Copyright
Herodotus.

Voyages and travels; ancient and modern online

. (page 11 of 35)
Online LibraryHerodotusVoyages and travels; ancient and modern → online text (page 11 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the Mattiacians, living upon the opposite banks, enjoy a
settlement and limits of their own ; yet in spirit and inclina-
tion are attached to us: in other things resembling the
Batavians, save that as they still breathe their original air,
still possess their primitive soil, they are thence inspired
with superior vigour and keenness. Amongst the people of
Germany I would not reckon those who occupy the lands
which are under decimation, though they be such as dwell be-
yond the Rhine and the Danube. By several worthless and
vagabond Gauls, and such as poverty rendered daring, that
region was seized as one belonging to no certain possessor:
afterwards it became a skirt of the Empire and part of a
province, upon the enlargement of our bounds and the ex-
tending of our garrisons and frontier.

Beyond these are the Cattans, whose territories begin at the
Hercynian Forest, and consist not of such wide and marshy
plains, as those of the other communities contained within
the vast compass of Germany; but produce ranges of hills,
such as run lofty and contiguous for a long tract, then by
degrees sink and decay. Moreover the Hercynian Forest
attends for a while its native Cattans, then suddenly for-
sakes them. This people are distinguished with bodies more
hardy and robust, compact limbs, stern countenances, and
greater vigour of spirit. For Germans, they are men of
much sense and address.* They dignify chosen men, listen
to such as are set over them, know how to preserve their
post, to discern occasions, to rebate their own ardour and

" Leur intelligence et leur finesse etonnent, dans des Germains."



GERMANY 113

impatience ; how to' employ the day, how to entrench them-
selves by night. They account fortune amongst things
slippery and uncertain, but bravery amongst such as are
never- failing and secure; and, what is exceeding rare nor
ever to be learnt but by a wholesome course of discipline, in
the conduct of the general they repose more assurance than
in the strength of the army. Their whole forces consist of
foot, who besides their arms carry likewise instruments of
iron and their provisions. You may see other Germans
proceed equipped to battle, but the Cattans so as to conduct
a war. 10 They rarely venture upon excursions or casual
encounters. It is in truth peculiar to cavalry, suddenly to
conquer, or suddenly to fly. Such haste and velocity rather
resembles fear. Patience and deliberation are more akin to
intrepidity.

Moreover a custom, practised indeed in other nations of
Germany, yet very rarely and confined only to particulars
more daring than the rest, prevails amongst the Cattans by
universal consent. As soon as they arrive to maturity of
years, they let their hair and beards continue to grow, nor
till they have slain an enemy do they ever lay aside this
form of countenance by vow sacred to valour. Over the
blood and spoil of a foe they make bare their face. They
allege, that they have now acquitted themselves of the debt
and duty contracted by their birth, and rendered themselves
worthy of their country, worthy of their parents. Upon the
spiritless, cowardly and unwarlike, such deformity of visage
still remains. 11 All the most brave likewise wear an iron
ring (a mark of great dishonour this in that nation) and
retain it as a chain ; till by killing an enemy they become re-
leased. Many of the Cattans delight always to bear this
terrible aspect; and, when grown white through age, become
awful and conspicuous by such marks, both to the enemy and
their own countrymen. By them in all engagements the first
assault is made: of them the front of the battle is always
composed, as men who in their looks are singular and tre-
mendous. For even during peace they abate nothing in the
grimness and horror of their countenance. They have no

10 " Alios ad proelium ire videas, Chattos ad bellum."
u " Manet squalor."



114 TACITUS

house to inhabit, no land to cultivate, nor any domestic charge
or care. With whomsoever they come to sojourn, by him
they are maintained ; always very prodigal of the substance
of others, always despising what is their own, till the feeble-
ness of old age overtakes them, and renders them unequal
to the efforts of such rigid bravery.

