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Bigdick Baxter

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November 3rd, 2013


World Civilizations 101
Mrs. Genvert
Germania: On the Origin, Geography, Institutions, and Tribes of the Germans
Germania is an account by the politician Tacitus of the German tribes from the mid 1stCentury to the early 2nd-Century. Historians look at this account an invaluable look at early
German peoples, along with their lifestyle, social organizations, customs, climate, staple crops
and agricultural methods, as well as other important aspects of these peoples lives. For most of
human history, Germany was never a a unified state, but rather a collection of tribes. These tribes
would soon form more solid, autocratic states as time would pass, but for most of their history
they were nothing but tribes.
The name Germans derives from a tribe that drove out the Gauls. At the time when
Germania was written, this tribal group was the Tungrians, but they originally identified
themselves as Germans. The name Germany, on the other hand, they say, is modern and newly
introduced, from the fact that the tribes which first crossed the Rhine and drove out the Gauls,
and are now called Tungrians, were then called Germans (Pg. 710, Section 2). Early Germans
believed that their tribe derived from two Earth-born gods, and that is where they attained their
racial identity. In fact, the Germans were a racially pure tribe, and did not accept any immigrants,
and did not engage in intercourse or intermarriage with anybody that was not part of their tribe,
as seen in this quote: For my own part, I agree with those who think that the tribes of Germany
are free from all taint of intermarriages with foreign nations, and that they appear as a distinct,
unmoved raceme like none but themselves. Hence, too, the same physica; peculiarities

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November 3rd, 2013


World Civilizations 101
Mrs. Genvert
throughout so cast a population. All have fierce blue eyes, red hair, high frames, fit only for
sudden exertion. They are less able to bear laborious work,. Heat and thirst they cannot in the
least endure; cold and hunger their climate and their soil inure them (Pg. 710, Section 4).
Interestingly enough, the term Germans was not used to identify any specific race, but just the
tribe, which contradicts what one would think because of the tribes custom of remaining racially
pure.
German tribes were not blessed, (or cursed), with any gold or silver. When they did find
silver or gold, they preferred to use silver because it was of better use for commercial, as they
didn't have an established form of currency. Silver and gold the gods have reduced to them,
whether in kindness or in anger i cannot say. I would not say, however, affirm that no vein of
German solid produces fold or silver, for who has ever made the search? They care but little to
posses or use them (Pg. 711, Section 5). That being said, the majority of commerce was
generated by a barter system.
German tribes in this area were also not blessed with iron, so as a result, German tribes
would use spears instead of the iron weapons that were used in more developed parts of Europe
and the Near East. Even iron is not plentiful wight hem, as we infer from the character of their
weapons (Pg. 711, Section 6). They would make these spears in a fashion so that they could be
used for both short range and long range combat. They carry a spear (framea is their name for
it), with a narrow and short head, but so sharp and easy to wield that the same weapon serves,

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November 3rd, 2013


World Civilizations 101
Mrs. Genvert
according to circumstances, for close and distance conflict (Pg. 711 Section 6). Foot soldiers
were fitted with several spears, so that if one is launched as a missile or broken they had another
to use, and were practically naked with no armor during combat. the foot-soldiers also scatter
showers of missiles, each man having several and hurling them to an immense distance, and
rather being naked or lightly clad with a little cloak (Pg.711 Section 6) .
On the other hand, their calvary used shields as a form of protection, along with the same
style spears that the foot soldiers would use. In contrast to other nations, the German tribe would
have foot soldiers fight alongside their calvary. They used a wedge-like formation when fighting
in battles, the frontline consisting of 100 soldiers from end to end, with several other layers
behind them. On the whole, one would say that their chief strength is in their infantry, which
fights along with their calvary;Their number is fixed, a hundred from each canton; (Pg.712,
Section 6). In addition, they did not have any other way of identifying themselves in battle other
than a few colors, meaning they did not use an emblem to rally their troops, rather a color code
for identification on the battlefield. As for the horse-soldier, he is satisfied with a shield and
spear;There is no display about their equipment; their shields aline are marked with very
choice colors (Pg.711, Section 6). German tribal armies would only use the best soldiers, as they
were picked from the youth throughout the entire nation. admirably adapted to the action of
the latter is the swiftness of certain foot-soldiers, who are picked from the entire youth of their
country (Pg.712, Section 6).

