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Tacitus: Germania

Tacitus: Germania Chapter 19 to 21

Chapter 19

Virtue. Thus with the virtue of their women protected, they live uncorrupted by the allurements of public shows or the stimulant of feastings. Clandestine love-letters are equally unknown to men and women. Very rare for so numerous a population is adultery, the punishment for which is prompt, and in the husband's power. Having cut off the hair of the adulteress and stripped her naked, he expels her from the house in the presence of her kinsfolk, and then flogs her through the whole village. The loss of chastity meets with no indulgence; neither beauty, youth, nor wealth will procure the culprit a husband.

No one in Germany laughs at vice, nor do they call it the fashion to corrupt and to be corrupted. Still better is the condition of those states in which only maidens are given in marriage, and where the hopes and expectations of a bride are then finally terminated. They receive one husband, as having one body and one life, that they may have no thoughts beyond, no further-reaching desires, that they may love not so much the husband as the married state. To limit the number of children or to destroy any of their subsequent offspring is accounted infamous, and good habits are here more effectual than good laws elsewhere

Chapter 20

Their Children. Laws Of Succession. In every home the children, naked and filthy, grow up with those stout frames and limbs which we so much admire. Every mother feeds her child at the breast and never entrusts it to servants and nurses. The young master is not distinguished from the slave by any pampering in his upbringing. Both live amid the same flocks and lie on the same ground till the freeborn are distinguished by age and recognized by merit. The young men marry late, and their vigor is thus unimpaired. Nor are the maidens hurried into marriage; the same age and a similar stature is required; well-matched and vigorous they wed, and the offspring reproduce the strength of the parents.

Sister's sons are held in as much esteem by their uncles as by their fathers; indeed, some regard the relation as even more sacred and binding, and prefer it in receiving hostages, thinking thus to secure a stronger hold on the affections and a wider bond for the family. But every man's children are his heirs and successors, and there are no wills. Should there be no issue, the next in succession to the property are brothers and his uncles on either side. The more relatives he has the more numerous his connections, the more honored is his old age; nor are there any advantages in childlessness.

Chapter 21

Hereditary Feuds, Fines for Homicide. Hospitality It is a duty among them to adopt the feuds as well as the friendships of a father or a kinsman. These feuds are not implacable; even homicide is expiated by the payment of a certain number of cattle and of sheep, and the satisfaction is accepted by the entire family, greatly to the advantage of the state, since feuds are dangerous in proportion to the people's freedom. This is to the advantage of the community: for private feuds are particularly dangerous where there is such complete liberty.

No nation indulges more profusely in entertainments and hospitality. To exclude any human being from their roof is thought impious; every German, according to his means, receives his guest with a well-furnished table. When his supplies are exhausted, he who was but now the host becomes the guide and companion to further hospitality, and without invitation they go to the next house. It matters not; they are entertained with like cordiality. No one distinguishes between an acquaintance and a stranger, as regards the rights of hospitality. It is usual to give the departing guest whatever he may ask for, and a present in return is asked with as little hesitation. They are greatly charmed with gifts, but they expect no return for what they give, nor feel any obligation for what they receive.

continue to Chapter 22

Germania Index:

  • Chapter 1 to 3
  • Chapter 4 to 6
  • Chapter 7 to 10
  • Chapter 11 to 14
  • Chapter 15 to 18
  • Chapter 19 to 21
  • Chapter 22 to 25
  • Chapter 26 to 28
  • Chapter 29 to 31
  • Chapter 32 to 36
  • Chapter 37 to 39
  • Chapter 40 to 43
  • Chapter 44 to 46
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    Tacitus - Germania - Related Topic: Lucan


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