The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
          THE government and  religion  of  Persia  have deserved some
          notice from their  connection  with  the decline and fall of
          the Roman empire. We shall occasionally mention the Scythian
          or Sarmatian tribes,  which,  with  their  arms  and horses,
          their flocks and  herbs,  their  wives and families wandered
          over the immense  plains  which  spread  themselves from the
          Caspian Sea to  the  Vistulay from the confines of Persia to
          those  of  Germany.  But  the  warlike  Germans,  who  first
          resisted,  then  invaded,  and  at  length  overturned,  the
          western monarchy of  Rome, will occupy a much more important
          place in this  history,  and  possess a stronger, and, if we
          may use the  expression,  a  more  domestic,  claim  to  our
          attention and regard.  The  most civilised nations of modern
          Europe issued from  the  woods  of  Germany, and in the rude
          institutions of those  barbarians  we  may still distinguish
          the original principles  of our present laws and manners. In
          their primitive state  of  simplicity  and  independence the
          Germans were surveyed  by the discerning eye, and delineated
          by the masterly  pencil, of Tacitus, the first of historians
          who applied the science of philosophy to the study of facts.
          The expressive conciseness  of his descriptions has deserved
          to exercise the  diligence  of innumerable antiquarians, and
          to excite the  genius  and  penetration  of  the philosophic
          historians of our  own  times. The subject, however, various
          and important, has  already been so frequently, so ably, and
          so successfully discussed,  that it is now grown familiar to
          the reader, and  difficult to the writer. We shall therefore
          content ourselves with observing, and indeed with repeating,
          some of the  most  important  circumstances  of  climate, of
          manners,  and  of  institutions,  which  rendered  the  wild
          barbarians of Germany  such  formidable enemies to the Roman

Extent of Germany
          Ancient Germany, excluding  from  its independent limits the
          province westward of  the  Rhine, which had submitted to the
          Roman yoke, extended  itself  over  a  third part of Europe.
          Almost the whole of modern Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden,
          Finland, Livonia, Prussia,  and  the greater part of Poland,
          were peopled by  the  various  tribes  of  one great nation,
          whose complexion, manners,  and  language  denoted  a common
          origin and preserved  a  striking  resemblance. On the west,
          ancient Germany was  divided  by  the Rhine from the Gallic,
          and on the  south by the Danube from the Illyrian, provinces
          of the empire. A ridge of hills, rising from the Danube, and
          called the Carpathian mountains, covered Germany on the side
          of Dacia or Hungary. The eastern frontier was faintly marked
          by the mutual  fears  of the Germans and the Sarmatians, and
          was  often  confounded   by   the  mixture  of  warring  and
          confederating tribes of  the  two  nations.  In  the  remote
          darkness of the  north, the ancients imperfectly described a
          frozen ocean that  lay beyond the Baltic Sea, and beyond the
          Peninsula, or islands,(1) of Scandinavia.

          Some ingenious writers(2) have suspected that Europe was much
          colder formerly than  it is at present; and the most ancient
          descriptions of the  climate  of Germany tend exceedingly to
          confirm their theory.  The  general  complaints  of  intense
          frost,  and  eternal   winter,  are  perhaps  little  to  be
          regarded,  since we  have  no  method  of  reducing  to  the
          accurate standard of  the  thermometer  the  feelings or the
          expressions of an  orator,  born  in  the happier regions of
          Greece  or  Asia.   But   I   shall  select  two  remarkable
          circumstances of a  less  equivocal  nature.  1/.  The great
          rivers which covered  the Roman provinces, the Rhine and the
          Danube,  were  frequently   frozen   over,  and  capable  of
          supporting the most  enormous  weights.  The barbarians, who
          often  chose  that   severe   season   for   their  inroads,
          transported, without apprehension  or danger, their numerous
          armies, their cavalry,  and  their heavy wagons, over a vast
          and solid bridge of ice.(3) Modern ages have not presented an
          instance of a like phenomenon. 2/. The reindeer, that useful
          animal, from whom  the  savage of the North derives the best
          comforts of his  dreary  life,  is  of  a  constitution that
          supports, and even  requires,  the  most intense cold. He is
          found on the  rock  of  Spitzberg, within ten degrees of the
          Pole; he seems  to  delight  in  the  snows  of  Lapland and
          Siberia;  but  at  present  he  cannot  subsist,  much  less
          multiply, in any  country  to  the south of the Baltic.(4) In
          the time of Caesar, the reindeer, as well as the elk and the
          wild bull, was  a native of the Hercynian forest, which then
          overshadowed a great  part  of  Germany  and  Poland. (5) The
          modern improvements sufficiently  explain  the causes of the
          diminution  of the  cold.  These  immense  woods  have  been
          gradually cleared, which intercepted from the earth the rays
          of the sun. (6)  The  morasses  have  been  drained,  and, in
          proportion as the  soil  has  been  cultivated,  the air has
          become more temperate.  Canada,  at  this  day,  is an exact
          picture of ancient  Germany.  Although  situated in the same
          parallel with the  finest  provinces  of France and England,
          that  country  experiences   the  most  rigorous  cold.  The
          reindeer are very  numerous, the ground is covered with deep
          and lasting snow,  and  the  great  river of St. Laurence is
          regularly frozen, in  a  season when the waters of the Seine
          and the Thames are usually free from ice.(7)

Its effects on the natives
          It is difficult  to  ascertain,  and easy to exaggerate, the
          influence of the  climate  of ancient Germany over the minds
          and bodies of  the  natives. Many writers have supposed, and
          most have allowed,  though,  as  it should seem, without any
          adequate proof, that  the  rigorous  cold  of  the North was
          favourable to long  life  and  generative  vigour,  that the
          women  were  more  fruitful,  and  the  human  species  more
          prolific, than in  warmer  or  more temperate climates.(8) We
          may assert, with  greater  confidence,  that the keen air of
          Germany formed the large and masculine limbs of the natives,
          who were, in  general,  of  a  more  lofty  stature than the
          people of the  South, (9) gave them a kind of strength better
          adapted to violent  exertions  than  to  patient labour, and
          inspired them with  constitutional  bravery,  which  is  the
          result of nerves  and  spirits.  The  severity  of  a winter
          campaign, that chilled  the courage of the Roman troops, was
          scarcely felt by  these  hardy children of the North,(10) who
          in their turn  were  unable  to resist the summer heats, and
          dissolved away in languor and sickness under the beams of an
          Italian sun.(11)

