[The appropriate section numbers, and links to the online citations have kindly been provided by Bill Thayer, the modern icon for Classical Rome, and pioneer of the Online Texts Movement. — Elf.Ed.]
From The Germany and the Agricola by Tacitus; The Oxford Translation, Revised, with Notes; The Handy Book Company: Reading, Pennsylvania; undated; pp. 1-13.
The Geography of Germany — Origin of the People of Germany — The German Hercules — Appearance of the Germans — Character of the Country — Description of Armor — Election of Kings — Respect Paid to Women
1. GERMANY2 is separated from Gaul, Rhætia,3 and Pannonia,4 by the rivers Rhine and Danube; from Sarmatia and Dacia by mountains5 and mutual dread. The rest is surrounded by an ocean, embracing broad promontories6 and vast insular tracts,7 in which our military expeditions have lately discovered various nations and kingdoms. 2 The Rhine, issuing from the inaccessible and precipitous summit of the Rhætic Alps,8 3 bends gently to the west, and falls into the Northern Ocean. 3 The Danube, poured from the easy and gently-raised ridge of Mount Abnoba,9 visits several nations in its course, till at length it bursts out10 by six channels11 into the Pontic sea: a seventh is lost in marshes.
2. The people of Germany appear to me indigenous,12 and free from intermixture with foreigners, either as settlers or casual visitants. For the emigrants of former ages performed their expeditions not by land, but by water;13 and that immense, and, if I may so call it, hostile ocean, is rarely navigated by ships from our world.14 2 Then, besides the dangers of a boisterous and unknown sea, who would relinquish Asia, Africa, or Italy, for Germany, a land rude in its surface, rigorous in its climate, cheerless to every beholder and cultivator, except a native? 3 In their ancient songs,15 which are their only records or annals, they celebrate the god Tuisto,16 4 sprung from the earth, and his son Mannus, as the fathers and founders of their race. To Mannus they ascribe three sons, from whose names17 the people bordering on the ocean are called Ingævones; those inhabiting the central parts, Herminones; the rest, Istævones. 4 Some,18 however, assuming the license of antiquity, affirm that there were more descendants of the god, from whom more appellations were derived; as those of the Marsi,19 Gambrivii,20 Suevi,21 and Vandali;22 and that these are the genuine and original names.23 5 That 5 of Germany, on the other hand, they assert to be a modern addition;24 for that the people who first crossed the Rhine, and expelled the Gauls, and are now called Tungri, were then named Germans; which appellation of a particular tribe, not of a whole people, gradually prevailed; so that the title of Germans, first assumed by the victors in order to excite terror, was afterward adopted by the nation in general.25 They have likewise a tradition of a Hercules26 of their country, whose praises they sing before those of all other heroes as they advance to battle.
3. A peculiar kind of verses is also current among them, by the recital of which, termed “barding,”27 they stimulate 6 their courage; while the sound itself serves as an augury of the event of the impending combat. For, according to the nature of the cry proceeding from the line, terror is inspired or felt: nor does it seem so much an articulate song, as the wild chorus of valor. 2 A harsh, piercing note, and a broken roar, are the favorite tones; which they render more full and sonorous by applying their mouths to their shields.28 3 Some conjecture that Ulysses, in the course of his long and fabulous wanderings, was driven into this ocean, and landed in Germany; and that Asciburgium,29 a place situated on the Rhine, and at this day inhabited, was founded by him, and named Ἀσκιπύργιον. They pretend that an altar was formerly discovered here, consecrated to Ulysses, with the name of his father Laertes subjoined; and that certain monuments 7 and tombs, inscribed with Greek characters,30 are still extant upon the confines of Germany and Rhætia. 4 These allegations I shall neither attempt to confirm nor to refute: let everyone believe concerning them as he is disposed.
4. I concur in opinion with those who deem the Germans never to have intermarried with other nations; but to be a race, pure, unmixed, and stamped with a distinct character. 2 Hence a family likeness pervades the whole, though their numbers are so great: eyes stern and blue; ruddy hair; large bodies,31 powerful in sudden exertions, 3 but impatient of toil and labor, least of all capable of sustaining thirst and heat. Cold and hunger they are accustomed by their climate and soil to endure.
