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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
VIII. THE GERMANS TO 476 A.D.
» Contents of this ChapterGermany and the Germans * Breaking of the Danube Barrier * Breaking of the Rhine Barrier * Inroads of the Huns * End of the Roman Empire in the West, 476 A.D. * Germanic Influence on Society
THE GERMANS TO 476 A.D.
GERMANY AND THE GERMANS
PHYSICAL FEATURES OF GERMANY
The Germans were an Indo-European people, as were their neighbors, the Celts of Gaul and Britain. They had lived for many centuries in the wild districts of central Europe north of the Alps and beyond the Danube and the Rhine. This home land of the Germans in ancient times was cheerless and unhealthy. Dense forests or extensive marshes covered the ground. The atmosphere was heavy and humid; in summer clouds and mists brooded over the country; and in winter it was covered with snow and ice. In such a region everything was opposed to civilization. Hence the Germans, though a gifted race, had not advanced as rapidly as the Greek and Italian peoples.
THE GERMANS DESCRIBED BY THE ROMANS
Our earliest notice of the Germans is found in the Commentaries by Julius Caesar, who twice invaded their country. About a century and a half later the Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote a little book called Germany, which gives an account of the people as they were before coming under the influence of Rome and Christianity. Tacitus describes the Germans as barbarians with many of the usual marks of barbarism. He speaks of their giant size, their fierce, blue eyes, and their blonde or ruddy hair. These physical traits made them seem especially terrible to the smaller and darker Romans. He mentions their love of warfare, the fury of their onset in battle, and the contempt which they had for wounds and even death itself. When not fighting, they passed much of their time in the chase, and still more time in sleep and gluttonous feasts. They were hard drinkers, too, and so passionately fond of gambling that, when a man's wealth was gone, he would even stake his liberty on a single game. In some of these respects the Germans resembled our own Indian tribes.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy