[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. 13-26.
A TREATISE ON
The Gods of Germany — Divination — Public Assemblies — Punishment of Crime — Youths Invested with Arms — Valor in Battle — Their Indolence — Dwelling-Places — Their Clothing — Marriage — Chastity of Both Sexes
9. Of the gods, Mercury1 is the principal object of their 14 adoration; whom, on certain days,2 they think it lawful to propitiate even with human victims. To Hercules and Mars3 they offer the animals usually allotted for sacrifice.4 15 Some of the Suevi also perform sacred rites to Isis. 2 What was the cause and origin of this foreign worship, I have not been able to discover, further than that her being represented with the symbol of a galley seems to indicate an imported religion.5 3 They conceive it unworthy the grandeur of celestial beings to confine their deities within walls, or to represent them under a human similitude:6 woods and groves are their temples; and they affix names of divinity to that secret power, which they behold with the eye of adoration alone.
10. No people are more addicted to divination by omens and lots. The latter is performed in the following simple manner. They cut a twig7 from a fruit-tree, and divide it into small pieces, which, distinguished by certain marks, are thrown promiscuously upon a white garment. 2 Then, the priest of the canton, if the occasion be public; if private, the master of the family; after an invocation of the gods, with his eyes lifted up to heaven, thrice takes out each piece, and, as they come up, interprets their signification according to the marks fixed upon them. 3 If the result prove unfavorable, there is no more consultation on the same affair that day; if propitious, a confirmation by omens is still required. In common with other nations, the Germans are acquainted with the practice of auguring from the notes and flight of 16 birds; but it is peculiar to them to derive admonitions and presages from horses also.8 4 Certain of these animals, milk-white, and untouched by earthly labor, are pastured at the public expense in the sacred woods and groves. These, yoked by a consecrated chariot, are accompanied by the priest, and king. or chief person of the community, who attentively observe their manner of neighing and snorting; 5 and no kind of augury is more credited, not only among the populace, but among the nobles and priests. For the latter consider themselves as the ministers of the gods, and the horses, as privy to the divine will. 6 Another kind of divination, by which they explore the event of momentous wars, is to oblige a prisoner, taken by any means whatsoever from the nation with whom they are at variance, to fight with a picked man of their own, each with his own country’s arms; and, according as the victory falls, they presage success to the one or to the other party.9
11. On affairs of smaller moment, the chiefs consult; on those of greater importance, the whole community; yet with this circumstance, that what is referred to the decision of the people is first maturely discussed by the chiefs.10 2 They assemble, unless upon some sudden emergency, on stated days, either at the new or full moon, which they account the most auspicious season for beginning any enterprise. Nor do they, in their computation of time, reckon, like us, by the number of days, but of nights. In this way they arrange their business; in this way they fix their appointments; so 17 that, with them, the night seems to lead the day.11 3 An inconvenience produced by their liberty is, that they do not all assemble at a stated time, as if it were in obedience to a command; but two or three days are lost in the delays of convening. When they all think fit,12 they sit down armed.13 4 Silence is proclaimed by the priests, who have on this occasion a coercive power. 5 Then the king, or chief, and such others as are conspicuous for age, birth, military renown, or eloquence, are heard; and gain attention rather from their ability to persuade, than their authority to command. 6 If a proposal displease, the assembly reject it by an inarticulate murmur; if it prove agreeable, they clash their javelins;14 for the most honorable expression of assent among them is the sound of arms.
12. Before this council, it is likewise allowed to exhibit accusations, and to prosecute capital offenses. Punishments are varied according to the nature of the crime. Traitors and deserters are hung upon trees:15 cowards, dastards,16 and those 18 guilty of unnatural practices,17 are suffocated in mud under a hurdle.18 2 This difference of punishment has in view the principle, that villainy should be exposed while it is punished, but turpitude concealed. The penalties annexed to slighter offenses19 are also proportioned to the delinquency. The convicts are fined in horses and cattle:20 part of the mulct21 goes to the king or state; part to the injured persons, or his relations. 3 In the same assemblies chiefs22 are also elected, to 19 administer justice through the cantons and districts. A hundred companions, chosen from the people, attend upon each of them, to assist them as well with their advice as their authority.