5. The land, though varied to a considerable extent in its aspect, is yet universally shagged with forests, or deformed by marshes: moister on the side of Gaul, more bleak on the side of Noricum and Pannonia.32 It is productive of grain, but unkindly to fruit-trees.33 It abounds in flocks and herds, but in general of a small breed. 2 Even the beeve kind are destitute of their usual stateliness and dignity of head:34 they are, however, numerous, and form the most esteemed, and, indeed, the only species of wealth. 3 Silver and gold the gods, I know not 8 whether in their favor or anger, have denied to this country.35 Not that I would assert that no veins of these metals are generated in Germany; for who has made the search? The possession of them is not coveted by these people as it is by us. 4 Vessels of silver, are indeed to be seen among them, which have been presented to their embassadors and chiefs; but they are held in no higher estimation than earthenware. The borderers, however, set a value on gold and silver for the purposes of commerce, and have learned to distinguish several kinds of our coin, some of which they prefer to others: the remoter inhabitants continue the more simple and ancient usage of bartering commodities. 5 The money preferred by the Germans is the old and well-known species, such as the Serrati and Bigati.36 They are also better pleased with silver than gold;37 not on account of any fondness for that metal, but because the smaller money is more convenient in their common and petty merchandise.
6. Even iron is not plentiful38 among them, as may be inferred from the nature of their weapons. Swords or broad 9 lances are seldom used; but they generally carry a spear (called in their language framea39), which has an iron blade, short and narrow, but so sharp and manageable, that, as occasion requires, they employ it either in close or distant fighting.40 2 This spear and a shield are all the armor of the cavalry. The foot have, besides, missile weapons, several to each man, which they hurl to an immense distance.41 They are either naked,42 or lightly covered with a small mantle; and have no pride in equipage: their shields only are ornamented with the choicest colors.43 3 Few are provided with a coat of mail;44 and scarcely here and there one with a casque or helmet.45 Their horses are neither remarkable for 10 beauty nor swiftness, nor are they taught the various evolutions practiced with us. The cavalry either bear down straight forward, or wheel once to the right, in so compact a body that none is left behind the rest. 4 Their principal strength, on the whole, consists in their infantry: hence in an engagement these are intermixed with the cavalry;46 so well accordant with the nature of equestrian combats is the agility of those foot soldiers, whom they select from the whole body of their youth, and place in the front of the line. 5 Their number, too, is determined; a hundred from each canton;47 and they are distinguished at home by a name expressive of this circumstance; so that what at first was only an appellation of number, becomes thenceforth a title of honor. Their line of battle is disposed in wedges.48 6 To give ground, provided they rally again, is considered rather as a prudent stratagem than cowardice. They carry off their slain even while the battle remains undecided. The greatest disgrace 11 that can befall them is to have abandoned their shields.49 A person branded with this ignominy is not permitted to join in their religious rites, or enter their assemblies; so that many, after escaping from battle, have put an end to their infamy by the halter.
7. In the election of kings they have regard to birth; in that of generals,50 to valor. Their kings have not an absolute or unlimited power;51 and their generals command less through the force of authority than of example. If they are daring, adventurous, and conspicuous in action, they procure obedience from the admiration they inspire. 2 None, however, but the priests52 are permitted to judge offenders, to inflict bonds or stripes; so that chastisement appears not as an act of military discipline, but as the instigation of the god whom they supposed present with warriors. 3 They also carry with them to battle certain images and standards taken from the sacred groves.53 It is a principal incentive to their courage, 12 that their squadrons and battalions are not formed by men fortuitously collected, but by the assemblage of families and clans. Their pledges also are near at hand; they have within hearing the yells of their women, and the cries of their children. 4 These, too, are the most revered witnesses of each mans’ conduct, these his most liberal applauders. To their mothers and their wives they bring their wounds for relief, nor do these dread to count or to search out the gashes. The women also administer food and encouragement to those who are fighting.
