Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK V. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 4 - History (Books 3-5), Germany, Agricola
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BOOK V. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 4 - History (Books 3-5), Germany, Agricola [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 4.
Part of: The Works of Tacitus, 4 vols.
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The expedition of Titus against Judæa and Jerusalem. The original of the Jewish Nation deduced, with their religion and customs. The strength and situation of the City and Temple. The progress of the war in Germany. Divers encounters between Cerialis and Civilis. Peace ensues.
The rest of this book is lost.
IN the beginning of the same year the Emperor’s son Titus was by his father appointed to accomplish the reduction of Judæa; a captain who had been signal in war whilst his father and he were no other than subjects, but now bore command with greater sway and renown, as in zeal and good offices towards him the Provinces and the Armies were striving for priority. He moreover, in order to be thought to surpass his fortune, was continually presenting himself to view, splendid in arms and alert for war, continually alluring his men to their duty by complaisance and kind words; nay, he usually thrust himself amongst the common soldiers, whether they worked or marched, but still preserved undebased the dignity of a General. In Judæa he was received by three Legions, the fifth, tenth and fifteenth, men who had long served under Vespasian. Syria too furnished him with the twelfth, as also with those of the twenty-first and the third drawn from Alexandria. There accompanied him twenty Cohorts of our allies, eight squadrons of horse, as also the Kings Agrippa and Sohemus, a body of auxiliaries from King Antiochus, and a band of Arabs natural enemies to the Jews through an antipathy usual between contiguous nations. To him there repaired many out of Italy, many from Rome, all excited by their particular hopes of possessing the young Prince whilst yet free from new engagements. With these forces he entered the enemies territories, marching in battle array, sending to gain intelligence on every side, and holding himself ready for an encounter, then encamped near Jerusalem.
But since I am going to recount the final doom of a City so famed, it seems pertinent to explain its antiquity and rise. It is a tradition, “That the Jews, as fugitives from the island of Crete, at the time when Saturn, expulsed by the violence of Jupiter forsook his kingdom, settled themselves upon the extremities of Lybia.” For proof of this, their name is alledged: “For that in Crete stands the celebrated mountain Ida, and the Ideans natives of the mountain, by a barbarous extension of the name, are called Judæans (Jews).” Some hold, “That Ægypt swarming with people beyond measure, during the reign of Isis, to relieve it self, poured a great multitude into the regions adjoining, under the leading of Hierosolymus and Juda.” Many take them, to be descended from the Æthiopians, and to have been, through their dread and hate of King Cepheus, forced to seek a new habitation.” There are authors who say, That they were a band of people from Assyria, who wandering and destitute of land, occupied a portion of Ægypt, anon had cities of their own, and possessed the territories of the Hebrews, with the confines of Syria.” Others assign the Jews a nobler foundation and pedigree, “as derived from the Solymites, a nation celebrated by the poet Homer, and founders of Jerusalem, a City which from them had its name.” In one account a number of writers concur, “That when Ægypt was over-run by a pestilent disease, contaminating living bodies, and very foul to behold, Bocchoris the King applying for a remedy to the Oracle of Jupiter Hammon, was ordered to purge his kingdom, and to remove into another country that generation of men so detested by the Deities.” Hence, when they were all searched out, and the multitude thus swept together, were carried into the immense desarts, and there abandoned; whilst all continued wailing under astonishment and despair, Moses, one of these exiles, exhorted them, “To entertain no hopes of relief from Gods or men, since both by Gods and men they had been forsaken, but in himself to trust as to a Leader sent from Heaven, one by whose aid they should vanquish their present misery and distress.” They assented, and, utterly ignorant of whatever was to befall them, began to journey on at random. But nothing aggrieved them so sorely as want of water: Already they were lying scattered over the plains, ready to perish, when a flock of wild asses, leaving their pasture, climbed up a rocky mountain covered with a thick wood. Moses followed them, forming a conjecture from the singular verdure of the herbage, and there discovered some large springs. This proved their solacement and relief, and travelling for six days without intermission, on the seventh they gained a settlement by exterminating the inhabitants. There they raised their City, there founded and dedicated their Temple.
Moses, to ensure the subjection of the nation to himself for ever, established religious ordinances altogether new, and opposite to those of all other men and countries. Whatever we esteem holy, is with them profane. Again, they permit many things as lawful, which to us are forbidden and impure. The Statue of the beast by whose guidance they stayed their thirst and wandering, they consecrated in the sanctuary of their Temple, with the solemn immolation of a Ram, in contumely to Jupiter Hammon. The Ox too is what they sacrifice, a creature which the Ægyptians worship for the God Apis. From feeding on swine they refrain, in memory of their former calamity; for that they had once been infected and defiled with the same leprous tumors and eruptions to which that animal is subject. The famine which once they so long endured, they still acknowledge and commemorate by frequent fastings: And, as a standing proof of their having by robbery supplied themselves with grain, the Jewish bread is still baked without leaven. It is said, that they chuse to rest every seventh day, because then ended their labours. Afterwards, through the growth and allurements of laziness, every seventh year too was devoted to sloth. Others hold such observance to be in honour of Saturn; whether it be that from the Ideans, who are said to have been expulsed with Saturn, and to have founded their nation, they derive the elements of their religion, or that, of all the seven Planets by which this earth is governed, that of Saturn rolls in the highest orb and possesseth the greatest energy. Moreover, most of the celestial bodies accomplish their course and operation by the number seven.
These ceremonies, in whatever way introduced, are by their antiquity maintained. The rest of their institutions are unhallowed, filthy, and from their depravity only drew their influence. For here from every quarter all who were most profligate and wicked, accumulated tribute and rich offerings, rejecting the worship and divinities of their own country. Hence the encrease and improvement of the Jewish State, as also because they are inflexible in their faith and adherence to one another, and prone to mutual acts of compassion; but towards the whole human race besides they retain deadly and implacable hate. With all others they refuse to eat, with all others to lodge; nay, they who are a people abandoned to sensuality, avoid the embraces of all foreign women. Amongst themselves nothing is accounted unlawful. They instituted circumcision on purpose to be distinguished by a peculiar mark. The same is assumed by their proselytes; and the earliest lesson which these are taught, is to despise the Deities, to renounce all love to their country; and for their parents, for their brethren, and children, to entertain no tenderness or consideration. Yet to the multiplying of their nation regard is had. For, besides that to kill their infants is thought a heinous sin, they suppose the souls of such as die in battle, or by the hand of justice, to be immortal. Hence their passion for generation, hence their contempt of dying. They chuse to interr their dead, rather than to burn them, according to the usage of the Ægyptians. With these they concur in their notions of an infernal world; but far different is their persuasion about things celestial. The Ægyptians offer worship divine to several brute animals, to images and the works of art. The Jews know but one Deity, to be conceived and adored by the mind only. “For profane and unhallowed” they hold “all such as out of materials mortal and perishing, use to fashion their Gods after the likeness of men;” they hold “that the Divine Being, eternal and supreme, is incapable of all change, incapable of ever ending.” In their Cities therefore no Images are seen, so far are they from allowing such in their Temples. This is a compliment which they pay not to their Kings, this an honour which they deny to the Cæsars. Yet, as their Priests used to chant to the sound of pipes and drums, as their brows were bound with ivy, and as in the Temple a golden vine was found, some have inferred that they worshipped Bacchus, conqueror of the East; though void of all resemblance are their institutions to his. For, jovial and gay were the solemnities established by Bacchus: The Jewish rituals are preposterous and rueful.
Their territories, where they stretch Eastward, are bounded by Arabia: to the South lies Ægypt; to the West, Phœnicia and the sea: Northward they are by a long frontier joined to Syria. The bodies of the men are hale, such as can endure hardship and labour. They have rarely any rain. The soil is fruitful and rich. In all the fruits of the earth which are common with us, they abound; and besides these they enjoy the palm tree and that of the balm. The palms are lofty and beautiful. The balm is a small tree: When its branches swell, if you pierce them with steel, the veins shrink with shyness, and refuse to flow: They are therefore opened by a shell or the splint of a stone. The liquor is used for a medicine. Above all their mountains that of Libanus rises to a prodigious height, and what is wonderful to be told, amidst such excessive heats is covered thick with eternal snow. From this mountain the river Jordan derives its source and stream. Neither falls the Jordan into the sea, but passing first through one lake, then through another, still preserving its waters unmixt, is swallowed up in the third. This lake is vast in compass, resembling a sea, in taste more nauseous, and by its noisom vapour and smell baneful to the adjacent inhabitants. Neither is it ruffled by any wind: Nor fish nor water-fowl does it suffer to live. Whatever bodies are cast upon the stagnate flood, it bears like a solid surface: Alike borne up are all such who can swim and such who cannot. At a certain season of the year it ejects pitch. The art of gathering this, as well as all other arts, experience has taught. The liquid substance naturally black, and congealed, by sprinkling it with vinegar, emerges and floats. Such as are appointed to collect it, take it like a rope with their hand and guide it to the upper part of the ship. From thence it continues flowing in without help, and fills the vessel, till you cut off the communication; neither can you cut it off with an instrument of iron or brass. It recoils only when touched with blood, and from cloaths tainted with menstrual purgations. This is what ancient authors relate. But the writers acquainted with the country, recount, that these huge heaps of pitch lying upon the surface, are either driven to the shore, or dragged thither by the help of hands; that anon, when sufficiently baked by vapours from the Land and by the reflections and strength of the Sun, they are rent and divided with hatchets and wedges.
