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Tacitus: Germany Book 1 [20]

20. In every household the children, naked and filthy, grow up with those stout frames and limbs which we so much admire. Every mother suckles her own offspring, and never entrusts it to servants and nurses. The master is not distinguished from the slave by being brought up with greater delicacy. Both live amid the same flocks and lie on the same ground till the freeborn are distinguished by age and recognised by merit. The young men marry late, and their vigour is thus unimpaired. Nor are the maidens hurried into marriage; the same age and a similar stature is required; well-matched and vigorous they wed, and the offspring reproduce the strength of the parents. Sister's sons are held in as much esteem by their uncles as by their fathers; indeed, some regard the relation as even more sacred and binding, and prefer it in receiving hostages, thinking thus to secure a stronger hold on the affections and a wider bond for the family. But every man's own children are his heirs and successors, and there are no wills. Should there be no issue, the next in succession to the property are his brothers and his uncles on either side. The more relatives he has, the more numerous his connections, the more honoured is his old age; nor are there any advantages in childlessness.

20. In omni domo nudi ac sordidi, in hos artus, in haec corpora, quae miramur, excrescunt. Sua quemque mater uberibus alit, nec ancillis ac nutricibus delegantur. Dominum ac servum nullis educationis deliciis dignoscas: inter eadem pecora, in eadem humo degunt; donec aetas separet ingenuos, virtus agnoscat. Sera juvenum Venus; eoque inexhausta pubertas: nec virgines festinantur; eadem juventa, similis proceritas: pares validaeque miscentur; ac robora parentum liberi referunt. Sororum filiis idem apud avunculum, qui ad patrem honor. Quidam sanctiorem arctioremque hunc nexum sanguinis arbitrantur, et in accipiendis obsidibus magis exigunt; tanquam et in animum firmius, et domum latius teneant. Heredes tamen successoresque sui cuique liberi: et nullum testamentum. Si liberi non sunt, proximus gradus in possessione fratres, patrui, avunculi. Quanto plus propinquorum, quo major affinium numerus, tanto gratiosior senectus, nec ulla orbitatis pretia.

21. It is a duty among them to adopt the feuds as well as the friendships of a father or a kinsman. These feuds are not implacable; even homicide is expiated by the payment of a certain number of cattle and of sheep, and the satisfaction is accepted by the entire family, greatly to the advantage of the state, since feuds are dangerous in proportion to a people's freedom.

No nation indulges more profusely in entertainments and hospitality. To exclude any human being from their roof is thought impious; every German, according to his means, receives his guest with a well-furnished table. When his supplies are exhausted, he who was but now the host becomes the guide and companion to further hospitality, and without invitation they go to the next house. It matters not; they are entertained with like cordiality. No one distinguishes between an acquaintance and a stranger, as regards the rights of hospitality. It is usual to give the departing guest whatever he may ask for, and a present in return is asked with as little hesitation. They are greatly charmed with gifts, but they expect no return for what they give, nor feel any obligation for what they receive.

21. Suscipere tam inimicitias, seu patris, seu propinqui, quam amicitias, necesse est: nec implacabiles durant. Luitur enim etiam homicidium certo armentorum ac pecorum numero, recipitque satisfactionem universa domus: utiliter in publicum; quia periculosiores sunt inimicitiae juxta libertatem. Convictibus et hospitiis non alia gens effusius indulget. Quemcunque mortalium arcere tecto, nefas habetur: pro fortuna quisque apparatis epulis excipit. Cum defecere, qui modo hospes fuerat, monstrator hospitii et comes: proximam domum non invitati adeunt: nec interest; pari humanitate accipiuntur. Notum ignotumque, quantum ad jus hospitis, nemo discernit. Abeunti, si quid poposcerit, concedere moris: et poscendi invicem eadem facilitas. Gaudent muneribus: sed nec data imputant, nec acceptis obligantur. Victus inter hospites comis.