8. Tradition relates, that armies beginning to give way have been rallied by the females, through the earnestness of their supplications, the interposition of their bodies,54 and the pictures they have drawn of impending slavery,55 a calamity which these people bear with more impatience for their women than themselves; so that those states who have been obliged to give among their hostages the daughters of noble families, are the most effectually bound to fidelity.56 2 They even suppose somewhat of sanctity and prescience to be inherent in the female sex; and therefore neither despise their counsels,57 nor disregard their responses.58 3 We have beheld,
in the reign of Vespasian, Veleda,59 long reverenced by many as a deity. Aurima, moreover, and several others,60 were formerly held in equal veneration, but not with a servile flattery, nor as though they made them goddesses.61
1 This treatise was written in the year of Rome 851, A. D. 98; during the fourth consulate of the Emperor Nerva, and the third of Trajan.
2 The Germany here meant is that beyond the Rhine, The Germania Cisrhenana, divided into the Upper and Lower, was a part of Gallia Belgica.
3 Rhætia comprehended the country of the Grisons, with part of Suabia and Bavaria.
4 Lower Hungary, and part of Austria.
5 The Carpathian Mountains in Upper Hungary.
6 “Broad promontories“. Latos sinus. Sinus strictly signifies “a bending,” especially inward. Hence it is applied to a gulf or bay, of the sea. And hence, again, by metonymy, to that projecting part of the land whereby the gulf is formed; and still further to any promontory or peninsula. It is in this latter force it is here used, and refers especially to the Danish peninsula. See Livy, xxvii. 30, xxxviii. 5; Servius on Virgil, Æn. xi. 626.
7 Scandinavia and Finland, of which the Romans had a very slight knowledge, were supposed to be islands.
8 The mountains of the Grisons. That in which the Rhine rises is at present called Vogelberg.
9 Now called Schwartz-wald, or the Black Forest. The name Danubius was given to that portion of the river which is included between its source and Vindobona (Vienna); throughout the rest of its course it was called Ister.
10 Donec erumpat. The term erumpat is most correctly and graphically employed; for the Danube discharges its waters into the Euxine with so great force, that its course may be distinctly traced for miles out to sea.
11 There are now but five.
12 The ancient writers called all nations indigenæ (i.e., inde geniti), or ἀυτόχθονες, “sprung from the soil,” of whose origin they were ignorant.
13 It is, however, well established that the ancestors of the Germans migrated by land from Asia. Tacitus here falls into a very common kind of error, in assuming a local fact (viz., the manner in which migrations took place in the basin of the Mediterranean) to be the expression of a general law. — ED.
14 Drusus, father of the Emperor Claudius, was the first Roman general who navigated the German Ocean. The difficulties and dangers which Germanicus met with from the storms of this sea are related in the Annals, ii. 23.
[The Annals referred to here is a book also written by Tacitus. — Elf.Ed.]
15 All barbarous nations, in all ages, have applied verse to the same use, as is still found to be the case among the North American Indians Charlemagne, as we are told by Eginhart, “wrote out and committed to memory barbarous verses of great antiquity, in which the actions and wars of ancient kings were recorded.”
16 The learned Leibnitz supposes this Tuisto to have been the Teut or Teutates so famous throughout Gaul and Spain, who was a Celto-Scythian king or hero, and subdued and civilized a great part of Europe and Asia. Various other conjectures have been formed concerning him and his son Mannus, but most of them extremely vague and improbable. Among the rest, it has been thought that in Mannus and his three sons an obscure tradition is preserved of Adam, and his sons, Cain, Abel, and Seth; or of Noah, and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japhet.
17 Conringius interprets the names of the sons of Mannus into Ingäff, Istäff, and Hermin.
18 Pliny, iv. 14, embraces a middle opinion between these, and mentions five capital tribes. The Vindili, to whom belong the Burgundiones, Varini, Carini, and Guttones; the Ingævones, including the Cimbri, Teutoni, and Chauci; the Istævones, near the Rhine, part of whom are the midland Cimbri; the Hermiones, containing the Suevi, Hermunduri, Catti, and Cherusci; and the Peucini and Bastarnæ, bordering upon the Dacians.