Not far hence lye the desart plains, such as they report to have been of old a country fruitful and flourishing, and full of populous cities, but consumed by lightning and thunderbolts; they add, that still remaining are the traces and monuments of such desolation, and that the soil itself looks scorched, and has ever since lost its fructifying force. For, all vegetables found here, be the same spontaneously produced, or reared by man, whether small herbs or flowers, as soon as they attain their ordinary growth and form, prove black and arid, devoid of substance, and dissipate as it were into cinders. To speak my own sentiments, as I would allow cities once very great and signal to have been burnt by fire from Heaven; so I conceive that by exhalations from the lake the soil is infected, and the ambient air poisoned, and that thence the grain and all the fruits of the harvest are putrified and blasted, since equally malignant is the earth and the clime. Moreover, into the sea of Judæa the river Belus discharges itself: The sands gathered at its mouth are, with a mixture of nitre, melted into glass. This is but a narrow shore, yet by such as are daily draining it of its sands, found to be inexhaustible.
The larger part of Judæa consists in villages scattered up and down. They have likewise cities. Jerusalem is the Capital of the nation. Here stands the Temple, immensely wealthy, and proves to the City one of its strongest bulwarks. To all foreigners the inner Temple is shut; nor to a Jew is there access beyond the portal. From entering all men are excluded except the Priests. Whilst the Empire of the East was possessed by the Assyrians, next by the Medes and Persians, the Jews were held the most despicable of all the enslaved nations. Afterwards when the Macedonian power prevailed, King Antiochus laboured to extinguish their superstition, and to introduce the institutions of Greece, in order to reform in some measure that hideous and detestable nation, but was diverted from this pursuit by a war with the Parthians. For, at this conjuncture had Arsaces revolted. The Jews on this occasion, whilst the Macedonians were weakened, the Parthians not yet established, the Romans then far from them, assumed Kings of their own. These were afterwards expulsed through the inconstancy of the populace, but having again seized the Sovereignty by arms, let themselves loose to all the cruelties and excesses usual to Kings, banished their citizens, destroyed cities, murdered their brethren, murdered their wives and parents, and with all this their tyranny, carefully supported and nourished the established superstition; for to the functions of Royalty they annexed that of the Priesthood.
Pompey was the first Roman that subdued the Jews. He, exercising the right of a Conqueror, entered their Temple. Thenceforward it was rumoured abroad, “That within it he had found no Images of the Gods, but the residence of the Deity void of any, and a sanctuary destitute of sacred solemnities.” The walls of Jerusalem were levelled: The holy edifice remained unhurt. Thereafter followed our civil War, and under the jurisdiction of Anthony the eastern Provinces fell. Pacorus King of the Parthians then seized Judæa, but was slain by Ventidius; the Parthians were chased over the Euphrates, and the Jews reduced to subjection by Caius Sosius. Over them Anthony had set Herod for their King, and to him his Kingdom was continued and enlarged by Augustus who conquered Anthony. Upon the death of Herod, one Simon, without ever staying for the pleasure of the Emperor, usurped the title of King. Upon him Quinctilius Varus, Governour of Syria, inflicted punishment; and the Nation, as soon as repressed and quiet, was committed, under a triple partition, to be ruled by the three sons of Herod. Under Tiberius they enjoyed perfect repose. But in the reign of Caligula, when he ordered them to place his own Image in their Temple, they chose rather to rise in arms: A combustion which, upon the death of Caligula, ceased. Claudius, when the Jewish Kings were all deceased, at least extremely shortened in power, gave Judæa to be ruled as a Province by the Roman Knights, or by his own Freedmen. Antonius Felix was one of these, one who rioting in the excesses of licentiousness and cruelty, exercised the authority of a King with the spirit and baseness of a slave. He had indeed received in wedlock Drusilla, grand-daughter to Anthony and Cleopatra: Insomuch that whilst the Emperor was Mark Anthony’s grandson, Felix his manumised slave was married to the grand-daughter of that very Mark Anthony.
The Jews, however, bore their oppression with patience till the time of Gessius Florus, who governed them with the title of Imperial Procurator. Under him a war arose; and Cestius Gallus, Governor of Syria, trying to crush it, in all his encounters with the revolters found the issue at best doubtful, frequently disastrous. Upon the death of Gallus, whether it happened through the course of nature, or through melancholy and regret, the charge was by Nero transferred upon Vespasian, who, favoured by his good fortune and great fame, and served by excellent officers and assistants, in the space of two summers with his victorious army possessed the whole country and all the cities besides Jerusalem. The year following was employed in the civil War, and to the Jews proved altogether pacific. When at home in Italy peace ensued, with it the care of affairs abroad revived. What heightened the public indignation was, that of all nations the Jews only refused to submit. It was withal judged more politic and secure, that Titus should continue at the head of armies, to be ready against all the events and casualties incident to a new reign. Having therefore encamped, as I have related, near the walls of Jerusalem, he displayed his Legions in array.
Under the very walls the Jews embattled their host, ready to adventure further, were their efforts successful, and trusting to a refuge at hand, were they repulsed. Against them the cavalry were sent, with some cohorts lightly armed, but left the issue of the conflict doubtful. Afterwards the enemy retired, and on the subsequent days maintained frequent skirmishes just without the gates, till by continual losses they were forced within their walls. These the Romans resolved to storm. For honourable it seemed not, to await their reduction by famine. Nay, the army sought to encounter dangers, some from magnanimity, many from impetuosity, or for the recompences attending victory. Titus himself was setting Rome before his eyes, with all the opulence and many pleasures there, and it seemed tedious to wait for the enjoyment of these, unless Jerusalem were razed without all delay. But steep and high was the situation of the City, and fortified besides with works and ramparts, such as would have proved a sufficient defence to a place even standing in a plain. There were two hills immensely high and enclosed by a wall built purposely crooked, with angles and windings, whence the flanks of the assailants might be exposed to be galled by the besieged. The extremities of the rock were sharp and inaccessible. They had also great towers, some built upon the summit and raised sixty foot high, others upon the declensions of the hills mounting up to an hundred and twenty foot, both sorts beautiful and marvellous to behold, and to such as viewed them at a distance, all appearing equal in height. Within the City there were other walls surrounding the palace, with the tower Antonia exceeding stately and conspicuous, called so by Herod in honour to Anthony.
The Temple was raised like a great castle, enclosed with fortifications of its own, in structure and strength superior to all the others. Even the Portals and Cloisters built round the Temple were a noble Fortress. With water they were supplied from a fountain which never waxed dry. The mountains were all scooped into caverns. There were many pools and cisterns for preserving the rain. From the singularity of the Jewish institutions, different from those of all other nations, they who founded the City had foreseen that frequent wars would accrue. Hence no precaution, no defence had been omitted proper for sustaining a siege, however long. And as they had been already sacked by Pompey, fear and experience had enlightened them in many instances. Besides, such had been the venality of the reign of Claudius, that they had then procured with money a right to rebuild their walls, which they built so strong during peace, as if they had had nothing in view but war. Mighty was the multitude there, and greatly augmented by the destruction of the other cities, since from these had fled hither, all the most turbulent and resolute; and thence amongst them the more discord and sedition prevailed. Three Commanders there were, and as many Armies. Simon guarded the extent and circuit of the walls: John, whom they sirnamed Bargioras, commanded the heart of the City: Eleazar maintained the Temple. In multitudes and arms John and Simon surpassed; in situation Eleazar. But amongst themselves there prevailed mutual slaughter and battles, circumvention and ambush, with the fury and devastation of fire, whence mighty store of grain was utterly consumed. John next employed certain assassins, under colour of performing sacrifice, to butcher Eleazar and his whole band, and thus gained possession of the Temple. In this manner the City was rent into two factions, till, upon the approach of the Romans, war from without produced concord within.
There had happened omens and prodigies, things which that nation so addicted to superstition, but so averse to the Gods, hold it unlawful to expiate either by vows or victims. Hosts were seen to encounter in the air, refulgent arms appeared; and, by a blaze of lightning shooting suddenly from the clouds, all the Temple was illuminated. The great gates of the Temple were of themselves in an instant thrown open, and a voice more than human heard to declare, that “the Gods were going to depart.” There followed withal a huge stir and tumult, as resulting from their motion and departure: Wonders from which some few found cause of dread. Many were under a strong persuasion, that in the ancient books kept by their Priests, a Prophecy was contained, “That at this very time the power of the East would prevail, and out of Judæa should spring such as were to rule over all nations:” A prophetic riddle, by which Vespasian and Titus were prefigured. But the populace, according to the usual fondness and credulity of human wishes, construed to themselves all this mighty fortune reserved by fate, insomuch that even by their severe sufferings and disasters they could not be reclaimed to truth and their understandings. The number of the besieged of all ages and both sexes, we learn to have been six hundred thousand. Arms were borne by all who were able: Nay, there were more who adventured upon arms, than even from a multitude so vast could have been expected. In men and women was found an equal obstinacy to resist, and (if they were indeed doomed to change their native country) a greater dread of surviving than of perishing. Against this strong City and this stubborn people, Titus determined to proceed by mounds and machines of battery, since such was the situation as to be proof against storming and the sudden efforts of an army. Amongst the Legions their several tasks and employments were parted, and all combating ceased, till they were prepared to prosecute the siege by every engine and art either devised by the ancients, or lately invented, for the attacking and reduction of cities.