Next to the Cattans, dwell the Usipians and Tencterians;
upon the Rhine now running in a channel uniform and cer-
tain, such as suffices for a boundary. The Tencterians, be-
sides their wonted glory in war, surpass in the service and
discipline of their cavalry. Nor do the Cattans derive
higher applause from their foot, than the Tencterians from
their horse. Such was the order established by their fore-
fathers, and what their posterity still pursue. From riding
and exercising of horses, their children borrow their pas-
times ; in this exercise the young men find matter for emu-
lating one another, and in this the old men take pleasure to
persevere. Horses are by the father bequeathed as part of
his household and family, horses are conveyed amongst the
rights of succession, and as such the son receives them ; but
not the eldest son, like other effects, by priority of birth, but
he who happens to be signal in boldness and superior in war.
Contiguous to the Tencterians formerly dwelt the Bruc-
terians, in whose room it is said the Chamavians and Angri-
varians are now settled ; they who expulsed and almost ex-
tirpated the Bructerians, with the concurrence of the neigh-
bouring nations: whether in detestation of their arrogance,
or allured by the love of spoil, or through the special favour
of the Gods towards us Romans. They in truth even vouch-
safed to gratify us with the sight of the battle. In it there
fell above sixty thousand souls, without a blow struck by
the Romans ; but, what is a circumstance still more glorious,
fell to furnish them with a spectacle of joy and recreation.
May the Gods continue and perpetuate amongst these na-
tions, if not any love for us, yet by all means this their
animosity and hate towards each other: since whilst the
destiny of the Empire thus urges it, fortune cannot more
signally befriend us, than in sowing strife amongst our foes.
The Angrivarians and Chamavians are enclosed behind,
by the Dulgibinians and Chasuarians; and by other nations



GERMANY 115

not so much noted: before, the Frisians face them. The
country of Frisia is divided into two ; called the greater and
lesser, according to the measure of their strength. Both
nations stretch along the Rhine, quite to the ocean; and
surround vast lakes such as once have borne Roman fleets.
We have moreover even ventured out from thence into the
ocean, and upon its coasts common fame has reported the
pillars of Hercules to be still standing: whether it be that
Hercules ever visited these parts, or that to his renowned
name we are wont to ascribe whatever is grand and glorious
everywhere. Neither did Drusus who made the attempt,
want boldness to pursue it: but the roughness of the ocean
withstood him, nor would suffer discoveries to be made
about itself, no more than about Hercules. Thenceforward
the enterprise was dropped : nay, more pious and reverential
it seemed, to believe the marvellous feats of the Gods than
to know and to prove them. 1 '

Hitherto, I have been describing Germany towards the
west. To the northward, it winds away with an immense
compass. And first of all occurs the nation of the Chau-
cians : who though they begin immediately at the confines
of the Frisians, and occupy part of the shore, extend so far
as to border upon all the several people whom I have al-
ready recounted; till at last, by a Circuit, they reach quite
to the boundaries of the Cattans. A region so vast, the
Chaucians do not only possess but fill ; a people of all the
Germans the most noble, such as would rather maintain
their grandeur by justice than violence. They live in repose,
retired from broils abroad, void of avidity to possess more,
free from a spirit of domineering over others. They pro-
voke no wars, they ravage no countries, they pursue no
plunder. Of their bravery and power, the chief evidence
arises from hence, that, without wronging or oppressing
others, they are come to be superior to all. Yet they are all
ready to arm, and if an exigency require, armies are pres-
ently raised, powerful and abounding as they are in men
and horses ; and even when they are quiet and their weapons
laid aside, their credit and name continue equally high.

Along the side of the Chaucians and Cattans dwell the

M " Coelum ipsum petimus stultitia."



116 TACITUS

Cheruscans; a people who finding no enemy to rouse them,
were enfeebled by a peace over lasting and uniform, but
such as they failed not to nourish. A conduct which proved
more pleasing than secure ; since treacherous is that repose
which you enjoy amongst neighbours that are very powerful
and very fond of rule and mastership. When recourse is
once had to the sword, modesty and fair dealing will be
vainly pleaded by the weaker ; names these which are always
assumed by the stronger. Thus the Cheruscans, they who
formerly bore the character of good and upright, arc now
called cowards and fools; and the fortune of the Cattans
who subdued them, grew immediately to be wisdom. In the
ruin of the Cheruscans, the Fosians, also their neighbours,
were involved ; and in their calamities bore an equal share,
though in their prosperity they had been weaker and less
considered.