Origin of the Germans
          There is not  anywhere  upon  the  globe  a  large  tract of
          country which we  have  discovered destitute of inhabitants,
          or whose first  population  can  be fixed with any degree of
          historical certainty. And yet, as the most philosophic minds
          can seldom refrain  from  investigating the infancy of great
          nations,  our curiosity  consumes  itself  in  toilsome  and
          disappointed efforts. When  Tacitus considered the purity of
          the German blood,  and the forbidding aspect of the country,
          he was disposed  to  pronounce those barbarians Indigenae, or
          natives of the  soil.  We may allow with safety, and perhaps
          with truth, that  ancient Germany was not originally peopled
          by any foreign  colonies  already  formed  into  a political
          society;(12) but  that  the  name  and  nation received their
          existence from the  gradual  union of some wandering savages
          of the Hercynian woods. To assert those savages to have been
          the spontaneous production of the earth which they inhabited
          would  be  a  rash  inference,  condemned  by  religion  and
          unwarranted by reason.

Fables  and  conjectures
          Such rational doubt  is  but  ill-suited  with the genius of
          popular vanity. Among  the  nations  who  have  adopted  the
          Mosaic history of the world, the ark of Noah has been of the
          same use as  was formerly to the Greeks and Romans the siege
          of Troy. On  a narrow basis of acknowledged truth an immense
          but rude superstructure of fable has been erected, and the
          wild Irishman(13), as well as the wild Tartar(14), could point out
          the individual son of Japhet, from whose loins his ancestors
          were lineally descended.  The  last  century  abounded  with
          antiquarians of profound learning and easy faith, who by the
          dim light of  legends  and  traditions,  of  conjectures and
          etymologies, conducted the great-grand-children of Noah from
          the tower of Babel to the extremities of the globe. Of these
          judicious critics, one  of  the  most entertaining was Olaus
          Rudbeck, professor in  the  University of Upsal.(15) Whatever
          is celebrated, either  in  history  or  fable,  this zealous
          patriot ascribes to  his  country. From Sweden (which formed
          so  considerable a  part  of  ancient  Germany)  the  Greeks
          themselves  derived  their  alphabetical  characters,  their
          astronomy, and their  religion.  Of  that  delightful region
          (for such it  appeared to the eyes of a native) the Atlantis
          of Plato, the  country  of  the Hyperboreans, the gardens of
          the Hesperides, the  Fortunate Islands, and even the Elysian
          Fields, were all  but  faint  and  imperfect  transcripts. A
          clime so profusely  favoured by Nature could not long remain
          desert after the  flood.  The  learned  Rudbeck  allows  the
          family of Noah  a  few years to multiply from eight to about
          twenty thousand persons.  He  then disperses them into small
          colonies to replenish  the  earth and to propagate the human
          species. The German or Swedish detachment (which marched, if
          I am not  mistaken, under the command of Askenaz, the son of
          Gomer, the son  of  Japhet)  distinguished  itself by a more
          than common diligence in the prosecution of this great work.
          The northern hive  cast its swarms over the greatest part of
          Europe, Africa, and Asia; and (to use the author's metaphor)
          the blood circulated from the extremities to the heart.

The Germans ignorant of letters;
          But all this  well-laboured  system of German antiquities is
          annihilated by a  single fact, too well attested to admit of
          any doubt, and  of  too  decisive a nature to leave room for
          any  reply.  The  Germans,  in  the  age  of  Tacitus,  were
          unacquainted with the  use  of  letters; (16)  and the use of
          letters is the  principal  circumstance that distinguishes a
          civilized  people  from  a  herd  of  savages  incapable  of
          knowledge or reflection.  Without  that artificial help, the
          human memory soon dissipates or corrupts the ideas intrusted
          to her charge;  and  the  nobler  faculties  of the mind, no
          longer supplied with  models  or  with  materials, gradually
          forget  their  powers;   the  judgment  becomes  feeble  and
          lethargic, the imagination  languid  or  irregular. Fully to
          apprehend  this important  truth,  let  us  attempt,  in  an
          improved society, to  calculate the immense distance between
          the man of  learning and the illiterate peasant. The former,
          by reading and  reflection,  multiplies  his own experience,
          and lives in  distant  ages and remote countries; whilst the
          latter, rooted to a single spot, and confined to a few years
          of  existence,  surpasses,   but  very  little,  his  fellow
          labourer the ox in the exercise of his mental faculties. The
          same, and even  a  greater, difference will be found between
          nations  than  between   individuals;   and  we  may  safely
          pronounce that, without  some  species of writing, no people
          has ever preserved  the  faithful  annals  of their history,
          ever  made  any   considerable   progress  in  the  abstract
          sciences, or ever  possessed,  in  any  tolerable  degree of
          perfection, the useful and agreeable arts of life.

of arts and agriculture;
          Of  these  arts,   the   ancient   Germans  were  wretchedly
          destitute. They passed  their  lives in a state of ignorance
          and poverty, which it has pleased some declaimers to dignify
          with the appellation  of virtuous simplicity. Modern Germany
          is said to  contain  about two thousand three hundred walled
          towns.(17) In  a much wider extent of country, the geographer
          Ptolemy could discover  no more than ninety places, which he
          decorates with the  name  of  cities;(18) though according to
          our ideas, they  would  but ill deserve that splendid title.
          We can only  suppose  them to have been rude fortifications,
          constructed in the  centre  of  the  woods,  and designed to
          secure the women,  children, and cattle, whilst the warriors
          of the tribe  marched out to repel a sudden invasion.(19) But
          Tacitus asserts, as  a well-known fact, that the Germans, in
          his time, had  no  Cities; (20)  and  that  they  affected to
          despise the works of Roman industry as places of confinement
          rather than of  security. (21)  Their  edifices were not even
          contiguous,  or  formed   into  regular  villages; (22)  each
          barbarian fixed his  independent  dwelling  on  the  spot to
          which a plain, a wood or a stream of fresh water had induced
          him to give  the  preference.  Neither stone, nor brick, nor
          tiles, were employed  in  these  slight habitations.(23) They
          were indeed no  more  than  low  huts  of a circular figure,
          built of rough  timber,  thatched with straw, and pierced at
          the top to  leave  a free passage for the smoke. In the most
          inclement winter, the  hardy  German  was  satisfied  with a
          scanty garment made of the skin of some animal . The nations
          who dwelt towards  the North clothed themselves in furs; and
          the women manufactured  for  their  own use a coarse kind of
          linen.(24) The  game of various sorts, with which the forests
          of   Germany  were   plentifully   stocked,   supplied   its
          inhabitants with food and exercise.(25) Their monstrous herds
          of cattle, less  remarkable indeed for their beauty than for
          their utility,(26)  formed  the  principal  object  of  their
          wealth. A small  quantity  of  corn  was  the  only  produce
          exacted from the  earth:  the  use of orchards or artificial
          meadows was unknown  to  the  Germans; nor can we expect any
          improvements in agriculture  from  a  people  whose property
          every year experienced a general change by a new division of
          the  arable lands,  and  who,  in  that  strange  operation,
          avoided  disputes  by   suffering  a  great  part  of  their
          territory to lie waste and without tillage.(27)

