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De origine et situ Germanorum (Germania)

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Publius Cornelius Tacitus

De Origine et Situ Germanorum

Translation by Lamberto Bozzi

P. Cornelii Taciti

De Origine et Situ Germanorum


Germany's general dividing line
On the Gallic Rhaetian and Pannonic side
Is marked by the rivers Danube and Rhine
While the Sarmatians and the Dacians are near
But kept in check by mounts and mutual fear

Germania omnis a Gallis Raetisque et Pannoniis
Rheno et Danuvio fluminibus a Sarmatis Dacisque mutuo metu aut montibus separatur

The other parts the Ocean embraces
Paeninsulas and islands across vast spaces
Settled by tribes under the rule of thanes
Lately discovered in warlike campaigns

Cetera Oceanus ambit latos sinus et insularum
Immensa spatia complectens nuper cognitis
Quibusdam gentibus ac regibus
Quos bellum aperuit

From a Rhaetian Alps sky-high source
The river Rhine gently wends its course
To the west and promptly proceeds forth
To mix with the Ocean of the north

Rhenus Raeticarum Alpium inaccesso ac praecipiti vertice ortus modico flexu in
Occidentem versus septentrionali Oceano Miscetur

The Danube flows down easy and free
Stemming from Mount Abnoba's moderate top
And crosses several regions non-stop
Until it empties into the Black Sea
Six of its mouths make it to the strand
The seventh is sucked up by a marshland

Danuvius molli et clementer edito montis Abnobae iugo effusus pluris populos adit
Donec in Ponticum mare sex meatibus erumpat
Septimum os paludibus hauritur


As for the Germans I think they’re indigenous
Not subject to emigrations miscegenations
Or friendly contacts with alien populations
As in the past those having in mind an exodus
Crossed not the land but sailed in fleets instead
And the ocean so to say vast and hostile
Was visited by our ships once in a while
Not to mention the danger and the dread
Of a sea both terrible and unknown
Who from Asia Africa or Italy
But a son of that weatherbeaten zone
Would have moved to grim rough sad Germany?

Ipsos Germanos indigenas crediderim minimeque
Aliarum gentium adventibus et hospitiis mixtos
Quia nec terra olim sed classibus advehebantur
Qui mutare sedes quarebant et immensus ultra
Utque sic dicerim adversus Oceanus raris ab
Orbe nostro navibus aditur
Quis porro praeter periculum horridi et ignoti maris
Asia aut Africa aut Italia relicta Germania peteret
Informem terris, asperam caelo tristem cultu aspectuque
nisi si patria sit

As a unique kind of remembrance
With lore and annals they do celebrate
Tuisco the Earth-born God whose issuance
Was that Mannus from whom originate
Three sons the heads of three different tribes
The Ingaevones to the ocean lying near
The Herminones whom the middle circumscribes
And the Istaevones who bring up the rear
Some affirm by antiquity’s licence
A larger God-issued tribal presence
the Marsos the Gambrivios
The Svevos the Vandalios
names of valid and ancient relevance

Celebrant carminibus antiquis quod unum apud illos memoriae
Et annalium genus est Tuistonem deum terra editum
Ei filium Mannum originem gentis conditoremque Manno tris filios
Assignant et quorum nominibus proximi Oceano Ingaevones
medii Herminones ceteri Istaevones vocantur
Quidam ut in licentia vetustatis pluris deo ortos plurisque
Gentis appellationes Marsos Gembrivios Suebos Vandilios affirmant
eaque vera est antiqua nomina

Instead Germany is an expression
Of recent years assigned to that nation
The name Germans on the other hand
Was the vocable used to call
The Tungros who defeated Gaul
When they crossed over to the Rhineland

As the Victor induced trepidation
Little by little that small part of the nation
Was counted as the whole population
To whom it came in handy to decide
To take up the same name out of self-pride

Ceterum Germaniae vocabulum recens et nuper additum quoniam
Qui primi Rhenum trangressi Gallos expulerint ac nunc Tungri tunc
Germani vocati sint ita nationis nomen non gentis evaluisse paulatim
Ut omnes primum a victore ob metum mox etiam a se ipsis invento nomine
Germani vocarentur


They narrate of Hercules’ erstwhile stay
With them and sing to him before the fray
To him number one hero among the strong

Fuisse apud eos et Herculem memorant, primumque
omnium virorum fortium ituri in proelia canunt.

They also have many a ‘baritus’ song
auguring the impending battle’s fate
With notes possessing a rhythmic clout
kindling their souls as they’re belted out
And according as their bands resonate
Scare their foes while they themselves trepidate
As more than voices they have the illusion
Of hearing of valour the warlike fusion

Both harshness and asperity
Along with a broken clamour
Are sought out particularly
With mouths and tongues lambent
To the shields of the armour
So that harder and louder may boom
The reverberating voice of doom

Sunt illis haec quoque carmina, quorum relatu, quem baritum vocant,
accendunt animos, futuraeque pugnae fortunam ipso cantu augurantur:
terrent enim trepidantve, prout sonuit acies. Nec tam voces illae, quam virtutis
concentus videntur. Affectatur praecipue asperitas soni et fractum murmur,
objectis ad os scutis, quo plenior et gravior vox repercussu intumescat.

And some moreover think Ulysses
The ocean’s fabulous errant maroon
Landed on the Germanic limes
To establish and name on the Rhyne bank
Asciburgium a town of lasting rank

An altar to Ulysses consecrated
And long ago discovered indicated
His father’s name Laertes that is
And monuments still stand vis-a vis
Germany’s and Rhaetia’s frontiers
Where on stones Greek lettering appears

Ceterum et Ulixem quidam opinantur longo illo et fabuloso errore in hunc Oceanum
delatum, adisse Germaniae terras, Asciburgiumque, quod in ripa Rheni situm hodieque
incolitur, ab illo constitutum nominatumque. Aram quin etiam Ulixi consecratam, adjecto
Laertae patris nomine, eodem loco olim repertam, monumentaque et tumulos quosdam
Graecis litteris inscriptos in confinio Germaniae Rhaetiaeque adhuc exstare:

I don’t intend to confirm or refute
A point to all so manifestly moot

quae neque confirmare argumentis, neque refellere in animo est:
ex ingenio suo quisque demat, vel addat fidem.


I share the opinion of those who are sure
The German peoples never interbred
With any other tribe and instead
Remained one race genuine and pure

Ipse eorum opinionibus accedo
Qui Germaniae populos nullis aliis
Aliarum nationum conubiis infectos
Propriam et sinceram et tantum sui
Similem gentem extitisse arbitrantur

Hence their body features are all alike
Though their number is very large too
Reddish hair eyes cruel and blue
Large strong bodies good only to strike

Unde habitus quoque corporum quamquam
In tanto hominum numero idem omnibus
Truces et caerulei oculi rutilae comae
Magna corpora et tantum ad impetum valida

They have no stamina for action and great feat
Accustomed to a sky bitten by the bise
They're not afraid to starve and to freeze
But cannot bear the thirst and the heat

Laboris atque operum non eadem patientia
Minimeque sitim aestumque tolerare
Frigora atque inediam caelo solove assueverunt


From place to place may the country differ
But for the most part it has to offer
Either horrid forest or desolate marsh
Noricum and Pannonia are wind-tied
Danker the parts as one looks out Gaulside

Terra, etsi aliquanto specie differt,
in universum tamen aut silvis horrida aut paludibus foeda:
humidior, qua Gallias; ventosior, qua Noricum ac Pannoniam aspicit:

Soil fertile enough but to the fruit tree harsh
Full of sheep but most of them undersized
The many heads of cattle look quite worn
Though greatly valued and with fronts all shorn

satis ferax; frugiferarum arborum impatiens:
pecorum fecunda, sed plerumque improcera;
ne armentis quidem suus honor, aut gloria frontis:
numero gaudent; eaeque solae et gratissimae opes sunt.

I doubt whether the gods with them propitious
Of gold and silver were or avaricious
And if in German mines out of the way
Lie silver and gold lodes I could not say

Argentum et aurum propitii an irati dii aegaverint, dubito.
Nec tamen affirmaverim, nullam Germaniae
venam argentum aurumve gignere:
quis enim scrutatus est?

For hold or use of both they’re not ambitious
Envoys and chiefs vases of silver made
Received as gifts keep with pots made of clay

The border populace know how to grade
Silver and gold and can tell our coinage
The inner tribes instead resort to trade
According to an older simpler usage
The time-honoured well-known coins are appreciated
Those with the biga or with their rims crenated

possessione et usu haud perinde afficiuntur.
Est videre apud illos argentea vasa, legatis et principibus
eorum muneri data, non in alia vilitate, quam quae humo
finguntur quanquam proximi, ob usum commerciorum,
aurum et argentum in pretio habent, formasque quasdam
nostrae pecuniae agnoscunt atque eligunt:
interiores simplicius et antiquius permutatione mercium utuntur.
Pecuniam probant veterem et diu notam, serratos bigatosque.

To gold they prefer silver as the price
For cheap and ordinary merchandise

Argentum quoque, magis quam aurum sequuntur,
nulla affectione animi, sed quia numerus argenteorum
facilior usui est promiscua ac vilia mercantibus.


