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Tacitus: Germania

Tacitus: Germania Chapter 26 to 28

Chapter 26

Occupation of Land. Tillage. Of lending money on interest and increasing it by compounding interest they know nothing-a more effectual safeguard than if it was prohibited. Land proportioned to the number of inhabitants is occupied by the whole community in turn, and afterwards divided among them according to rank. A wide expanse of plains makes the partition easy. They till fresh fields every year, and they have still more land than enough; with the richness and extent of their soil, they do not laboriously exert themselves in planting orchards, enclosing meadows and watering gardens. Grain is the only produce required from the earth; hence even the year itself is not divided by them into as many seasons as with us. Winter, spring, and summer have both a meaning and a name; the name and blessings of autumn are alike unknown.

Chapter 27

Funeral Rites. In their funerals there is no pomp; they simply observe the custom of burning the bodies of illustrious men with certain kinds of wood. They do not heap garments or spices on the funeral pile. The arms of the dead man and in some cases his horse are consigned to the fire. A turf mound forms the tomb. Monuments with their lofty elaborate splendor they reject as oppressive to the dead. Tears and lamentations they soon dismiss; grief and sorrow not so soon. A woman may decently express her grief; a man should nurse his in his own heart.Such on the whole is the account which I have received of the origin and manners of the entire German people. Text to this point from Tacitus, The Agricola and Germania, A. J. Church and W. J. Brodribb, trans., (London: Macmillan, 1877), pp. 87- 10 Tacitus goes on to give a geographical account of the locations of the main German tribes. The following, which completes the text of the Germania, is from an 18th-century different translation byThomas Gordon. 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.

Chapter 28

Gauls.That the Gauls were in times past more puissant and formidable, is related by the Prince of authors, the deified Julius [ie Julius Caesar] 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 founding and terror of Monarchies? The region therefore between the Hercynian Forest and the rivers Moenus [ie Main] 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 Araviscans are derived from the Osians, a nation of Germans passing into Pannonia, or the Osians from the Araviscans removing from thence into Germany, is a matter undecided; since they both still use the 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 honor 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.

continue to Chapter 29

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: Lucretius


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