19 The Marsi appear to have occupied various portions of the northwest part of Germany at various times. In the time of Tiberius (A. D. 14) they sustained a great slaughter from the forces of Germanicus, who ravaged their country for fifty miles with fire and sword, sparing neither age nor sex, neither things profane nor sacred. (See Ann. i. 51.) At this period they were occupying the country in the neighborhood of the Rura (Ruhr), a tributary of the Rhine. Probably this slaughter was the destruction of them as a separate people; and by the time that Trajan succeeded to the imperial power they seem to have been blotted out from among the Germanic tribes. Hence their name will not be found in the following account of Germany.
20 These people are mentioned by Strabo, vii. 1, 3. Their locality is not very easy to determine.
21 See note, c. 38.
22 The Vandals are said to have derived their name from the German word wendeln, “to wander.” They began to be troublesome to the Romans A. D. 160, in the reigns of Aurelius and Verus. In A. D. 410 they made themselves masters of Spain in conjunction with the Alans and Suevi, and received for their share what from them was termed Vandalusia (Andalusia). In A. D. 429 they crossed into Africa under Genseric, who not only made himself master of Byzacium, Gætulia, and part of Numidia, but also crossed over into Italy, A. D. 455, and plundered Rome. After the death of Genseric the Vandal power declined.
23 That is, those of the Marsi, Gambrivii, &c. Those of Ingævones, Istævones, and Hermiones, were not so much names of the people, as terms expressing their situation. For, according to the most learned Germans, the Ingævones are die Inwohner, those dwelling inward, toward the sea; the Istævones, die Westwohner, the inhabitants of the western parts; and the Hermiones, die Herumwohner, the midland inhabitants.
[The letter V in Latin is pronounced as W, which points out the similarity between ‘Ingævones’ and ’Inwohner.’ It also means that when you casually quote “Veni, vidi, vici,” you must pronounce it “Waynee, weedee, weekee,” to be accurate, thus now sounding silly instead of scholarly, when you thought to impress. — Elf.Ed.]
24 It is, however, found in an inscription so far back as the year of Rome 531, before Christ 222, recording the victory of Claudius Marcellus over the Galli Insubres and their allies the Germans, at Clastidium, now Chiastezzo in the Milanese.
25 This is illustrated by a passage in Cæsar, Bell. Gall. ii. 4, where, after mentioning that several of the Belgæ were descended from the Germans who had formerly crossed the Rhine and expelled the Gauls, he says, “the first of these emigrants were the Condrusii, Eburones, Cæresi, and Pæmani, who were called by the common name of Germans.” The derivation of German is Wehr mann, a warrior, or man of war. This appellation was first used by the victorious Cisrhenane tribes, but not by the whole Transrhenane nation, till they gradually adopted it, as equally due to them on account of their military reputation. The Tungri were formerly a people of great name, the relics of which still exist in the extent of the district now termed the ancient diocese of Tongres.
26 Under this name Tacitus speaks of some German deity, whose attributes correspond in the main with those of the Greek and Roman Hercules. What he was called by the Germans is a matter of doubt. — White.