As can be determined from their kind
Of weapons iron is hard to find
Rare are those who swords or heavy lances sport
Or a framea a spear narrow-headed and short
To the horseman suffices as gear
A single shield and a single spear
A weapon sharp and so easy to wield
Within or out of reach in the battlefield
The half-naked well armed soldiers fight on foot
And far their missiles in large numbers shoot
No pomp at all in their accoutrements
On the shields only painted ornaments
Few wear armour one or two at best
Bronze or leather helmets with no crest

Ne ferrum quidem superest, sicut ex genere telorum colligitur.
Rari gladiis aut majoribus lanceis utuntur: hastas, vel ipsorum
vocabulo frameas gerunt, angusto et brevi ferro sed ita acri et
ad usum habili, ut eodem telo, prout ratio poscit, vel cominus vel eminus
pugnent: et eques quidem scuto frameaque contentus est: pedites et missilia
spargunt, plura singuli, atque in immensum vibrant, nudi aut sagulo leves.
Nulla cultus jactatio; scuta tantum lectissimis coloribus distinguunt:
paucis loricae: vix uni alterive cassis aut galea.

The horses have no beauty and no speed
And lack the proper training of a steed
In a straight line they’re driven and aligned
And then are made to turn to the right
To keep the formation riding tight
So as no one is left lagging behind

Equi non forma, non velocitate conspicui: sed nec variare
gyros in morem nostrum docentur. In rectum, aut uno flexu
dextros agunt ita conjuncto orbe, ut nemo posterior sit.

Stronger is on the whole the infantry
All young soldiers of great value
Who rush to the front line conveniently
Battling along with the cavalry
Definite is their number too
One hundred out of each hamlet
And all of them are named after it
And what was only a name at first
Is a title of honour for the best
Their battle line is like a wedge impressed

In universum aestimanti, plus penes peditem roboris: eoque mixti
proeliantur, apta et congruente ad equestrem pugnam velocitate
peditum, quos ex omni juventute delectos ante aciem locant.
Definitur et numerus: centeni ex singulis pagis sunt: idque ipsum
inter suos vocantur; et quod primo numerus fuit, jam nomen
et honor est. Acies per cuneos componitur.

It is caution and not funk to recoil
From a position to win back the soil
Even after an indecisive fight
The bodies of the dead they reunite
Relinquishing a shield means ignominy
And forfeiture of ritual and assembly
Culprits oft hang themselves to end their plight

Cedere loco, dummodo rursus instes, consilii quam formidinis arbitrantur.
Corpora suorum etiam in dubiis proeliis referunt. Scutum reliquisse,
praecipuum flagitium; nec aut sacris adesse, aut concilium inire,
ignominioso fas; multique superstites bellorum infamiam laqueo finierunt.


They choose their kings by right of nobleness
But deny them the clout to act as a threat
And their commanders picked out by prowess
Achieve renown by the example they set
And win admiration the true leader’s sign
If they’re bold alert and ahead of the line
But to reprimand to flog and to jail
Is well beyond the generals’ pale
Unless the auspices give their assent
On behalf of the gods they represent

Reges ex nobilitate, duces ex virtute sumunt. Nec regibus
Infinita aut libera potestas: et duces exemplo potius, quam
imperio, si prompti, si conspicui, si ante aciem agant,
admiratione praesunt. Ceterum neque animadvertere neque
vincire, ne verberare quidem, nisi sacerdotibus permissum;
non quasi in poenam, nec ducis jussu, sed velut deo imperante,
quem adesse bellantibus credunt:

Effigies and certain figures drawn
From sacred groves are to the battle borne

The spark their fortitude ignites
Is not the gathering of knights
Or of soldiers without any plan
But the attachment to the same clan
And close by their next of kin
With women’s cries and children’s din
Are witnesses and cause
Of the supreme applause
They show their wounds to their female connections
Who feed them spurring them to further actions

effigiesque et signa quaedam, detracta lucis,
in proelium ferunt. Quodque praecipuum fortitudinis
incitamentum est, non casus nec fortuita conglobatio
turmam aut cuneum facit, sed familiae et propinquitates,
et in proximo pignora, unde feminarum ululatus audiri,
unde vagitus infantium: hi cuique sanctissimi testes, hi
maximi laudatores. Ad matres, ad conjuges vulnera
ferunt; nec illae numerare, aut exigere plagas pavent;
cibosque et hortamina pugnantibus gestant.


Report has it that troops engaged in battle
Already wavering and short of mettle
Were rallied by bare-breasted praying wives
Who depicted the woes of captive lives
Which in the Germans awakens such fear
As to regard a nation more sincere
And more profound when she is bound
To give her hostages extra worth
Throwing in some maidens of noble birth

Memoriae proditur, quasdam acies, inclinatas jam et labantes,
a feminis restitutas, constantia precum et objectu pectorum et
monstrata cominus captivitate, quam longe impatientius feminarum
suarum nomine timent: adeo ut efficacius obligentur animi civitatum,
quibus inter obsides puellae quoque nobiles imperantur.

Women they regard saintly and providential
And their counsel and foresight reverential
When the Divine Vespasian held the rod
Most people deemed Veleda a demi-god
Before her Aurinia and a slew
Of women were venerated too

Inesse quin etiam sanctum aliquid et providum putant:
nec aut consilia earum aspernantur, aut responsa negligunt.
Vidimus sub divo Vespasiano Veledam diu apud plerosque
numinis loco habitam. Sed et olim Auriniam et complures alias
venerati sunt non adulatione, nec tanquam facerent deas.


They worship Mercury and on certain days
They sacrifice to him with human preys
Hercules and Mars they choose to placate
With those animals they consider straight
Some of the Suevi sacrifice to Isis too
Whence this cult grew I have no other clue
But that its symbol a Liburnian ship
Testifies to an imported worship
Their gods are never within walls restrained
Or in human countenance constrained
They turn woods and groves into hallowed places
Whose mystery reflects on their devout faces

Deorum maxime Mercurium colunt, cui certis diebus humanis quoque
hostiis litare fas habent. Herculem ac Martem concessis animalibus placant:
pars Suevorum et Isidi sacrificat. Unde causa et origo peregrino sacro parum
comperi, nisi quod signum ipsum, in modum liburnae figuratum, docet advectam
religionem. Ceterum nec cohibere parietibus deos, neque in ullam humani oris
speciem assimulare, ex magnitudine coelestium arbitrantur: lucos ac nemora consecrant,
deorumque nominibus appellant secretum illud, quod sola reverentia vident.


They practice augury and prediction
Very carefully through a plain sortition
Out of fruit-tree boughs cut into fragments
Each one with a particular impression
Thrown over pieces of white vestments
The tribe’s priest or as the case may be
For things private the head of a family
Invokes the gods and looking up thrice
Picks up those fragments one by one like dice
And interprets each of the marks impressed
As a favourable or forbidding behest
A denial is the the day’s changeless advice

Auspicia sortesque, ut qui maxime, observant. Sortium consuetudo simplex:
virgam, frugiferae arbori decisam, in surculos amputant, eosque, notis
quibusdam discretos, super candidam vestem temere ac fortuito spargunt:
mox, si publice consuletur, sacerdos civitatis, sin privatim, ipse paterfamiliae,
precatus deos coelumque suspiciens, ter singulos tollit, sublatos secundum
impressam ante notam interpretatur. Si prohibuerunt, nulla de eadem re in
eundem diem consultatio;

But a good augury needs further assent
Hence they scan the birds’ flight and lament
To figure out equine omen and portent
Pure white public horses are bred in the wild
Chariot pulling their only labour is mild
Their neighs and snorts king priest or prominent
investigate as they sound supernatural
And auspicious not only to the general
But to the clerics and the dominant
Both ministers and trustees of the gods’ will

sin permissum, auspiciorum adhuc fides exigitur.Et illud quidem etiam
hic notum, avium voces volatusque interrogare: proprium gentis, equorum
quoque praesagia ac monitus experiri; publice aluntur iisdem nemoribus ac
lucis candidi et nullo mortali opere contacti: quos pressos sacro curru sacerdos
ac rex vel princeps civitatis comitantur, hinnitusque ac fremitus observant. Nec
ulli auspicio major fides non solum apud plebem, sed apud proceres, apud
sacerdotes; se enim ministros deorum, illos conscios putant.

Another procedure to anticipate
Of grievous warfare the ultimate fate
Is to choose one of the enemy’s captives
Taken by chance and with arms and plate
Have him challenge their own champion for the kill
And foresee victory in him that outlives

Est et alia observatio auspiciorum, qua gravium bellorum eventus
explorant; ejus gentis, cum qua bellum est, captivum, quoquo modo
interceptum, cum electo popularium suorum, patriis quemque armis,
committunt: victoria hujus vel illius pro praejudicio accipitur.


The chiefs discuss the minor issues
The populace the more momentous
Nonetheless the chiefs pre-examinate
What the populace is to arbitrate
Apart from some fortuitous by-plays
They always assemble on certain days
At the opposite phases of the moon
A timely start for business and fortune
Unlike us they count not by days but by nights
To regulate their civil and legal rights
And they reckon it’s the night
That invests the day with light

De minoribus rebus principes consultant; de majoribus omnes: ita tamen,
ut ea quoque, quorum penes plebem arbitrium est, apud principes pertractentur.
Coeunt, nisi quid fortuitum et subitum inciderit,certis diebus, cum aut inchoatur
luna aut impletur: nam agendis rebus hoc auspicatissimum initium credunt.
Nec dierum numerum, ut nos, sed noctium computant. Sic constituunt, sic condicunt:
nox ducere diem videtur.

