Tacitus: Germania Chapter 29 to 31
Batavians. Of all these nations, the Batavians are the most conspicuously brave. They inhabit not much territory upon the Rhine, but possess an island in it. They were formerly part of the Chatti, and by means of feuds at home removed to these dwellings; whence they might become a portion of the Roman Empire. With them this honor 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 armor.
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 vigor 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 certain 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.
Chatti. Beyond these are the Chatti, 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 Chatti, then suddenly forsakes them. This people are distinguished with bodies more hardy and robust, compact limbs, stern countenances, and greater vigor 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 ardor 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 wholesome course of discipline, in the conduct of the general they repose more assurance than in the strength of the army. Their whole forces consist of foot, who besides their arms carry likewise instruments of iron and their provisions. You may see other Germans proceed equipped to battle, but the Chatti 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.
Custom. Moreover a custom, practiced indeed in other nations of Germany, yet very rarely and confined only to particulars more daring than the rest, prevails amongst the Chatti 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 velour. Over the blood and spoil of a foe they make bare their face. They allege, that they have now acquitted themselves of the debt and duty contracted by their birth, and rendered themselves worthy of their country, worthy of their parents. Upon the spiritless, cowardly and unwarlike, such deformity of visage still remains. All the most brave likewise wear an iron ring (a mark of great dishonor this in that nation) and retain it as a chain; till by killing an enemy they become released.
Many of the Chatti delight always to bear this terrible aspect; and, when grown white through age, become awful and conspicuous by such marks, both to the enemy and their own countrymen. By them in all engagements the first assault is made: of them the front of the battle is always composed, as men who in their looks are singular and 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.
continue to Chapter 32