Now Civilis, who after this disastrous fight in the region of the Treverians, had repaired his army by supplies in Germany, pitched his camp in the old entrenchments: For he meant to secure himself by the situation and defence of the place, and to heighten the courage and ferocity of the Barbarians with the memory of their former exploits there. Thither Cerialis followed him, with forces now doubled, by the accession of the second, the sixteenth and the fourteenth Legions. Moreover the auxiliary Cohorts and Squadrons of horse, who were long since called to his assistance, had after the victory made great speed to join him. Both the Leaders were far from slowness or affecting delays: But the fields, very large, and naturally marshy, obstructed them. Civilis too had by a great damm diverted the course of the Rhine, which thence flooded all the neighbouring grounds. This was the quality of the place, very dangerous and deceitful from the uncertainty of the depths and shallows, and to the Romans brought notable damage. For our soldiers were heavily armed and fearful of swimming: The Germans, besides their being accustomed to rivers, were so lightly armed and so tall, that they easily kept themselves above the water. Under this unequal condition, as the Batavians began to insult us, all the most resolute amongst our men were provoked to the onset: But a general consternation ensued, when in the deep pools, horses and arms were seen swallowed up. The Germans, who knew the shallows, bounded hither and thither, but generally avoiding a direct attack, beset us in the flank and rear. Neither was it a close encounter as between armies of foot, but, as in a naval combat, they engaged at random, straggling in the waters: Or where any firm footing was found, there grappling and contending man to man with all their might, the sound with the maimed, such as were skilled in swimming with such as could not swim, were reciprocally involved in perdition. Smaller, however, was the slaughter than usual in confusion so great; for that the Germans not daring to venture out of the marshes, returned to their camp. By the issue of this engagement each of the Leaders was prompted, though from different operations of spirit, to quicken the decision of the whole cause by a general battle, Civilis passionate to pursue his good fortune, Cerialis to cancel his dishonour. The Germans were fierce and bold upon success; the Romans were roused by shame. Amongst the Barbarians the night was spent in shouting or in songs, with us in rage and menaces.
The next morning Cerialis furnished his front with the Cavalry and auxiliary Cohorts: Behind them were ranged the Legions: With himself he reserved a choice body against all emergencies. Civilis extended not his forces in a line, but formed them into several bands. In the right were the Batavians and Gugernians; on the left towards the river stood those from beyond the Rhine. The two Generals exhorted not their men by haranguing them in a body, but addressed themselves severally now to these, anon to those, as they passed through them. Cerialis urged “the ancient glory of the Roman name, their victories of old and of late; that such an enemy as this, so faithless, impotent and vanquished, it behoved them to extirpate for ever. The present was rather a call to inflict vengeance than to fight a battle. They had lately encountered upon unequal terms, a few against many; yet the Germans were defeated, they who furnished the principal strength. There remained such only who in their minds retained their late rout, and upon their backs their recent wounds.” He next animated the several Legions with stimulations proper for each. Those of the fourteenth “he stiled the conquerors of Britain. By the sixth Galba had been created Emperor. To the second this was the first battle, and in it they were about to initiate and hallow their fresh banners and their new Eagle.” From thence passing to the German army, with uplifted hands he reminded them to “reconquer at the expence of the enemy’s blood, their own post upon the Rhine, and their own entrenchments.” By the whole were returned shouts chearful and confident, as well from such as tired with long peace, wished to fight, as from those who longed for peace through weariness of war; and thereafter they hoped for rewards and repose.
Neither was the host of Civilis embattled in silence. For a witness of their magnanimity he appealed to the very field of battle; “That upon the traces and monuments of their own glory stood the Germans and Batavians, trampling upon the bones and ashes of the Legions. Here to the eyes of the Romans, whithersoever they turned them, nothing was presented but their own captivity, slaughter, calamity and direful omens. Nor must they be daunted by the variable issue of the conflict in the Treverian territories. The Germans had there found an obstacle from their own victory, whilst quitting their weapons they embarrassed themselves with plunder. Presently after all things proved propitious, but to the enemy cross and unfortunate. Whatever measures the wit of a General was capable of concerting, he had concerted; the fields were overflowed and marshy, places familiar and safe to themselves, and there were pools pernicious to the enemy; the Rhine in full view with the Gods of Germany: Under their favour and influence divine they were now to advance to battle, mindful of their wives, mindful of their parents and their country. Either very glorious would this day prove, worthy to be numbered with those of their ancestors, or black and ignominious to all posterity.” When, by the clangor of their arms, and by beating the ground with their feet (such is the custom of the Nation) they had applauded his speech, they began the charge with stones, leaden balls, and other missive weapons. For, as our men forbore entering the marsh, the Germans were thus provoking them to enter.
When the flying weapons were wasted, and the battle waxed hot, the enemy rushed on with deadly rage, and with their huge bodies and long spears, at arms length gored our soldiers sliding and tumbling in the slippery marsh. At the same time the band of Bructerians came swimming over from the great damm, which I have mentioned to have been raised in the channel of the Rhine. Where they attacked, disorder ensued, and the body of Cohorts were recoiling, when the Legions sustained the combat, and having stayed the fury of the enemy, rendered the conflict equal.
During this a Batavian who had deserted to the Romans, applied to Cerialis, and assured him “of an opportunity of falling upon the enemy in the rear, if some cavalry were sent away to the extremity of the marsh: They would there find firm footing as well as small vigilance amongst the Gugernians, to whom the charge of securing that post had fallen.” With the deserter two squadrons of horse were sent, and surrounded the enemy destitute of all precaution, and unprepared to resist. When, by the shoutings which ensued, this was learnt, the Legions urged the foe in front; the Germans were defeated, and betook themselves in flight to the Rhine. A complete issue of the War that day had seen, if our Fleet had hastened to follow the victory. In truth the Cavalry pressed not after the flying foe, as there fell a sudden storm of rain, and the night approached.
The next day, the fourteenth Legion was sent into the higher Province to Annius Gallus: With the tenth from Spain the army of Cerialis was supplied. To Civilis there came succours from the Chaucians. Yet he ventured not to trust to arms the defence of the Batavian cities, but, carrying off whatever was moveable, set fire to all the rest, and retired into the Island; for he was aware that for forming a bridge the Romans wanted boats, nor in any other manner could their army pass after him. He even ruined the great damm made by Drusus Germanicus; and thus from the Rhine, whose strong current rolls naturally down to Gaul, caused an inundation by demolishing what had restrained it: Insomuch that when the river was driven, as it were, into another course, the channel which parts the Island from Germany was so small, that the two lands seemed contiguous. Over the Rhine too passed Tutor and Classicus, as also an hundred and thirteen Senators of the Treverian State. Of that number was Alpinus Montanus, whom I have heretofore remembered to have been sent by Antonius Primus into Gaul. There now accompanied him his brother Decimus Alpinus. These and all the rest, by the force of commiseration attended with gifts, gathered succours amongst those nations so eager to encounter perils.
Moreover in such strength the war still subsisted, that in one day Civilis made a fourfold assault upon our forces, those of our Cohorts, of our Cavalry, nay, of our Legions, lying separate in so many garisons; upon the tenth Legion at Arenacum, upon the second at Batavodurum, and upon the auxiliary Cohorts and Cavalry at Grinnes and Vada. For he had so divided his own forces, that he himself, and Verax his sister’s son, and Classicus, and Tutor, led each a distinct band. Not that he hoped to succeed in all these attempts, but it was urged, “That whilst they adventured upon many, fortune would prove assisting to them in some. Cerialis withal exercised not sufficient caution, and might be easily intercepted, as he was called hither and thither by several messengers and alarms.” The party appointed to attack the entrenchments of the tenth Legion, judging it difficult to carry the assault against such a body, fell upon such of the men who were abroad busied in cutting of wood, and routed them with the slaughter of the Camp-Marshal, of five Centurions of principal rank, and of some few soldiers. The rest defended themselves within their fortifications. A band of Germans the while were labouring to destroy the bridge begun at Batavodurum, where the combat continued doubtful, till night parted the combatants.
Greater was the peril and onset sustained at Grinnes and Vada. Civilis assaulted Vada, as did Classicus Grinnes. Nor could their assaults be withstood; for all the men remarkably brave were slain. Amongst these fell Briganticus, Commander of a squadron of horse, one whom I before mentioned as faithfully attached to the Romans, and at utter enmity with Civilis his uncle. But when Cerialis, at the head of a choice band of horse, brought relief, suddenly changed was the fortune of the fight, the Germans were routed, and cast themselves precipitately into the river. Civilis, whilst he strove to stay the fugitives, was known, and as he was pursued by a volley of darts, relinquished his horse, and swam across. The same refuge had the Germans. Tutor and Classicus went over in skiffs sent purposely to fetch them. Neither again in this engagement was the Roman Fleet present to assist, according to orders sent them. What restrained them was fear; besides the mariners were dispersed, attending other military functions. Cerialis had, in truth, allowed them a very short space for executing his orders, as he was sudden in forming his resolutions, yet gained signal renown from their event. Fortune aided him, even where his conduct failed. Hence in himself and his army was found less regard for discipline. Nay, a very few days after, though he escaped the hazard of being taken, he bore the infamy of having incurred it.