In their freedom lies a snag
Some are punctual others lag
Behind and oft skip a summit
On a fixed assembly day
Which turns out to be a drag
In arms the multitude may sit
As silent as the priests deem fit
In their own coercive way
Then kings and princes have right of parlance
In line with age birth glory eloquence
More on proposition
Than on imposition

Illud ex libertate vitium, quod non simul, nec ut jussi conveniunt, sed et alter et tertius
dies cunctatione coeuntium absumitur. Ut turbae placuit, considunt armati. Silentium per
sacerdotes, quibus tum et coercendi jus est, imperatur. Mox rex vel princeps, prout aetas
cuique, prout nobilitas, prout decus bellorum, prout facundia est, audiuntur, auctoritate
suadendi magis, quam jubendi potestate.

If the proposal doesn’t pay
It gets a murmuring nay
But If one likes what one hears
There ensues a din of spears
Better than striking the palms
Is the answer of the arms

Si displicuit sententia, fremitu aspernantur; sin placuit, frameas concutiunt.
Honoratissimum assensus genus est, armis laudare.


In their councils it’s allowed to sue
And prosecute capital crimes too
Each crime is distinguished by its pain
Traitors and dodgers hang for their offence
Saboteurs cowards and buggers are slain
In the marsh mud under a wicker fence
The diversity of torments makes it clear
That crimes are punished as they appear
but lewd actions are kept out of view
Culprits of petty crimes pettily settle
With fines of horses and heads of cattle
Part of the fines for the king or the tribe
Part for the injured party and next of kin
In the selfsame councils they do inscribe
The magistrates elected to underpin
Justice in villages and hamlets and each
Backed by a hundred men whose right of speech
Is a reinforcement of counsel and discipline

Licet apud concilium accusare quoque et discrimen capitis intendere.
Distinctio poenarum ex delicto: proditores et transfugas arboribus suspendunt;
ignavos et imbelles et corpore infames coeno ac palude, injecta insuper crate, mergunt.
Diversitas supplicii illuc respicit, tanquam scelera ostendi oporteat, dum puniuntur,
flagitia abscondi. Sed et levioribus delictis, pro modo poenarum, equorum pecorumque
numero convicti mulctantur: pars mulctae regi vel civitati, pars ipsi, qui vindicatur,
vel propinquis ejus exsolvitur. Eliguntur in iisdem conciliis et principes, qui jura
per pagos vicosque reddunt. Centeni singulis ex plebe comites,
consilium simul et auctoritas, adsunt.


Neither private nor public settlement
Is transacted except with armament
But as usual no one can a weapon wield
Till the tribe deems him fit for the battlefield
Then the rallied chiefs fathers or some connection
Adorn him with a framea and a shield
Like our toga a lad’s first sign of distinction
and his progress from clan to State jurisdiction

Nihil autem neque publicae neque privatae rei, nisi armati agunt.
Sed arma sumere non ante cuiquam moris, quam civitas suffecturum
probaverit. Tum in ipso concilio, vel principum aliquis vel pater vel
propinquus scuto frameaque juvenem ornant: haec apud illos toga,
hic primus juventae honos: ante hoc domus pars videntur, mox reipublicae.

High peerage and paternal merit
Are titles children can inherit
Besides they join mature men of proven pluck
As there’s no shame in being a subordinate
Indeed there’s a gradation in the chiefs’ judgment
And the followers keenly try their luck
For pride of place in the chiefs’ preferment
And accordingly the chiefs only crave
To stay ’tween the numerous and the brave

Insignis nobilitas, aut magna patrum merita, principis dignationem etiam
adolescentulis assignant: ceteris robustioribus ac jampridem probatis
aggregantur; nec rubor, inter comites aspici. Gradus quin etiam et ipse
comitatus habet judicio ejus, quem sectantur: magnaque et comitum
aemulatio, quibus primus apud principem suum locus, et principum,
cui plurimi et acerrimi comites.

A source of prestige and dominance
Derives from a hand-picked youths’ regiment
In war protection in peace prominence
The number and valour of the retinue
Aren’t restricted to the chiefs’ environment
But have effects on other neighbourhoods too
And legates bring them gifts as an entreaty
To put an end to war with a peace treaty

Haec dignitas, hae vires, magno semper electorum juvenum
globo circumdari, in pace decus, in bello praesidium. Nec
solum in sua gente cuique, sed apud finitimas quoque civitates
id nomen, ea gloria est, si numero ac virtute comitatus emineat:
expetuntur enim legationibus et muneribus ornantur
et ipsa plerumque fama bella profligant.


In the battlefield it is a turpitude
For the chief and his followers to fall
The former for lack of valour and all
The others for inadequate fortitude
Infamous and opprobrious it’s for ever indeed
To survive one’s own chief in battle and retrocede
It’s a sacred principle to defend him
With their assistance and their warlike vim
For to him belong exploits and glory
They fight for him and he fights for victory

Cum ventum in aciem, turpe principi virtute vinci, turpe comitatui,
virtutem principis non adaequare. Jam vero infame in omnem vitam
ac probrosum, superstitem principi suo ex acie recessisse. Illum defendere,
tueri, sua quoque fortia facta gloriae ejus assignare, praecipuum sacramentum est.
Principes pro victoria pugnant; comites pro principe.

If their birthplace has long been in repose
Due to protracted peace and tranquillity
Many noble youths spontaneously propose
To join the tribes engaged in armed conflicts
As befits a race of warfare addicts
And fame and followers are gained the hard way
That is with violence in the midst of the fray
They ask their chiefs for liberalities of course
That blood-stained victorious framea that war horse
While food and rich rough feasts are the sole warrior’s pay
And war and rapine a most munificent source

Si civitas, in qua orti sunt, longa pace et otio torpeat plerique
nobilium adolescentium petunt ultro eas nationes, quae tum bellum
aliquod gerunt; quia et ingrata genti quies, et facilius inter ancipitia
clarescunt, magnumque comitatum non nisi vi belloque tuentur:
exigunt enim principis sui liberalitate illum bellatorem equum,
illam cruentam victricemque frameam. Nam epulae et, quanquam
incompti, largi tamen apparatus pro stipendio cedunt:
materia munificentiae per bella et raptus.

To the annual harvest to hard toil with the plough
They prefer famed wounds and the inimical row
But it’s the fancy of a lazy dud
To obtain by sweat what can be won by blood

Nec arare terram, aut expectare annum, tam facile persuaseris,
quam vocare hostes et vulnera mereri. Pigrum quinimmo et iners
videtur, sudore acquirere, quod possis sanguine parare.


In the intervals of war for recreation
They hunt a little but appreciate inaction
The strong and the bellicose eat drink and shirk
Through sleep and riots every single stitch of work
Their homes families agrarian assets
Are left to women dotards and cadets
They themselves who thrive in sluggishness
By a bizarre natural quirk
Find peace hateful but cherish idleness

Quotiens bella non ineunt, non multum venatibus, plus per otium transigunt,
dediti somno ciboque, fortissimus quisque ac bellicosissimus nihil agens, delegata
domus et penatium et agrorum cura feminis senibusque et infirmissimo cuique ex familia:
ipsi hebent; mira diversitate naturae, cum iidem homines sic ament inertiam et oderint quietem.

And all the tribesmen of their own free will
Bring cattle or fruits to the chiefs’ doorsill
An honour welcome indeed as it meets a need
And specially liked are the neighbours’ donations
Not privately sent but by whole federations
Such as choice horses trappings torques fine armaments
By now we’ve taught them to accept money payments

Mos est civitatibus ultro ac viritim conferre principibus vel armentorum vel frugum,
quod pro honore acceptum, etiam necessitatibus subvenit. Gaudent praecipue
finitimarum gentium donis, quae non modo a singulis, sed publice mittuntur:
electi equi, magna arma, phalerae, torquesque. Jam et pecuniam accipere docuimus.


It’s a fact that in the Germanic land
People don’t dwell in cities and can’t stand
Even habitations built side by side
But have them scattered few and far between
Allured by a spring a wood or a green
Unlike our fashion their hamlets aren’t planned
With homes well connected and well tied
Each man has an empty space around his shack
Whether firestop or sign of poor building knack

Nullas Germanorum populis urbes habitari, satis notum est: ne pati
quidem inter se junctas sedes. Colunt discreti ac diversi, ut fons,ut campus,
ut nemus placuit. Vicos locant, non in nostrum morem, connexis et cohaerentibus
aedificiis: suam quisque domum spatio circumdat, sive adversus casus ignis
remedium, sive inscitia aedificandi.

They don’t employ at all stone and tile
But use timber with no frills or style
Some dwellings are diligently daubed with clay
As pure and bright as a pictorial display

Ne caementorum quidem apud illos aut tegularum usus: materia
ad omnia utuntur informi et citra speciem aut delectationem.
Quaedam loca diligentius illinunt terra ita pura ac splendente,
ut picturam ac lineamenta colorum imitetur.

They dig dens too with thick roofs of manure
As winter shelters where cereals are sure
From the bite of frost and the raiding races
Of foes that devastate the open spaces
While it is ignored and rarely found
All that lies hidden under the ground

Solent et subterraneos specus aperire, eosque multo insuper
fimo onerant, suffugium hiemi et receptaculum frugibus:
quia rigorem frigorum ejusmodi locis molliunt: et, si quando
hostis advenit, aperta populatur, abdita autem et defossa
aut ignorantur, aut eo ipso fallunt, quod quaerenda sunt.