and of the use of metals.
          Gold, silver, and iron were extremely scarce in Germany. Its
          barbarous inhabitants wanted  both  skill  and  patience  to
          investigate  those rich  veins  of  silver,  which  have  so
          liberally rewarded the attention of the princes of Brunswick
          and Saxony. Sweden, which now supplies Europe with iron, was
          equally ignorant of  its  own  riches; and the appearance of
          the arms of  the  Germans  furnished  a sufficient proof how
          little iron they  were able to bestow on what they must have
          deemed  the  noblest   use   of   that  metal.  The  various
          transactions of peace  and  war  had  introduced  some Roman
          coins (chiefly silver)  among the borderers of the Rhine and
          Danube;  but  the   more   distant  tribes  were  absolutely
          unacquainted  with  the  use  of  money,  carried  on  their
          confined traffic by  the exchange of commodities, and prized
          their rude earthen vessels as of equal value with the silver
          vases,  the  presents   of   Rome   to   their  princes  and
          ambassadors. (28) To  a  mind  capable  of  reflection,  such
          leading facts convey  more instruction than a tedious detail
          of subordinate circumstances.  The  value  of money has been
          settled by general  consent  to  express  our  wants and our
          property, as letters were invented to express our ideas; and
          both these institutions,  by  giving a more active energy to
          the powers and passions of human nature, have contributed to
          multiply the objects  they  were  designed to represent. The
          use of gold and silver is in a great measure fictitious; but
          it  would be  impossible  to  enumerate  the  important  and
          various services which  agriculture,  and all the arts, have
          received from iron,  when  tempered  and  fashioned  by  the
          operation of fire and the dexterous hand of man. Money, in a
          word,  is the  most  universal  incitement,  iron  the  most
          powerful instrument, of  human  industry;  and  it  is  very
          difficult  to conceive  by  what  means  a  people,  neither
          actuated by the  one nor seconded by the other, could emerge
          from the grossest barbarism.(29)

Their indolence
          If we contemplate  a savage nation in any part of the globe,
          a supine indolence  and  carelessness  of  futurity  will be
          found to constitute  their general character. In a civilised
          state, every faculty  of  man is expanded and exercised; and
          the great chain  of  mutual dependence connects and embraces
          the several members of society. The most numerous portion of
          it is employed  in  constant  and  useful labour. The select
          few, placed by  fortune  above that necessity, can, however,
          fill up their  time by the pursuits of interest or glory, by
          the improvement of  their  estate or of their understanding,
          by the duties, the pleasures, and even the follies of social
          life.  The  Germans  were  not  possessed  of  their  varied
          resources. The care  of the house and family, the management
          of the land  and  cattle,  were delegated to the old and the
          infirm, to women  and slaves. The lazy warrior, destitute of
          every art that  might employ his leisure hours, consumed his
          days and nights  in  the  animal gratifications of sleep and
          food. And yet, by a wonderful diversity of Nature (according
          to the remark  of  a writer who had pierced into its darkest
          recesses),  the  same  barbarians  are  by  turns  the  most
          indolent and the  most  restless of mankind. They delight in
          sloth,  they  detest  tranquillity. (30)  The  languid  soul,
          oppressed with its  own  weight, anxiously required some new
          and powerful sensation;  and  war  and  danger were the only
          amusements adequate to  its  fierce  temper.  The sound that
          summoned the German  to  arms  was  grateful  to his ear. It
          roused him from  his  uncomfortable  lethargy,  gave  him an
          active pursuit, and,  by  strong  exercise  of the body, and
          violent emotions of  the mind, restored him to a more lively
          sense of his  existence.  In  the  dull  intervals of peace,
          these barbarians were  immoderately  addicted to deep gaming
          and excessive drinking;  both  of which, by different means,
          the  one  by   inflaming   their   passions,  the  other  by
          extinguishing their reason,  alike  relieved  them  from the
          pain of thinking.  They  gloried  in  passing whole days and
          nights at table;  and  the  blood  of  friends and relations
          often stained their  numerous  and  drunken  assemblies. (31)
          Their  debts  of   honour  (for  in  that  light  they  have
          transmitted to us  those  of  play) they discharged with the
          most romantic fidelity.  The  desperate  gamester,  who  had
          staked his person  and  liberty on a last throw of the dice,
          patiently submitted to the decision of fortune, and suffered
          himself  to  be  bound,  chastised,  and  sold  into  remote
          slavery, by his weaker but more lucky antagonist.(32)

Their taste for strong liquors
          Strong beer, a  liquor  extracted  with very little art from
          wheat or barley,  and corrupted (as it is strongly expressed
          by Tacitus) into a certain semblance of wine, was sufficient
          for the gross  purposes  of German debauchery. But those who
          had tasted the  rich wines of Italy, and afterwards of Gaul,
          sighed for that more delicious species of intoxication. They
          attempted not, however  (as  has since been executed with so
          much success), to  naturalise  the  vine on the banks of the
          Rhine and Danube;  nor  did  they  endeavour  to  procure by
          industry  the materials  of  an  advantageous  commerce.  To
          solicit  by labour  what  might  be  ravished  by  arms  was
          esteemed unworthy of  the  German spirit.(33) The intemperate
          thirst of strong  liquors  often  urged  the  barbarians  to
          invade the provinces  on  which  art  or nature had bestowed
          those much envied  presents.  The  Tuscan  who  betrayed his
          country to the  Celtic  nations attracted them into Italy by
          the prospect of  the  rich  fruits  and delicious wines, the
          productions of a  happier climate.(34) And in the same manner
          the German auxiliaries, invited into France during the civil
          wars of the  sixteenth  century, were allured by the promise
          of plenteous quarters  in  the  provinces  of  Champagne and
          Burgundy.(35) Drunkenness,  the  most  illiberal, but not the
          most dangerous, of  our  vices,  was sometimes capable, in a
          less civilised state  of mankind, of occasioning a battle, a
          war, or a revolution.