He had made a progress to Novesium and Bonn, to visit the camp raised there for wintering the Legions; and was returning by water in a Fleet, which proceeded in a manner very loose and disorderly, and the watches were negligently kept. This the Germans observed, and devised how to circumvent them. They chose a night very dark and cloudy, and descending down the stream with great rapidity, entered the lodgments of the soldiers upon the shore; nor found they a man to oppose them. The first slaughter was forwarded by art and dexterity. They cut the tent-cords, then butchered the men thus entangled and overwhelmed under their own pavilions. Another party embarassed the Fleet, grappled the ships, and dragged them away. As they had conducted the stratagem with universal silence, so, when the carnage was begun, to heighten the terror, they filled the air with incessant shouts. The Romans, roused by their wounds, searched for their arms, and run forth in the lanes of the camp, few equipped like soldiers, many with their garments wrapped round their arm, and their swords drawn. The General half awake, and almost naked, escaped through the mistake of the enemy. For they had carried off the Admiral’s ship, distinguished by its standard, from a belief that in it the General was carried. Cerialis passed the night elsewhere, as many believed, in the embraces of Claudia Sacrata, a native of Cologn. From the dishonour of their General the watch borrowed an excuse for their own fault and negligence, for that “they were enjoined to keep silence, for fear of interrupting his repose: so that, as the usual word and signal had been omitted, and speaking restrained, they too had dropped asleep.” It was open day when the enemy sailed back with our captive ships, and led away the Admiral’s galley upon the river Luppia for a present to Veleda.
Civilis became possessed with a passion to display the power of a naval army. Hence he filled with men whatever gallies there were of one or two banks of oars. To these was added a great number of skiffs, with pinnaces, such as are wont to carry thirty or forty men, as also the skiffs which had been lately taken, and for sails carried mantles of divers colours not unpleasing to behold. For ranging this his Fleet he chose a bay spacious as a sea, where the Rhine discharges itself through the mouth of the Moselle into the Ocean. The cause of forming a Fleet, besides the vanity inherent in that Nation, was by such a force to prevent and intercept the provisions which were coming to our army from Gaul. Cerialis, struck with wonder rather than with fear, arrayed his Fleet, in number unequal to that of the enemy, but in expert sailors, in skilful pilots, and in largeness of ships, far surpassing. The latter sailed with the stream; the enemy moved before the wind. Thus they advanced, and just exchanging some flights of darts, passed by each other, and parted. Civilis without adventuring any thing further, retired beyond the Rhine. Cerialis ravaged the Island of the Batavians like an enemy’s country; but, through policy usual to Generals, left all the lands and dwellings of Civilis untouched; when in the mean while, by the excessive and incessant rains following the declension of autumn, the river overflowed, and spread over the Island naturally low and moorish, and now resembling a great Lake. Neither was the army furnished with ships or provisions: Moreover the tents, pitched upon a flat, were tossed and overborne by the violence of the inundation.
Hence the merit pleaded by Civilis, “for that the Legions might have been destroyed, and that the Germans designed it, but, through his art and management, had receded.” Nor does it seem repugnant to truth, since in a few days after he yielded himself to the Romans. For, Cerialis employing secret agents, whilst he tempted the Batavians with an offer of peace, Civilis by that of pardon, warned Veleda and the nations about her, “by some signal and seasonable service towards the Roman people, to change their own fortune, one so disastrous in war, and, by so many defeats and slaughters, found to be cross and calamitous. The Treverians were cut off, the Ubians had submitted, the Batavians were bereft of their country; nor ought else had been gained by the friendship of Civilis, save wounds and defeats, expulsion and anguish. The man was a vagabond and an exile, a sure burden and misfortune to such as received him. Already they had transgressed abundantly in having so often passed the Rhine. If they were still devising further efforts and machinations, with themselves would remain the guilt and iniquity, with us just vengeance and the Gods.” With these threatnings promises were mixed. And as the faith of those beyond the Rhine was shaken and wavered, amongst the Batavians also reasonings and conferences arose, “That it behoved them to urge no further their own ruin; nor was it possible for a single nation to deliver the whole earth from bondage. What had they accomplished by slaughtering and burning the Legions, but only to occasion the calling in of others more numerous and more powerful? If for Vespasian the war was waged, Vespasian was now victorious, and settled in supreme power. But if against the Roman people they took arms, what an inconsiderable part of human kind were the Batavians? They should consider the nations of Rhœtia and Noricum, consider the burdens and impositions upon other countries confederate with Rome. Upon themselves no tribute was laid, other than to contribute men and magnanimity; a condition bordering upon liberty; and if they were free to chuse their supreme Lords, they might more honourably bear the Emperors of the Romans than Women ruling the Germans.” These were the descantings of the populace. Their Chiefs urged, “That by the deadly fury of Civilis they had been driven headlong into war; a man who for the cure of his own domestic misfortunes sought the ruin and desolation of the whole nation. Then it was that the Gods became incensed against the Batavians, when by the Batavians the Legions were besieged, the Commanders of the Legions murdered, and a war begun, necessary only to one man, to themselves fatal and deadly. They were now reduced to the last pass, and their condition desperate, unless they began instantly to retrieve their understanding and innocence, and, by devoting to punishment the guilty head, manifested their own remorse.”
No secret to Civilis was this inclination of theirs, and he determined to prevent them. Besides his anguish under a series of evils and distress, he was influenced by his hopes of life, a passion which frequently sinks very high and haughty spirits. As he sought a conference, the bridge upon the river Wahal was broken down in the middle, and the two Generals stepping forwards on each side, stood upon the opposite extremities, and thus Civilis accosted Cerialis. “Were I to make my defence before a Lieutenant of Vitellius, neither would pardon be due to my deeds, nor credit to my professions. Between him and me nothing passed but continual efforts of hostility and hate, all begun by him, all heightened by me. Towards Vespasian ancient is my observance and veneration, and whilst he was a private person, we were called friends. To Antonius primus this is well known, and by letters from him I was urged to the War, to obstruct the German Legions, and the youth of Gaul, from passing over the Alps. What Antonius exhorted me to by letters, what Hordeonius Flaccus advised me in person, I did, and took up arms in Germany, such arms as Mucianus took up in Syria, Aponius in Mœsia, and Flavianus in Pannonia.
The greater Part of the Fifth Book is lost.
A TREATISE OF THE SITUATION, CUSTOMS, AND PEOPLE OF GERMANY.
TO THE Right Honourable JOHN Lord CARTERET.
AS an acknowledgment of the friendly concern, which during the course of this Work Your Lordship has been pleased constantly to shew for its accomplishment and success, I beg leave to prefix Your Name to the following Account of Germany, a very curious Treatise very beautifully composed: a character which none who know Yours will suppose I give it for your information, but only as the just commendation of Tacitus, whose genius never fails to spirit and embellish whatever subject he undertakes.
As Your Lordship understands him thoroughly, and consequently the difficulty of making him speak any modern Language, (for, how much modern Languages are able to bear, Your Lordship likewise knows) You will find fewer faults than they who often abound in censure without abounding in knowledge. For such generally are the readiest Censurers, as well as the least merciful. This is a constant hardship upon Authors, though it be too, in some measure, their consolation. Men, at least the bulk of men, are naturally turned rather to blame than to approve, and all who read do, almost of course, pass judgment. It is indeed the right of Readers, and must therefore be the lot of Writers.
From the many observations which I have frequently had the pleasure of hearing You make upon the Genius, Language and Peculiarities of Tacitus, and about the manner of Translating him, I have likewise the pleasure of knowing Your Lordship’s opinion to be the same with my own, that a common and familiar stile would no-wise have suited either his ideas or his phrase. He delights in a particular pomp and gravity of thought, in an uncommon brevity and vigour of expression, and it is his talent at once to affect and surprize. This is his manner, and he never departs from it. Even where he is abrupt and stiff, he pleases, nay, pleases by being so.
They therefore who study not his manner, will never have success in translating his words; nor is it possible they should; since in writing as well as in speaking, the manner often conveys stronger ideas than the words convey. And as it is possible for a face to persuade, when the mouth says very little; so the turn of a phrase may have great energy, when the words are not remarkable. The same sentence from two different men moves us not equally, if their manner be different; and their words, though alike, affect us variously, as they themselves seem variously affected. In the looks of a man of sense, even when he is silent, there is observation and meaning, such as words sometimes cannot convey, or can convey but very imperfectly.
It is much like this in writing: even the turn and manner of style has infinite force; and to avoid speaking out, is often the most powerful way of speaking. A half sentence, a pause, or sudden break, has frequently much more effect than the fullest expression, and the roundest periods. We see some men eloquent without persuasion, others persuasive without eloquence, and a hint or insinuation from one man more prevalent than long reasonings from another. So that it is necessary to attend to the manner, to the spirit of a writer more than to his words, else his words will not be very instructive. I doubt not but many a man has read over Tacitus, and understood every word in him, without understanding Tacitus.
These remarks, my Lord, which upon this subject occur to me, I address, not to Your Lordship, for an obvious reason, but to the Public under Your Name, to let the world know that about the method of translating Tacitus Your Lordship judges as I do: whence I am the less likely to forsake or change this my judgment.
I must also in another instance appeal to Your Lordship, and defend myself by Your Authority. The Dialogue about Orators, or concerning the causes of the decay of Eloquence, is by some ascribed to Tacitus, and generally, if not always, bound up with his Works. They who are of this opinion, or follow that of such who are, may expect that I should have translated it with the rest, as I certainly should, were I not persuaded that it is none of his.