13. The Germans transact no business, public or private, without being armed:23 but it is not customary for any person to assume arms till the state has approved his ability to use them. Then, in the midst of the assembly, either one of the chiefs, or the father, or a relation, equips the youth with a shield and javelin.24 These are to them the manly gown;25 this is the first honor conferred on youth: before this they are considered as part of a household; afterward, of the state. 2 The dignity of chieftain is bestowed even on mere lads, whose descent is eminently illustrious, or whose fathers have performed signal services to the public; they are associated, 20 however, with those of mature strength, who have already been declared capable of service; nor do they blush to be seen in the rank of companions. 26 3 For the state of companionship itself has its several degrees, determined by the judgment of him whom they follow; and there is a great emulation among the companions, which shall possess the highest place in the favor of their chief; and among the chiefs, which shall excel in the number and valor of his companions. 4 It is their dignity, their strength, to be always surrounded with a large body of select youth, an ornament in peace, a bulwark in war. And not in his own country alone, but among the neighboring states, the fame and glory of each chief consists in being distinguished for the number and bravery of his companions. Such chiefs are courted by embassies; distinguished by presents; and often by their reputation alone decide a war.
14. In the field of battle, it is disgraceful for the chief to be surpassed in valor; it is disgraceful for the companions not to equal their chief; but it is reproach and infamy during a whole succeeding life to retreat from the field surviving him.27 To aid, to protect him; to place their own gallant actions to the account of his glory, is their first and most sacred engagement. The chiefs fight for victory; the companions for their chief. 2 If their native country be long sunk in peace and inaction, many of the young nobles repair to some other state then engaged in war. For, besides that repose is unwelcome to their race, and toils and perils afford them a better opportunity of distinguishing themselves; they are unable, without war and violence, to maintain a large train of followers. 3 The companion requires from the liberality of his chief, the warlike steed, the bloody and conquering spear; and in place of pay he expects to be supplied with a 21 table, homely indeed, but plentiful.28 The funds for this munificence must be found in war and rapine; 4 nor are they so easily persuaded to cultivate the earth, and await the produce of the seasons, as to challenge the foe, and expose themselves to wounds; nay, they even think it base and spiritless to earn by sweat what they might purchase with blood.
15. During the intervals of war, they pass their time less in hunting than in a sluggish repose,29 divided between sleep and the table. All the bravest of the warriors, committing the care of the house, the family affairs, and the lands, to the women, old men, and weaker part of the domestics, stupefy themselves in inaction: so wonderful is the contrast presented by nature, that the same persons love indolence, and hate tranquility!30 2 It is customary for the several states to present, by voluntary and individual contributions,31 cattle or grain32 to their chiefs; which are accepted as honorary gifts, while they serve as necessary supplies.33 3 They are peculiarly 22 pleased with presents from neighboring nations, offered not only by individuals, but by the community at large; such as fine horses, heavy armor, rich housings, and gold chains. We have now taught them also to accept of money.34
16. It is well known that none of the German nations inhabit cities,35 or even admit of contiguous settlements. They dwell scattered and separate, as a spring, a meadow, or a grove may chance to invite them. 2 Their villages are laid out, not like ours in rows of adjoining buildings; but every one surrounds his house with a vacant space,36 either by way of security against fire,37 or through ignorance of the art of building. 3 For, indeed, they are unacquainted with the use of mortar and tiles; and for every purpose employ rude unshapen timber, fashioned with no regard to pleasing the eye. They bestow more than ordinary pains in coating certain parts of their buildings with a kind of earth, so pure and shining that it gives the appearance of painting. 4 They also dig subterranean caves,38 and cover them over with a great 23 quantity of dung. These they use as winter-retreats, and granaries; for they preserve a moderate temperature; and upon an invasion, when the open country is plundered, these recesses remain unviolated, either because the enemy is ignorant of them, or because he will not trouble himself with the search.39
17. The clothing common to all is a sagum40 fastened by a clasp, or, in what of that, a thorn. With no other covering, they pass whole days on the hearth, before the fire. The more wealthy are distinguished by a vest, not flowing loose, like those of the Sarmatians and Parthians, but girt close, and exhibiting the shape of every limb. 2 They also wear the skins of beasts, which the people near the borders are less curious in selecting or preparing than the more remote inhabitants, who can not by commerce procure other clothing. These make choice of particular skins, which they variegate with spots, and strips of the furs of marine animals,41 the produce of the exterior oceans, and seas to us unknown.42 3 The dress of the women does not differ from that of the men; except that they more frequently wear linen,43 which they stain with purple;44 and do not lengthen their upper garment into 24 sleeves, but leave exposed the whole arm, and part of the breast.