In the same winding tract of Germany live the Cimbrians,
close to the ocean ; a community now very small, but great
in fame. Nay, of their ancient renown, many and extensive
are the traces and monuments still remaining; even their
entrenchments upon either shore, so vast in compass that
from thence you may even now measure the greatness and
numerous bands of that people, and assent to the account
of an army so mighty. It was on the six hundred and for-
tieth year of Rome, when of the arms of the Cimbrians the
first mention was made, during the Consulship of Csecilius
Metellus and Papirius Carbo. If from that time we count
to the second Consulship of the Emperor Trajan, the in-
terval comprehends near two hundred and ten years ; so
long have we been conquering Germany. In a course of
time, so vast between these two periods, many have been
the blows and disasters suffered on each side. In truth
neither from the Samnites, nor from the Carthaginians, nor
from both Spains, nor from all the nations of Gaul, have
we received more frequent checks and alarms; nor even
from the Parthians: for, more vigorous and invincible is
the liberty of the Germans than the monarchy of the Arsa-
cides. Indeed, what has the power of the East to allege to
our dishonour; but the fall of Crassus, that power which
was itself overthrown and abased by Ventidius, with the



GERMANY 117

loss of the great King Pacorus bereft of his life? But by
the Germans the Roman People have been bereft of five
armies, all commanded by Consuls; by the Germans, the
commanders of these armies, Carbo, and "Cassius, and
Scaurus Aurelius, and Servilius Csepio, as also Marcus Man-
lius, were all routed or taken: by the Germans even the
Emperor Augustus was bereft of Varus and three legions.
Nor without difficulty and loss of men were they defeated
by Caius Marius in Italy, or by the deified Julius in Gaul,
or by Drusus or Tiberius or Germanicus in their native ter-
ritories. Soon after, the mighty menaces of Caligula
against them ended in mockery and derision. Thencefor-
ward they continued quiet, till taking advantage of our
domestic division and civil wars, they stormed and seized
the winter entrenchments of the legions, and aimed at the
dominion of Gaul ; from whence they were once more ex-
pulsed, and in the times preceding the present, we gained
a triumph over them rather than a victory.

I must now proceed to speak of the Suevians, who are
not, like the Cattans and Tencterians, comprehended in a
single people; but divided into several nations all bearing
distinct names, though in general they are entitled Suevians,
and occupy the larger share of Germany. This people are
remarkable for a peculiar custom, that of twisting their hair
and binding it up in a knot. It is thus the Suevians are
distinguished from the other Germans, thus the free
Suevians from their slaves. In other nations, whether from
alliance of blood with the Suevians, or, as is usual, from
imitation, this practice is also found, yet rarely, and never
exceeds the years of youth. The Suevians, even when their
hair is white through age, continue to raise it backwards
in a manner stern and staring; and often tie it upon the
top of their head only. That of their Princes, is more ac-
curately disposed, and so far they study to appear agreeable
and comely ; but without any culpable intention. For by it,
they mean not to make love or to incite it: they thus dress
when proceeding to war, and deck their heads so as to add
to their height and terror in the eyes of the enemy.

Of all the Suevians, the Semnones recount themselves to
be the most ancient and most noble. The belief of their



118 TACITUS

antiquity is confirmed by religious mysteries. At a stated
time of the year, all the several people descended from the
same stock, assemble by their deputies in a wood; conse-
crated by the* idolatries of their forefathers, and by super-
stitious awe in times of old. There by publicly sacrificing
a man, they begin the horrible solemnity of their barbarous
worship. To this grove another sort of reverence is also
paid. No one enters it otherwise than bound with ligatures,
thence professing his subordination and meanness, and the
power of the Deity there. If he fall down, he is not per-
mitted to rise or be raised, but grovels along upon the
ground. And of all their superstition, this is the drift and
tendency ; that from this place the nation drew their orig-
inal, that here God, the supreme Governor of the world,
resides, and that all things else whatsoever are subject to
him and bound to obey him. The potent condition of the
Semnones has increased their influence and authority, as
they inhabit an hundred towns; and from the largeness of
their community it comes, that they hold themselves for the
head of the Suevians.

