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Tacitus: Germany Book 1 [30]

30. Beyond them are the Chatti, whose settlements begin at the Hercynian forest, where the country is not so open and marshy as in the other cantons into which Germany stretches. They are found where there are hills, and with them grow less frequent, for the Hercynian forest keeps close till it has seen the last of its native Chatti. Hardy frames, close-knit limbs, fierce countenances, and a peculiarly vigorous courage, mark the tribe. For Germans, they have much intelligence and sagacity; they promote their picked men to power, and obey those whom they promote; they keep their ranks, note their opportunities, check their impulses, portion out the day, intrench themselves by night, regard fortune as a doubtful, valour as an unfailing, resource; and what is most unusual, and only given to systematic discipline, they rely more on the general than on the army. Their whole strength is in their infantry, which, in addition to its arms, is laden with iron tools and provisions. Other tribes you see going to battle, the Chatti to a campaign. Seldom do they engage in mere raids and casual encounters. It is indeed the peculiarity of a cavalry force quickly to win and as quickly to yield a victory. Fleetness and timidity go together; deliberateness is more akin to steady courage.

30. Ultra hos Chatti initium sedis ab Hercynio saltu inchoant, non ita effusis ac palustribus locis ut ceterae civitates, in quas Germania patescit; durant siquidem colles, paulatim rarescunt, et Chattos suos saltus Hercynius prosequitur simul atque deponit. Duriora genti corpora, stricti artus, minax vultus et major animi vigor. Multum, ut inter Germanos, rationis ac solertiae: praeponere electos, audire praepositos, nosse ordines, intelligere occasiones, differre impetus, disponere diem, vallare noctem, fortunam inter dubia, virtutem inter certa numerare: quodque rarissimum nec nisi ratione disciplinae concessum, plus reponere in duce, quam exercitu. Omne robur in pedite, quem, super arma, ferramentis quoque et copiis onerant. Alios ad proelium ire videas, Chattos ad bellum. Rari excursus et fortuita pugna; equestrium sane virium id proprium, cito parare victoriam, cito cedere: velocitas juxta formidinem, cunctatio propior constantiae est.

31. A practice, rare among the other German tribes, and simply characteristic of individual prowess, has become general among the Chatti, of letting the hair and beard grow as soon as they have attained manhood, and not till they have slain a foe laying aside that peculiar aspect which devotes and pledges them to valour. Over the spoiled and bleeding enemy they show their faces once more; then, and not till then, proclaiming that they have discharged the obligations of their birth, and proved themselves worthy of their country and of their parents. The coward and the unwarlike remain unshorn. The bravest of them also wear an iron ring (which otherwise is a mark of disgrace among the people) until they have released themselves by the slaughter of a foe. Most of the Chatti delight in these fashions. Even hoary-headed men are distinguished by them, and are thus conspicuous alike to enemies and to fellow-countrymen. To begin the battle always rests with them; they form the first line, an unusual spectacle. Nor even in peace do they assume a more civilised aspect. They have no home or land or occupation; they are supported by whomsoever they visit, as lavish of the property of others as they are regardless of their own, till at length the feebleness of age makes them unequal to so stern a valour.

31. Et aliis Germanorum populis usurpatum rara et privata cujusque audentia apud Chattos in consensum vertit, ut primum adoleverint, crinem barbamque submittere, nec, nisi hoste caeso, exuere votivum obligatumque virtuti oris habitum. Super sanguinem et spolia revelant frontem, seque tum demum pretia nascendi retulisse, dignosque patria ac parentibus ferunt. Ignavis et imbellibus manet squalor. Fortissimus quisque ferreum insuper annulum (ignominiosum id genti) velut vinculum gestat, donec se caede hostis absolvat. Plurimis Chattorum hic placet habitus. Jamque canent insignes, et hostibus simul suisque monstrati. Omnium penes hos initia pugnarum: haec prima semper acies, visu nova; nam ne in pace quidem vultu mitiore mansuescunt. Nulli domus aut ager aut aliqua cura: prout ad quemque venere, aluntur: prodigi alieni, contemptores sui donec exsanguis senectus tam durae virtuti impares faciat.