18. The matrimonial bond is, nevertheless, strict and severe among them; nor is there any thing in their manners more commendable than this.45 Almost singly among the barbarians, they content themselves with one wife; a very few of them excepted, who, not through incontinence, but because their alliance is solicited on account of their rank,46 practice polygamy. The wife does not bring a dowry to her husband, but receives one from him.47 2 The parents and relations assemble, and pass their approbation on the presents — presents not adapted to please a female taste, or decorate the bride; but oxen, a caparisoned steed, a shield, spear, and sword. 3 By virtue of these, the wise is espoused; and she in her turn makes a present of some arms to her husband. This they consider as the firmest bond of union; these, the sacred mysteries, the conjugal deities. 4 That the woman may not think herself excused from exertions of fortitude, or exempt from the casualties of war, she is admonished by the very ceremonial of her marriage, that she comes to her husband as a partner in toils and dangers; to suffer and to dare equally with him, in peace and in war: this is indicated by the yoked oxen, the harnessed steed, the offered arms. Thus she is to live; thus to die. She receives what she is to return inviolate48 and honored to her children; what her daughters-in-law are to receive, and again transmit to her grandchildren.
19. They live, therefore, fenced around with chastity;49 corrupted by no seductive spectacles,50 no convivial incitements. Men and women are alike unacquainted with clandestine correspondence. 2 Adultery is extremely rare among so numerous a people. Its punishment is instant, and at the pleasure of the husband. He cuts off the hair51 of the offender, strips her, and in presence of her relations expels her from his house, and pursues her with stripes through the whole village.52 Nor is any indulgence shown to a prostitute. Neither beauty, youth, nor riches can procure her a husband: 3 for none there looks on vice with a smile, or calls mutual seduction the way of the world. Still more exemplary is the practice of those states53 26 in which none but virgins marry, and the expectations and wishes of a wife are at once brought to a period. 4 Thus, they take one husband as one body and one life; that no thought, no desire, may extend beyond him; and he may be loved not only as their husband, but as their marriage.54 5 To limit the increase of children,55 or put to death any of the later progeny,56 is accounted infamous: and good habits have there more influence than good laws elsewhere.57
1 Mercury, i. e. a god whom Tacitus thus names, because his attributes resembled those of the Roman Mercury. According to Paulus Diaconus (de Gestis Langobardorum, i. 9), this deity was Wodun, or Gwodan, called also Odin. Mallet (North. Ant. ch. v.) says, that in the Icelandic mythology he is called “the terrible and severe God, the Father of Slaughter, he who giveth victory and receiveth courage in the conflict, who nameth those that are to be slain.” “The Germans drew their gods by their own character, who loved nothing so much themselves as to display their strength and power in battle, and to signalize their vengeance upon their enemies by slaughter and desolation.” There remain to this day some traces of the worship paid to Odin the name given by almost all the people of the north to the fourth day of the week, which was formerly consecrated to him. It is called by a name which signifies “Odin‘s day;” “Old Norse, Odinsdagr; Swedish and Danish, Onsdag; Anglo-Saxon Wodenesdæg; Wodnesdæg; Dutch Woensdag; English Wednesday. As Odin or Wodun was supposed to correspond to the Mercury of the Greeks and Romans, the name of the day was expressed in Latin Dies Mercurii.” — White.
2 “The appointed time for these sacrifices,” says Mallet (North. Ant. ch. vi.), “was always determined by a superstitious opinion which made the northern nations regard the number ‘three’ as sacred and particularly dear to the gods. Thus, in every ninth month they renewed the bloody ceremony, which was to last nine days, and every day they offered up nine living victims, whether men or animals. But the most solemn sacrifices were those which were offered up at Upsal in Sweden every ninth year. . . . .” After stating the compulsory nature of attendance at this festival, Mallet adds, “Then they chose among the captives in time of war, and among the slaves in time of peace, nine persons to be sacrificed. In whatever manner they immolated men, the priest always took care in consecrating the victim to pronounce certain words, as ‘I devote thee to Odin,’ ‘I send thee to Odin.’ ” See Lucan i. 444.
“Et quibus immitis placature sanguine diro
Teutates, horrensque feris altaribus Hesus.”
Teutates is Mercury, Hesus, Mars. So also at iii. 399, &c.
“Lucus erat longo nunquam violatus ab ævo.