27 Quem barditum vocant. The word barditus is of Gallic origin, being derived from bardi, “bards;” it being a custom with the Gauls for bards to accompany the army, and celebrate the heroic deeds of their great warriors; so that barditum would thus signify “the fulfillment of the bard’s office.” Hence it is clear that barditum could not be used correctly here, inasmuch as among the Germans not any particular, appointed body of men, but the whole army, chanted forth the war-song. Some editions have baritum, which is said to be derived from the German word beren or baeren, “to shout;” and hence it is translated in some dictionaries as “the German war-song.” From the following passage, extracted from Facciolati, it would seem, however, that German critics repudiate this idea: “De barito, clamore bellico, seu, ut quædam habent exemplaria, bardito, nihil audiuimus nunc in Germaniâ: nisi hoc dixerimus, quòd bracht, vel brecht, milites Germani appellare consueverunt; concursum videlicet certantium, et clamorem ad pugnam descendentium; quem bar, bar, bar sonuisse nonnulli affirmant.” — (Andr. Althameri, Schol. in C. Tacit. De Germanis.) Ritter himself a German, affirms that baritus is a reading worth nothing; and that barritus, was not the name of the ancient German war-song, but of the shout raised by the Romans in later ages when on the point of engaging; and that it was derived “a clamore barrorum, i.e., elephantorum.” The same learned editor considers that the words “quem barditum vocant” have been originally the marginal annotation of some unsound scholar, and have been incorporated by some transcriber into the text of his MS. copy, whence the error has spread. He therefore incloses them between brackets, to show that, in his judgment, they are not the genuine production of the pen of Tacitus. — White
28 A very curious coincidence with the ancient German opinion concerning the prophetic nature of the war-cry or song, appears in the following passage of the Life of Sir Ewen Cameron, in “Pennant’s Tour,” 1769, Append., p. 363. At the battle of Killicrankie, just before the fight began, “he (Sir Ewen) commanded such of the Camerons as were posted near him to make a great shout, which being seconded by those who stood on the right and left, ran quickly through the whole army, and was returned by the enemy. But the noise of the muskets and cannon, with the echoing of the hills, made the Highlanders fancy that their shouts were much louder and brisker than those of the enemy, and Lochiel cried out, ‘Gentlemen, take courage, the day is ours: I am the oldest commander in the army, and have always observed something ominous and fatal in such a dull, hollow, and feeble noise as the enemy made in their shout, which prognosticates that they are all doomed to die by our hands this night; whereas ours was brisk, lively, and strong, and shows we have vigor and courage.’ These words spreading quickly through the army, animated the troops in a strange manner. The event justified the prediction: the Highlanders obtained a complete victory.”
29 Now Asburg, in the county of Meurs.
30 The Greeks, by means of their colony at Marseilles, introduced their letters into Gaul, and the old Gallic coins have many Greek characters in their inscriptions. The Helvetians also, as we are informed by Cæsar, used Greek letters. Thence they might easily pass by means of commercial intercourse to the neighboring Germans. Count Marsilli and others have found monuments with Greek inscriptions in Germany, but not of so early an age.
31 The large bodies of the Germans are elsewhere taken notice of by Tacitus, and also by other authors. It would appear as if most of them were at that time at least six feet high. They are still accounted some of the tallest people in Europe.
32 Bavaria and Austria.
33 The greater degree of cold when the country was overspread with woods and marshes, made this observation more applicable than at present. The same change of temperature from clearing and draining the land has taken place in North America. It may be added, that the Germans, as we are afterward informed, paid attention to no kind of culture but that of corn.
34 The cattle of some parts of Germany are at present remarkably large; so that their former smallness must have rather been owing to want of care in feeding them and protecting them from the inclemencies of winter, and in improving the breed by mixtures, than to the nature of the climate.
35 Mines both of gold and silver have since been discovered in Germany; the former, indeed, inconsiderable, but the latter, valuable.
36 As vice and corruption advanced among the Romans, their money became debased and adulterated. Thus Pliny, xxxiii. 3, relates, that “Livius Drusus during his tribuneship mixed an eighth part of brass with the silver coin:” and ibid. 9, “that Antony the triumvir mixed iron with the denarius: that some coined base metal, others diminished the pieces, and hence it became an art to prove the goodness of the denarii.” One precaution for this purpose was cutting the edges like the teeth of a saw, by which means it was seen whether the metal was the same quite through, or was only plated. These were the Serrati, or serrated Denarii. The Bigati were those stamped with the figure of a chariot drawn by two horses, as were the Quadrigati with a chariot and four horses. These were old coin, of purer silver than those of the emperors. Hence the preference of the Germans for certain kinds of species was founded on their apprehension of being cheated with false money.
37 The Romans had the same predilection for silver coin, and probably on the same account originally. Pliny, in the place above cited, expresses his surprise that “the Roman people had always imposed a tribute in silver on conquered nations; as at the end of the second Punic war, when they demanded an annual payment in silver for fifty years, without any gold.”
38 Iron was in great abundance in the bowels of the earth; but this barbarous people had neither patience, skill, nor industry to dig and work it. Besides, they made use of weapons of stone, great numbers of which are found in ancient tombs and barrows.
39 This is supposed to take its name from pfriem or priem, the point of a weapon. Afterward, when iron grew more plentiful, the Germans chiefly used swords.