22. On waking from sleep, which they generally prolong to a late hour of the day, they take a bath, oftenest of warm water, which suits a country where winter is the longest of the seasons. After their bath they take their meal, each having a separate seat and table of his own. Then they go armed to business, or no less often to their festal meetings. To pass an entire day and night in drinking disgraces no one. Their quarrels, as might be expected with intoxicated people, are seldom fought out with mere abuse, but commonly with wounds and bloodshed. Yet it is at their feasts that they generally consult on the reconciliation of enemies, on the forming of matrimonial alliances, on the choice of chiefs, finally even on peace and war, for they think that at no time is the mind more open to simplicity of purpose or more warmed to noble aspirations. A race without either natural or acquired cunning, they disclose their hidden thoughts in the freedom of the festivity. Thus the sentiments of all having been discovered and laid bare, the discussion is renewed on the following day, and from each occasion its own peculiar advantage is derived. They deliberate when they have no power to dissemble; they resolve when error is impossible.

22. Statim e somno, quem plerumque in diem extrahunt, lavantur, saepius calida, ut apud quos plurimum hiems occupat. Lauti cibum capiunt: separatae singulis sedes et sua cuique mensa: tum ad negotia, nec minus saepe ad convivia, procedunt armati. Diem noctemque continuare potando, nulli probrum. Crebrae, ut inter vinolentos, rixae, raro conviciis, saepius caede et vulneribus transiguntur. Sed et de reconciliandis invicem inimicis et jungendis affinitatibus et asciscendis principibus, de pace denique ac bello plerumque in conviviis consultant: tanquam nullo magis tempore aut ad simplices cogitationes pateat animus, aut ad magnas incalescat. Gens non astuta nec callida aperit adhuc secreta pectoris licentia joci. Ergo detecta et nuda omnium mens postera die retractatur, et salva utriusque temporis ratio est: deliberant, dum fingere nesciunt; constituunt, dum errare non possunt.

23. A liquor for drinking is made out of barley or other grain, and fermented into a certain resemblance to wine. The dwellers on the river-bank also buy wine. Their food is of a simple kind, consisting of wild-fruit, fresh game, and curdled milk. They satisfy their hunger without elaborate preparation and without delicacies. In quenching their thirst they are not equally moderate. If you indulge their love of drinking by supplying them with as much as they desire, they will be overcome by their own vices as easily as by the arms of an enemy.

23. Potui humor ex hordeo aut frumento, in quandam similitudinem vini corruptus. Proximi ripae et vinum mercantur. Cibi simplices; agrestia poma, recens fera, aut lac concretum. Sine apparatu, sine blandimentis, expellunt famem. Adversus sitim non eadem temperantia. Si indulseris ebrietati suggerendo quantum concupiscunt, haud minus facile vitiis, quam armis vincentur.

24. One and the same kind of spectacle is always exhibited at every gathering. Naked youths who practise the sport bound in the dance amid swords and lances that threaten their lives. Experience gives them skill, and skill again gives grace; profit or pay are out of the question; however reckless their pastime, its reward is the pleasure of the spectators. Strangely enough they make games of hazard a serious occupation even when sober, and so venturesome are they about gaining or losing, that, when every other resource has failed, on the last and final throw they stake the freedom of their own persons. The loser goes into voluntary slavery; though the younger and stronger, he suffers himself to be bound and sold. Such is their stubborn persistency in a bad practice; they themselves call it honour. Slaves of this kind the owners part with in the way of commerce, and also to relieve themselves from the scandal of such a victory.

24. Genus spectaculorum unum atque in omni coetu idem. Nudi juvenes, quibus id ludicrum est, inter gladios se atque infestas frameas saltu jaciunt. Exercitatio artem paravit, ars decorem: non in quaestum tamen aut mercedem; quamvis audacis lasciviae pretium est voluptas spectantium. Aleam, quod mirere, sobrii inter seria exercent tanta lucrandi perdendive temeritate, ut, cum omnia defecerunt, extremo ac novissimo jactu de libertate ac de corpore contendant. Victus voluntariam servitutem adit: quamvis juvenior, quamvis robustior, alligari se ac venire patitur: ea est in re prava pervicacia: ipsi fidem vocant. Servos conditionis hujus per commercia tradunt, ut se quoque pudore victoriae exsolvant.

25. The other slaves are not employed after our manner with distinct domestic duties assigned to them, but each one has the management of a house and home of his own. The master requires from the slave a certain quantity of grain, of cattle, and of clothing, as he would from a tenant, and this is the limit of subjection. All other household functions are discharged by the wife and children. To strike a slave or to punish him with bonds or with hard labour is a rare occurrence. They often kill them, not in enforcing strict discipline, but on the impulse of passion, as they would an enemy, only it is done with impunity. The freedmen do not rank much above slaves, and are seldom. of any weight in the family, never in the state, with the exception of those tribes which are ruled by kings. There indeed they rise above the freedborn and the noble; elsewhere the inferiority of the freedman marks the freedom of the state.