* * * * * Barbara ritu
Sacra Deum, structæ diris altaribus aræ,
Omnis et humanis lustrata cruoribus arbor.”
3 That is, as in the preceding case, a deity whose attributes corresponded to those of the Roman Mars. This appears to have been not Thor, who is rather the representative of the Roman Jupiter, but Tyr, “a warrior god, and the protector of champions and brave men!” From Tyr is derived the name given to the third day of the week in most of the Teutonic languages, and which has been rendered into Latin by Dies Martis. Old Norse, Tirsdagr, Tiedagr; Swedish, Tisdag; Danish, Tirsdag; German, Dienstag; Dutch, Dingsdag; Anglo-Saxon, Tyrsdæg, Tyuesdæg, Tiuesdæg; English, Tuesday.” — (Mallet’s North. Ant. ch. v.) — White.
4 The Suevi appear to have been the Germanic tribes, and this also the worship spoken of at chap. xl. Signum in modum liburnæ figuratum corresponds with the vehiculum there spoken of; the real thing being, according to Ritter’s view, a pinnace placed on wheels. That signum ipsum (“the very symbol”) does not mean any image of the goddess, may be gathered also from chap. xl., where the goddess herself, si credere velis, is spoken of as being washed in the sacred lake.
5 As the Romans in their ancient coins, many of which are now extant, recorded the arrival of Saturn by the stern of a ship; so other nations have frequently denoted the importation of a foreign religious rite by the figure of a galley on their medals.
6 Tacitus elsewhere speaks of temples of German divinities (e. g. 40: Templum Northæ, Ann. i. 51; Templum Tanfanæ); but a consecrated grove, or any other sacred place, was called templum by the Romans.
7 The Scythians are mentioned by Herodotus, and the Alans by Ammianus Marcellinus, as making use of these divining rods. The German method of divination with them is illustrated by what is said by Saxo-Grammaticus (Hist. Dan. xiv. 288) of the inhabitants of the Isle of Rugen in the Baltic Sea: “Throwing, by way of lots, three pieces of wood, white in one part, and black in another, into their laps, they foretold good fortune by the coming up of the white: bad by that of the black.”
8 The same practice obtained among the Persians, from whom the Germans appear to be sprung. Darius was elected king by the neighing of a horse; sacred white horses were in the army of Cyrus; and Xerxes, retreating after his defeat, was preceded by the sacred horses and consecrated chariot. Justin (i. 10) mentions the cause of this superstition, viz. that “the Persians believed the Sun to be the only God, and horses to be peculiarly consecrated to him.” The priest of the Isle of Rugen also took auspices from a white horse, as may be seen in Saxo-Grammaticus.
9 Montesquieu finds in this custom the origin of the duel, and of knight-errantry.
10 This remarkable passage, so curious in political history, is commented on by Montesquieu, in his Spirit of Laws, vi. 11. That celebrated author expresses his surprise at the existence of such a balance between liberty and authority in the forests of Germany; and traces the origin of the English Constitution from this source. Tacitus again mentions the German form of government in his Annals, iv. 33.
11 The high antiquity of this mode of reckoning appears from the Book of Genesis. “The evening and the morning were the first day.” The Gauls, we are informed by Cæsar, “assert that, according to the tradition of their Druids, they are all sprung from Father Dis; on which account they reckon every period of time according to the number of nights, not of days; and observe birth-days and the beginnings of months and years in such a manner, that the day seems to follow the night.” (Bell. Gall. vi. 18.) The vestiges of this method of computation still appear in the English language, in the terms of se’n-night and fort’night.
12 Ut turbæ placuit. Doederlein interprets this passage as representing the confused way in which the people took their seats in the national assembly, without reference to order, rank, age, &c. It rather represents, however, that the people, not the chieftains, determined when this business of the council should begin. — White.
13 And in an open plain. Vast heaps of stone still remaining, denote the scenes of these national councils. (See Mallet’s Introduc. to Hist. of Denmark.) The English Stonehenge has been supposed a relic of this kind. In these assemblies are seen the origin of those which, under the Merovingian race of French kings, were called the Fields of March; under the Carlovingian, the Fields of May; then, the Plenary Courts of Christmas and Easter; and lastly, the States-General.
14 The speech of Civilis was received with this expression of applause. (Tacitus, Hist. iv. 15.)
15 Gibbeted alive. Heavy penalties were denounced against those who should take them down, alive or dead. These are particularized in the Salic law.