32. Next to the Chatti on the Rhine, which has now a well-defined channel, and serves as a boundary, dwell the Usipii and Tencteri. The latter, besides the more usual military distinctions, particularly excel in the organisation of cavalry, and the Chatti are not more famous for their foot-soldiers than are the Tencteri for their horsemen. What their forefathers originated, posterity maintain. This supplies sport to their children, rivalry to their youths: even the aged keep it up. Horses are bequeathed along with the slaves, the dwelling-house, and the usual rights of inheritance; they go to the son, not to the eldest, as does the other property, but to the most warlike and courageous.

32. Proximi Chattis certum jam alveo Rhenum, quique terminus esse sufficiat, Usipii ac Tencteri colunt. Tencteri, super solitum bellorum decus, equestris disciplinae arte praecellunt: nec major apud Chattos peditum laus, quam Tencteris equitum. Sic instituere majores, posteri imitantur; hi lusus infantium, haec juvenum aemulatio, perseverant senes inter familiam et penates et jura successionum equi traduntur; excipit filius, non, ut cetera, maximus natu, sed prout ferox bello et melior.

33. After the Tencteri came, in former days, the Bructeri; but the general account now is, that the Chamavi and Angrivarii entered their settlements, drove them out and utterly exterminated them with the common help of the neighbouring tribes, either from hatred of their tyranny, or from the attractions of plunder, or from heaven's favourable regard for us. It did not even grudge us the spectacle of the conflict. More than sixty thousand fell, not beneath the Roman arms and weapons, but, grander far, before our delighted eyes. May the tribes, I pray, ever retain if not love for us, at least hatred for each other; for while the destinies of empire hurry us on, fortune can give no greater boon than discord among our foes.

33. Juxta Tencteros Bructeri olim occurrebant: nunc Chamavos et Angrivarios immigrasse narratur, pulsis Bructeris ac penitus excisis vicinarum consensu nationum, seu superbiae odio, seu praedae dulcedine, seu favore quodam erga nos deorum: nam ne spectaculo quidem proelii invidere: super sexaginta millia, non armis telisque Romanis, sed, quod magnificentius est, oblectationi oculisque ceciderunt. Maneat, quaeso, duretque gentibus, si non amor nostri, at certe odium sui: quando, urgentibus imperii fatis, nihil jam praestare fortuna majus potest, quam hostium discordiam.

34. The Angrivarii and Chamavi are bounded in the rear by the Dulgubini and Chasuarii, and other tribes not equally famous. Towards the river are the Frisii, distinguished as the Greater and Lesser Frisii, according to their strength. Both these tribes, as far as the ocean, are skirted by the Rhine, and their territory also embraces vast lakes which Roman fleets have navigated. We have even ventured on the ocean itself in these parts. Pillars of Hercules, so rumour commonly says, still exist; whether Hercules really visited the country, or whether we have agreed to ascribe every work of grandeur, wherever met with, to his renown. Drusus Germanicus indeed did not lack daring; but the ocean barred the explorer's access to itself and to Hercules. Subsequently no one has made the attempt, and it has been thought more pious and reverential to believe in the actions of the gods than to inquire.

34. Angrivarios et Chamavos a tergo Dulgibini et Chasuarii cludunt aliaeque gentes, haud perinde memoratae. A fronte Frisii excipiunt. Majoribus minoribusque Frisiis vocabulum est ex modo virium: utraeque nationes usque ad Oceanum Rheno praetexuntur, ambiuntque immensos insuper lacus et Romanis classibus navigatos. Ipsum quin etiam Oceanum illa tentavimus: et superesse adhuc Herculis columnas fama vulgavit; sive adiit Hercules, seu, quicquid ubique magnificum est, in claritatem ejus referre consensimus. Nec defuit audentia Druso Germanico: sed obstitit Oceanus in se simul atque in Herculem inquiri. Mox nemo tentavit; sanctiusque ac reverentius visum, de actis deorum credere, quam scire.

35. Thus far we have taken note of Western Germany. Northwards the country takes a vast sweep. First comes the tribe of the Chauci, which, beginning at the Frisian settlements, and occupying a part of the coast, stretches along the frontier of all the tribes which I have enumerated, till it reaches with a bend as far as the Chatti. This vast extent of country is not merely possessed, but densely peopled, by the Chauci, the noblest of the German races, a nation who would maintain their greatness by righteous dealing. Without ambition, without lawless violence, they live peaceful and secluded, never provoking a war or injuring others by rapine and robbery. Indeed, the crowning proof of their valour and their strength is, that they keep up their superiority without harm to others. Yet all have their weapons in readiness, and an army if necessary, with a multitude of men and horses; and even while at peace they have the same renown of valour.

