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to place their freedom in gratifying the present passion, and their in overlooking all future consequences, tu away with indignant contempt from the remonstrances 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 ma 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 seditious.(46) 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 neral. e bravest warrior was named to lead his countrymen into the field, y 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 #...} in their respective districts. In the choice of these magistrates, as much regard was shown to birth as to ...) To each was assigned, by the public, a guard, and a council of a hundred persons: and the first of the princes appears to have enjoyed a pre-eminence of rank and honour §. name tempted the Romans to compliment him with the regal title.(50 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 †. of the landed property within their district, was absolutely vested in their hands, and they distributed it every #: according, to a new division.(51) At the same time they were not authorized to punish with death, to imprison, or even to strike, a private citizen.(52), A people thus ealous of their persons, and careless of their possessions, must have been totally destitute of . and the arts, but animated with a high sense of honour and independence. 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; among 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 lory 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
(46) Even in our ancient parliament, the barons often carried a question, not so much by the number of votes, as by that of their armed followers. (47). Cesar de Bell. Gall. vi. 23.
(48) Minuunt controversias, is a very happy expression of Cesar's.
(49) Reges ex nobilitate, duces ex virtute sumunt. Tacit. Germ. 7.
(50) Cluver. Germ. Ant. i. i. c. 38. (51) Cesar, vi. 22. Tacit. Germ. 26.
(52) Tacit. Germ. 7.
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 irrecoverabl 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. While they affected to emulate the stern virtues of man, they must have resigned that attractive softness in which principally consists the charm and weakness 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 found. 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 ...Y. 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. 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 civi polio 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 occasion
(50) The change of exigere into erugere is a most excellent correction.
(61) Tacit. Germ. c. 7. Plutarch in Mario. Before the wives of the Teutones destroyed themselves and their children, they had offered to surrender on condition that they should be received as the slaves of the vestal virgins.
(62) Tacitus has employed a few lines, and Cluverius one hundred and twenty four pages, on this obscure subject. The former discovers in Germany the gods of Greece and Rome. The latter is positive, that under the emblems of the sun, the moon, and the fire, his pious ancestors worshipped the Trinity in unity. l
(63). The sacred wood, described with such sublime horror by Lucan was in the neighbourhood of Marseilles; but there were many of the same kind in Germany."
(64) Tacit. Germania, c. 7.
ally celebrated in the present countries of Mecklenburgh and Pomerama. 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 initation of this ancient custom.(66 But the influence of religion was far more powerful to inflame, than to moderate, the fierce passions of the Germans. }. and fanaticism often prompted its ministers to sanctify the most daring and the most unjust enterprises, by the approbation of Heaven, and full assurance 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 o such were the Germans) cowardice is the most unpardonable of sins. brave man was the worthy favourite of their martial deities; the wretch who had lost his shield, was alike banished from the religious and the civil assemblies of his countrymen. Some tribes of the north seem to have embraced the doctrine of o 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 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 saint, 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 . to excite, the desire of fame, and the contempt ...” death, were the habitual sentiments of a German mind.(71)* 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 ace, and thirst of enterprise, all contributed to form a people of military roes. 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
See Dr. Robertson's History of Charles W. vol. i. note 10. Tacit. Germ. c. 7. These standards were only the heads of wild beasts. See an instance of this custom, Tacit. Annal. xiii. 57. (69) Cesar, Diodorus, and Lucan, seem to ascribe this doctrine to the Gauls, but M. Pelloutier (Histoire des Celtes, l. iii. c. o labours to reduce their expressions to a more orthodox sense. o". this gross but alluring doctrine of the Edda, see Fable xx. in the curious version of that book, published by M. Mallet, in his Introduction te the History of Denmark.
; Tacit. Germania, c. 40. §
(71) SeeTacit. Germ. c. 3. Diodor. Sicul. 1. v. Strabo, l. iv. p. 197. The classical reader may remember the rank of Demodocus in the Phaeacian court, and the ardour infused by Tyrtaeus into the fainting jo. Yet there is little probability that the Greeks and the Germans were the same people. Much learned trifling might be spared, if our antiquarians would condescend to reflect that similar manners will naturally be produced by o: situations. 2
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. 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, % their unassisted strength, the ession 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 framer, (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 menage, 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 tribes and families. Impatient of fatigue or delay, these 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, ". knew not how to rally or to retire. A repulse was a sure defeat; and a defeat 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 o 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 É. 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 i. to the power of the i. Civilis secured himself and his count y an honourable treaty. The Batavians still continued to occupy the islands of the Rhine,(76) the allies, not the servants of the Roman monarchy.
72) Missilia spargunt, Tacit. Germ. c. 6. Either that historian used a vague expression, or he meant that they were thrown at random.
(73) It was their principal distinction from the Sarmatians, who generally fought on horseback.
(74) The relation of this enterprise occupies a great part of the j and fifth books of the History of Tácitus, and is more remarkable for its eloquence than perspicuity. Sir Henry Saville has observed several inaccuracies.
(75) Tacit. Hist. iv. 13. Like them, he had lost an eye.
(76) It was contained between the two branches of the old Rhine, as they subsisted before the face of the country was changed by art and nature.—See Cluver. German. Antiq. l. iii. c. 30–37.