25. Ceteris servis, non in nostrum morem descriptis per familiam ministeriis, utuntur. Suam quisque sedem, suos penates regit. Frumenti modum dominus, aut pecoris aut vestis, ut colono, injungit: et servus hactenus paret; cetera domus officia uxor ac liberi exsequuntur. Verberare servum ac vinculis et opere coercere, rarum. Occidere solent, non disciplina et severitate, sed impetu et ira, ut inimicum, nisi quod impune. Liberti non multum supra servos sunt, raro aliquod momentum in domo, nunquam in civitate; exceptis duntaxat iis gentibus, quae regnantur: ibi enim et super ingenuos et super nobiles ascendunt: apud ceteros impares libertini libertatis argumentum sunt.

26. Of lending money on interest and increasing it by compound interest they know nothing,--a more effectual safeguard than if it were prohibited.

Land proportioned to the number of inhabitants is occupied by the whole community in turn, and afterwards divided among them according to rank. A wide expanse of plains makes the partition easy. They till fresh fields every year, and they have still more land than enough; with the richness and extent of their soil, they do not laboriously exert themselves in planting orchards, inclosing meadows, and watering gardens. Corn is the only produce required from the earth; hence even the year itself is not divided by them into as many seasons as with us. Winter, spring, and summer have both a meaning and a name; the name and blessings of autumn are alike unknown.

26. Fenus agitare et in usuras extendere, igno tum: ideoque magis servatur, quam si vetitum esset. Agri pro numero cultorum ab universis in vices occupantur, quos mox inter se secundum dignationem partiuntur: facilitatem partiendi camporum spatia praestant. Arva per annos mutant: et superest ager; nec enim cum ubertate et amplitudine soli labore contendunt, ut pomaria conserant et prata separent et hortos rigent: sola terrae seges imperatur. Unde annum quoque ipsum non in totidem digerunt species hiems et ver et aestas intellectum ac vocabula habent autumni perinde nomen ac bona ignorantur.

27. In their funerals there is no pomp; they simply observe the custom of burning the bodies of illustrious men with certain kinds of wood. They do not heap garments or spices on the funeral pile. The arms of the dead man and in some cases his horse are consigned to the fire. A turf mound forms the tomb. Monuments with their lofty elaborate splendour they reject as oppressive to the dead. Tears and lamentations they soon dismiss; grief and sorrow but slowly. It is thought becoming for women to bewail, for men to remember, the dead.

Such on the whole is the account which I have received of the origin and manners of the entire German people. I will now touch on the institutions and religious rites of the separate tribes, pointing out how far they differ, and also what nations have migrated from Germany into Gaul.

27. Funerum nulla ambitio; id solum observatur, ut corpora clarorum virorum certis lignis crementur. Struem rogi nec vestibus nec odoribus cumulant: sua cuique arma, quorundam igni et equus adjicitur. Sepulcrum caespes erigit; monumentorum arduum et operosum honorem, ut gravem defunctis, aspernantur. Lamenta ac lacrimas cito, dolorem et tristitiam tarde ponunt. Feminis lugere honestum est; viris meminisse. Haec in commune de omnium Germanorum origine ac moribus accepimus: nunc singularum gentium instituta ritusque, quatenus differant, quae nationes e Germania in Gallias commigraverint, expediam.

28. That highest authority, the great Julius, informs us that Gaul was once more powerful than Germany. Consequently we may believe that Gauls even crossed over into Germany. For what a trifling obstacle would a river be to the various tribes, as they grew in strength and wished to possess in exchange settlements which were still open to all, and not partitioned among powerful monarchies! Accordingly the country between the Hercynian forest and the rivers Rhine and Moenus, and that which lies beyond, was occupied respectively by the Helvetii and Boii, both tribes of Gaul. The name Boiemum still survives, marking the old tradition of the place, though the population has been changed. Whether however the Aravisci migrated into Pannonia from the Osi, a German race, or whether the Osi came from the Aravisci into Germany, as both nations still retain he same language, institutions, and customs, is a doubtful matter; for as they were once equally poor and equally free, either bank had the same attractions, the same drawbacks. The Treveri and Nervii are even eager in their claims of a German origin, thinking that the glory of this descent distinguishes them from the uniform level of Gallic effeminacy. The Rhine bank itself is occupied by tribes unquestionably German,--the Vangiones, the Triboci, and the Nemetes. Nor do even the Ubii, though they have earned the distinction of being a Roman colony, and prefer to be called Agrippinenses, from the name of their founder, blush to own their origin. Having crossed the sea in former days, and given proof of their allegiance, they were settled on the Rhine-bank itself, as those who might guard it but need not be watched.