35. Hactenus in Occidentem Germaniam novimus. In Septentrionem ingenti flexu redit. Ac primo statim Chaucorum gens, quanquam incipiat a Frisiis ac partem littoris occupet, omnium, quas exposui, gentium lateribus obtenditur, donec in Chattos usque sinuetur. Tam immensum terrarum spatium non tenent tantum Chauci, sed et implent: populus inter Germanos nobilissimus, quique magnitudinem suam malit justitia tueri: sine cupiditate, sine impotentia, quieti secretique, nulla provocant bella, nullis raptibus aut latrociniis populantur. Id praecipuum virtutis ac virium argumentum est, quod, ut superiores agant, non per injurias assequuntur. Prompta tamen omnibus arma, ac, si res poscat, exercitus, plurimum virorum equorumque: et quiescentibus eadem fama.

36. Dwelling on one side of the Chauci and Chatti, the Cherusci long cherished, unassailed, an excessive and enervating love of peace. This was more pleasant than safe, for to be peaceful is self-deception among lawless and powerful neighbours. Where the strong hand decides, moderation and justice are terms applied only to the more powerful; and so the Cherusci, ever reputed good and just, are now called cowards and fools, while in the case of the victorious Chatti success has been identified with prudence. The downfall of the Cherusci brought with it also that of the Fosi, a neighbouring tribe, which shared equally in their disasters, though they had been inferior to them in prosperous days.

36. In latere Chaucorum Chattorumque Cherusci nimiam ac marcentem diu pacem illacessiti nutrierunt; idque jucundius, quam tutius, fuit: quia inter impotentes et validos falso quiescas; ubi manu agitur, modestia ac probitas nomina superioris sunt. Ita, qui olim boni aequique Cherusci, nunc inertes ac stulti vocantur: Chattis victoribus fortuna in sapientiam cessit. Tracti ruina Cheruscorum et Fosi, contermina gens, adversarum rerum ex aequo socii, cum in secundis minores fuissent.

37. In the same remote corner of Germany, bordering on the ocean dwell the Cimbri, a now insignificant tribe, but of great renown. Of their ancient glory widespread traces yet remain; on both sides of the Rhine are encampments of vast extent, and by their circuit you may even now measure the warlike strength of the tribe, and find evidence of that mighty emigration. Rome was in her 640th year when we first heard of the Cimbrian invader in the consulship of Cæcilius Metellus and Papirius Carbo, from which time to the second consulship of the Emperor Trajan we have to reckon about 210 years. So long have we been in conquering Germany. In the space of this long epoch many losses have been sustained on both sides. Neither Samnite nor Carthaginian, neither Spain nor Gaul, not even the Parthians, have given us more frequent warnings. German independence truly is fiercer than the despotism of an Arsaces. What else, indeed, can the East taunt us with but the slaughter of Crassus, when it has itself lost Pacorus, and been crushed under a Ventidius? But Germans, by routing or making prisoners of Carbo, Cassius, Scaurus Aurelius, Servilius Cæpio, and Marcus Manlius, deprived the Roman people of five consular armies, and they robbed even a Cæsar of Varus and his three legions. Not without loss to us were they discomfited by Marius in Italy, by the great Julius in Gaul, and by Drusus, Nero, and Germanicus, on their own ground. Soon after, the mighty menaces of Caius Cæsar were turned into a jest. Then came a lull, until on the occasion of our discords and the civil war, they stormed the winter camp of our legions, and even designed the conquest of Gaul. Again were they driven back; and in recent times we have celebrated triumphs rather than won conquests over them.

37. Eundem Germaniae sinum proximi Oceano Cimbri tenent, parva nunc civitas, sed gloria ingens; veterisque famae lata vestigia manent, utraque ripa castra ac spatia, quorum ambitu nunc quoque metiaris molem manusque gentis et tam magni exitus fidem. Sexcentesimum et quadragesimum annum urbs nostra agebat, cum primum Cimbrorum audita sunt arma, Caecilio Metello et Papirio Carbone consulibus. Ex quo si ad alterum Imperatoris Trajani consulatum computemus, ducenti ferme et decem anni colliguntur; tamdiu Germania vincitur. Medio tam longi aevi spatio, multa invicem damna: non Samnis, non Poeni, non Hispaniae Galliaeve, ne Parthi quidem saepius admonuere: quippe regno Arsacis acrior est Germanorum libertas. Quid enim aliud nobis, quam caedem Crassi, amisso et ipse Pacoro, infra Ventidium dejectus Oriens objecerit? At Germani, Carbone et Cassio et Scauro Aurelio et Servilio Caepione, M. quoque Manlio fusis vel captis, quinque simul consulares exercitus Populo Romano, Varum, tresque cum eo legiones, etiam Caesari abstulerunt: nec impune C. Marius in Italia, divus Julius in Gallia, Drusus ac Nero et Germanicus in suis eos sedibus perculerunt. Mox ingentes C. Caesaris minae in ludibrium versae. Inde otium, donec occasione discordiae nostrae et civilium armorum, expugnatis legionum hibernis, etiam Gallias affectavere: ac rursus pulsi, inde proximis temporibus triumphati magis quam victi sunt.

38. I must now speak of the Suevi, who are not one nation as are the Chatti and Tencteri, for they occupy the greater part of Germany, and have hitherto been divided into separate tribes with names of their own, though they are called by the general designation of "Suevi." A national peculiarity with them is to twist their hair back, and fasten it in a knot This distinguishes the Suevi from the other Germans, as it also does their own freeborn from their slaves. With other tribes, either from some connection with the Suevic race, or, as often happens, from imitation, the practice is an occasional one, and restricted to youth. The Suevi, till their heads are grey, affect the fashion of drawing back their unkempt locks, and often they are knotted on the very top of the head. The chiefs have a more elaborate style; so much do they study appearance, but in perfect innocence, not with any thoughts of love-making; but arranging their hair when they go to battle, to make themselves tall and terrible, they adorn themselves, so to speak, for the eyes of the foe.

38. Nunc de Suevis dicendum est, quorum non una, ut Chattorum Tencterorumve, gens: majorem enim Germaniae partem obtinent, propriis adhuc nationibus nominibusque discreti, quanquam in commune Suevi vocentur. Insigne gentis obliquare crinem nodoque substringere: sic Suevi a ceteris Germanis, sic Suevorum ingenui a servis separantur in aliis gentibus, seu cognatione aliqua Suevorum, seu quod saepe accidit, imitatione, rarum et intra juventae spatium; apud Suevos, usque ad canitiem, horrentem capillum retro sequuntur, ac saepe in ipso solo vertice religant. Principes et ornatiorem habent: ea cura formae, sed innoxiae: neque enim ut ament amenturve; in altitudinem quandam et terrorem, adituri bella, compti, ut hostium oculis, ornantur.

39. The Semnones give themselves out to be the most ancient and renowned branch of the Suevi. Their antiquity is strongly attested by their religion. At a stated period, all the tribes of the same race assemble by their representatives in a grove consecrated by the auguries of their forefathers, and by immemorial associations of terror. Here, having publicly slaughtered a human victim, they celebrate the horrible beginning of their barbarous rite. Reverence also in other ways is paid to the grove. No one enters it except bound with a chain, as an inferior acknowledging the might of the local divinity. If he chance to fall, it is not lawful for him to be lifted up, or to rise to his feet; he must crawl out along the ground. All this superstition implies the belief that from this spot the nation took its origin, that here dwells the supreme and all-ruling deity, to whom all else is subject and obedient. The fortunate lot of the Semnones strengthens this belief; a hundred cantons are in their occupation, and the vastness of their community makes them regard themselves as the head of the Suevic race.

39. Vetustissimos se nobilissimosque Suevorum Semnones memorant. Fides antiquitatis religione firmatur. Stato tempore in silvam auguriis patrum et prisca formidine sacram, omnes ejusdem sanguinis populi legationibus coeunt, caesoque publice homine celebrant barbari ritus horrenda primordia. Est et alia luco reverentia. Nemo nisi vinculo ligatus ingreditur, ut minor et potestatem numinis prae se ferens, Si forte prolapsus est, attolli et insurgere haud licitum: per humum evolvuntur: eoque omnis superstitio respicit, tanquam inde initia gentis, ibi regnator omnium deus, cetera subjecta atque parentia. Adjicit auctoritatem fortuna Semnonum: centum pagis habitantur; magnoque corpore efficitur, ut se Suevorum caput credant.

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