It is a fine Tract, and the Latin is beautiful; it is very polite, full of good sense, and indeed of eloquence. But though the discernment be lively, the expression noble, and the sense strong, it wants the profound touches of Tacitus, and resembles not his manner. Though it be written with great spirit, it is a spirit of another sort than his, which always darts like lightning, and strikes without warning. He would moreover have accounted for the failure of popular eloquence in fewer words, and assigned a reason of more cogency than all that are mentioned there, though they be there very judiciously enumerated. But the principal is hardly touched. There are other considerations also to be urged against ascribing that Dialogue to Tacitus.
You see, my Lord, that instead of paying You any compliments, I venture to lay a task upon You. But it is the part of a Patron to defend. How well qualified You are to discharge such a part, I have long known, and all men allow; nor can it, I hope, be any news to Your Lordship to be told, how much I am, and with what very great respect,
My Lord, Your most Obedient, and most Humble Servant,
A TREATISE OF THE Situation, Customs, and People OF GERMANY.
THE whole of Germany is thus bounded; it is separated from Gaul, from Rhœtia and Pannonia, by the rivers Rhine and Danube; from Sarmatia and Dacia by mutual fear, or by high mountains: The rest is encompassed by the Ocean, which forms huge bays, and comprehends a tract of islands immense in extent: For we have lately known certain Nations, and even Kingdoms there, such as the War first discovered. The Rhine rising in the Rhœtian Alps from a summit altogether rocky and perpendicular, after a small winding towards the West, is lost in the Northern Ocean. The Danube issues out of the mountain Abnoba, one very high, but very easy of ascent; and traversing several nations, falls by six streams into the Euxine sea; for its seventh channel is absorbed in the Fenns.
The Germans, I am apt to believe, derive their original from no other people, and are nowise mixed with different Nations arriving amongst them: Since anciently those who went in search of new dwellings, travelled not by land, but were carried in fleets; and into that mighty Ocean so boundless, and, as I may call it, so repugnant and forbidding, ships from our world rarely enter. Moreover, besides the dangers from a sea tempestuous, horrid and unknown, who would relinquish Asia, or Africa, or Italy, to repair to Germany, a region hideous and rude, under a rigorous climate, dismal to behold or to manure; unless the same were his native country? In their old ballads (which amongst them are the only sort of Registers and History) they celebrate Tuisto, a God sprung from the earth, and Mannus his son, as the fathers and founders of the Nation. To Mannus they aslign three sons, after whose names so many people are called; the Ingævones, dwelling next the Ocean; the Herminones, in the middle country; and all the rest, Istævones. Some, borrowing a warrant from the darkness of antiquity, maintain that the God had more sons; that thence came more denominations of people, the Marsians, Gambrians, Suevians, and Vandalians, and that these are the names truly genuine and original. For the rest, they affirm Germany to be a recent word, lately bestowed: For that those who first passed the Rhine, and expulsed the Gauls, and are now named Tungrians, were then called Germans: And thus by degrees the name of a tribe prevailed, not that of the Nation; so that by an appellation at first occasioned by terror and conquest, they afterwards chose to be distinguished, and assuming a name lately invented were universally called Germans. They have a tradition that Hercules also had been in their country, and him above all other heroes they extol in their songs, when they advance to battle.
Amongst them too are found that kind of verses, by the recital of which (by them called Barding) they inspire bravery; nay, by such chanting itself they divine the success of the approaching fight. For, according to the different din of the battle, they urge furiously, or shrink timorously. Nor does what they utter so much seem to be singing, as the voice and exertion of valour. They chiefly study a tone fierce and harsh, with a broken and unequal murmur, and therefore apply their shields to their mouths, whence the voice may by rebounding swell with greater fulness and force. Besides there are some of opinion, that Ulysses, whilst he wandered about in his long and fabulous voyages, was carried into this Ocean, and entered Germany; and that by him Asciburgium was founded and named, a City at this day standing and inhabited upon the bank of the Rhine: nay, that in the same place was formerly found an altar dedicated to Ulysses, with the name of his father Laertes added to his own, and that upon the confines of Germany and Rhœtia are still extant certain monuments and tombs inscribed with Greek characters: Traditions which I mean not either to confirm with arguments of my own, or to refute: Let every one believe or deny the same according to his own bent. For myself, I concur in opinion with such as suppose the people of Germany never to have mingled by intermarriages with other nations, but to have remained a people pure, and independent, and resembling none but themselves. Hence amongst such a mighty multitude of men, the same make and form is found in all, eyes stern and blue, yellow hair, huge bodies, but vigorous only in the first onset. Of pains and labour they are not equally patient, nor can they at all endure thirst and heat. To bear hunger and cold they are hardened by their climate and soil.
Their Lands, however somewhat different in aspect, yet, taken all together, consist of gloomy Forests, or nasty Marshes; lower and moister towards the confines of Gaul, more mountainous and windy towards Noricum and Pannonia; very apt to bear Grain, but altogether unkindly to fruit Trees; abounding in Flocks and Herds, but generally small of growth. Nor even in their Oxen is found the usual stateliness, no more than the natural ornaments and grandeur of head. In the number of their Herds they rejoice; and these are their only, these their most desirable riches. Silver and Gold the Gods have denied them, whether in mercy or in wrath, I am unable to determine. Yet I would not venture to aver that in Germany no vein of gold or silver is produced; for who has ever searched? For the use and possession it is certain they care not. Amongst them, indeed, are to be seen vessels of silver, such as have been presented to their Princes and Embassadors, but holden in no other esteem than vessels made of earth. The Germans however adjoining to our frontiers value gold and silver for the purposes of commerce, and are wont to distinguish and prefer certain of our coins. They who live more remote are more primitive and simple in their dealings, and exchange one commodity for another. The money which they like is the old and long known, that indented, or that impressed with a chariot and two horses. Silver too is what they seek more than gold, from no fondness or preference, but because small silver pieces are more ready in purchasing things cheap and common.
Neither, in truth, do they abound in Iron, as from the fashion of their weapons may be gathered. Swords they rarely use, or the larger spear. They carry Javelins, or, in their own language, Framms, pointed with a piece of iron short and narrow, but so sharp and manageable, that with the same weapon they can fight at a distance, or hand to hand, just as need requires. Nay, the Horsemen also are content with a Shield and a Javelin. The Foot throw likewise weapons missive; each particular is armed with many, and hurls them a mighty space, all naked, or only wearing a light cassock. In their equipment they shew no ostentation; only that their shields are diversified and adorned with curious colours. With coats of mail very few are furnished, and hardly upon any is seen a head-piece or helmet. Their horses are nowise signal either in fashion or in fleetness, nor taught to wheel and bound, according to the practice of the Romans: They only move them forward in a line, or turn them right about, with such compactness and equality, that no one is ever behind the rest. To one who considers the whole it is manifest, that in their foot their principal strength lies, and therefore they fight intermixed with the horse: For such is their swiftness as to match and suit with the motions and engagements of the cavalry. So that the infantry are elected from amongst the most robust of their youth, and placed in the front of the army. The number to be sent is also ascertained, out of every village an hundred, and by this very name they continue to be called at home, those of the hundred band: Thus what was at first no more than a number, becomes thenceforth a title and distinction of honour. In arraying their army they divide the whole into distinct battalions formed sharp in front. To recoil in battle, provided you return again to the attack, passes with them rather for policy than fear. Even while the combat is no more than doubtful, they bear away the bodies of their slain. The most glaring disgrace that can befal them, is to have quitted their shield; nor to one branded with such ignominy is it lawful to join in their sacrifices, or to enter into their assemblies; and many who had escaped in the day of battle, have hanged themselves to put an end to this their infamy.
In the choice of Kings they are determined by the splendor of their race, in that of Generals by their bravery. Neither is the power of their Kings unbounded or arbitrary: And their Generals procure obedience not so much by the force of their authority, as by that of their example, when they appear enterprizing and brave, when they signalize themselves by courage and prowess; and if they surpass all in admiration and pre-eminence, if they surpass all at the head of an army. But to none else but the Priests is it allowed to exercise correction, or to inflict bonds or stripes. Nor, when the Priests do this, is the same considered as a punishment, or arising from the orders of the General, but from the immediate command of the Deity, him whom they believe to accompany them in war. They therefore carry with them, when going to fight, certain images and figures taken out of their holy groves. What proves the principal incentive to their valour is, that it is not at random, nor by the fortuitous conflux of men, that their troops and pointed battalions are formed, but by the conjunction of whole families, and tribes of relations. Moreover, close to the field of battle are lodged all the nearest and most interesting pledges of nature. Hence they hear the doleful howlings of their wives, hence the cries of their tender infants. These are to each particular the witnesses whom he most reverences and dreads; these yield him the praise which affect him most. Their wounds and maims they carry to their mothers, or to their wives, neither are their mothers or wives shocked in telling, or in sucking their bleeding sores. Nay, to their husbands and sons whilst engaged in battle, they administer meat and encouragement.
In history we find, that some armies already yielding and ready to fly, have been by the women restored, through their inflexible importunity and intreaties, presenting their breasts, and shewing their impending captivity; an evil to the Germans then by far most dreadful when it befals their women. So that the spirit of such cities as amongst their hostages are injoined to send their damsels of quality, is always engaged more effectually than that of others. They even believe them endowed with something celestial, and the spirit of prophecy. Neither do they disdain to consult them, nor neglect the responses which they return. In the reign of the deified Vespasian we have seen Veleda, for a long time, and by many nations, esteemed and adored as a Divinity. In times past they likewise worshiped Aurinia and several more, from no complaisance or effort of flattery, nor as Deities of their own creating.