28. Validiores olim Gallorum res fuisse, summus auctorum divus Julius tradit: eoque credibile est etiam Gallos in Germaniam transgressos. Quantulum enim amnis obstabat, quo minus, ut quaeque gens evaluerat, occuparet permutaretque sedes, promiscuas adhuc et nulla regnorum potentia divisas? Igitur inter Hercyniam sylvam Rhenumque et Moenum amnes Helvetii, ulteriora Boii, Gallica utraque gens, tenuere. Manet adhuc _Boihemi_ nomen, signatque loci veterem memoriam, quamvis mutatis cultoribus. Sed utrum Aravisci in Pannoniam ab Osis, Germanorum natione, an Osi ab Araviscis in Germaniam commigraverint, cum eodem adhuc sermone, institutis, moribus utantur, incertum est: quia, pari olim inopia ac libertate, eadem utriusque ripae bona malaque erant. Treveri et Nervii circa affectationem Germanicae originis ultro ambitiosi sunt, tanquam per hanc gloriam sanguinis a similitudine et inertia Gallorum separentur. Ipsam Rheni ripam haud dubie Germanorum populi colunt, Vangiones, Triboci, Nemetes. Ne Ubii quidem, quanquam Romana colonia esse meruerint ac libentius Agrippinenses conditoris sui nomine vocentur, origine erubescunt, transgressi olim et experimento fidei super ipsam Rheni ripam collocati, ut arcerent, non ut custodirentur.

29. Foremost among all these nations in valour, the Batavi occupy an island within the Rhine and but a small portion of the bank. Formerly a tribe of the Chatti, they were forced by internal dissension to migrate to their present settlements and there become a part of the Roman Empire. They yet retain the honourable badge of an ancient alliance; for they are not insulted by tribute, nor ground down by the tax-gatherer. Free from the usual burdens and contributions, and set apart for fighting purposes, like a magazine of arms, we reserve them for our wars. The subjection of the Mattiaci is of the same character. For the greatness of the Roman people has spread reverence for our empire beyond the Rhine and the old boundaries. Thus this nation, whose settlements and territories are on their own side of the river, are yet in sentiment and purpose one with us; in all other respects they resemble the Batavi, except that they still gain from the soil and climate of their native land a keener vigour. I should not reckon among the German tribes the cultivators of the tithe-lands, although they are settled on the further side of the Rhine and Danube. Reckless adventurers from Gaul, emboldened by want, occupied this land of questionable ownership. After a while, our frontier having been advanced, and our military positions pushed forward, it was regarded as a remote nook of our empire and a part of a Roman province.

29. Omnium harum gentium virtute praecipui Batavi, non multum ex ripa, sed insulam Rheni amnis colunt, Chattorum quondam populus et seditione domestica in eas sedes transgressus, in quibus pars Romani imperii fierent. Manet honos et antiquae societatis insigne: nam nec tributis contemnuntur, nec publicanis atterit: exempti oneribus et collationibus et tantum in usum proeliorum sepositi, velut tela atque arma, bellis reservantur. Est in eodem obsequio et Mattiacorum gens; protulit enim magnitudo populi Romani ultra Rhenum, ultraque veteres terminos, imperii reverentiam. Ita sede finibusque in sua ripa, mente animoque nobiscum agunt, cetera similes Batavis, nisi quod ipso adhuc terrae suae solo et coelo acrius animantur. Non numeraverim inter Germaniae populos, quanquam trans Rhenum Danubiumque consederint, eos, qui Decumates agros exercent. Levissimus quisque Gallorum et inopia audax, dubiae possessionis solum occupavere. Mox limite acto promotisque praesidiis, sinus imperii et pars provinciae habentur.

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