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The classics, Greek & Latin; the most celebrated works of Hellenic and Roman literatvre, embracing poetry, romance, history, oratory, science, and philosophy (Volume 12) online

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Online LibraryMarion Mills MillerThe classics, Greek & Latin; the most celebrated works of Hellenic and Roman literatvre, embracing poetry, romance, history, oratory, science, and philosophy (Volume 12) → online text (page 39 of 39)
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describes a temple built at Ubsola (now Upsal,) not far from the
cities of Sictona and Birca. The temple, he says, is richly adorned
with gold, and the people worship the statues of their principal gods.
THOR is seated on a couch, with WODEN on one side, and FRICA on
the other. Stockholm, the present capital of Sweden, rose out of the
ruins of the two ancient cities of Sictona and Birca. The crown
among the Suiones is said by the learned to have been hereditary,
not elective; and this seems to be fairly inferred from an arbitrary
government, that knew no limitations, no uncertain or precarious

rule of submission.


sible reason is, that the ocean is their natural fence against
foreign invasions, and in time of peace the giddy multitude,
with arms ready at hand, soon proceeds from luxury to tumult
and commotion. But the truth is, the jealousy of a despotic
prince does not think it safe to commit the care of his arsenal
to the nobles or the men of ingenuous birth. Even a manu-
mitted slave is not fit to be trusted.

At the further extremity beyond the Suiones there is
another sea, 1 whose sluggish waters seem to be in a state of
stagnation. By this lazy element the globe is said to be en-
circled, and the supposition receives some colour of probabil-
ity from an extraordinary phenomenon well known in those
regions. The rays of the setting sun continue till the return
of day, to brighten the hemisphere with so clear a light, that
the stars are imperceptible. To this it is added by vulgar
credulity, that when the sun begins to rise, the sound of the
emerging luminary is distinctly heard, and the very form of
the horses, the blaze of glory round the head of the god, is
palpable to the sight. The boundaries of nature, it is gener-
ally believed, terminate here.

On the coast to the right of the Suevian ocean the ^Esty-
ans 2 have fixed habitation. In their dress and manners they
resemble the Suevians, but their language has more affinity
to the dialect of Britain. They worship the mother of the
gods. 3 The figure of a wild boar is the symbol of their super-
stition ; and he, who has that emblem about him, thinks him-
self secure even in the thickest ranks of the enemy, without
any need of arms, or any other mode of defence. The use
of iron is unknown, and their general weapon is a club. In

1 The Frozen Ocean, which begins in latitude 81.

2 The ^Estyans inhabited the kingdom of Prussia, Samogitia and
Courland, and the palatinate of Livonia. La Bletterie is of the
opinion, that they were called JEsrvi from the word EST, because
they were situated on the eastern side of Germany, on the borders
of the Suevian Ocean, or the Baltic Sea.

3 FREA, or FRICA, was deemed to be the mother of the gods. Vestiges
of her worship are still subsisting in Sweden, where the peasants,
in the month of February (the season formerly sacred to FREA,)
make boars of paste, and use them in superstitious ceremonies.


the cultivation of corn, and other fruits of the earth, they
labour with more patience than is consistent with the natural
laziness of the Germans. Their industry is exerted in another
instance: they explore the sea for amber, in their language
called GLESE/ and are the only people who gather that curious
substance. It is generally found among the shallows; some-
times on the shore. Concerning the nature or the causes
of this concretion, the barbarians, with their usual want of
curiosity, make no inquiry. Amongst other superfluities dis-
charged by the sea, this substance lay long neglected, till
Roman luxury gave it a name, and brought it into request.
To the savages it is of no use. They gather it in rude heaps,
and offer it to sale without any form or polish, wondering
at the price they receive for it. There is reason to think that
amber is a distillation from certain trees, since in the trans-
parent medium we see a variety of insects, and even animals
of the wing, which, being caught in the viscous fluid, are
afterwards, when it grows hard, incorporated with it. It is
probable, therefore, that as the east has its luxuriant planta-
tions, where balm and frankincense perspire through the
pores of trees, so the continents and islands of the west have
their prolific groves, whose juices, fermented by the heat of
the sun, dissolve into a liquid matter, which falls into the
sea, and, being there condensed, is afterwards discharged by
the winds and waves on the opposite shore. If you make an
experiment of amber by the application of fire, it kindles, like
a torch, emitting a fragrant flame, and in a little time, taking
the tenacious nature of pitch or rosin. 2 Beyond the Suiones,
we next find the nation of Sitones, 3 differing in nothing from
the former, except the tameness, with which they suffer a

1 i. e., GLASS. Pliny says that it was found in great quantities in the
islands of the northern seas, and that one of those islands, remark-
ably productive, was known by the name of Glessaria.