40 It appears, however, from Tacitus’s Annals, ii. 14, that the length of these spears rendered them unmanageable in an engagement among trees and bushes.
41 Notwithstanding the manner of fighting is so much changed in modern times, the arms of the ancients are still in use. We, as well as they, have two kinds of swords, the sharp-pointed, and edged (small sword and sabre). The broad lance subsisted till lately in the halberd; the spear and framea in the long pike and spontoon; the missile weapons in the war hatchet, or North American tomahawk. There are, besides, found in the old German barrows, perforated stone balls, which they threw by means of thongs passed through them.
42 Nudi. The Latin nudus, like the Greek γυμνὸς, does not point out a person devoid of all clothing, but merely one without an upper garment — clad merely in a vest or tunic, and that perhaps a short one. — White.
43 This decoration at first denoted the valor, afterward the nobility, of the bearer; and in process of time gave origin to the armorial ensigns so famous in the ages of chivalry. The shields of the private men were simply colored; those of the chieftains had the figures of animals painted on them.
44 Plutarch, in his Life of Marius, describes somewhat differently the arms and equipage of the Cimbri. “They wore (says he) helmets representing the heads of wild beasts, and other unusual figures, and crowned with a winged crest, to make them appear taller. They were covered with iron coats of mail, and carried white glittering shields. Each had a battle-axe; and in close fight they used large heavy swords.” But the learned Eccard justly closely observes, that they had procured these arms in their march; for the Holsatian barrows of that age contain few weapons of brass, and none of iron; but stone spear-heads, and instead of swords, the wedge-like bodies vulgarly called thunder-bolts.
45 Casques (cassia) are of metal; helmets (galea) of leather. — Isidorus.
46 This mode of fighting is admirably described by Cæsar. “The Germans engaged after the following manner: — There were 6000 horse, and an equal number of the swiftest and bravest foot; who were chosen, man by man, by the cavalry, for their protection. By these they were attended in battle; to these they retreated; and these, if they were hard pressed, joined them in the combat. If any fell wounded from their horses, by these they were covered. If it were necessary to advance or retreat to any considerable distance, such agility had they acquired by exercise, that, supporting themselves by the horses’ manes, they kept pace with them.” — Bell. Gall. i. 48.
47 To understand this, it is to be remarked, that the Germans were divided into nations or tribes, — these into cantons, and these into districts or townships. The cantons (pagi in Latin) were called by themselves gauen. The districts or townships (vici) were called hunderte, whence the English hundreds. The name given to these select youth, according to the learned Dithmer, was die hunderte, hundred men. From the following passage in Cæsar, it appears that in the more powerful tribes a greater number was selected from each canton. “The nation of the Suevi, is by far the greatest and most warlike of the Germans. They are said to inhabit a hundred cantons; from each of which a thousand men are sent annually to make war out of their own territories. Thus neither the employments of agriculture, nor the use of arms are interrupted.” — Bell. Gall. iv. 1. The warriors were summoned by the heribannum, or army-edict; whence is derived the French arrière-ban.
48 A wedge is described by Vegetius (iii. 19) as a body of infantry, narrow in front, and widening toward the rear; by which disposition they were enabled to break the enemy’s ranks, as all their weapons were directed to one spot. The soldiers called it a boar’s head.
49 It was also considered as the height of injury to charge a person with this unjustly. Thus, by the Salic law, tit. xxxiii. 5, a fine of 600 denarii (about £9) is imposed upon “every free man who shall accuse another of throwing down his shield, and running away, without being able to prove it.”
50 Vertot (Mem. de l’Acad. des Inscrip.) supposes that the French maires du palais had their origin from these military leaders. If the kings were equally conspicuous for valor, as for birth, they united the regal with the military command. Usually, however, several kings and generals were assembled in their wars. In this case, the most eminent commanded, and obtained a common jurisdiction in war, which did not subsist in time of peace. Thus Cæsar (Bell. Gall. vi.) says, “In peace they have no common magistracy.” A general was elected by placing him on a shield, and lifting him on the shoulders of the by-standers. The same ceremonial was observed in the election of kings.