State of population.
          The climate of  ancient  Germany had been mollified, and the
          soil fertilised, by  the  labour  of  ten centuries from the
          time of Charlemagne.  The  same  extent  of  ground which at
          present  maintains,  in   ease  and  plenty,  a  million  of
          husbandmen and artificers,  was  unable to supply an hundred
          thousand lazy warriors  with the simple necessaries of life.
         (36)  The Germans  abandoned  their  immense  forests  to  the
          exercise  of  hunting,   employed   in  pasturage  the  most
          considerable part of  their  lands,  bestowed  on  the small
          remainder a rude  and careless cultivation, and then accused
          the scantiness and  sterility  of  a country that refused to
          maintain the multitude  of  its inhabitants. When the return
          of famine severely  admonished them of the importance of the
          arts, the national  distress was sometimes alleviated by the
          emigration of a  third,  perhaps,  or a fourth part of their
          youth.(37) The  possession  and the enjoyment of property are
          the pledges which  bind  a  civilised  people to an improved
          country. But the  Germans,  who  carried with them what they
          most valued, their  arms,  their  cattle,  and  their women,
          cheerfully abandoned the vast silence of their woods for the
          unbounded hopes of  plunder  and  conquest.  The innumerable
          swarms that issued,  or  seemed  to  issue,  from  the great
          storehouse of nations,  were  multiplied by the fears of the
          vanquished and by the credulity of succeeding ages. And from
          facts   thus   exaggerated,   an   opinion   was   gradually
          established,  and  has   been   supported   by   writers  of
          distinguished reputation, that,  in  the  age  of Caesar and
          Tacitus, the inhabitants of the North were far more numerous
          than they are  in  our  days.(38) A more serious inquiry into
          the causes of  population  seems  to  have  convinced modern
          philosophers of the falsehood, and indeed the impossibility,
          of  the  supposition.   To  the  names  of  Mariana  and  of
          Machiavel,(39) we can oppose the equal names of Robertson and

German freedom
          A warlike nation  like  the  Germans, without either cities,
          letters, arts, or  money,  found  some compensation for this
          savage state in  the  enjoyment  of  liberty.  Their poverty
          secured their freedom, since our desires and our possessions
          are the strongest  fetters  of despotism. "Among the Suiones
          (says  Tacitus),  riches   are  held  in  honour.  They  are
       therefore subject to  an  absolute  monarch, who, instead of
          intrusting his people  with  the  free  use  of  arms, as is
          practised in the  rest  of Germany, commits them to the safe
          custody not of  a  citizen,  or even of a freedman, but of a
          slave. The neighbours  of the Suiones, the Sitones, are sunk
          even below servitude;  they obey a woman."(41) In the mention
          of  these  exceptions,   the  great  historian  sufficiently
          acknowledges the general  theory  of government. We are only
          at a loss  to  conceive  by  what means riches and despotism
          could penetrate into  a  remote  corner  of  the  North, and
          extinguish  the  generous   flame   that  blazed  with  such
          fierceness on the  frontier  of  the Roman provinces: or how
          the   ancestors  of   those   Danes   and   Norwegians,   so
          distinguished in latter  ages  by  their unconquered spirit,
          could thus tamely  resign  the  great  character  of  German
          liberty.(42) Some  tribes,  however,  on  the  coast  of  the
          Baltic, acknowledged the  authority of kings, though without
          relinquishing the rights  of  men;(43) but in the far greater
          part of Germany,  the  form  of  government  was a democracy
          tempered indeed, and  controlled, not so much by general and
          positive laws, as  by  the  occasional ascendant of birth or
          valour, of eloquence or superstition.(44)

Assemblies of the people
          Civil  governments,  in   their   first   institutions,  are
          voluntary associations for  mutual  defence.  To  obtain the
          desired end, it is absolutely necessary that each individual
          should  conceive  himself  obliged  to  submit  his  private
          opinion and actions to the judgment of the greater number of
          his associates. The  German  tribes were contented with this
          rude but liberal  outline of political society. As soon as a
          youth,  born of  free  parents,  had  attained  the  age  of
          manhood, he was  introduced  into the general council of his
          countrymen, solemnly invested  with  a shield and spear, and
          adopted as an  equal  and  worthy  member  of  the  military
          commonwealth. The assembly  of the warriors of the tribe was
          convened at stated  seasons  or  on  sudden emergencies. The
          trial of public  offences,  the election of magistrates, and
          the great business  of peace and war, were determined by its
          independent  voice.  Sometimes,   indeed,   these  important
          questions were previously  considered and prepared in a more
          select  council  of   the   principal   chieftains. (45)  The
          magistrates might deliberate  and  persuade, the people only
          could  resolve and  execute;  and  the  resolutions  of  the
          Germans were for the most part hasty and violent. Barbarians
          accustomed to place  their freedom in gratifying the present
          passion,  and  their   courage  in  overlooking  all  future
          consequences, turned away  with  indignant contempt from the
          remonstrance of justice  and policy, and it was the practice
          to signify by  a  hollow  murmur their dislike of such timid
          counsels. But whenever  a  more  popular  orator proposed to
          vindicate  the  meanest   citizen  from  either  foreign  or
          domestic   injury,   whenever    he    called    upon    his
          fellow-countrymen  to assert  the  national  honour,  or  to
          pursue some enterprise  full  of  danger  and  glory, a loud
          clashing of shields  and spears expressed the eager applause
          of the assembly.  For the Germans always met in arms, and it
          was constantly to  be  dreaded  lest an irregular multitude,
          inflamed with faction  and  strong liquors, should use those
          arms to enforce,  as  well  as  to  declare,  their  furious
          resolves. We may  recollect  how  often  the diets of Poland
          have been polluted  with  blood, and the more numerous party
          has  been  compelled  to  yield  to  the  more  violent  and