2 A late writer (Formey, of the Academy at Berlin), who pursued
his inquiry with unwearied diligence, has concluded, not without
probability, that amber is a fluid that oozes from pine and poplar

8 The Sitones, according to Brotier and others, were inhabitants
of Norway; and since they are mentioned as a people included


woman to reign over them. 1 Of this people it is not enough
to say, that they have degenerated from civil liberty; they
are sunk below slavery itself. At this place ends the terri-
tory of the Suevians.

Whether the Peucinians, 2 the Venedians, and Fennians
are to be accounted Germans, or classed with the people of
Sarmatia, 3 is a point not easy to be determined: though the

in the general name of the Suevian nation, an idea may be formed
of the vast extent of that prodigious territory, reaching from the
Baltic to the Danube.

1 Tacitus makes this reflection in the true spirit of a Roman republi-
can, who knew that it was the policy of his country, not to suffer the
softer sex to intermeddle in any department of the state. The ladies
at Rome, were during their whole lives, subject to the authority
of their fathers, their husbands, or their brothers. Freinshemius is
angry with Tacitus for the opinion which so pointedly proscribes a
female reign. He says that, in the time of Tacitus, Norway was
governed by a queen distinguished by her spirit of enterprise.

2 The Peucinians, often known by the name of Bastarnians, and
so called by Pliny, dwelt on the eastern side of Germany, and ex-
tended as far as the island now called Piczina, which is formed
by the branches of the Danube, near the Pontic Sea. The territory
of the Venedians, a contiguous people, lay on the north-east side
of Germany, and stretched over a long tract of country as far as
the SINUS VENEDICUS, now the gulf of Dantzig. When the German
nations burst into Italy, France, and Spain, the Venedians, who were
also called WINEDI, settled on vacant lands between the Vistula
and the Elbe, and soon after crossed the Danube to plant them-
selves in Dalmatia, Illyricum, and Carniola near the Noric Alps.
Their language was the Scalavonian, which subsists at this day. The
FENNIANS are described by Pliny, who calls their country Eningia,
but, as Brotier observes, the better reading seems to be Feningia;
now Finland, a province of Sweden.

3 Sarmatia (as has been mentioned s. I. note) was divided from
Germany by the Vistula, and a range of mountains; but still we
find, that, towards the north, part of the country on the east side
of that river was supposed to belong to Germany, and was called
GERMANIA TRANSVISTULANA. Tacitus, however, assigns all beyond
the Vistula to Sarmatia. Modern geographers upon the authority
of Pliny and other writers, considered the Peucinians and Venedians


Peticinians, called by some the Bastarnians, bear a strong
resemblance to the Germans. They use the same lan-
guage : their dress and habitations are the same, and they
are equally inured to sloth and filth. Of late, however,
in consequence of frequent intermarriages between their lead-
ing chieftains and the families of Sarmatia, they have been
tainted with the manners of that country. The Venedians
are a counterpart of the Sarmatians: like them they lead a
wandering life, and support themselves by plunder amidst
the woods and mountains, that separate the Peucinians and
the Fennians. They are, notwithstanding, to be ascribed to
Germany, inasmuch as they have settled habitations, know
the use of shields, and travel always on foot, remarkable for
their swiftness. The Sarmatians, on the contrary, live alto-
gether on horseback or in wagons. Nothing can equal the
ferocity of the Fennians, 1 nor is there any thing so disgust-
ing as their filth and poverty. Without arms, without horses,
and without a fixed place of abode, they lead a vagrant life;
their food the common herbage ; the skins of beasts their only
clothing, and the bare earth their resting-place. For their
chief support they depend on their arrows, to which, for
want of iron, they prefix a pointed bone. The women follow
the chase in company with the men, and claim their share
of the prey. To protect their infants from the fury of wild
beasts, and the inclemency of the weather, they make a kind
of cradle amidst the branches of trees interwoven together,
and they know no other expedient. The youth of the country
have the same habitation, and amidst the trees old age is
rocked to rest. Savage as this way of life may seem, they
prefer it to the drudgery of the field, the labour of building,
and the painful vicissitudes of hope and fear, which always