Their common garb is a cloak worn
With a buckle or at least a thorn
Leaving the rest of the figure in the buff
They spend entire days by the hearth’s flames
The more affluent wear clothes tight enough
To mould round the contours of their frames
Not the Sarmatic or Parthian dress that flutters
They also put on the furs and hides of critters
The riparian tribes with nonchalance
Those more inland with more elegance
As if nothing tasteful could be had by trade
They choose the beasts and once their skins are flayed
Trim them with brutes’ hides from the arcane
Ocean and from the uncharted main

Tegumen omnibus sagum, fibula, aut, si desit, spina consertum:
cetera intecti totos dies juxta focum atque ignem agunt.
Locupletissimi veste distinguuntur, non fluitante, sicut Sarmatae ac Parthi,
sed stricta et singulos artus exprimente. Gerunt et ferarum pelles,
proximi ripae negligenter, ulteriores exquisitius, ut quibus nullus per commercia cultus.
Eligunt feras, et detracta velamina spargunt maculis pellibusque belluarum,
quas exterior Oceanus atque ignotum mare gignit.

Women who wear virile garments
Oft wrap themselves in a linen fichu
Enriched with purple ornaments
Arms and forearms are bare as their dress
In the upper part is sleeveless
But leaves the upper bosom bare too

Nec alius feminis quam viris habitus, nisi quod feminae saepius
lineis amictibus velantur, eosque purpura variant, partemque vestitus
superioris in manicas non extendunt, nudae brachia ac lacertos:
sed et proxima pars pectoris patet.


Nevertheless their matrimonial writ
Is really praiseworthy and rather strict
Unlike most Barbarians one wife each
Is all they want except the very rich
Who for their rank and not for lust
Practice plural marriage as a must

Quanquam severa illic matrimonia; nec ullam morum partem magis
laudaveris: nam prope soli barbarorum singulis uxoribus contenti sunt,
exceptis admodum paucis, qui non libidine, sed ob nobilitatem,
plurimis nuptiis ambiuntur,

Man not wife is to the dower bound
So it’s he who must bring it around
Parents and homefolk judge the effectiveness
Of gifts that should not suit female loveliness
Or merely deck a newly-wed bride
It’s spears swords shields oxen horses in harness
That help a woman’s knot get tied
And in turn she brings her man a number of arms
These are the rites arcane and sanctified
The prime bond the gods’ wedding charms

Dotem non uxor marito, sed uxori maritus offert. Intersunt parentes
et propinqui, ac munera probant: munera non ad delicias muliebres quaesita,
nec quibus nova nupta comatur: sed boves et frenatum equum et scutum cum framea
gladioque. In haec munera uxor accipitur: atque invicem ipsa armorum aliquid viro affert:
hoc maximum vinculum, haec arcana sacra, hos conjugales deos arbitrantur.

In case the bride should not share
Thoughts of daring and warfare
The same wedding auspices dictate
Her role in the house as a helpmate
To face in war and peace danger and pain
This is the sense of the bovine twain
Of the gift of arms of the harnessed steed
This is the way to live or die indeed
To receive and transmit to her issue
Those presents inviolate and without stain
So that her daughters-in-law may succeed
In passing them to their grandchildren too

Ne se mulier extra virtutum cogitationes extraque bellorum casus putet, ipsis
incipientis matrimonii auspiciis admonetur, venire se laborum periculorumque
sociam, idem in pace, idem in proelio passuram ausuramque: hoc juncti boves,
hoc paratus equus, hoc data arma denuntiant; sic vivendum, sic pereundum:
accipere se, quae liberis inviolata ac digna reddat, quae nurus accipiant rursus,
quae ad nepotes referantur.


Therefore they live in perfect chastity
Free from the baits of show and festivity
And men and women the secrets too
Seem to ignore of the billet doux
In such a numerous crowd next to nil
Is adultery whose instant punishment
The husband can administer at will
Having stripped his wife naked and shaved her head
All the family members being present
He evicts her from the matrimonial bed
And flagellates her through the village streets
For when on chastity a woman cheats
She finds no mercy among the tribesmen
And cannot come by a husband again
No matter how young and rich and fair
Nobody laughs at these vices there
Or calls corruption a sign of the times

Ergo septa pudicitia agunt, nullis spectaculorum illecebris,
nullis conviviorum irritationibus corruptae. Litterarum secreta
viri pariter ac feminae ignorant. Paucissima in tam numerosa
gente adulteria; quorum poena praesens et maritis permissa.
Accisis crinibus, nudatam, coram propinquis, expellit domo maritus,
ac per omnem vicum verbere agit: publicatae enim pudicitiae nulla
venia: non forma, non aetate, non opibus maritum invenerit. Neme
enim illic vitia ridet: nec corrumpere et corrumpi saeculum vocatur.

Better still are the nations in those climes
Where only virgins once only marry
And are willing for the right mate to tarry
They take one husband one body one life
No other thought or longing needs a wife
Who loves more than her man the married state
It is a crime programming
The number of one’s offspring
Or exterminating every agnate
And here moral convention
Counts more than legislation

Melius quidem adhuc eae civitates, in quibus tantum virgines nubunt,
et cum spe votoque uxoris semel transigitur. Sic unum accipiunt maritum,
quo modo unum corpus unamque vitam, ne ulla cogitatio ultra, ne longior
cupiditas, ne tanquam maritum, sed tanquam matrimonium ament. Numerum
liberorum finire, aut quenquam ex agnatis necare, flagitium habetur: plusque
ibi boni mores valent, quam alibi bonae leges


In their shacks they grow up in the nude in the mire
With those limbs and those bodies we so much admire
And each mother to no servant or nurse would cede
Her bundle of joy for her alone to breast-feed
It’s impossible to tell master from slave
By the way the two are brought up and behave
They live with the same cattle on the same earthly stage
Until they’re selected by valour and divided by age

In omni domo nudi ac sordidi, in hos artus, in haec corpora,
quae miramur, excrescunt. Sua quemque mater uberibus alit,
nec ancillis ac nutricibus delegantur. Dominum ac servum nullis
ducationis deliciis dignoscas: inter eadem pecora, in eadem humo
degunt; donec aetas separet ingenuos, virtus agnoscat.

Loves meets young men late hence their fresh virility
While maids don’t hurry into wedded stability
They marry as equals from one stout stock
And their children are chips of the old block
Sisters’ sons are by their uncles really prized
And as much as by their fathers lionized
Some deem this blood tie more sacred and thick
And prefer it when it is time to pick
Out hostages as if such choice would tightly bind
their soul and furthemore all those to them affined
Still a man’s own children will fulfill
The legacy customs with no will
If a man has no issue those who win
His possessions are his next of kin
Both brothers and uncles on every side
The more the connections and the agnates
The more is old age graced and dignified
And childlessness has no positive traits

Sera juvenum Venus; eoque inexhausta pubertas: nec
virgines festinantur; eadem juventa, similis proceritas:
pares validaeque miscentur; ac robora parentum liberi
referunt. Sororum filiis idem apud avunculum, qui
ad patrem honor. Quidam sanctiorem arctioremque
hunc nexum sanguinis arbitrantur, et in accipiendis
obsidibus magis exigunt; tanquam et in animum firmius,
et domum latius teneant. Heredes tamen successoresque
sui cuique liberi: et nullum testamentum. Si liberi non sunt,
proximus gradus in possessione fratres, patrui, avunculi.
Quanto plus propinquorum, quo major affinium numerus,
tanto gratiosior senectus, nec ulla orbitatis pretia.


Enmities and friendhips don’t last
Implacably but it’s a must
To wipe out the old scores
Of fathers and in-laws
Even a murderer gets off cheap
At the price of some cattle or sheep
To the family’s satisfaction
And society’s gratification
As freemen’s feuds run mortally deep

Suscipere tam inimicitias, seu patris, seu propinqui,
quam amicitias, necesse est: nec implacabiles durant.
Luitur enim etiam homicidium certo armentorum ac
pecorum numero, recipitque satisfactionem universa
domus: utiliter in publicum; quia periculosiores sunt
inimicitiae juxta libertatem.

No nation indulges with such abandonment
In both hospitality and entertainment
It’s considered a sacrilegious proof
To turn any mortal off one’s own roof
And each German offers a banquet
As richly furnished as his pocket
But once his pocket is all emptied out
The host becomes a guide and a guest
And he and his friend uninvited scout
Next door for an equally kind nest
No problem they get a warm admittance
Hospitality making no distinctions about
A mere stranger and an old acquaintance
If one has made a request before going out
It will be granted with great facility
Provided he returns the same courtesy
They accept presents with intense elation
But donations entail no obligation

Convictibus et hospitiis non alia gens effusius indulget.
Quemcunque mortalium arcere tecto, nefas habetur:
pro fortuna quisque apparatis epulis excipit.
Cum defecere, qui modo hospes fuerat, monstrator
hospitii et comes: proximam domum non invitati
adeunt: nec interest; pari humanitate accipiuntur.
Notum ignotumque, quantum ad jus hospitis, nemo
discernit. Abeunti, si quid poposcerit, concedere moris:
et poscendi invicem eadem facilitas. Gaudent muneribus:
sed nec data imputant, nec acceptis obligantur.


As soon as they wake up usually late
They wash themselves oftentimes with warm water
Like those accustomed to a prolonged winter
Then each on his seat using his own plate
Eats and thereupon with his armament
Goes about his business or to some refreshment
As they drink without shame night and day
Their frequent drunken brawls with foul word play
Usually lead to wounds often sanguinolent

Statim e somno, quem plerumque in diem extrahunt,
lavantur, saepius calida, ut apud quos plurimum hiems
occupat. Lauti cibum capiunt: separatae singulis sedes
et sua cuique mensa: tum ad negotia, nec minus saepe
ad convivia, procedunt armati. Diem noctemque continuare
potando, nulli probrum. Crebrae, ut inter vinolentos, rixae,
raro conviciis, saepius caede et vulneribus transiguntur.