Authority of the princes and magistrates
          A general of  the  tribe was elected on occasions of danger;
          and, if the  danger  was  pressing  and  extensive,  several
          tribes concurred in  the  choice  of  the  same general. The
          bravest warrior was  named  to  lead his countrymen into the
          field by his  example  rather than by his commands. But this
          power, however limited, was still invidious. It expired with
          the war, and in time of peace the German tribes acknowledged
          not any supreme chief.(47) Princes were, however, appointed
          in the general assembly, to administer justice, or rather to
          compose differences,(48)  in  their  respective districts. In
          the choice of  these magistrates as much regard was shown to
          birth as to merit.(49) To each was assigned, by the public, a
          guard and a  council  of an hundred persons and the first of
          the princes appears  to  have enjoyed a pre-eminence of rank
          and honour which  sometimes tempted the Romans to compliment
          him with the regal title.(50)

more absolute over the property than over the person of the Germans
          The comparative view  of  the  powers of the magistrates, in
          two remarkable instances,  is  alone sufficient to represent
          the whole system  of  German  manners.  The  disposal of the
          landed property within  their district was absolutely vested
          in their hands, and they distributed it every year according
          to a new  division. (51)  At  the  same  time  they  were not
          authorised to punish  with  death,  to  imprison, or even to
          strike, a private citizen.(52) A people thus jealous of their
          persons, and careless  of  their possessions, must have been
          totally destitute of  industry  and  the  arts, but animated
          with a high sense of honour and independence.

Voluntary engagements
          The Germans respected  only  those duties which they imposed
          on  themselves.  The  most  obscure  soldier  resisted  with
          disdain  the authority  of  the  magistrates.  "The  noblest
          youths  blushed  not  to  be  numbered  among  the  faithful
          companions of some  renowned  chief,  to  whom  they devoted
          their arms and  service.  A  noble emulation prevailed among
          the companions to  obtain  the  first place in the esteem of
          their chief; amongst  the  chiefs,  to  acquire the greatest
          number of valiant  companions.  To  be  ever surrounded by a
          band of select  youths  was  the  pride  and strength of the
          chiefs, their ornament  in  peace, their defence in war. The
          glory of such  distinguished  heroes  diffused itself beyond
          the narrow limits of their own tribe. Presents and embassies
          solicited their friendship, and the fame of their arms often
          ensured victory to  the  party  which  they espoused. In the
          hour of danger it was shameful for the chief to be surpassed
          in valour by his companions; shameful for the companions not
          to equal the  valour  of their chief. To survive his fall in
          battle was indelible  infamy.  To  protect his person and to
          adorn his glory with the trophies of their own exploits were
          the most sacred  of  their  duties.  The chiefs combated for
          victory, the companions for the chief. The noblest warriors,
          whenever their native  country  was  sunk in the laziness of
          peace, maintained their numerous bands in some distant scene
          of action, to  exercise their restless spirit and to acquire
          renown by voluntary  dangers.  Gifts worthy of soldiers, the
          warlike steed, the  bloody  and  ever victorious lance, were
          the rewards which the companions claimed from the liberality
          of their chief.  The rude plenty of his hospitable board was
          the only pay that he could bestow or they would accept. War,
          rapine, and the free-will offerings of his friends, supplied
          the materials of  this  munificence."(53) This institution,
          however it might  accidentally weaken the several republics,
          invigorated the general  character  of the Germans, and even
          ripened amongst them all the virtues of which barbarians are
          susceptible; the faith  and  valour, the hospitality and the
          courtesy, so conspicuous  long  afterwards  in  the  ages of
          chivalry. The honourable gifts, bestowed by the chief on his
          brave  companions,  have  been  supposed,  by  an  ingenious
          writer,  to  contain  the  first  rudiments  of  the  fiefs,
          distributed, after the  conquest  of  the Roman provinces by
          the barbarian lords  among their vassals with a similar duty
          of homage and  military  service. (54)  These conditions are,
          however,  very  repugnant  to  the  maxims  of  the  ancient
          Germans,  who delighted  in  mutual  presents;  but  without
          either imposing, or accepting, the weight of obligations.(55)

German chastity
          "In the days  of  chivalry, or more properly of romance, all
          the men were  brave,  and  all  the women were chaste ;" and
          notwithstanding the latter  of these virtues is acquired and
          preserved with much  more  difficulty than the former, it is
          ascribed, almost without  exception,  to  the  wives  of the
          ancient Germans. Polygamy  was  not in use, except among the
          princes, and among  them  only  for  the sake of multiplying
          their alliances. Divorces  were prohibited by manners rather
          than  by  laws.   Adulteries   were  punished  as  rare  and
          inexpiable crimes; nor  was  seduction  justified by example
          and fashion.(56) We may easily discover that Tacitus indulges
          an honest pleasure  in the contrast of barbarian virtue with
          the dissolute conduct  of  the  Roman  ladies; yet there are
          some striking circumstances that give an air of truth, or at
          least of probability,  to the conjugal faith and chastity of
          the Germans.