Of all the Gods, Mercury is he whom they worship most. To him on certain stated days it is lawful to offer even human victims. Hercules and Mars they appease with beafts usually allowed for sacrifice. Some of the Suevians make likewise immolations to Isis. Concerning the cause and original of this foreign sacrifice I have found small light; unless the figure of her Image formed like a galley, shew that such devotion arrived from abroad. For the rest, from the grandeur and majesty of Beings celestial, they judge it altogether unsuitable to hold the Gods inclosed within walls, or to represent them under any human likeness. They consecrate whole woods and groves, and by the names of the Gods they call these recesses; Divinities which only in contemplation, and mental reverence, they behold.
To the use of lots and auguries they are addicted beyond all other nations. Their method of divining by lots is exceeding simple. From a tree which bears fruit they cut a twig, and divide it into small pieces. These they distinguish by so many several marks, and throw them at random, and without order, upon a white garment. Then the Priest of the Community, if for the public the lots are consulted, or the father of a family, if about a private concern, after he has solemnly invoked the Gods, with eyes lifted up to heaven, takes up every piece thrice, and having done thus forms a judgment according to the marks before made. If the chances have proved forbidding, they are no more consulted upon the same affair during the same day: Even when they are inviting, yet, for confirmation, the faith of auguries too is tried. Yea, here also is the known practice of divining events from the voices and flight of birds. But to this Nation it is peculiar, to learn presages and admonitions divine from horses also. These are nourished by the State in the same sacred woods and groves, all milk white, and employed in no earthly labour. These yoked in the holy chariot, are accompanied by the Priest and the King, or the Chief of the Community, who both carefully observe his actions and neighing. Nor in any sort of augury is more faith and assurance reposed, not by the populace only, but even by the Nobles, even by the Priests. These account themselves the Ministers of the Gods, and the horses privy to his will. They have likewise another method of divination, whence to learn the issue of great and mighty wars. From the nation with whom they are at war they contrive, it avails not how, to gain a captive: Him they engage in combat with one selected from amongst themselves, each armed after the manner of his country, and according as the victory falls to this, or to the other, gather a presage of the whole.
Affairs of smaller moment the Chiefs determine: About matters of higher consequence the whole Nation deliberates; yet in such sort, that whatever depends upon the pleasure and decision of the People, is examined and discussed by the Chiefs. Where no accident or emergency intervenes, they assemble upon stated days, either when the moon changes, or is full: Since they believe such seasons to be the most fortunate for beginning all transactions. Neither in reckoning of time do they count, like us, the number of days, but that of nights. In this style their Ordinances are framed, in this style their Diets appointed; and with them the night seems to lead and govern the day. From their extensive liberty this evil and default flows, that they meet not at once, nor as men commanded, and afraid to disobey; so that often the second day, nay, often the third, is consumed through the slowness of the members in assembling. They sit down as they list, promiscuously, like a crowd, and all armed. It is by the Priests that silence is injoined, and with the power of correction the Priests are then invested. Then the King or Chief is heard, as are others, each according to his precedence in age, or in nobility, or in warlike renown, or in eloquence; and the influence of every speaker proceeds rather from his ability to persuade, than from any authority to command. If the proposition displease, they reject it by an inarticulate murmur: if it be pleasing, they brandish their javelins. The most honourable manner of signifying their assent, is to express their applause by the sound of their arms.
In the assembly it is allowed to present accusations, and to prosecute capital offences. Punishments vary according to the quality of the crime. Traitors and deserters they hang upon trees. Cowards, and sluggards, and unnatural prostitutes, they smother in mud and bogs, under a heap of hurdles. Such diversity in their executions has this view, that in punishing of glaring iniquities, it behoves likewise to display them to sight; but effeminacy and pollution must be buried and concealed. In lighter transgressions too the penalty is measured by the fault, and the delinquents upon conviction are condemned to pay a certain number of horses or cattle. Part of this mulct accrues to the King, or to the Community, part to him whose wrongs are vindicated, or to his next kindred. In the same assemblies are also chosen their Chiefs or Rulers, such as administer Justice in their villages and boroughs. To each of these are assigned an hundred persons chosen from amongst the populace, to accompany and assist him, men who help him at once with their authority and their counsel.
Without being armed they transact nothing, whether of public or private concernment. But it is repugnant to their custom for any man to use arms, before the Community has attested his capacity to wield them. Upon such testimonial, either one of the Rulers, or his father, or some kinsman dignify the young man in the midst of the assembly, with a shield and javelin. This amongst them is the manly robe, this the first degree of honour conferred upon their youth. Before this they seem no more than part of a private family, but thenceforward part of the Commonweal. The princely dignity they confer even upon striplings, whose race is eminently noble, or whose fathers have done great and signal services to the State. For about the rest, who are more vigorous and long since tried, they assiduously crowd to attend: Nor is it any shame to be seen amongst the followers of these. Nay, there are likewise degrees of followers, higher or lower, just as he whom they follow judges fit. Mighty also is the emulation amongst these followers, of each to be first in favour with his Prince; mighty also the emulation of the Princes, to excell in the number and valour of followers. This is their principal state, this their chief force, to be at all times surrounded with a huge band of chosen young men, for ornament and glory in peace, for security and defence in war. Nor is it amongst his own people only, but even from the neighbouring Communities, that any of their Princes reaps so much renown and a name so great, when he surpasses in the number and magnanimity of his followers. For such are courted by Embassies, and distinguished with presents, and, by the terror of their fame alone, often dissipate wars.
In the day of battle, it is scandalous to the Prince to be surpassed in feats of bravery, scandalous to his followers to fail in matching the bravery of the Prince. But it is infamy during life, and indelible reproach, to return alive from a battle where their Prince was slain. To preserve their Prince, to defend him, and to ascribe to his glory all their own valorous deeds, is the sum and most sacred part of their oath. The Princes fight for victory; for the Prince his followers fight. Many of the young nobility, when their own Community comes to languish in its vigour by long peace and inactivity, betake themselves, through impatience, to other States which then prove to be in war. For, besides that this people cannot brook repose, besides that by perillous adventures they more quickly blazon their fame, they cannot, otherwise than by violence and war, support their huge train of retainers. For from the liberality of their Prince they demand and enjoy that War-horse of theirs, with that victorious Javelin, always dyed in the blood of their enemies. In the place of pay, they are supplied with a daily table and repasts, though grosly prepared, yet very profuse. For maintaining such liberality and munificence a fund is furnished by continual wars and plunder. Nor could you so easily persuade them to cultivate the ground, or to await the return of the seasons and produce of the year, as to provoke the foe and to risque wounds and death: Since they account it stupid and spiritless to acquire by their sweat what they can gain by their blood.
Upon any recess from war, they do not much attend the chase. Much more of their time they pass in indolence, resigned to sleep and repasts. All the most brave, all the most warlike, apply to nothing at all; but to their wives, to the ancient men, and to every the most impotent domestic, trust all the care of their house, and of their lands and possessions. They themselves loiter. Such is the amazing diversity of their nature, that in the same men is found so much delight in sloth, with so much enmity to repose. The Communities are wont, of their own accord and man by man, to bestow upon their Princes a certain number of beasts, or a certain portion of grain; a contribution which passes indeed for a mark of reverence and honour, but serves also to supply their necessities. They chiefly rejoice in the gifts which come from the bordering countries, such as are sent not only by particulars, but in the name of the State, curious horses, splendid armour, rich harness, with collars of silver and gold. Now too they have learnt, what we have taught them, to receive money.
That none of the several people in Germany live together in Cities, is abundantly known; nay, that amongst them none of their dwellings are suffered to be contiguous. They inhabit apart and distinct, just as a fountain, or a field, or a wood happened to invite them to settle. They raise their villages in opposite rows, but not in our manner with the houses joined one to another. Every man has a vacant space quite round his own, whether for security against accidents from fire, or that they want the art of building. With them, in truth, is unknown even the use of mortar and of tiles. In all their structures they employ materials quite gross and unhewn, void of fashion and comeliness. Some parts they besmear with an earth so pure and resplendent, that it resembles painting and colours. They are likewise wont to scoop Caves deep in the ground, and over them to lay great heaps of dung. Thither they retire for shelter in the winter, and thither convey their grain: For by such close places they mollify the rigorous and excessive cold. Besides, when at any time their enemy invades them, he can only ravage the open country, but either knows not such recesses as are invisible and subterraneous, or must suffer them to escape him, on this very account that he is uncertain where to find them.
For their covering, a Mantle is what they all wear, fastened with a clasp, or, for want of it, with a thorn. As far as this reaches not, they are naked, and lie whole days before the fire. The most wealthy are distinguished with a Vest, not one large and flowing, like those of the Sarmatians and Parthians, but girt close about them, and expressing the proportion of every limb. They likewise wear the skins of savage beasts, a dress which those bordering upon the Rhine use without any fondness or delicacy, but about which they who live further in the country are more curious, as void of all apparel introduced by commerce. They chuse certain wild beasts, and, having flayed them, diversify their hides with many spots, as also with the skins of monsters from the deep, such as are engendered in the distant Ocean and in seas unknown. Neither does the dress of the Women differ from that of the Men, save that the Women are ordinarily attired in linen embroidered with purple, and use no sleeves, so that all their arms are bare. The upper part of their breast is withal exposed. Yet the laws of matrimony are severely observed there; nor in the whole of their manners is aught more praise-worthy than this: For they are almost the only Barbarians contented with one wife, excepting a very few amongst them, men of dignity who marry divers wives, from no wantonness or lubricity, but courted for the lustre of their family into many alliances.