Their banquets come in handy for the management
Of mutual reconciliations
Of bonds between grooms and brides
Of their chieftains’ selections
And of war and peace besides
As if at no other time is the mind more so
Inclined to artless debate or apt to glow
These people neither astute nor sly
Show their true selves when they jollify
Once their intentions are bare and plain
They think about them again on the morrow
To see them with an impartial eye
They deliberate when they cannot feign
And decide when to err is all in vain

Sed et de reconciliandis invicem inimicis et jungendis affinitatibus
et asciscendis principibus, de pace denique ac bello plerumque
in conviviis consultant: tanquam nullo magis tempore aut ad
simplices cogitationes pateat animus, aut ad magnas incalescat.
Gens non astuta nec callida aperit adhuc secreta pectoris licentia joci.
Ergo detecta et nuda omnium mens postera die retractatur, et salva
utriusque temporis ratio est: deliberant, dum fingere nesciunt;
constituunt, dum errare non possunt.


Out of barley out of grain they ferment
A beverage winelike in taste and scent
And those who dwell on the bank of the Rhine
Are also known to go shopping for wine
A cuisine with little variety
Fresh game wild fruit and milk caked
Satiates their appetite
But their thirst lacks sobriety
If you allow it to be slaked
Much to their heart’s delight
Providing more booze than suffices
They’ll be unarmed by their own vices

Potui humor ex hordeo aut frumento, in quandam
similitudinem vini corruptus. Proximi ripae et vinum mercantur.
Cibi simplices; agrestia poma, recens fera, aut lac concretum.
Sine apparatu, sine blandimentis, expellunt famem. Adversus sitim
non eadem temperantia. Si indulseris ebrietati suggerendo quantum
concupiscunt, haud minus facile vitiis, quam armis vincentur.


At each meeting the show is the same
Naked adolescents leap with gusto
Over lances and swords to and fro
Drill having skill and grace as its aim
And their reward is to entertain
The spectators without money gain

Genus spectaculorum unum atque in omni coetu idem.
nudi juvenes, quibus id ludicrum est, inter gladios se
atque infestas frameas saltu jaciunt. Exercitatio artem
paravit, ars decorem: non in quaestum tamen aut
mercedem; quamvis audacis lasciviae pretium est
voluptas spectantium.

You’d really be surprised to ascertain
That gambling free from drunkenness
Is taken in all seriousness
And that in case of loss or win
Their conduct is fully reckless
And that after absolute ruin
They commit to the last throw of the dice
Their personal liberty at the price
Of voluntary servitude
Even the younger and the stronger face
A life in fetters with quietude
And are resigned to be put up for sale
As fealty to wrongdoing brings no disgrace
Such slaves are parted with to countervail
A shameless fluke’s unsavoury trail

Aleam, quod mirere, sobrii inter seria exercent tanta lucrandi
perdendive temeritate, ut, cum omnia defecerunt, extremo ac
novissimo jactu de libertate ac de corpore contendant. Victus
voluntariam servitutem adit: quamvis juvenior, quamvis
robustior, alligari se ac venire patitur: ea est in re prava pervicacia:
ipsi fidem vocant. Servos conditionis hujus per commercia tradunt,
ut se quoque pudore victoriae exsolvant.


They don’t use the other slaves as we do
Each has a house and a home to run
But no specific duties to pursue
From him his master requires a certain measure
Of grain of cattle and of cloth homespun
As if he were a farmer bound to his pleasure
The other domestic chores are then
Carried out by his wife and children
Beatings chains and coercive work are rare
But murder is a more frequent affair
Done not because of strict severity
But in anger and with impunity
Those who were manumitted and are free
Stand one step above the slaves but are small
At home and almost have no weight at all
In their own tribe unless it is a king
With the populace firmly under his wing
Who allows them to carry the ball
But if the tribe isn’t in royal thrall
The freedmen’s state of inferiority
Is an evident proof of liberty

Ceteris servis, non in nostrum morem descriptis per
familiam ministeriis, utuntur. Suam quisque sedem,
suos penates regit. Frumenti modum dominus, aut
pecoris aut vestis, ut colono, injungit: et servus hactenus
paret; cetera domus officia uxor ac liberi exsequuntur.
Verberare servum ac vinculis et opere coercere, rarum.
Occidere solent, non disciplina et severitate, sed impetu et ira,
ut inimicum, nisi quod impune. Liberti non multum supra servos
sunt, raro aliquod momentum in domo, nunquam in civitate;
exceptis duntaxat iis gentibus, quae regnantur: ibi enim et
super ingenuos et super nobiles ascendunt: apud ceteros
impares libertini libertatis argumentum sunt.


Usury and interest on a loan
More than forbidden are simply unknown
It is the whole community’s concern
To occupy the fields it needs and in turn
Let each farmer have his requirement
According to a rank-wise land allotment
Every year the farmers are wont to replace
Their fields with fresh ones thanks to the glut of space
They don’t compete with the vastness and uberty
Of the soil by enhancing it with the fruit tree
The enclosed meadow and the garden sluice
Corn is their one and only earth produce
Hence they just stick to a seasonal triarchy
Winter Spring and Summer but don’t know at all
The name and the advantages of the Fall

Fenus agitare et in usuras extendere, ignotum:ideoque
magis servatur, quam si vetitum esset. Agri pro numero
cultorum ab universis in vices occupantur, quos mox inter
se secundum dignationem partiuntur: facilitatem partiendi
camporum spatia praestant. Arva per annos mutant: et
superest ager; nec enim cum ubertate et amplitudine soli
labore contendunt, ut pomaria conserant et prata separent
et hortos rigent: sola terrae seges imperatur. Unde annum
quoque ipsum non in totidem digerunt species hiems et ver
et aestas intellectum ac vocabula habent autumni perinde
nomen ac bona ignorantur.


In their funerals there’s no ostentation
But for the choice of certain kinds of wood
To be used for their famous men’s cremation
Neither with garments nor with perfumes should
The pyre be strewn nothing but arms on view
Sometimes the horse is there for burning too
Over the grave stands just a mound of earth
Lofty and heavy pomp they deem not worth
Of the departed and a sign of oppression
Lamentations and tears are soon pushed aside
Sorrow and sadness however long abide
It’s becoming for women to bewail
Remembrance is the response of a male
These are the common origins and conduct
Of the German nation as I could construct
Their institutions and rites I’ll now describe
And how much they can differ from tribe to tribe
And among them I will also recall
The ones that chose to emigrate to Gaul

Funerum nulla ambitio; id solum observatur, ut
corporaclarorum virorum certis lignis crementur.
Struem rogi nec vestibus nec odoribus cumulant:
sua cuique arma,quorundam igni et equus adjicitur.
Sepulcrum caespes erigit; monumentorum arduum
et operosum honorem, ut gravem defunctis,
aspernantur. Lamenta ac lacrimas cito, dolorem
et tristitiam tarde ponunt. Feminis lugere honestum est;
viris meminisse. Haec in commune de omnium Germanorum
origine ac moribus accepimus: nunc singularum gentium
instituta ritusque, quatenus differant, quae nationes e
Germania in Gallias commigraverint, expediam.


That chief of historians Julius the Divine
Said the Gauls’ power once was supreme
And it’s therefore fair enough to deem
Some of them crossed Germany’s border line
Indeed the river would have been no snag
To powerful tribes unwilling to lag
Behind on the quest of kinglet territory
to exchange settlements still transitory
The Helvetians took what stood
Between the tracts riverine
Of the Moenus of the Rhine
And the dark Hercynian wood
While the Boii of Gallic bond
Took the lands that lay beyond

Validiores olim Gallorum res fuisse, summus
auctorumdivus Julius tradit: eoque credibile
est etiam Gallos in Germaniam transgressos.
Quantulum enim amnis obstabat, quo minus,
ut quaeque gens evaluerat, occuparet
permutaretque sedes, promiscuas adhuc
et nulla regnorum potentia divisas? Igitur
inter Hercyniam sylvam Rhenumque et

Moenum amnes Helvetii, ulteriora Boii,
Gallica utraque gens, tenuere.

Boihemum is only a place name
As its residents are no more the same
The Aravisci settled in Pannonia yet
It’s not certain whether they originate
From the Osi of proper Germanic mindset
Or if it was the Osi who stemmed straight
From the Aravisci in the German Reich
As tongue customs institutions are alike
Distress and freedom had the same rank
And common were the bad and the good
In those days on either river bank
The Treveri’s and the Nervii’s great ambition
Is their vaunted Germanic parenthood
As if thanks to that glorious blood distinction
They can avoid the likeness and all
The floppy indolence of the Gaul

Manet adhuc Boihemi nomen, signatque loci
veterem memoriam, quamvis mutatis cultoribus.
Sed utrum Aravisci in Pannoniam ab Osis,
Germanorum natione, an Osi ab Araviscis in
Germaniam commigraverint, cum eodem adhuc
sermone, institutis, moribus utantur, incertum
est: quia, pari olim inopia ac libertate, eadem
utriusque ripae bona malaque erant. Treveri et
Nervii circa affectationem Germanicae originis ultro
ambitiosi sunt, tanquam per hanc gloriam sanguinis
a similitudine et inertia Gallorum separentur.