Its probable causes
          Although  the  progress   of  civilisation  has  undoubtedly
          contributed to assuage the fiercer passions of human nature,
          it seems to  have  been  less  favourable  to  the virtue of
          chastity, whose most  dangerous enemy is the softness of the
          mind. The refinements  of life corrupt while they polish the
          intercourse of the sexes. The gross appetite of love becomes
          most dangerous when  it  is  elevated,  or  rather,  indeed,
          disguised by sentimental  passion. The elegance of dress, of
          motion,  and of  manners  gives  a  lustre  to  beauty,  and
          inflames  the  senses  through  the  imagination.  Luxurious
          entertainments, midnight dances,  and licentious spectacles,
          present  at  once  temptations  and  opportunity  to  female
          frailty.(57) From  such  dangers  the unpolished wives of the
          barbarians  were  secured  by  poverty,  solitude,  and  the
          painful cares of  a  domestic life. The German huts, open on
          every side to  the  eye  of indiscretion or jealousy, were a
          better safeguard of  conjugal  fidelity  than the walls, the
          bolts, and the  eunuchs  of a Persian harem. To this reason,
          another may be  added  of  a  more  honourable  nature.  The
          Germans treated their  women  with  esteem  and  confidence,
          consulted them on  every  occasion of importance, and fondly
          believed that in their breasts resided a sanctity and wisdom
          more than human. Some of these interpreters of fate, such as
          Velleda, in the  Batavian  war, governed, in the name of the
          deity, the fiercest  nations  of Germany.(58) The rest of the
          sex, without being  adored  as  goddesses, were respected as
          the free and  equal  companions of soldiers; associated even
          by the marriage  ceremony  to a life of toil, of danger, and
          of glory. (59)  In  their  great  invasions, the camps of the
          barbarians  were filled  with  a  multitude  of  women,  who
          remained firm and  undaunted  amidst  the sound of arms, the
          various forms of  destruction,  and the honourable wounds of
          their sons and  husbands.(60) Fainting armies of Germans have
          more than once  been  driven  back  upon  the  enemy  by the
          generous despair of  the  women  who dreaded death much less
          than servitude. If the day was irrecoverably lost, they well
          knew how to  deliver  themselves  and  their  children, with
          their own hands,  from  an  insulting victor(61). Heroines of
          such a cast  may  claim  our  admiration; but they were most
          assuredly neither lovely,  nor  very  susceptible  of  love.
          Whilst they affected  to  emulate  the stern virtues of man,
          they must have  resigned  that  attractive softness in which
          principally consists the  charm  of woman. Conscious pride
          taught the German  females  to suppress every tender emotion
          that stood in  competition with honour, and the first honour
          of the sex  has  ever  been that of chastity. The sentiments
          and conduct of  these high-spirited matrons may, at once, be
          considered as a  cause,  as an effect, and as a proof of the
          general character of  the nation. Female courage, however it
          may be raised  by  fanaticism, or confirmed by habit, can be
          only a faint  and  imperfect  imitation  of the manly valour
          that distinguishes the  age  or  country  in which it may be

          The religious system of the Germans (if the wild opinions of
          savages can deserve  that name) was dictated by their wants,
          their fears, and  their  ignorance.(62) They adored the great
          visible objects and  agents of nature, the Sun and the Moon,
          the  Fire and  the  Earth;  together  with  those  imaginary
          deities,  who  were   supposed  to  preside  over  the  most
          important occupations of  human  life.  They  were persuaded
          that, by some  ridiculous  arts  of  divination,  they could
          discover the will  of  the  superior  beings, and that human
          sacrifices were the most precious and acceptable offering to
          their altars. Some applause has been hastily bestowed on the
          sublime notion, entertained  by  that  people, of the Deity,
          whom they neither confined within the walls of a temple, nor
          represented by any  human figure; but when we recollect that
          the Germans were  unskilled  in  architecture,  and  totally
          unacquainted with the  art  of  sculpture,  we shall readily
          assign the true  reason of a scruple which arose not so much
          from a superiority  of  reason  as from a want of ingenuity.
          The only temples  in  Germany  were dark and ancient groves,
          consecrated  by the  reverence  of  succeeding  generations.
          Their secret gloom,  the  imagined residence of an invisible
          power, by presenting  no distinct object of fear or worship,
          impressed the mind  with  a  still deeper sense of religious
          horror;(63) and  the  priests,  rude  and  illiterate as they
          were,  had been  taught  by  experience  the  use  of  every
          artifice that could preserve and fortify impressions so well
          suited to their own interest.

Its effects in peace
          The same ignorance,  which  renders  barbarians incapable of
          conceiving  or embracing  the  useful  restraints  of  laws,
          exposes them naked  and  unarmed  to  the  blind  terrors of
          superstition. The German  priests, improving this favourable
          temper of their countrymen, had assumed a jurisdiction, even
          in temporal concerns, which the magistrate could not venture
          to exercise; and  the haughty warrior patiently submitted to
          the lash of  correction,  when  it was inflicted, not by any
          human power, but  by  the immediate order of the god of war.
         (64) The defects  of  civil  policy were sometimes supplied by
          the interposition of  ecclesiastical  authority.  The latter
          was constantly exerted  to  maintain  silence and decency in
          the popular assemblies; and was sometimes extended to a more
          enlarged  concern  for   the   national  welfare.  A  solemn
          procession  was  occasionally   celebrated  in  the  present
          countries of Mecklenburgh  and Pomerania. The unknown symbol
          of the Earth,  covered  with  a  thick veil, was placed on a
          carriage drawn by  cows;  and  in  this  manner the goddess,
          whose common residence  was  in  the  isle of Rugen, visited
          several  adjacent tribes  of  her  worshippers.  During  her
          progress  the  sound   of  war  was  hushed,  quarrels  were
          suspended, arms laid  aside, and the restless Germans had an
          opportunity of tasting  the  blessings of peace and harmony.
         (65)  The truce of God,  so  often  and  so  ineffectually
          proclaimed by the  clergy  of  the  eleventh century, was an
          obvious imitation of this ancient custom.(66)

in war
          But the influence  of  religion  was  far  more  powerful to
          inflame than to moderate the fierce passions of the Germans.
          Interest and fanaticism  often  prompted  its  ministers  to
          sanctify the most daring and the most unjust enterprises, by
          the approbation of  Heaven,  and full assurances of success.
          The consecrated standards,  long  revered  in  the groves of
          superstition, were placed in the front of the battle;(67) and
          the hostile army  was  devoted  with dire execrations to the
          gods of war and of thunder.(68) In the faith of soldiers (and
          such were the Germans) cowardice is the most unpardonable of
          sins. A brave  man was the worthy favourite of their martial
          deities; the wretch,  who  had  lost  his  shield, was alike
          banished from the  religious  and  civil  assemblies  of his
          countrymen. Some tribes  of  the north seem to have embraced
          the doctrine of  transmigration, (69) others imagined a gross
          paradise of immortal  drunkenness.(70) All agreed that a life
          spent in arms, and a glorious death in battle, were the best
          preparations for a  happy  futurity  either  in  this  or in
          another world.