To the Husband the Wife tenders no dowry, but the Husband to the Wife. The parents and relations attend and declare their approbation of the Presents, not Presents adapted to feminine pomp and delicacy, nor such as serve to deck the new-married woman, but Oxen, and a Horse accoutred, and a Shield, with a Javelin and Sword. By virtue of these gifts she is espoused. She too on her part brings her husband some arms. This they esteem the highest tie, these the holy mysteries, and matrimonial Gods. That the woman may not suppose herself free from the considerations of fortitude and fighting, or exempt from the casualties of War, the very first solemnities of her wedding serve to warn her, that she comes to her husband as a partner in his hazards and fatigues, that she is to suffer alike with him, and to adventure alike, during peace or during war. This the Oxen joined in the same yoke plainly indicate, this the Horse ready equipped, this the Present of arms. It is thus she must be content to live, thus to resign life. The arms which she then receives she must preserve inviolate, and to her sons restore the same, as presents worthy of them, such as their wives may again receive, and still resign to her grand-children.
They therefore live in a state of chastity well secured, corrupted by no seducing shews and public diversions, by no irritations from banquetting. Of learning and of any secret intercourse by letters they are all equally ignorant, men and women. Amongst a people so numerous adultery is exceeding rare, a crime instantly punished, and the punishment left to be inflicted by the husband. He, having cut off her hair, expells her from his house naked, in presence of her kindred, and pursues her with stripes throughout the village. For, to a woman who has prostituted her person, no pardon is ever granted. However beautiful she be, however young, however abounding in wealth, a husband she can never find. In truth, no body turns vices into mirth there, nor is the practice of corrupting and of yielding to corruption, called coldly, the custom of the age. Better still do those Communities in which none but Virgins marry, and where to a single marriage all their views and inclinations are at once confined. Thus, as they have but one body and one life, they take but one husband, that beyond him they may have no thought, no further wishes, nor love him only as their Husband, but as their Marriage. To restrain generation and the increase of children, is esteemed an abominable sin, as also to kill infants newly born. And more powerful with them are good manners, than with other People are good Laws.
In all their houses the children are reared naked and nasty, and thus grow into those limbs, into that bulk which with marvel we behold. They are all nourished with the milk of their own mothers, and never surrendered to hand-maids and nurses. The Lord you cannot discern from the Slave, by any superior delicacy in rearing. Amongst the same cattle they promiscuously live, upon the same ground they without distinction lie, till at a proper age the free-born are parted from the rest, and their bravery recommend them to notice. Slow and late do the young Men come to the use of Women, and thus very long preserve the vigour of youth. Neither are the Virgins hastened to wed. They must both have the same sprightly youth, the like stature, and marry when equal and able-bodied. Thus the robustness of the parents is inherited by the children. Children are holden in the same estimation with their Mother’s Brother, as with their Father. Some hold this tye of blood to be most inviolable and binding, and in receiving of hostages, such pledges are most considered and claimed, as they who at once possess affections the most unalienable, and the most diffuse interest in their family. To every Man, however, his own children are heirs and successors: Wills they make none: For want of children his next akin inherits; namely, his own Brothers, those of his Father, or those of his Mother. To ancient Men, the more they abound in descendents, in relations and affinities, so much the more favour and reverence accrues. From being childless no advantage or estimation is derived.
All the enmities of your house, whether of your Father or of your Kindred, you must necessarily adopt, as well as all their friendships. Neither are such enmities unappeasable and permanent: Since even for so great a crime as homicide compensation is made by a fixt number of sheep and cattle, and by it the whole family is pacified to content: A temper wholsome to the State; because to a free nation animosities and faction are always more menacing and perillous. In social feasts and deeds of hospitality no nation upon earth was ever more liberal and abounding. To refuse admitting under your roof any man whatsoever, is held wicked and inhuman. Every man receives every comer, and treats him with repasts as large as his ability can possibly furnish. When the whole stock is consumed, he who had treated so hospitably guides and accompanies his guest to a new scene of hospitality, and both proceed to the next house, though neither of them invited: Nor avails it that they were not: They are there received with the same frankness and humanity. Between a stranger and an acquaintance, in dispensing the rules and benefits of hospitality, no difference is made. Upon your departure, if you ask any thing, it is the custom to grant it, and with the same facility they ask of you. In gifts they delight, but neither claim merit from what they give, nor own any obligation for what they receive. Their manner of entertaining their guests is familiar and kind.
The moment they rise from sleep, which they generally prolong till late in the day, they bathe, most frequently in warm water, as in a country where the Winter is very long and severe. From bathing they sit down to meat, every man apart, upon a particular seat, and at a separate table. They then proceed to their affairs, all in arms, as in arms they no less frequently go to banquet. To continue drinking night and day without intermission, is a reproach to no man. Frequent then are their broils, as usual amongst men intoxicated with liquor; and such broils rarely terminate in angry words, but for the most part in maimings and slaughter. Moreover, in these their Feasts they generally deliberate about reconciling parties at enmity, about forming affinities, chusing of Princes, and finally about peace and war. For they judge, that at no season is the soul more open to thoughts that are artless and upright, or more fired with such as are great and bold. This people, of themselves no wise subtle or politic, from the freedom of the place and occasion acquire still more frankness to disclose the most secret motions and purposes of their hearts. When therefore the minds of all have been once laid open and declared, on the day following the several sentiments are revised and canvassed; and to both conjunctures of time due regard is had: They consult when they know not how to dissemble; they determine when they cannot mistake.
For their drink they draw a liquor from barley or other grain, and ferment the same so as to make it resemble Wine. Nay, they who dwell upon the bank of the Rhine deal in Wine. Their food is very simple, wild Fruit, fresh Venison, or coagulated Milk. They banish hunger without formality, without curious dressing and curious fare. In extinguishing thirst they use not equal temperance. If you will but humour their excess in drinking, and supply them with as much as they covet, it will be no less easy to vanquish them by vices than by arms. Of public diversions they have but one sort, and in all their meetings the same is still exhibited. Young men, such as make it their pastime, fling themselves naked and dance amongst sharp swords and the deadly points of javelins. From habit they acquire their skill, and from their skill a graceful manner; yet from hence draw no gain or hire: Though this adventurous gayety has its reward, namely that of pleasing the spectators.
What is marvellous, playing at Dice is one of their most serious employments, and even sober they are gamesters: Nay, so desperately do they venture upon the chance of winning or losing, that when their whole substance is played away, they stake their Liberty and their Persons upon one and the last throw. The loser goes calmly into voluntary bondage: However younger he be, however stronger, he tamely suffers himself to be bound and sold by the winner. Such is their perseverance in an evil course: They themselves call it honour. Slaves of this class they exchange away in commerce, chiefly to free themselves from the shame of such a victory. Of their other slaves they make not such use as we do of ours, by distributing amongst them the several offices and employments of the family. Each of them has a dwelling of his own, each a household to govern. His Lord uses him like a Tenant, and obliges him to pay a quantity of grain, or of cattle, or of cloth. Thus far only the subserviency of the slave extends. All the other duties in a family, not the Slaves, but the Wives and the Children discharge. To inflict stripes upon a slave, or to put him in chains, or to doom him to severe labour, are things rarely seen. To kill them they sometimes are wont, not through correction or government, but in heat and rage, as they would an enemy, save that no vengeance or penalty follows. The Freedmen very little surpass the Slaves, rarely are of moment in the house, in the Community never, excepting only such nations where arbitrary dominion prevails. For there they bear higher sway than the freeborn, nay, higher than the Nobles. In other countries the inferior condition of freedmen is a proof of public liberty.
To the practice of usury and of increasing money by interest, they are strangers; and hence is found a better guard against it, than if it were forbidden. They shift from land to land, and, still appropriating a portion suitable to the number of hands for manuring, anon parcel out the whole amongst particulars according to the condition and quality of each. As the plains are very spacious, the allotments are easily assigned. Every year they change, and cultivate a fresh soil; yet still there is ground to spare. For they strive not to bestow labour proportionable to the fertility and compass of their lands, by planting Orchards, by inclosing Meadows, and by watering Gardens. From the earth Corn only is exacted. Hence they quarter not the year into so many Seasons. Winter, Spring and Summer they understand, and for each have proper appellations. Of the name and blessings of Autumn they are equally ignorant.
In performing their Funerals they shew no state or vain glory. This only is carefully observed, that with the coarses of their signal men certain woods be burned. Upon the funeral pile they accumulate neither apparel nor perfumes. Into the fire are always thrown the arms of the dead, and sometimes his horse. With sods of earth only the Sepulchre is raised. The pomp of tedious and elaborate monuments they contemn, as things grievous to the deceased. Tears and wailings they soon dismiss: Their affliction and woe they long retain. In Women it is reckoned becoming to bewail their loss, in men to remember it.