The pure Germanic nations that stand
Right on the bank of the river Rhine
Are the Vangiones the Triboci and
The Nemetes while on the other hand
The Ubii after their patroness benign
Called Agrippinenses are a proud sect
Never ashamed of their Germanic line
For their loyalty worthy of respect
They were placed along the bank of the Rhine
With the assignment to defend and protect
The border and not to be guarded or checked

Ipsam Rheni ripam haud dubie Germanorum
populi colunt, Vangiones, Triboci, Nemetes.
Ne Ubii quidem, quanquam Romana colonia
esse meruerint ac libentius Agrippinenses conditoris
sui nomine vocentur, origine erubescunt, transgressi
olim et experimento fidei super ipsam Rheni ripam
collocati, ut arcerent, non ut custodirentur.


All these nations in pugnacity excel
The Batavians who on a short bank section
Of the Rhine and on an island chose to dwell
Once members of the Cattans’ nation
They came over as allies of the Empire
Owing to a domestic sedition

Omnium harum gentium virtute praecipui Batavi, non
multum ex ripa, sed insulam Rheni amnis colunt, Chattorum
quondam populus et seditione domestica in eas sedes
transgressus, in quibus pars Romani imperii fierent.

The legacy of the old federation
Has freed them from the humiliating quagmire
Of the publicans’ ruinous taxation
They were chosen for nothing but war and hence
They’re an armoury for defence or offence

Manet honos et antiquae societatis insigne: nam
nec tributis contemnuntur, nec publicanis atterit: exempti
oneribus et collationibus et tantum in usum proeliorum
sepositi, velut tela atque arma, bellis reservantur.

The Mattiaci are a nation
Also brought into submission
The greatness of the Romans having indeed spread
Beyond the old border the Empire’s sacred dread
They live on the right river bank and thus
On the wrong Rhine side though they’re one with us
In all aspects they bear a resemblance
To the Batavians but their puissance
Is sharpened by their native soil and sky

Est in eodem obsequio et Mattiacorum gens; protulit enim
magnitudo populi Romani ultra Rhenum, ultraque veteres
terminos, imperii reverentiam. Ita sede finibusque in sua ripa,
mente animoque nobiscum agunt, cetera similes Batavis, nisi
quod ipso adhuc terrae suae solo et coelo acrius animantur.

As to those settlers who managed to cross
The Rhine and the Danube to till tithe land
I would certainly be at a great loss
To count them among the Germans and
The same holds true for the Gallic small fry
Goaded by want and squatting on the sly
The extension of the border across the bank
Gave this Empire garrison provincial rank

Non numeraverim inter Germaniae populos, quanquam
trans Rhenum Danubiumque consederint, eos, qui
Decumates agros exercent. Levissimus quisque Gallorum
et inopia audax, dubiae possessionis solum occupavere.
Mox limite acto promotisque praesidiis, sinus imperii
et pars provinciae habentur.


Beyond them live the Chatti whose domain
Originating from the Hercynian wood
has no great expanses of marsh and plain
Like other tracts of the German neighbourhood
Even though the hilly ground grows less and less
The Hercynian wood manages to remain
With her Chatti for part of their progress

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

Able-bodied tribesmen lean of limb
In spirit strong in countenance grim
German they are but with method and mind
They pick out first-class men whom to obey
In combat keep perfectly aligned
Grasp opportunities whenever they may
Hostile attacks easily restrain
Carefully arrange the schedule of a day
Build up walls for nocturnal defence
Deem valour safe and fortune vain
And trust more than the army their chieftain
Something very rare outside the intense
Discipline of the Roman armed force
The foot soldiers are their power source
Carrying provisions and iron engines and therefore
While others go to battle the Chatti go to war
Rare are the raids rare the casual arrays
Rapid the victory rapid the retreat
In line with the cavalry’s proper ways
Velocity goes side by side with fear
While hesitation is to firmness near

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 Romanae 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.


A practice due to personal prowess but
Rare among the Germanic tribesmen
Was taken up by the Chatti and then
Became so popular that one might say
It’s an old German custom gone astray
On reaching adulthood they no longer cut
their hair and beard by reason of a vow
To valour and to the slaying of a foe
Over whose bloody corpse they bare their brow
Thus paying their birthright price and also
Proving to tribe and parents their worthiness
While the weak and the wimps endure hirsuteness

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.

The bravest also wear an iron ring
A shackle-like most humiliating thing
From which they get absolute release
As soon as their rival rests in peace
Quite a few Chatti like that shagginess
Which turns into a hoary loftiness
Admired by their foes and their own kind

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.

In battle they’re the very first to strike
And are to the first line duly assigned
As their faces look indeed fiendlike
Not even in peace their countenance
Mellows into a mild appearance
No home they have no land no other care
Whoever lodges them provides their fare
Prodigal of other people’s wealth
Their own property they never spare
Until bloodless old age coming by stealth
Abates their bravery along with their health

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.


Next to the Chatti where the bridled Rhine
Flows and suffices for a sure confine
The Usipii and Tencteri have their haunts
The latter besides their usual warlike vaunts
Are in all the equestrian arts divine
Nor do the Chatti extol their foot forces
More than the Tencteri their mounted horses
Thus the elders’ ways echo down the line
Even as a kid’s pastime a youngster’s strife
Or a man’s pursuit at the dusk of his life

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

Houses servants horses all possessions
form the legal objects of successions
The horses though don’t go to the eldest
Son but to the fiercest and bravest

inter familiam et penates et jura successionum
equi traduntur; excipit filius, non, ut cetera,
maximus natu, sed prout ferox bello et melior.


The Bructeri as recorded in history
Settled down near the Tencterians’ territory
But the Chamavi immigrated there too
Along with the whole Angrivarian crew
Together they managed to annihilate
The Bructeri aided by the nearby nations
Either arrogance was the source of their hate
Or plunder unfolded luscious expectations
Or so benevolent were the gods not
To deny us the sight of that onslaught

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:

Over sixty thousand warriors fell
Not slaughtered by the Romans’ weaponry
But what is more impressive to tell
We feasted our eyes on that savagery

Super sexaginta millia, non armis telisque
Romanis, sed, quod magnificentius est,
oblectationi oculisque ceciderunt.

May in those tribes I pray long last unvaried
If not the love for us their mutual hatred
As luck couldn’t the Empire‘s fate better reward
Than plunge its foes into the thick of discord

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.


The Angrivari’s and Chamavi’s frontier
Has the Dugubini and Chasuari in the rear
With other tribes too low to mention
While in front stands the Frisian nation
Which is divided according to mass
Into the greater and the lesser class
And both are bounded by the Rhine
As far as the ocean’s shoreline
Around vast lakes they also have their seats
Whose waterways are plied by Roman fleets

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

The ocean itself we tried to defy
Where as popular fame can certify
Hercules’ pillars are still an intact pair
And even if Hercules never went there
To him is ascribed beforehand
All that in the wide world is grand
Drusus Germanicus had the boldness
To explore the ocean and Hercules’
Pillars a feat the ocean itself denied
And so forever after nobody tried
As it seemed more pious and reverent
To trust the gods than one’s own discernment

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.


So far we’ve seen Germany west of the Rhine
Northwards it describes an enormous arch
First we encounter the Chauci whose March
Originates from the Frisian confine
And occupies a stretch of the coastline
Touching all the tribes I did mention
Till it wedges into the Chatti’s nation

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.

Not only do the Chauci own this space
But its vastness are filling up apace
They are the German nation’s noblest guide
Power and justice are their greatest pride
Without greed with no rage quiet and unseen
They live and steer clear of the warring scene
And likewise of robbery and rapine

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.

Which of valour and strenght is the true sign
They are strong but refrain from doing wrong
Yet their famed army human and equine
All set in case of a warlike release
is just as imposing in times of peace

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.


The Chauci and the Chatti live alongside
The tract of land where the Cherusci reside
For a very long time this nation
Enjoyed peace free from provocation
Too much quiet life caused their nerves to chafe
And made things more delightful than safe
As to live in peace among the bully
And the strong is an erroneous folly
Restraint and probity everyone knows
Go for the winner when it comes to blows
Thus the Cherusci once deemed good and just
Bear the mark of foolishness and distrust
The Chatti’s soldierly prowess
Turned their fortune into sageness

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.

The neighbouring Cherusci’s downfall
Dragged their Fusi allies into all
That ruin although in luckier circumstances
They didn’t have the Cherusci’s same chances

Tracti ruina Cheruscorum et Fosi, contermina
gens,adversarum rerum ex aequo socii, cum in
secundis minores fuissent.


In the same peninsula to the ocean near
Live the Cimbrians now puny but to glory dear
Ample traces proclaim their time-honoured fame
Their spacious camps on both banks even now make clear
How populous and active was that nation
And are the proof of a huge emigration

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.

Rome was just in her six hundred and fortieth year
When the Cimbrian arms were first worth a mention
Papirius Carbo was one of the consuls here
With Caecilius Metellus bringing up the rear
And one can calculate that since then
Up to the second consulate of Emperor
Trajan for two hundred years and ten
Rome has striven to be Germany’s conqueror

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.

That was a long period of martial bouts
Whose outcome were numerous mutual routs
Neither Samnium nor Carthage neither Spain
Nor Gaul not even the Parthian domain
Gave us more frequent grounds for agony
As a lot stronger than Arsace’s reign
Is the independence of Germany
What else could the East boast about indeed
That very East that Ventidius made bleed
But Crassus’ slaughter and Pacorus’ loss

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?

Then the Germans managed to catch or toss
Cassius and Carbo down to the ground
Not to mention Scaurus Aurelius
Servilius Caepio Marcus Manlius
Five consular armies were unwound
Also Caesar Varus was stripped of three
Legions while C. Marius in Italy
And god-like Julius on Gallic ground
Germanicus Nero and Drusus
Each had his own narrow victory
Right on the soil of the enemy
Caesar’s tremendous menaces later on
Were turned into an object of derision

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.