51 Hence Ambiorix, king of the Eburones, declared that the nature of his authority was such, that the people had no less power over him, than he over the people.” — Cæsar, Bell. Gall. v. The authority of the North American chiefs is almost exactly similar.
52 The power of life and death, however, was in the hands of the magistrates. Thus Cæsar: “When a state engaged either in an offensive or defensive war, magistrates are chosen to preside over it, and exercise power of life and death.” — Bell. Gall. vi. The infliction of punishments was committed to the priests, in order to give them more solemnity, and render them less invidious.
53 Effigiesque et signa quædam. That effigies does not mean the images of their deities is proved by what is stated at chap. ix., viz., that they deemed it derogatory to their deities to represent them in human form; and, if in human form, we may argue á fortiori, in the form of the lower animals. The interpretation of the passage will be best derived from His. iv. 22, where Tacitus says: — “Depromptæ silvis lucisve ferarum imagines, ut cuique genti inire prælium mos est.” It would hence appear that these effigies and signa were images of wild animals, and were national standards preserved with religious care in sacred woods and groves, whence they were brought forth when the clan or tribe was about to take the field. — White.
54 They not only interposed to prevent the flight of their husbands and sons, but, in desperate emergencies, themselves engaged in battle. This happened on Marius’s defeat of the Cimbri (hereafter to be mentioned); and Dio relates, that when Marcus Aurelius overthrew the Marcomanni, Quadi, and other German allies, the bodies of women in armor were found among the slain.
55 Thus, in the army of Ariovistus, the women, with their hair disheveled, and weeping, besought the soldiers not to deliver them captives to the Romans. — Cæsar, Bell. Gall. i.
56 Relative to this, perhaps, is a circumstance mentioned by Suetonius in his life of Augustus. “From some nations he attempted to exact a new kind of hostages, women; because he observed that those of the male sex were disregarded.” — Aug. xxi.
57 See the same observation with regard to the Celtic women, in Plutarch, on the virtues of women. The North Americans pay a similar regard to their females.
58 A remarkable instance of this is given by Cæsar. When he inquired of the captives the reason why Ariovistus did not engage, he learned, that it was because the matrons, who among the Germans are accustomed to pronounce, from their divinations, whether or not a battle will be favorable, had declared that they would not prove victorious, if they should fight before the new moon.” — Bell. Gall. i. The cruel manner in which the Cimbrian women performed their divinations is thus related by Strabo: “The women who follow the Cimbri to war, are accompanied by gray-haired prophetesses, in white vestments, with canvas mantles fastened by clasps, a brazen girdle, and naked feet. These go with drawn swords through the camp, and, striking down those of the prisoners that they meet, drag them to a brazen kettle, holding about twenty amphoræ. This has a kind of stage above it, ascending on which, the priestess cuts the throat of the victim, and from the manner in which the blood flows into the vessel, judges of the future event. Others tear open the bodies of the captives thus butchered, and from inspecting of the entrails, presage victory to their own party.” — Lib. vii.
59 She was afterward taken prisoner by Rutillius Gallicus. Statius in his Sylvæ, i. 4, refers to this event. Tacitus has more concerning her in his History, iv. 61.
60 Viradesthis was a goddess of the Tungri; Harimella, another provincial deity; whose names were found by Mr. Pennant inscribed on altars at the Roman station at Burrens. These were erected by the German auxiliaries. — Vide Tour in Scotland, 1772, part ii. p. 406.
61 Ritter considers that here is a reference to the servile flattery of the senate as exhibited in the time of Nero, by the deification of Poppæa’s infant daughter, and afterward of herself. (See Ann. xv. 23, Dion. lxiii., Ann. xiv. 3.) There is no contradiction in the present passage to that found at Hist. iv. 61, where Tacitus says, “plerasque hominarum fatidicas et, augescente superstitione, arbitrantur deas;” i. e. they deem (arbitrantur) very many of their women possessed of prophetic powers, and, as their religious feeling increases, they deem (arbitrantur) them goddesses, i. e. possessed of a superhuman nature; they do not, however, make them goddesses and worship them, as the Romans did Poppæa and her infant, which is covertly implied in facerent deas. — White.