This is what in general we have learnt of the original and customs of the whole people of Germany. I shall now deduce the institutions and usages of the several People, as far as they vary one from another, as also an account of what nations from thence removed to settle themselves in Gaul. That the Gauls were in times past more puissant and formidable, is related by the Prince of Authors, the deified Julius; and hence it is probable that they too have passed into Germany. For what a small obstacle must be a river to restrain any nation, as each grew more potent, from seizing or changing habitations, when as yet all habitations were common, and not parted or appropriated by the establishment and terror of Monarchies? The Region therefore between the Hercynian Forest and the Rivers Meyne and Rhine, was occupied by the Helvetians, as was that beyond it by the Boians, both nations of Gaul. There still remains a place called Boiemum, which denotes the primitive name and antiquity of the country, although the inhabitants have been changed. But whether the Araviscians are derived from the Osians, a nation of Germans passing into Pannonia, or the Osians from the Araviscians removing from thence into Germany, is a matter undecided, since they both still use the same language, the same customs and the same laws. For, as of old they lived alike poor and alike free, equal proved the evils and advantages on each side the river, and common to both people. The Treverians and Nervians aspire passionately to the reputation of being descended from the Germans, since by the glory of this original they would escape all imputation of resembling the Gauls in person and effeminacy. Such as dwell upon the bank of the Rhine, the Vangiones, the Tribocians, and the Nemetes, are without doubt all Germans. The Ubians are ashamed of their original, though they have a particular honour to boast, that of having merited an establishment as a Roman Colony, and still delight to be called Agrippinensians, after the name of their founder: They indeed formerly came from beyond the Rhine, and, for the many proofs of their fidelity, were settled upon the very bank of the river, not to be there confined or guarded themselves, but to guard and defend that boundary against the rest of the Germans.
Of all these Nations the Batavians are the most signal in bravery. They inhabit not much territory upon the Rhine, but possess an island in it. They were formerly part of the Cattians, and by means of feuds at home removed to these dwellings, whence they might become a portion of the Roman Empire. With them this honour still remains, as also the memorials of their ancient association with us: For they are not under the contempt of paying tribute, nor subject to be squeezed by the farmers of the revenue. Free from all impositions and payments, and only set apart for the purposes of fighting, they are reserved wholly for the wars, in the same manner as a Magazine of weapons and armour. Under the same degree of homage are the Nation of the Mattiacians. For such is the might and greatness of the Roman People, as to have carried the awe and esteem of their Empire beyond the Rhine and the ancient boundaries. Thus the Mattiacians living upon the opposite banks enjoy a settlement and limits of their own, yet in spirit and inclination 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 vivacity 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 beyond 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 ceriain possessor: Afterwards it became a skirt of the Empire and part of a Province, upon the enlargement of our bounds, and the extending of our garrisons and frontier.
Beyond these are the Cattians, 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 Cattians, then suddenly forsakes 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 impatience, how to employ the day, how to entrench themselves 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 wholsome 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 Cattians so as to conduct a war. 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 Cattians 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 first make bare their face. They alledge, 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. All the most brave likewise wear an iron ring (a mark of great dishonour in that Nation) and retain it as a chain, till by killing an enemy they become released. Many of the Cattians 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 these in all engagements the first assault is made: Of these the front of the battle is always composed, as men who in their looks are singular and tremendous. For even during peace they abate nothing in the grimness and horror of their countenance. They have no 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 feebleness of old age overtakes them, and renders them unequal to the efforts of such rigid bravery.
Next to the Cattians dwell the Usipians and Tencterians, upon the Rhine, now running in a channel uniform and certain, such as suffices for a boundary. The Tencterians, besides their wonted glory in war, surpass in the service and discipline of their cavalry. Nor do the Cattians derive higher applause from their foot than the Tencterians from their horse. Such was the order established by their forefathers, and what their posterity still pursue. From riding and exercising of horses their children derive their pastimes, in this exercise the young men find matter for emulating one another, and in this the old men take pleasure to persevere. Horses are by the father bequeathed as part of his houshold 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 Bructerians, in whose room it is said the Chamavians and Angrivarians are now settled, they who expulsed and almost extirpated the Bructerians with the concurrence of the neighbouring 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 vouchsafed 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 nations, 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 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 every where. 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 enterprize was dropped: Nay, more pious and reverential it seemed, to believe the marvellous feats of the Gods than to know and to prove them.
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 Chaucians, 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 already recounted, till at last, by a circuit they reach quite to the boundaries of the Cattians. 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 provoke 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 presently 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 Cattians dwell the Cheruscans, a people who finding no enemy to rouze 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 which are always assumed by the stronger. Thus the Cheruscans, who formerly bore the character of Good and Upright, are now called Cowards and Fools, and the fortune of the Cattians who sudued 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 fortieth year of Rome, when the first mention was made of the arms of the Cimbrians, during the Consulship of Cæcilius Metellus and Papirius Carbo. If from that time we count to the second Consulship of the Emperor Trajan, the interval 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 Arsacides. Indeed, what has the power of the East to alledge to our dishonour, but the fall of Crassus, that power which was itself overthrown and abased by Ventidius, with the 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 Cæpio, as also Marcus Manlius, 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 territories. Soon after, the mighty menaces of Caligula against them ended in mockery and derision. Thenceforward 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 expulsed, 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 Cattians and Tencterians, comprehended in a single People, but divided into several Nations, all bearing distinct names, though in general they are intitled Suevians, and occupy the larger share of Germany. This People are remarkable for a peculiar custom, 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 the 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 accurately 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 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 consecrated by the idolatries of their forefathers and by superstitious 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 rhe power of the Deity there. If he fall down, he is not permitted 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 original; 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 surrounded 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 Varinians, and Eudoses, and Suardones, and Nuithones, all defended by Rivers or Forests. Nor in one of these Nations does ought 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 profouud veneration attends the motion of the Chariot, which is always drawn by yoked Cows. Then it is that days of rejoicings always ensue, and in all places whatsoever which she descends to honour with a visit and her company, Feasts and Recreation abound. They go not to war; they touch no arms; fast laid up is every hostile weapon; Peace and repose 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 chuse 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 quarter of the Suevians stretches to the middle of Germany.
The Community next adjoining is that of the Hermundurians (that I may now follow the course of the Danube, as a little before I did that of the Rhine) a People 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 Rhœtia. They travel every where at their own discretion, and without a guard; and when to other Nations we shew no more than our arms and encampments, 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 Hermundurians rises the Elbe, a river very famous and formerly well known to us; at present we only hear it named.
Close by the Hermundurians reside the Nariscans, and next to them the Marcomanians and Quadians. Amongst these the Marcomanians are most signal in force and renown; nay, they acquired by their bravery their habitation itself, 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 authority 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 Pannonia 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 Communities. It will suffice to mention the most puissant, even the Arians, Helvicones, Manimians, Elysians, and Naharvalians. Amongst the Naharvalians is shewn a Grove sacred to devotion, extremely ancient. Over it a Priest presides apparelled like a Woman; but, according to the explication of the Romans, it is 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 devotion is addressed to young Men and to Brothers. Now the Arians, besides their forces, in which they surpass the several Nations just recounted, are in their persons stern and truculent, and even humour and improve their natural grimness and ferocity by art and time. They wear black shields, their bodies are painted black, they chuse 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 very surprizing, and as it were quite infernal. For, in all battles the eyes are first vanquished. 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 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 invasions and attacks from their foes the Ocean protects them: Besides that armed bands, when they are not employed, grow easily debauched and tumultuous. The truth is, it suits not with 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 invironed, 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 Æstyan Nations reside, who use the same customs and attire with the Suevians; their language more resembles 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 for arms, this is the safeguard of all, and by this every worshipper of the Goddess is secured even amidst his foes. Rare amongst them is the use of weapons of Iron, but frequent 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 enquire, what is its nature, or from what cause it is produced. In truth it lay long neglected amongst the other gross discharges 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 animals, such as at first stuck in the soft gum, and by it, as it hardned, 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 becomes glutinous like pitch or rosin.
Upon the Suiones border the people Sitones, and, agreeing 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 Bastarnians, speak the same language with the Germans, use the same attire, build like them, and live like them, in that dirtiness and sloth so common to all. Somewhat they are corrupted into the fashion of the Sarmatians by the intermarriages of the principal sort with that Nation: From whence the Venedians have derived very many of their customs and a great resemblance. For they are continually traversing and infesting with robberies all the forests and mountains lying between the Peucinians and Fennians. Yet they are rather reckoned amongst the Germans, for that they have fixt houses, and carry shields, and prefer travelling on foot, and excel in swiftness: Usages all widely differing from those of the Sarmatians, who live on horse-back, and dwell in waggons.
In wonderful savageness live the Nation of the Fennians, and in beastly poverty, destitute of arms, of horses, and of homes; their food the common herbs; their apparel, skins; their bed, the earth; their only hope in their arrows, which for want of iron they point with bones. Their common support they have from the chace, women as well as men; for with these the former wander up and down, and crave a portion of the prey. Nor other shelter have they even for their babes, against the violence of tempests and ravening beasts, than to cover them with the branches of trees twisted together: This is a reception for the old men, and hither resort the young. Such a condition they judge more happy than the painful occupation of cultivating the ground, than the labour of rearing houses, than the agitations of hope and fear attending the defence of their own property, or the seizing that of others. Secure against the designs of men, secure against the malignity of the Gods, they have accomplished a thing of infinite difficulty, that to them nothing remains even to be wished.
What further accounts we have, are fabulous, as that the Hellusians and Oxiones have the countenances and aspect of men with the bodies and limbs of savage beasts. This, as a thing about which I have no certain information, I shall leave untouched.
THE LIFE OF AGRICOLA.