16 By cowards and dastards, in this passage, are probably meant those who, being summoned to war, refused or neglected to go. Cæsar (Bell. Gall. vi. 22) mentions that those who refused to follow their chiefs to war were considered as deserters and traitors. And, afterward, the Emperor Clothaire made the following edict, preserved in the Lombard law: “Whatever freeman, summoned to the defense of his country by his Count, or his officers, shall neglect to go, and the enemy enter the country to lay it waste, or otherwise damage our liege subjects, he shall incur a capital punishment.” As the crimes of cowardice, treachery, and desertion were so odious and ignominious among the Germans, we find by the Salic law that penalties were annexed to the unjust imputation of them.
17 These were so rare and so infamous among the Germans, that barely called a person by a name significant of them was severely punished.
18 Incestuous people were buried alive in bogs in Scotland. Pennant’s Tour in Scotland, 1772; part i. p. 351; and part ii. p. 421.
19 Among these slighter offenses, however, were reckoned homicide, adultery, theft, and many others of a similar kind. This appears from the laws of the Germans, and from a subsequent passage of Tacitus himself.
20 These were at that time the only riches of the country, as was already observed in this treatise. Afterward gold and silver became plentiful: hence all the mulcts required by the Salic Law are pecuniary. Money, however, still bore a fixed proportion to cattle; as appears from the Saxon law (tit. xviii.): “The Solidus is of two kinds; one contains two tremisses, that is, a beeve of twelve months, or a sheep with its lamb; the other, three tremisses, or a beeve of sixteen months. Homicide is compounded for by the lesser solidus; other crimes by the greater.” The Saxons had their Weregeld — the Scotch their Cro, Galnes, and Kelchin — and the Welsh their Gwerth, and Galanus, or compensations for injuries; and cattle were likewise the usual fine. Vide Pennant’s Tour in Wales of 1773, pp. 273, 274.
21 This mulct is frequently in the Salic law called “fred,” that is, peace; because it was paid to the king or state, as guardians of the public peace.
22 A brief account of the civil economy of the Germans will here be useful. They were divided into nations; of which some were under a regal government, others a republican. The former had kings, the latter chiefs. Both in kingdoms and republics, military affairs were under the conduct of the generals. The nations were divided into cantons; each of which was superintended by a chief, or count, who administered justice in it. The cantons were divided into districts or hundreds, so called because they contained a hundred vills or townships. In each hundred was a companion, or centenary, chosen from the people, before whom small causes were tried. Before the count, all the causes, as well great as small, were amenable. The centenaries are called companions by Tacitus, after the custom of the Romans; among whom the titles of honor were, Cæsar, the Legatus or Lieutenant of Cæsar, and his comites, or companions. The courts of justice were held in the open air, on a rising-ground, beneath the shade of an oak, elm, or some other large tree.
23 Even judges were armed on the seat of justice. The Romans, on the contrary, never went armed but when actually engaged in military service.
24 These are the rudiments of the famous institution of chivalry. The sons of kings appear to have received arms from foreign princes. Hence, when Audoin, after overcoming the Gepidæ, was requested by the Lombards to dine with his son Alboin, his partner in the victory, he refused; for, says he, “you know it is not customary with us for a king’s son to dine with his father, until he has received arms from the king of another country.” — Warnefried, De gestis Langobardorum, i. 23.
25 An allusion to the toga virilis of the Romans. The German youth were presented with the shield and spear probably at twelve or fifteen years of age. This early initiation into the business of arms gave them that warlike character for which they were so celebrated. Thus, Seneca (Epist. 46) says, “A native of Germany brandishes, while yet a boy, his slender javelin.” And again (in his book on Anger, i. 11), “Who are braver than the Germans? — who more impetuous in the charge? — who fonder of arms, in the use of which they are born and nourished, which are their only care? — who more inured to hardships, insomuch that for the most part they provide no covering for their bodies, no retreat against the perpetual severity of the climate?”
26 Hence it seems these noble lads were deemed principes in rank, yet had their position among the comites only. The German word Gesell is peculiarly appropriated to these comrades in arms. So highly were they esteemed in Germany, that for killing or hurting them a fine was exacted treble to that for other freemen.
27 Hence, when Chonodomarus, king of the Alemanni, was taken prisoner by the Romans, “his companions, two hundred in number, and three friends peculiarly attached to him, thinking it infamous to survive their prince, or not to die for him, surrendered themselves to be put in bonds.” — Ammianus Marcellinus, xvi. 13.