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November 3rd, 2013


World Civilizations 101
Mrs. Genvert
While their king is chosen by birth, their generals are designated by their merit. and
the generals do more by example than by authority. If they are energetic, if they are conspicuous,
if they fight in the front, they lead because they are admired (Pg. 712, Section 7). Interestingly
enough, battalions are not chosen randomly, rather they are full families and clans, so that their
general is easily identifiable to all in the fight. They are to every man the most sacred witnesses
of his braverythey are his most generous applauders (Pg. 712, Section 7).
It is considered a great honor to be a follower of the chief. However, in order to gain the
right to follow the chief, one must gain the right to bear arms. Once in the followers, it is
considered a great honor to be with the group of followers. It is an honor as well as a source of
strength to be thus always surrounded by a large body of picked youths; it is an ornament of
peace and a defense of war (Pg. 715, Section 13.) When entering battle, all soldiers must match
the valor of the chief, but it is a disgrace to pass his valor. Soldiers must defend their chief, for if
the chief dies, then it is also a disgrace to return home without the presence of a chief. When
they go into battle, it is a disgrace for the chief to be surpassed in valor, a disgrace for his
followers not to equal the valor of the chief. And it is an infamy and a reproach for life to have
survived the chief, and returned from the field. To defend, to protect him, to ascribes ones own
brace deeds to his renown, is the height of loyalty (Pg. 716, Section 14).
German tribes worshipped what appears to be an imported religion, using Roman gods.
Mercury is the deity that they mainly worship, and would make sacrifices to him, and in some

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Mrs. Genvert
instances, used human victims. Mercury is the deity whom the chiefly worship, and on certain
days they deem it right to sacrifice to him even human victims (Pg. 713, Section 9). They also
worshipped Hercules and Mars, but would not make sacrifices to them. Hercules was said to
have visited the German tribe, so they often recite songs in his name before battle. They say that
Hercules, too, once visited them; and when going into battle, they sing of him first of all heroes
(Pg. 710, Section 3).
In the nations of Germany, there are no cities, and people live very far apart from one
another. It is unknown why this is, whether the reason being to prevent catastrophes from fire, or
that they simply did not know how to build correctly. they do not even tolerate closely
contiguous dwellings. They live scattered and apartTheir villages they do not arrange in out
fashion, with the buildings connected and joined together, but every person surrounds his
dwelling with an open space, either as a precaution against the disasters of fire, or because they
do not know how to build (Pg. 717, Section 16). They do not take advantage of stone or tile, as
other nations in Europe do, but chiefly use timber. No use is made by them of stone or tile; they
employ timber for all purposes (Pg 717, Section 16).
German tribes have to rely on crops that are native to their area to survive. For example,
they would produce mainly grain, but could not harvest fruit like other areas further south. They
have plentiful cattle, but they are smaller than in other areas. It is productive of grain, but

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unfavourable to fruit-bearing trees; it is rich in flocks and herds, but these are for the most part
undersized, and even the cattle have not their usual beauty or noble head (Pg.711, Section 5).
These German tribes mainly used cloaks and animals skins for clothing, and this would
only cover the torso, leaving the rest of the body exposed. Only the wealthier members would
wear clothing that covers their limbs, and it would be almost skin-tight. They all wrap
themselves in a cloak, which is fastened with a clasp, or, if this is not forthcoming, with a thorn,
leading the rest of their persons bareThe wealthiest are distinguished by a dress which is not
flowingbut is tight, and exhibits each limb. They also wear the skins of wild beasts (Pg.717,
Section 17).
German tribes, in contrast to many other cultures, only permitted one wife per man,
excluding a few cases. The wife does not give a dowery to the husband, but rather the husband
gives a dowry to the wife. The wife receives gifts of arms during the marriage ceremony, as a
symbol that she will fight every fight that he does, and endure every horror that he must. The
parents and relatives are present, and pass judgement on the marriage-gifts, gifts not meant to
suit a womans taste, nor such as a bride would deck herself with, but oxen, a caparisoned steed,
a shield, a lance, and a swordThis they count their strongest bond of union (Pg.718, Section
18). The rights of women are respected and women often accompany men into battle to offer
encouragement. Lest the woman should think herself to stand apart form aspirations after noble

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Mrs. Genvert
deeds and from the perils of war, she is reminded by the ceremony which inaugurates marriage
that she is her husbands partner in toil and danger (Pg. 718, Section 18).
Interestingly enough, the people of these German tribes bathed on a regular basis, often
after they wake up from being asleep. On waking from sleep, which is generally prolong to a
late hour of the day, they take a bath, oftenest of warm water, which suits a country where winter
is the longest of the seasons (Pg. 720, Section 22).
Tacitus opinion of the German tribes is a mixed one because he praises so many aspects
of their culture, while also degrading other aspects of it. For instance, he admires the ideals of
German marriages, their hospitality of the people in their tribe, and their bravery and
commitment in battle. However, he scorns their frequent drunkenness and barbarism.

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