as German nations, and therefore, in their charts, called their terri-
tory by the name of GERMANO-SARMATIA. It is evident, that, living
beyond the Vistula, they were properly inhabitants of Sarmatia,
though their language, their modes of life, and their apparel, clearly
demonstrate a German origin.

1 The Fennians, or, in modern language, the Finlanders, were set-
tled in Scandinavia, which was reckoned part of Germany.


attend the defence and the acquisition of property. Secure
against the passions of men, and fearing nothing from the
anger of the gods, they have attained that uncommon state
of felicity, in which there is no craving left to form a single

The rest of what I have been able to collect is too much
involved in fable, of a colour with the accounts of the Hel-
lusians 1 and the Oxionians, of whom we are told that they
have the human face, with the limbs and bodies of wild beasts.
But reports of this kind, unsupported by proof, I shall leave
to the pen of others. 2

1 The Hellusians and Oxionians, who are the last people mentioned
by Tacitus, are supposed by learned antiquaries to have been in-
habitants of Lapland. Nothing more is known of them, than that
fame reported them to be an ambiguous mixture of the human
countenance and the limbs of wild beasts. What gave birth to
those ancient fables was, probably, the dress of the natives, who,
in those regions of frost and snow, were covered with the hides
of animals, like the Samojedes, and other savage nations near the
Frozen Ocean.

- The readers of these notes may ask how it has happened that the
manners of the ancient Germans can be traced with so much cer-
tainty in all the countries of Europe? The answer is obvious. The
descendants of those people, when they made their irruption into
France, Spain, and Italy, carried with them the manners of their
country, and founded laws, which sprung from the same source. The
codes still extant, such as the Salic, the Ripuarian, the Burgundian,
the Lombard, and many others, evidently bespeak their German
origin. The Anglo-Saxon government in this country plainly shows
from what soil it sprung. The michelgemote, or great meeting; the
wittena-gemote, or meeting of the wise men ; the shires, the hundreds
the composition for homicide, and, above all, the limited authority
of the king, are manifest proofs of the obligation the people of
England are under to their German ancestors for that free consti-
tution, which for so many centuries has stood the shock of civil
wars, and, though often tottering on the brink of destruction, still
rears its head, the pride of every honest Briton, and the wonder
of foreign nations.

Sir William Blackstone, who knew how to be profound with ease
and elegance, has truly said, if we would investigate the elements


of the English laws, the originals should be traced to their foun-
tains; to the customs of the Britons and Germans, as recorded by
Caesar and Tacitus; to the codes of the northern nations, and, more
especially, to those of the Saxon princes; but, above all, to that in-
exhaustible reservoir of antiquities, the Feodal Law, or, as Spel-
man has entitled it, the Law of Nations in our Western Orb. The
same observation has been made by Vertot with regard to the con-
stitution of the French monarchy, which stood, for a length of time,
on the foundation of civil liberty, till the three estates, or general
council of the realm, were merged in a supreme court of justice, im-
properly called a parliament. Vertot has given a compendious view
of Tacitus, and, by a curious parallel between the manners of the
Franks and those of the ancient Germans, has clearly shown the
origin of the French constitution. Those pieces are a just com-
mentary on Tacitus; and, if we add the laws and institutions of
other parts of Europe, we shall be of opinion with Montesquieu,
that " in Caesar and Tacitus we read the code of Barbarian laws,
and in the code we read Caesar and Tacitus."

Online LibraryMarion Mills MillerThe classics, Greek & Latin; the most celebrated works of Hellenic and Roman literatvre, embracing poetry, romance, history, oratory, science, and philosophy (Volume 12) → online text (page 39 of 39)