There followed peace till on the occasion
Of our civil wars and sedition
They took the legions’ winter camps by storm
And even tried all over Gaul to swarm
But again were lately chased away from there
A fit pretext for a triumphal fanfare

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.


Now it’s time to express an opinion
On the Suevi who are not a nation
Like the Chatti and the Tencteri as
They possess most of Germany’s landmass
And are divided to this very day
Into tribes each called by its name
Though the Suevian bloodline is the same

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.

These people have a peculiar way
Of twisting back their hair topside
Doing it up in a bun well tied
As a sign of the Suevi’s station
Within the German population
This is how the social line is drawn
between the slaves and the freeborn
A style that can be adopted by a nation
To them related or by imitation
This is a rare tradition that forsooth
Is limited to the time of youth
Even when it’s white the Suevi wear
Piled up backwards their disheveled hair
And tie it up bun-like on their pate
although a chief’s bun is more ornate
But innocent is their intent
To love or be loved they do not care
Tall and mean and to their foes an eysore
Is their appearance when they to go to war

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.


Themselves the noblest the Semnones deem
And the most ancient of the Suevian nations
The confirmation of their self-esteem
Is the antiquity of their oblations

Vetustissimos se nobilissimosque Suevorum Semnones
memorant. Fides antiquitatis religione firmatur.

All the tribes with identical blood ties
Gather by their legates at a fixed date
In a sacred grove to celebrate in state
In a mysterious way which terrifies
A barbarian ancestral function
With a man’s public execution

Stato tempore in silvam auguriis patrum et prisca
formidine sacram, omnes ejusdem sanguinis populi
legationibus coeunt, caesoque publice homine
celebrant barbari ritus horrenda primordia.

There’s another sign of reverence
For the sacred grove whose entrance
A worshipper would try to cross in vain
Unless he were all bound up with a chain
As a sign of his inferiority
In front of a powerful deity
And if peradventure he should fall
Not a chance to help him off the ground
Where he would indeed be left to crawl

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:

And all this rite is centered around
The location from whence originate
Both the community and god the great
To whose devotedness all are bound

eoque omnis superstitio respicit, tanquam inde initia gentis,
ibi regnator omnium deus, cetera subjecta atque parentia.

Their copious masses in one hundred villages
Are the Semnones’ fortunate privileges
both an addition to their authority
And faith in their Suevian superiority

Adjicit auctoritatem fortuna Semnonum: centum
Pagis habitantur; magnoque corpore efficitur, ut
se Suevorum caput credant.


As for the Langobards on the contrary
Their thin ranks are the hallmark of bravery
Safe they live bordered by many dauntless nations
As they don’t dodge but launch warlike operations

Contra Langobardos paucitas nobilitat: plurimis ac
valentissimis nationibus cincti, non per obsequium,
sed proeliis et periclitando tuti sunt.

Next come the Reudigni the Anglii the Aviones
The Varini the Eudoses and the Suardones
All fenced by rivers and woods like the Nuithones
And each of these tribes presents nothing worth
But a common cult of the Mother Earth
They believe she comes down here to scan
And regulate the problems of man

Reudigni deinde et Aviones et Anglii et Varini
et Eudoses et Suardones et Nuithones fluminibus
aut silvis muniuntur: nec quidquam notabile in
singulis, nisi quod in commune Nerthum, id est
Terram matrem colunt, eamque intervenire rebus
hominum, invehi populis arbitrantur.

On an ocean isle in a chaste woodlot
There is a tapestry covered chariot
Touched only by a priest or a priestess
And dedicated to the Earth Goddess
As soon as the holy person feels
The goddess’ presence in the inner fane
With veneration walks behind the wheels
Of the chariot drawn by heifers twain
Then happy and festive days reign supreme
Wherever she deigns to break her progress
No wars are waged no iron weapons gleam
Then all is peaceful and all is quietness
Until the goddess is once again enshrined
Sated with her conversation with mankind

Est in insula Oceani castum nemus, dicatumque
in eo vehiculum, veste contectum attingere uni
sacerdoti concessum. Is adesse penetrali deam
intelligit, vectamque bubus feminis multa cum
veneratione prosequitur. Laeti tunc dies, festa loca,
quaecumque adventu hospitioque dignatur. Non bella
ineunt, non arma sumunt; clausum omne ferrum: pax
et quies tunc tantum nota, tunc tantum amata, donec
idem sacerdos satiatam conversatione mortalium deam
templo reddat.

Soon after that the chariot with its tapestry
And believe it or not the very Goddess
Are purified in a lake in secretness
By slaves to be drowned after their ministry
Hence this holy ignorance
Before her whose dire presence
So arcane as to take away one’s breath
Is only disclosed to those marked for death

Mox vehiculum et vestes, et, si credere velis, numen
ipsum secreto lacu abluitur. Servi ministrant, quos statim
idem lacus haurit; arcanus hinc terror sanctaque ignorantia,
quid sit illud, quod tantum perituri vident


The Suevi’s region interlocks
For sure with Germany’s boondocks
Nearer to us down the Danube’s shoreline
As before that along the river Rhine
Are the Hermunduri whose staunch relation
With the Romans makes them the only nation
That trades not only on the river bank
But in a Raetian colony of top rank
They are let in here and there with no escorts
While to other tribes we show weapons and forts
We opened each house and each farm
To the Hermunduri as they meant no harm

Et haec quidem pars Suevorum in secretiora
Germaniae porrigitur. Propior, ut quo modo
paulo ante Rhenum, sic nunc Danubium sequar,
Hermundurorum civitas, fida Romanis, eoque solis
Germanorum non in ripa commercium, sed penitus,
atque in splendidissima Rhaetiae provinciae colonia.
Passim et sine custode transeunt: et, cum ceteris
gentibus arma modo castraque nostra ostendamus,
his domos villasque patefecimus non concupiscentibus.

On their turf the river Elbe gushes forth
Now half forgotten but once of great worth

In Hermunduris Albis oritur, flumen inclitum
et notum olim; nunc tantum auditur.


Next to the Hermunduri the Narisci lie
With the Marcomanni and the Quadi close by
The former’s special glory and strength originated
During the Boii’s eviction from their own domain
Nor are the Naristi or the Quadi underrated
This is as it were Germany’s border terrain
On the part that the Danube circumscribes

Juxta Hermunduros Narisci, ac deinde Marcomanni
et Quadi agunt. Praecipua Marcomannorum gloria
viresque, atque ipsa etiam sedes, pulsis olim Boiis,
virtute parta. Nec Narisci Quadive degenerant. Eaque
Germaniae velut frons est, quatenus Danubio peragitur.

The Marcomanni and the Quadi tribes
Once governed by kings who were in origin
Noble Maroboduus’ and Tudrus’ next of kin
Now put up with any outlandish dynasty
Whose strenght and might stem from Roman authority
More than our armed support they prize our largesse
That notwithstanding they’re never valued less

Marcomannis Quadisque usque ad nostram memoriam
reges manserunt ex gente ipsorum, nobile Marobodui
et Tudri genus: jam et externos patiuntur. Sed vis et
potentia regibus ex auctoritate Romana: raro armis
nostris, saepius pecunia juvantur, nec minus valent.


The Marsigni and the Gothini stay behind
Together with the Burii and the Osi
So that the four aforementioned nations combined
Tail both the Marcomanni and the Quadi
The Marsigni’s and the Burii’s culture and parlance
Bear out a characteristic Suevian resemblance
The Gallic and Pannonian tongues disclose
The Gothini’s and the Osi’s lack of German roots
And on top of that they also have to pay tributes
Which in part the Sarmatians do impose
Together with the Quadi to such alien offshoots
As for the Gothini their shame is great and sore
They also dig the ground looking for iron ore

Retro Marsigni, Gothini, Osi, Burii, terga
Marcomannorum Quadorumque claudunt:
e quibus Marsigni et Burii sermone cultuque
Suevos referunt Gothinos Gallica, Osos Pannonica
lingua coarguit non esse Germanos, et quod tributa
patiuntur. Partem tributorum Sarmatae, partem Quadi,
ut alienigenis, imponunt. Gothini, quo magis pudeat,
et ferrum effodiunt.

Only few are the tribes that reside on the plain
Treed heigths ridges and peaks are the others’ domain
Beyond which other nations live but pride of place
Goes to the several tribes of the Lugii’s race
Enough to mention the ones extraordinary
The Helvecones the Manimi the Harii
The Helisii and sure the Naharvali too

Omnesque hi populi pauca campestrium, ceterum
saltus et vertices montium jugumque insederunt.
Dirimit enim scinditque Sueviam continuum montium
jugum, ultra quod plurimae gentes agunt: ex quibus
latissime patet Lygiorum nomen in plures civitates
diffusum. Valentissimas nominasse sufficiet, Arios,
Helveconas, Manimos, Elysios, Naharvalos.

The Naharvali have an old sacred venue
A grove where according to Roman devoutness
A holy minister attired in female dress
Worships Castor and Pollux but here the two
Are known as Alcis whose cult shows no traces
Of foreign superstitions and no faces
As twins they are worshipped and as brothers too

Apud Naharvalos antiquae religionis lucus
ostenditur. Praesidet sacerdos muliebri ornatu:
sed deos, interpretatione Romana, Castorem
Pollucemque memorant: ea vis numini; nomen
Alcis. Nulla simulacra, nullum peregrinae
superstitionis vestigium: ut fratres tamen,
ut juvenes, venerantur.