The bards
          The immortality so  vainly  promised  by  the priests was in
          some degree conferred  by  the bards. That singular order of
          men has most deservedly attracted the notice of all who have
          attempted to investigate  the  antiquities of the Celts, the
          Scandinavians, and the  Germans. Their genius and character,
          as well as the reverence paid to that important office, have
          been  sufficiently illustrated.  But  we  cannot  so  easily
          express, or even conceive, the enthusiasm of arms and glory,
          which they kindled  in the breast of their audience. Among a
          polished people, a  taste  for poetry is rather an amusement
          of the fancy  than  a  passion of the soul. And yet, when in
          calm retirement we  peruse the combats described by Homer or
          Tasso, we are  insensibly seduced by the fiction, and feel a
          momentary glow of martial ardour. But how faint, how cold is
          the  sensation  which  a  peaceful  mind  can  receive  from
          solitary study !  It  was  in  the hour of battle, or in the
          feast of victory,  that  the  bards  celebrated the glory of
          heroes of ancient  days,  the  ancestors  of  those  warlike
          chieftains who listened  with transport to their artless but
          animated strains. The  view of arms and of danger heightened
          the effect of  the  military song; and the passions which it
          tended to excite,  the  desire  of  fame and the contempt of
          death, were the habitual sentiments of a German mind.(71)

Causes which checked the progress of the Germans
          Such was the  situation,  and  such were the manners, of the
          ancient Germans. Their  climate,  their want of learning, of
          arts, and of  laws,  their  notions of honour, of gallantry,
          and of religion,  their  sense  of  freedom,  impatience  of
          peace, and thirst  of  enterprise, all contributed to form a
          people of military heroes. And yet we find that, during more
          than two hundred  and  fifty  years  that  elapsed  from the
          defeat of Varus  to  the  reign  of Decius, these formidable
          barbarians  made few  considerable  attempts,  and  not  any
          material impression on  the luxurious and enslaved provinces
          of the empire.  Their  progress was checked by their want of
          arms and discipline,  and  their  fury  was  diverted by the
          intestine divisions of ancient Germany.

Want of arms
          I. It has  been  observed,  with ingenuity, and; not without
          truth, that the  command  of  iron  soon  gives a nation the
          command of gold.  But  the  rude  tribes  of  Germany, alike
          destitute of both those valuable metals, were reduced slowly
          to acquire, by  their unassisted strength, the possession of
          the one as  well  as  the  other.  The face of a German army
          displayed their poverty of iron. Swords, and the longer kind
          of lances, they  could  seldom use. Their frameae (as they
          called them in  their  own language) were long spears headed
          with a sharp  but  narrow iron point, and which, as occasion
          required, they either  darted  from  a distance or pushed in
          close onset. With  this  spear,  and  with  a  shield, their
          cavalry was contented.  A  multitude  of darts, scattered(72)
          with incredible force,  were  an  additional resource of the
          infantry. Their military  dress,  when  they  wore  any, was
          nothing more than  a  loose mantle. A variety of colours was
          the only ornament  of  their wooden or osier shields. Few of
          the chiefs were  distinguished  by  cuirasses, scarce any by
          helmets.  Though  the   horses   of   Germany  were  neither
          beautiful, swift, nor practised in the skilful evolutions of
          the Roman manege,  several of the nations obtained renown by
          their cavalry; but,  in  general,  the principal strength of
          the Germans consisted  in their infantry,(73) which was drawn
          up in several  deep columns, according to the distinction of
and  of    tribes and families. Impatient of fatigue or delay, these
discipline  half-armed warriors rushed  to  battle with dissonant shouts
          and disordered ranks; and sometimes, by the effort of native
          valour, prevailed over  the  constrained and more artificial
          bravery of the  Roman  mercenaries.  But  as  the barbarians
          poured forth their whole souls on the first onset, they knew
          not how to  rally or to retire. A repulse was a sure defeat;
          and a defeat was most commonly total destruction.

          When we recollect the complete armour of the Roman soldiers,
          their discipline, exercises,  evolutions,  fortified  camps,
          and military engines,  it  appears a just matter of surprise
          how the naked  and unassisted valour of the barbarians could
          dare to encounter  in the field the strength of the legions,
          and the various  troops  of  the  auxiliaries which seconded
          their operations. The  contest  was  too  unequal,  till the
          introduction of luxury  had  enervated  the  vigour,  and  a
          spirit  of  disobedience   and   sedition  had  relaxed  the
          discipline,  of  the   Roman  armies.  The  introduction  of
          barbarian  auxiliaries  into  those  armies  was  a  measure
          attended with very  obvious  dangers,  as it might gradually
          instruct the Germans  in  the  arts  of  war  and of policy.
          Although they were  admitted  in  small numbers and with the
          strictest precaution, the  example  of Civilis was proper to
          convince the Romans  that  the danger was not imaginary, and
          that their precautions were not always sufficient.(74) During
          the civil wars  that followed the death of Nero, that artful
          and intrepid Batavian,  whom  his  enemies  condescended  to
          compare with Hannibal  and  Sertorius, (75)  formed  a  great
          design of freedom  and  ambition.  Eight  Batavian  cohorts,
          renowned in the  wars  of Britain and Italy, repaired to his
          standard.  He introduced  an  army  of  Germans  into  Gaul,
          prevailed on the  powerful  cities  of Treves and Langres to
          embrace his cause,  defeated  the  legions,  destroyed their
          fortified  camps,  and   employed  against  the  Romans  the
          military knowledge which  he  had acquired in their service.
          When at length,  after  an obstinate struggle, he yielded to
          the power of  the  empire,  Civilis  secured himself and his
          country  by  an   honourable  treaty.  The  Batavians  still
          continued to occupy  the islands of the Rhine,(76) the allies
          not the servants of the Roman monarchy.