28 Hence Montesquieu (Spirit of Laws, xxx. 3) justly derives the origin of vassalage. At first, the prince gave to his nobles arms and provision; as avarice advanced, money and then lands, were required, which from benefices became at length hereditary possessions, and were called fiefs. Hence the establishment of the feudal system.
29 Cæsar, with less precision, says, “The Germans pass their whole lives in hunting and military exercises.’ (Bell. Gall. vi. 21.) The picture drawn by Tacitus is more consonant to the genius of a barbarous people; besides that, hunting being the employment but of a few months of the year, a greater part must necessarily be passed in indolence by those who had no other occupation. In this circumstance, and those afterward related, the North American savages exactly agree with the ancient Germans.
30 This apparent contradiction is, however, perfectly agreeable to the principles of human nature. Among people governed by impulse more than reason, every thing is in the extreme: war and peace; motion and rest; love and hatred; none are pursued with moderation.
31 These are the rudiments of tributes; though the contributions here spoken of were voluntary, and without compulsion. The origin of exchequers is pointed out above, where “part of the mulct” is said to be “paid to the king or state.” Taxation was taught the Germans by the Romans, who levied taxes upon them.
32 So, in after-times, when tributes were customary, 500 oxen or cows were required annually from the Saxons by the French kings Clothaire I and Pepin. (See Eccard, tom. i. pp. 84, 480.) Honey, corn, and other products of the earth, were likewise received in tribute. (Ibid, p. 392.)
33 For the expenses of war, and other necessities of state, and particularly the public entertainments. Hence, besides the Steora, or annual tribute, the Osterstuopha, or Easter cup, previous to the public assembly of the field of March, was paid to the French kings.
34 This was a dangerous lesson, and in the end proved ruinous to the Roman empire. Herodian says of the Germans in his time, “They are chiefly to be prevailed upon by bribes; being fond of money, and continually selling peace to the Romans for gold.” — Lib. vi. 139.
35 This custom was of long duration; for there is not the mention of a single city in Ammianus Marcellinus, who wrote on the wars of the Romans in Germany. The names of places in Ptolemy (ii. 11) are not, therefore, those of cities, but of scattered villages. The Germans had not even what we should call towns, notwithstanding Cæsar asserts the contrary.
36 The space surrounding the house, and fenced in by hedges, was that celebrated Salic land, which descended to the male line, exclusively of the female.
37 The danger of fire was particularly urgent in time of war; for, as Cæsar informs us, these people were acquainted with a method of throwing red-hot clay bullets from slings, and burning javelins, on the thatch of houses. (Bell. Gall. v. 42.)
38 Thus likewise Mela (ii. 1), concerning the Sarmatians: “On account of the length and severity of their winters, they dwell under ground, either in natural or artificial caverns.” At the time that Germany was laid waste by a forty years’ war, Kircher saw many of the natives who, with their flocks, herds, and other possessions, took refuge in the caverns of the highest mountains. For many other curious particulars concerning these and other subterranean caves, see his Mundus Subterraneus, viii. 3, p. 100. In Hungary, at this day, corn is commonly stored in subterranean chambers.
39 Near Newbottle, the seat of the Marquis of Lothian, are some subterraneous apartments and passages cut out of the live rock, which had probably served for the same purposes of winter-retreats and granaries as those dug by the ancient Germans. Pennant’s Tour in 1769, 4to, p. 63.
40 This was a kind of mantle of a square form, called also rheno. Thus Cæsar (Bell. Gall. vi. 21): “They use skins for clothing, or the short rhenones, and leave the greatest part of the body naked.” Isidore (xix. 23) describes the rhenones as “garments covering the shoulders and breast, as low as the navel, so rough and shaggy that they are impenetrable to rain.” Mela (iii. 3), speaking of the Germans, says, “The men are clothed only with the sagum, or the bark of trees, even in the depth of winter.”
41 All savages are fond of variety of colors; hence the Germans spotted their furs with the skins of other animals, of which those here mentioned were probably of the seal kind. This practice is still continued with regard to the ermine, which is spotted with black lamb’s-skin.
42 The Northern Sea, and Frozen Ocean.
43 Pliny testifies the same thing; and adds, that “the women beyond the Rhine are not acquainted with any more elegant kind of clothing.”