What on the contrary ennobles the Langobards is the
smallness of their number, for that they, who are sur-
rounded with very many and very powerful nations, derive
their security from no obsequiousness or plying; but from
the dint of battle and adventurous deeds. There follow in
order the Reudignians, and Aviones, and Angles, and Var-
inians, and Eudoses, and Suardones and Nuithones ; all de-
fended by rivers or forests. Nor in one of these nations
does aught remarkable occur, only that they universally join
in the worship of Herthum; that is to say, the Mother
Earth. Her they believe to interpose in the affairs of men,
and to visit countries. In an island of the ocean stands the
wood Castum: in it is a chariot dedicated to the Goddess,
covered over with a curtain, and permitted to be touched
by none but the Priest. Whenever the Goddess enters
this her holy vehicle, he perceives her; and with profound
veneration attends the motion of the chariot, which is always
drawn by yoked cows. Then it is that days of rejoicing
always ensue, and in all places whatsoever which she de-
scends to honour with a visit and her company, feasts and



GERMANY 119

recreation abound. They go not to war; they touch no
arms; fast laid up is every hostile weapon; peace and re-
pose are then only known, then only beloved, till to the
temple the same priest reconducts the Goddess when well
tired with the conversation of mortal beings. Anon the
chariot is washed and purified in a secret lake, as also the
curtains ; nay, the Deity herself too, if you choose to believe
it. In this office it is slaves who minister, and they are
forthwith doomed to be swallowed up in the same lake.
Hence all men are possessed with mysterious terror; as well
as with a holy ignorance what that must be, which none see
but such as are immediately to perish. Moreover this quar-
ter of the Suevians stretches to the middle of Germany.

The community next adjoining, is that of the Hermondu-
rians; (that I may now follow the course of the Danube,
as a little before I did that of the Rhine) a people this,
faithful to the Romans. So that to them alone of all the
Germans, commerce is permitted; not barely upon the bank
of the Rhine, but more extensively, and even in that glorious
colony in the province of Rhcetia. They travel everywhere
at their own discretion and without a guard; and when to
other nations, we show no more than our arms and en-
campments, to this people we throw open our houses and
dwellings, as to men who have no longing to possess them.
In the territories of the Hermondurians rises the Elbe, a
river very famous and formerly well known to us ; at present
we only hear it named.

Close by the Hermondurians reside the Nariscans, and
next to them the Marcomanians and Quadians. Amongst
these the Marcomanians are most signal in force and re-
nown; nay, their habitation itself they acquired by their
bravery, as from thence they formerly expulsed the Boians.
Nor do the Nariscans or Quadians degenerate in spirit.
Now this is as it were the frontier of Germany, as far as
Germany is washed by the Danube. To the times within
our memory the Marcomanians and Quadians were governed
by kings, who were natives of their own, descended from
the noble line of Maroboduus and Tudrus. At present they
are even subject to such as are foreigners. But the whole
strength and sway of their kings is derived from the au-



120 TACITUS

thority of the Romans. From our arms, they rarely receive
any aid; from our money very frequently.

Nor less powerful are the several people beyond them;
namely, the Marsignians, the Gothinians, the Osians and the
Burians, who altogether enclose the Marcomanians and
Quadians behind. Of those, the Marsignians and the Burians
in speech and dress resemble the Suevians. From the Gallic
language spoken by the Gothinians, and from that of Pan-
nonia by the Osians, it is manifest that neither of these
people are Germans ; as it is also from their bearing to pay
tribute. Upon them as upon aliens their tribute is imposed,
partly by the Sarmatians, partly by the Quadians. The
Gothinians, to heighten their disgrace, are forced to labour
in the iron mines. By all these several nations but little
level country is possessed: they are seated amongst forests,
and upon the ridges and declivities of mountains. For,
Suevia is parted by a continual ridge of mountains; beyond
which, live many distinct nations. Of these the Lygians are
most numerous and extensive, and spread into several com-
munities. It will suffice to mention the most puissant ; even
the Arians, Helvicones, Manimians ; Elysians and Naharval-
ians. Amongst the Naharvalians is shown a grove, sacred
to devotion extremely ancient. Over it a Priest presides
apparelled like a woman ; but according to the explication of
the Romans, 'tis Castor and Pollux who are here worshipped.
This Divinity is named Alcis. There are indeed no images
here, no traces of an extraneous superstition : yet their devo-
tion is addressed to young men and to brothers. Now the
Aryans, besides their forces, in which they surpass the sev-
eral nations just recounted, are in their persons stern and
truculent ; and even humour and improve their natural grim-
ness and ferocity by art and time. They wear black shields,
their bodies are painted black, they choose dark nights for
engaging in battle ; and by the very awe and ghastly hue of
their army, strike the enemy with dread, as none can bear
this their aspect so surprising and as it were quite infernal.
For, in all battles the eyes are vanquished first.

