplicity of life with the artificial civilization of his countrymen. He continually draws attention to the contrast between the habits of the two people (c. 19. 25), either directly or implicitly; and in order to do so in one particular (c. 26), after remarking that money was unknown amongst them, he proceeds to add,-an observation otherwise somewhat unnecessary, unless for the sake of stigmatizing indirectly the vices of the Romans,—that usury was not practised by them. It does not appear that Tacitus had any peculiar means of obtaining information about Germany. Cornelius Tacitus is mentioned by Pliny (vii. 17 Tauchnitz) as Procurator of Gallia Belgica; but as Pliny died A.D. 79, this person cannot have been the Historian, nor I think is he likely to have been his father. There is not any reason to suppose that Tacitus visited Germany. What he knew was derived probably from the report brought home by those who had taken part in the great expeditions of Drusus and Germanicus, and the accounts of traders. The information, so far as it relates to tribes bordering on the Rhine, and therefore well known to the Romans, is no doubt precise and authentic; for the account of remoter tribes Tacitus must have been dependent on vague hearsay and obscure report.
The authorities on the subject of the Germans amongst the ancients are,
I. CAESAR, Bell. Gall. iv. 1-3.
II. VELLEIUS PATERCULUS, ii. 108, 109, and 117-122. III. STRABO, vii. 1.
IV. POMPONIUS MELA, iii. 2, 3.
V. PLINIUS, iv. 27-29; xvi. 1.
VI. TACITUS, An. i. 55-71.
ii. 5-26, and 44-46, and 88.
Hist. iv. 12-30, and 54-79.
VII. PTOLEMÆUS, ii. 11, &c.
(Book IV., c. 1—3.)
Of all the German tribes, the Suevi are the greatest and most warlike. They are said to occupy a hundred cantons, from each of which they draw a thousand fighting men every year for service beyond the frontiers. The rest, remaining at home, support themselves and the others; and in turn, during the following year, are engaged under arms; while the former stay at home. By this arrangement agriculture and military service proceed without interruption. They possess no private or separate lands; and are forbidden to remain more than a year in the same place of abode. They use little corn, but chiefly live on milk, and the flesh of their cattle, and spend much of their time in hunting. Consequently from the character of their diet, and the daily exercise and freedom consequent on their way of life (inasmuch as from their boyhood, they are uncontrolled by the rules of duty or discipline, and never do violence to their own inclinations), their strength is fostered, and their stature becomes enormous; and even in the coldest districts they have inured themselves to the absence of all clothing, except skins, from the small size of which the greater part of their body is exposed, and to bathe in their rivers. They allow traders to visit them, rather in order to have means of disposing of spoil taken in war, than from any desire to have foreign articles introduced amongst them. Moreover, the Germans do not use imported beasts of burden, which the Gauls delight in, and procure at high prices; their native cattle, although small and ill-shaped, by daily exercise are made capable of enduring extreme toil. In cavalry engagements they often leap down from their horses, and do battle on foot, and they teach their horses to remain stationary: on
emergencies they withdraw quickly, and mount them. In their view nothing can be more shameful or spiritless than to use housings; consequently, they venture with the scantiest force to attack any number, however large, of horsemen so equipped. Of wine they entirely forbid the importation, considering it to produce effeminacy and incapacity for enduring hardship. In a public point of view, they consider it the highest distinction to have vast tracts of waste lands beyond their frontiers. In their opinion this is a proof that a large number of states cannot withstand their power. In one direction the lands are said to be desolate to a distance of some 600 miles from the Suevi. On the other side the Ubii adjoin them, a people once extensive and flourishing, considering the prevalent condition of the Germans. These last are somewhat more civilized than the generality of their countrymen, from their vicinity to the Rhine, and the frequent visits of traders; and from their proximity to the Gauls, they are accustomed to the habits of that people.
The Germans differ considerably from the Gauls in their customs, having no Druids to superintend their religious worship, and paying little regard to sacrifices. In the number of the gods they reckon those only whom they can see, from whom they derive manifest advantages;-the Sun, for instance, Fire, and the Moon; the rest they have never so much as heard of. Their whole life is passed in hunting and war. From infancy they are inured to toil and hardship. The highest praise is bestowed on those who remain the longest chaste: by this course they consider their stature, strength, and sinews to be most enhanced. All bathe, without distinction of sex, in the rivers, and clothe themselves in skins, or small garments of deer-hides, thus leaving a large part of their bodies exposed.
On agriculture they do not bestow much attention; the chief part of their diet consisting in milk, cheese, and meat. None have any fixed portion of the soil or lands to call their own; but
the magistrates and chiefs every year assign to the various tribes and families united together, a certain portion of land, the extent and locality of which is left to their discretion. the following year they force them to remove elsewhere. For this, various reasons are assigned; its object is either to provide against the exchange of warlike pursuits for husbandry under the charms of lengthened habituation to the soil; or to prevent the wish to acquire large possessions, and the more powerful from expelling the weaker from their holdings; or again, that they may not build houses too carefully, to exclude cold and heat; lastly, to check the rise of desire for wealth, from which party strife and factions spring; in order the better to keep the bulk of the populace in a contented frame of mind, when they see their own resources on a level with those of the most powerful amongst them.
The highest boast of the states is to surround themselves with the broadest possible wastes, by the desolation of the country beyond their frontiers. In their eyes it is the privilege of superior bravery to compel their neighbours to retire from their lands, while none venture to remain in their vicinity; and besides, as all apprehension of sudden inroads is thus removed, they regard it as conducive to greater security. When the state is engaged in war, defensive or offensive, magistrates are chosen to conduct it, with power of life and death. In times of peace there is no magistrate for the whole tribe, but the chiefs of the districts and cantons administer justice and settle disputes between their followers.
Acts of robbery committed beyond the frontiers of each state involve no disgrace; the object of these is stated to be the due training of their youths, and the prevention of indolence. When any chieftain in the council offers to lead these excursions, and bids those who choose to follow him, to give their names, all who approve of the enterprise and the man, rise, and offer their help, and are applauded by the crowd: all who decline to follow are regarded in the light of deserters and traitors, and after this all credit is withheld from them. To offer violence to guests is considered a crime: all who visit them, no matter for what reason, they protect from harm, and treat as sacred: every house open to them, and the meal is shared with them.