44 Not that rich and costly purple in which the Roman nobility shone, but some ordinary material, such as the vaccinium, which Pliny says was used by the Gauls as a purple dye for the garments of the slaves. (xvi. 18.)
45 The chastity of the Germans, and their strict regard to the laws of marriage, are witnessed by all their ancient codes of law. The purity of their manners in this respect afforded a striking contrast to the licentiousness of the Romans in the decline of the empire, and is exhibited in this light by Salvian, in his treatise De Gubernatione Dei, lib. vii.
46 Thus we find in Cæsar (Bell. Gall. i. 53), that Ariovistus had two wives. Others had more. This indulgence proved more difficult to abolish, as it was considered as a mark of opulence, and an appendage of nobility.
47 The Germans purchased their wives, as appears from the following clauses in the Saxon law concerning marriage: “A person who espouses a wife shall pay to her parents 300 solidi (about £180 sterling); but if the marriage be without the consent of the parents, the damsel, however, consenting, he shall pay 600 solidi. If neither the parents nor damsel consent, that is, if she be carried off by violence, he shall pay 300 solidi to the parents, and 340 to the damsel, and restore her to her parents.”
48 Thus in the Saxon Law, concerning dowries, it is said: “The Ostfalii and Angrarii determine, that if a woman have male issue, she is to possess the dower she received in marriage during her life, and transmit it to her sons.
49 Ergo septæ pudicitiâ agunt. Some editions have septâ pudicitiâ. This would imply, however, rather the result of the care and watchfulness of their husbands; whereas it seems the object of Tacitus to show that this their chastity was the effect of innate virtue, and this is rather expressed by septæ pudicitiâ, which is the reading of the Arundelian MS.
50 Seneca speaks with great force and warmth on this subject: “Nothing is so destructive to morals as loitering at public entertainments; for vice more easily insinuates itself into the heart when softened by pleasure. What shall I say! I return from them more covetous, ambitious, and luxurious.” — Epist. vii.
51 The Germans had a great regard for the hair, and looked upon cutting it off as a heavy disgrace; so that this was made a punishment for certain crimes, and was resented as an injury if practiced upon an innocent person.
52 From an epistle of St. Boniface, archbishop of Mentz, to Ethelbald, king of England, we learn that among the Saxons the women themselves inflicted the punishment for violated chastity: “In ancient Saxony (now Westphalia), if a virgin pollute her father’s house, or a married woman prove false to her vows, sometimes she is forced to put an end to her own life by the halter, and over the ashes of her burned body her seducer is hanged: sometimes a troop of females assembling lead her through the circumjacent villages, lacerating her body, stripped to the girdle, with rods and knives; and thus, bloody and full of minute wounds, she is continually met by new tormentors, who in their zeal for chastity do not quit her till she is dead, or scarcely alive, in order to inspire a dread of such offenses.” See Michael Alford’s Annales Ecclesiæ Anglo-Saxon., and Eccard:
53 A passage in Valerius Maximus renders it probable that the Cimbrian states were of this number; “The wives of the Teutones besought Marius, after his victory, that he would deliver them as a present to the Vestal virgins; affirming that they should henceforth, equally with themselves, abstain from the embraces of the other sex. This request not being granted, they all strangled themselves the ensuing night.” — Lib. vi. 1, 3.
54 Among the Heruli, the wife was expected to hang herself at once at the grave of her husband, if she would not live in perpetual infamy.
55 This expression may signify as well the murder of young children, as the procurement of abortion; both which crimes were severely punished by the German laws.
56 Quemquam ex agnatis. By agnati generally in Roman law were meant relations by the father’s side; here it signifies children born after there was already an heir to the name and property of the father.
57 Justin has a similar thought concerning the Scythians: “Justice is cultivated by the dispositions of the people, not by the laws.” (ii. 2.) How inefficacious the good laws here alluded to by Tacitus were in preventing enormities among the Romans, appears from the frequent complaints of the senators, and particularly of Minucius Felix: “I behold you, exposing your babes to the wild beasts and birds, or strangling the unhappy wretches with your own hands. Some of you, by means of drugs, extinguish the newly-formed man within your bowels, and thus commit parricide on your offspring before you bring them into the world.” (Octavius, c. 30.) So familiar was this practice grown at Rome, that the virtuous Pliny apologizes for it, alleging that “the great fertility of some women may require such a license.” — xxix. 4, 37.