Civil dissentions of Germany
          II. The strength  of ancient Germany appears formidable when
          we consider the effects that might have been produced by its
          united  effort.  The  wide  extent  of  country  might  very
          possibly contain a  million  of warriors, as all who were of
          age to bear  arms  were  of  a  temper to use them. But this
          fierce multitude, incapable  of  concerting or executing any
          plan of national  greatness,  was  agitated  by  various and
          often hostile intentions. Germany was divided into more than
          forty independent states;  and  even in each state the union
          of the several  tribes  was  extremely loose and precarious.
          The barbarians were  easily  provoked;  they knew not how to
          forgive an injury,  much  less  an insult; their resentments
          were bloody and  implacable.  The  casual  disputes  that so
          frequently happened in  their  tumultuous parties of hunting
          or drinking were  sufficient  to  inflame the minds of whole
          nations; the private  feud  of  any  considerable chieftains
          diffused  itself  among   their  followers  and  allies.  To
          chastise the insolent,  or  to plunder the defenceless, were
          alike causes of  war.  The most formidable states of Germany
          affected to encompass their territories with a wide frontier
          of solitude and devastation. The awful distance preserved by
          their neighbours attested  the  terror of their arms, and in
          some measure defended  them  from  the  danger of unexpected

fomented by the policy of Rome
          "The Bructeri (it  is  Tacitus  who now speaks) were totally
          exterminated by the  neighbouring  tribes, (78)  provoked  by
          their insolence, allured  by the hopes of spoil, and perhaps
          inspired by the  tutelar  deities of the empire. Above sixty
          thousand barbarians were  destroyed;  not by the Roman arms,
          but  in our  sight,  and  for  our  entertainment.  May  the
          nations, enemies of  Rome, ever preserve this enmity to each
          other! We have  now attained the utmost verge of prosperity,
         (79) and have  nothing  left  to demand of Fortune, except the
          discord of these barbarians."(80)

          These sentiments, less  worthy  of  the humanity than of the
          patriotism of Tacitus,  express the invariable maxims of the
          policy of his  countrymen.  They  deemed  it  a  much  safer
          expedient to divide  than  to  combat  the  barbarians, from
          whose defeat they could derive neither honour nor advantage.
          The money and  negotiations  of  Rome  insinuated themselves
          into the heart  of  Germany;  and every art of seduction was
          used with dignity  to  conciliate  those  nations whom their
          proximity to the  Rhine  or  Danube  might  render  the most
          useful friends as  well  as  the  most  troublesome enemies.
          Chiefs of renown  and  power  were  flattered  by  the  most
          trifling presents, which  they  received  either as marks of
          distinction, or as  the  instruments  of  luxury.  In  civil
          dissensions, the weaker  faction  endeavoured  to strengthen
          its interest by  entering  into  secret connections with the
          governors of the frontier provinces. Every quarrel among the
          Germans was fomented  by  the  intrigues  of Rome; and every
          plan of union  and  public good was defeated by the stronger
          bias of private jealousy and interest.(81)

Transient union against Marcus Antoninus
          The general conspiracy  which terrified the Romans under the
          reign  of  Marcus  Antoninus  comprehended  almost  all  the
          nations of Germany, and even Sarmatia, from the mouth of the
          Rhine to that  of  the Danube.(82) It is impossible for us to
          determine whether this  hasty  confederation  was  formed by
          necessity, by reason, or by passion; but we may rest assured
          that the barbarians  were  neither allured by the indolence,
          nor provoked by  the  ambition,  of  the Roman monarch. This
          dangerous invasion required  all  the firmness and vigilance
          of Marcus. He  fixed  generals  of  ability  in  the several
          stations of attack, and assumed in person the conduct of the
          most important province  on  the  Upper Danube. After a long
          and doubtful conflict,  the  spirit  of  the  barbarians was
          subdued. The Quadi  and the Marcomanni,(83) who had taken the
          lead in the  war,  were  the  most  severely punished in its
          catastrophe. They were  commanded  to  retire  five miles(84)
          from their own  banks  of  the Danube, and to deliver up the
          flower of the youth, who were immediately sent into Britain,
          a remote island, where they might be secure as hostages, and
          useful as soldiers. (85)  On  the  frequent rebellions of the
          Quadi and Marcomanni,  the  irritated  emperor  resolved  to
          reduce their country  into  the  form  of  a  province.  His
          designs were disappointed  by death. This formidable league,
          however,  the  only  one  that  appears  in  the  two  first
          centuries of the  Imperial history, was entirely dissipated,
          without leaving any traces behind in Germany.

Distinction of the German tribes
          In the course of this introductory chapter, we have confined
          ourselves to the general outlines of the manners of Germany,
          without attempting to describe or to distinguish the various
          tribes which filled the great country in the time of Caesar,
          of Tacitus or  of  Ptolemy. As the ancient, or as new tribes
          successively  present  themselves  in  the  series  of  this
          history, we shall  concisely  mention  their  origin,  their
          situation, and their  particular  character.  Modern nations
          are  fixed  and   permanent   societies,   connected   among
          themselves by laws  and  government,  bound  to their native
          soil  by  arts  and  agriculture.  The  German  tribes  were
          voluntary and fluctuating  associations  of soldiers, almost
          of savages. The same territory often changed its inhabitants
          in  the  tide   of   conquest   and   emigration.  The  same
          communities, uniting in  a  plan  of  defence  or  invasion,
          bestowed  a  new   title   on  their  new  confederacy.  The
          dissolution  of  an  ancient  confederacy  restored  to  the
          independent  tribes  their   peculiar   but   long-forgotten
          appellation. A victorious  state  often communicated its own
          name to a  vanquished people. Sometimes crowds of volunteers
          flocked from all  parts  to  the  standard  of  a  favourite
          leader; his camp became their country, and some circumstance
          of the enterprise  soon  gave  a  common denomination to the
          mixed multitude. The  distinctions of the ferocious invaders
          were perpetually varied by themselves, and confounded by the
          astonished subjects of the Roman empire.(86)

          Wars, and the  administration  of  public  affairs  are  the
          principal subjects of  history;  but  the  number of persons
          interested in these  busy scenes is very different according
          to the different  condition  of mankind. In great monarchies
          millions   of  obedient   subjects   pursue   their   useful
          occupations in peace  and  obscurity.  The  attention of the
          writer, as well  as  of  the reader, is solely confined to a
          court, a capital,  a  regular  army, and the districts which
          happen to be  the  occasional  scene of military operations.
          But a state  of  freedom  and barbarism, the season of civil
          commotions, or the  situation  of petty republics,(87) raises
          almost  every member  of  the  community  into  action,  and
          consequently into notice.  The  irregular divisions, and the
          restless  motions, of  the  people  of  Germany  dazzle  our
          imagination and seem  to multiply their numbers. The profuse
          enumeration of kings  and  warriors  of  armies  and nations
          inclines us to  forget that the same objects are continually
          repeated under a  variety of appellations, and that the most
          splendid appellations have  been  frequently lavished on the
          most inconsiderable objects.

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