Beyond the Lygians dwell the Gothones, under the rule of
a King; and thence held in subjection somewhat stricter than
the other German nations, yet not so strict as to extinguish



GERMANY 121

all their liberty. Immediately adjoining are the Rugians and
Lemovians upon the coast of the ocean, and of these several
nations the characteristics are a round shield, a short sword
and kingly government. Next occur the communities of the
Suiones, situated in the ocean itself; and besides their
strength in men and arms, very powerful at sea. The form
of their vessels varies thus far from ours, that they have
prows at each end, so as to be always ready to row to shore
without turning nor are they moved by sails, nor on their
sides have benches of oars placed, but the rowers ply here
and there in all parts of the ship alike, as in some rivers is
done, and change their oars from place to place, just as they
shift their course hither or thither. To wealth also, amongst
them, great veneration is paid, and thence a single ruler
governs them, without all restriction of power, and exacting
unlimited obedience. Neither here, as amongst other nations
of Germany, are arms used indifferently by all, but shut
up and warded under the care of a particular keeper, who
in truth too is always a slave: since from all sudden in-
vasions and attacks from their foes, the ocean protects
them : besides that armed bands, when they are not em-
ployed, grow easily debauched and tumultuous. The truth
is, it suits not the interest of an arbitrary Prince, to trust
the care and power of arms either with a nobleman or with
a freeman, or indeed with any man above the condition of
a slave.

Beyond the Suiones is another sea, one very heavy and
almost void of agitation ; and by it the whole globe is thought
to be bounded and environed, for that the reflection of the
sun, after his setting, continues till his rising, so bright as
to darken the stars. To this, popular opinion has added,
that the tumult also of his emerging from the sea is heard,
that forms divine are then seen, as likewise the rays about
his head. Only thus far extend the limits of nature, if
what fame says be true. Upon the right of the Suevian
Sea the ^istyan nations reside, who use the same customs
and attire with the Suevians; their language more resem-
bles that of Britain. They worship the Mother of the Gods.
As the characteristic of their national superstition, they
wear the images of wild boars. This alone serves them



122 TACITUS

for arms, this is the safeguard of all, and by this every wor-
shipper of the Goddess is secured even amidst his foes.
Rare amongst them is the use of weapons of iron, but fre-
quent that of clubs. In producing of grain and the other
fruits of the earth, they labour with more assiduity and
patience than is suitable to the usual laziness of Germans.
Nay, they even search the deep, and of all the rest are
the only people who gather amber. They call it glasing,
and find it amongst the shallows and upon the very shore.
But, according to the ordinary incuriosity and ignorance of
Barbarians, they have neither learnt, nor do they inquire,
what is its nature, or from what cause it is produced. In
truth it lay long neglected amongst the other gross dis-
charges of the sea ; till from our luxury, it gained a name
and value. To themselves it is of no use : they gather it
rough, they expose it in pieces coarse and unpolished, and
for it receive a price with wonder. You would however
conceive it to be a liquor issuing from trees, for that in the
transparent substance are often seen birds and other ani-
mals, such as at first stuck in the soft gum, and by it, as
it hardened, became quite enclosed. I am apt to believe
that, as in the recesses of the East are found woods and
groves dropping frankincense and balms, so in the isles and
continent of the West such gums are extracted by the force
and proximity of the sun ; at first liquid and flowing into
the next sea, then thrown by winds and waves upon the
opposite shore. If you try the nature of amber by the
application of fire, it kindles like a torch; and feeds a thick
and unctuous flame very high scented, and presently be-
comes glutinous like pitch or rosin.

Upon the Suiones, border the people Sitones ; and, agree-
ing with them in all other things, differ from them in one,
that here the sovereignty is exercised by a woman. So
notoriously do they degenerate not only from a state of
liberty, but even below a state of bondage. Here end the
territories of the Suevians.

Whether amongst the Sarmatians or the Germans I ought
to account the Peucinians, the Venedians, and the Fennians,
is what I cannot determine ; though the Peucinians, whom
some call Basstarnians, speak the same language with the



Online LibraryHerodotusVoyages and travels; ancient and modern → online text (page 11 of 35)