Tacitus' Germania -
THE GERMANY AND THE AGRICOLA OF TACITUS.
A TREATISE ON THE SITUATION, MANNERS AND INHABITANTS OF GERMANY.
1. Germany 2 is separated from Gaul, Rhaetia, 3 and Pannonia, 4 by the rivers Rhine and Danube; from Sarmatia and Dacia, by mountains 5 and mutual dread. The rest is surrounded by an ocean, embracing broad promontories 6 and vast insular tracts, 7 in which our military expeditions have lately discovered various nations and kingdoms. The Rhine, issuing from the inaccessible and precipitous summit of the Rhaetic Alps, 8 bends gently to the west, and falls into the Northern Ocean. The Danube, poured from the easy and gently raised ridge of Mount Abnoba, 9 visits several nations in its course, till at length it bursts out 10 by six channels 11 into the Pontic sea; a seventh is lost in marshes.
2. The people of Germany appear to me indigenous, 12 and free from intermixture with foreigners, either as settlers or casual visitants. For the emigrants of former ages performed their expeditions not by land, but by water; 13 and that immense, and, if I may so call it, hostile ocean, is rarely navigated by ships from our world. 14 Then, besides the danger of a boisterous and unknown sea, who would relinquish Asia, Africa, or Italy, for Germany, a land rude in its surface, rigorous in its climate, cheerless to every beholder and cultivator, except a native? In their ancient songs, 15 which are their only records or annals, they celebrate the god Tuisto, 16 sprung from the earth, and his son Mannus, as the fathers and founders of their race. To Mannus they ascribe three sons, from whose names 17 the people bordering on the ocean are called Ingaevones; those inhabiting the central parts, Herminones; the rest, Istaevones. Some, 18 however, assuming the licence of antiquity, affirm that there were more descendants of the god, from whom more appellations were derived; as those of the Marsi, 19 Gambrivii, 20 Suevi, 21 and Vandali; 22 and that these are the genuine and original names. 23 That of Germany, on the other hand, they assert to be a modern addition; 24 for that the people who first crossed the Rhine, and expelled the Gauls, and are now called Tungri, were then named Germans; which appellation of a particular tribe, not of a whole people, gradually prevailed; so that the title of Germans, first assumed by the victors in order to excite terror, was afterwards adopted by the nation in general. 25 They have likewise the tradition of a Hercules 26 of their country, whose praises they sing before those of all other heroes as they advance to battle.
3. A peculiar kind of verses is also current among them, by the recital of which, termed "barding," 27 they stimulate their courage; while the sound itself serves as an augury of the event of the impending combat. For, according to the nature of the cry proceeding from the line, terror is inspired or felt: nor does it seem so much an articulate song, as the wild chorus of valor. A harsh, piercing note, and a broken roar, are the favorite tones; which they render more full and sonorous by applying their mouths to their shields. 28 Some conjecture that Ulysses, in the course of his long and fabulous wanderings, was driven into this ocean, and landed in Germany; and that Asciburgium, 29 a place situated on the Rhine, and at this day inhabited, was founded by him, and named Askipurgion. They pretend that an altar was formerly discovered here, consecrated to Ulysses, with the name of his father Laertes subjoined; and that certain monuments and tombs, inscribed with Greek characters, 30 are still extant upon the confines of Germany and Rhaetia. These allegations I shall neither attempt to confirm nor to refute: let every one believe concerning them as he is disposed.
4. I concur in opinion with those who deem the Germans never to have intermarried with other nations; but to be a race, pure, unmixed, and stamped with a distinct character. Hence a family likeness pervades the whole, though their numbers are so great: eyes stern and blue; ruddy hair; large bodies, 31 powerful in sudden exertions, but impatient of toil and labor, least of all capable of sustaining thirst and heat. Cold and hunger they are accustomed by their climate and soil to endure.
Publius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56 – c. 120 AD)