Essay title: The Germania
Each of the Germania's 46 passages deals with a particular area of German civilization among which Tacitus develops a two-tiered theme.The two points he tries to make generally clear are the following: A) The Germans are barbaric, savage and stupidï¿½butï¿½ B) The Germans are quaint, noble and have some redeeming qualities that make them a formidable enemy worthy of fighting. However, these two points don't manifest themselves during the Germania's first passage on physical location. Tacitus lets us know right off the start where Germany is positioned in terms of its bordering territories and informs us among several other geographical details that the rivers Rhine and Danube separate Germany from the Galli, Rhaeti and Pannonii. The name "Germany" according to Tacitus originates from the name of a tribe that drove the Gauls out of what would ultimately become German territory. Ever since those times, the name "Germany" was believed to inspire terror when heard. Tacitus makes mention of the fact that within sections of their mythological and religious structure, Hercules and Ulysses carry significant influence and this contributes to his theory (along with their distinctive looks) that the Germans developed their particular cultural/racial niche from intermarriage with foreigners.
Tacitus further comments on the German culture, as being one that is less able to bear laborious work and endure heat and thirst. But without delving too much into a diatribe on the German's laziness, Tacitus moves into describing the forested and swampy German landscape.He mentions that precious metals are low in quantity and as a result they use the iron they have available to make spears as opposed to swords.Their battle formation resembles that of a wedge and (like Roman culture) it is of the utmost shame to throw down one's shield during battle in order to run away. But Tacitus abandons the subject of battle for a moment and discusses the appointment of positions of authority, where the kings are determined by birth and the generals by merit.He adds that it is not the Kings or the Generals who deal out punishments when they need administering, but instead it is the priests who perform the disciplinary actions as they act on the mandate of the god whom they believe inspires the warrior. We then learn from Tacitus that the German battle squadrons were formed according to family and clan. Close by during battle would be the women and infants seeing as Germans believed women to be the most sacred witnesses of a man's bravery.
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Tacitus actually recalls some accounts where German women successfully rallied their faltering armies to victory. He comments on the fact that women's counsels were anything but despised and how their advice was teeming with sanctity and similarly begins to name off a few Roman examples including that of Vespasian and Veleda. Tacitus then switches gears by shifting into the subject of worshipping patterns and beliefs.He remarks that they chiefly worship Mercury and often provide him with human sacrifices.Occasionally, Hercules and Mars are provided with offerings as well and some Germans also sacrifice to Isis.The Germans don't believe in confining their gods within walls or likening them to any human form.Instead, they consecrate woods and groves and apply the names of deities to the abstraction, which they see only during worship.
As for German augury and divination, Tacitus describes a process by which a bough is chopped off a fruit-bearing tree, cut into small pieces and examined after being tossed "carelessly" onto a white garment after which they are examined. Tacitus adds that the Germans also adhere to the following of bird flight paths just as the Romans do, but tend to have a peculiar interest in the horse as an object of divination.The horse to the Germans is the most trusted species of augury and at public expense they have white horses kept in sacred groves for the taking of auspices which is conducted by noting the horse's various snorts and neighs. Tacitus claims that business was not tended to without being armed and for the younger men, a sword and shield.