The Harii second to none for their clout
Among the tribes enumerated just now
Have a savage look and can’t do without
A finishing touch to make uglier a rough brow
They dye both shield and body black for
They choose murky nights to go to war
Like a hellish dreadful army of ghosts
To raise havoc with the enemy hosts

Ceterum Arii super vires, quibus enumeratos
paulo ante populos antecedunt, truces, insitae
feritati arte ac tempore lenocinantur. Nigra scuta,
tincta corpora: atras ad proelia noctes legunt:
ipsaque formidine atque umbra feralis exercitus
terrorem inferant, nullo hostium sustinente novum
ac velut infernum aspectum:

For all battles they will certainly win
Who can scare their foes’ eyes in a run-in

nam primi in omnibus
proeliis oculi vincuntur.


Further away from the Lugii’s surroundings
The Gothones live under the rule of kings
A bit stiffer than in other German nations
Although their freedom suffers no limitations
The Rugii and the Lemovii are to be found
Close to the coast with the ocean in the background
The distinguishing aspects of each nation
Are their swords and shields respectively short and round
And also their monarchical devotion

Trans Lygios Gothones regnantur, paulo jam
adductius, quam ceterae Germanorum gentes,
nondum tamen supra libertatem. Protinus deinde
ab Oceano Rugii et Lemovii omniumque harum
gentium insigne, rotunda scuta, breves gladii,
et erga reges obsequium.

Then on the same ocean lie the Suiones’ seats
A tribe all powerful for its men arms and fleets
Different is their ships’ shape which somehow
Is planned to make it easier to touch land
As both ends of a craft end with a prow
Typically they employ neither sails nor oars
Carefully aligned in their locks at the ship’s sides
Leaving them loose and adaptable as she rides
As if from point to point along a river’s shores

Suionum hinc civitates, ipso in Oceano, praeter
viros armaque classibus valent: forma navium
eo differt, quod utrimque prora paratam semper
appulsui frontem agit: nec velis ministrantur, nec
remos in ordinem lateribus adjungunt. Solutum, ut
in quibusdam fluminum, et mutabile, ut res poscit,
hinc vel illinc remigium.

Wealth has among them due respect
And only one must without exception
Be the commander with his rights unchecked
To obtain the populace’ devotion
Unlike the other German tribes the arms
Aren’t at everybody’s beck and call
It is up to a slave to keep them out of harm’s
Way since the ocean is there to forestall
Any sudden attacks or hostile alarms
Besides idle posses can easily run riot
Thus barring noble free and freed men
From guarding the armoury and then
Placing a slave to preserve the quiet
Really seems to be a thing
Advantageous to the king

Est apud illos et opibus honos; eoque unus
imperitat, nullis jam exceptionibus, non
precario jure parendi. Nec arma, ut apud
ceteros Germanos, in promiscuo, sed clausa
sub custode et quidem servo: quia subitos
hostium incursus prohibet Oceanus, otiosa
porro armatorum manus facile lasciviunt:
enimvero neque nobilem neque ingenuum ne
libertinum quidem, armis praeponere
regia utilitas est.


Beyond the Suiones’ territory lies
Another sea sluggish and almost motionless
And all are convinced that it surrounds and ties
The world since the setting sun’s ultimate brightness
Lasts until it rises again so crystal clear
As to dim all the stars in the celestial sphere
And what’s more according to the common lore
Some hear it rise out of the water sources
And see the silhouettes of the horses
And the beaming sungod’s head all aflame

Trans Suionas aliud mare, pigrum ac prope
immotum, quo cingi cludique terrarum orbem
hinc fides, quod extremus cadentis jam solis
fulgor in ortus edurat adeo clarus, ut sidera hebetet;
sonum insuper audiri, formasque deorum et radios
capitis aspici persuasio adjicit.

That’s the earth’s end as stated by true fame
Going back to the right shore
The Suevian sea therefore
Washes the entire Aestian nation
Suevian of rite and disposition
But closer to Britain’s locution
The gods’ mother they adore
And the distinctive emblem
Of their religious system
Has the form of a wild boar
A weapon and a protection
A shield and a guarantee
for the goddess’ devotee
Against every hostile action

Illuc usque, et fama vera, tantum natura.
Ergo jam dextro Suevici maris littore
Aestyorum gentes alluuntur: quibus ritus
habitusque Suevorum; lingua Britannicae
propior. Matrem deum venerantur: insigne
superstitionis, formas aprorum gestant; id
pro armis omnique tutela: securum deae
cultorem etiam inter hostes praestat.

Cudgels are frequently wielded but rare
Among them is the use of ironware
As growers of fruits and grains their patiency
Beats the customary German apathy

Rarus ferri, frequens fustium usus. Frumenta
ceterosque fructus patientius, quam pro
solita Germanorum inertia, laborant.

They alone are the ones who search the ocean and
Comb for amber or ‘glesum’ there and on the strand
But being barbarians they don’t try to understand
What natural force what process
Made it possible for it to coalesce
And lie amid the refuse by the waves’ limit
Until our luxury found a name for it
Even if to them it seems useless
They pick it up raw and deliver it in blocks
The price they get for it causes them pleasant shocks

Sed et mare scrutantur, ac soli omnium
succinum, quod ipsi glesum vocant inter
vada atque in ipso littore legunt. Nec, quae
natura quaeve ratio gignat, ut barbaris,
quaesitum compertumve. Diu quin etiam
inter cetera ejectamenta maris jacebat,
donec luxuria nostra dedit nomen: ipsis
in nullo usu: rude legitur, informe
perfertur, pretiumque mirantes accipiunt.

Yet you might think the humour is arboreal
As some creatures both winged and terrestrial
Gleam through the juice turned into a glassy snare
Neatly preserving them as they once were
As fecund as the groves and woods that brew
Balms and incense in the western beaches
Are the forests in the Orient’s reaches
The burning sun melts and pours into
The sea those balms which the tempest furthermore
Throws onto the sands of the opposing shore
And if you try to test the amber’s nature
By bringing the fire close to its texture
It flares like a torch whose flame is dense
And perfumes the air like frankincense
Leaving a resinous pitchlike mixture

Succum tamen arborum esse intelligas, quia
terrena quaedam atque etiam volucria animalia
plerumque interlucent, quae implicata humore,
mox, durescente materia, cluduntur. Fecundiora
igitur nemora lucosque, sicut Orientis secretis, ubi
thura balsamaque sudantur, ita Occidentis insulis
terrisque inesse, crediderim; quae vicini solis radiis
expressa atque liquentia in proximum mare labuntur,
ac vi tempestatum in adversa littora exundant. Si
naturam succini admoto igne tentes, in modum taedae
accenditur, alitque flammam pinguem et olentem:
mox ut in picem resinamve lentescit.

To the Suiones bear a strong resemblance
The Sitones who live in the bordering bogs
They gave up their liberty and went to the dogs
By submitting to a woman’s dominance

Suionibus Sitonum gentes continuantur.
Cetera similes, uno differunt, quod femina
dominatur: in tantum non modo a libertate,
sed etiam a servitute degenerant.


These are Suevia’s confines and I’m not sure
The Peucini, the Veneti and the Fenni
Can be counted as a Germanic progeny
Or as Sarmatians and therefore not pure
The Peucini whom some Bastarnas call
Live speak worship are housed like Germans and all
Are filthy but the princes are slothful too
while the gross Sarmatian traits of some are due
To the mixed marriages between the two nations

Peucinorum Vene dorumque et Fennorum
nationes Germanis an Sarmatis ascribam,
dubito: quanquam Peucini, quos quidam
Bastarnas vocant, sermone, cultu, sede ac
domiciliis, ut Germani, agunt. Sordes omnium
ac torpor procerum: connubiis mixtis, nonnihil
in Sarmatarum habitum foedantur.

The Veneti following the conventions
Of the Sarmatians and their plundering bands
Roam the mountains and woods and make incursions
between the Peucini’s and the Fenni’s lands
They count as one of the German nations
Because they carry shields and build mansions
They also enjoy walking and running
And are a completely different thing
From the Sarmatians who spend their days
Either on horseback or on their drays

Venedi multum ex moribus traxerunt. Nam
quidquid inter Peucinos Fennosque silvarum
ac montium erigitur, latrociniis pererrant. Hi
tamen inter Germanos potius referuntur, quia
et domos figunt et scuta gestant et pedum usu
ac pernicitate gaudent; quae omnia diversa
Sarmatis sunt, in plaustro equoque viventibus.

Extraordinary is the Fenni’s fierceness
Their lack of arms of homes to live in
Of horses and their dire impecuniousness
They eat herbs wear an animal’s skin
The earth is the bed where they turn in
Arrows are their really unique hope and instead
Of iron they use bones to hone an arrowhead
With the men cooperate the women
In the same chase and share the bag too
And the wives insist upon their due
No shelter have the children none at all
From beasts and from the rain but a wattle stall
This is where young men return to meet
And also the dotards’ last retreat
Tilling the soil can only aggravate
What they believe is their happier state
House building and general business
Are deemed to be too heavy a weight
They spend their days between hope and fearfulness
Calm and collected with nobody at odds
Completely composed in front of the gods
They’ve managed to perform the hardest deed
To live a life where hope is not a need

Fennis mira feritas, foeda paupertas: non
arma, non equi, non penates: victui herba,
vestitui pelles, cubile humus: sola in
sagittis spes, quas, inopia ferri, ossibus
asperant. Idemque venatus viros pariter ac
feminas alit. Passim enim comitantur,
partemque praedae petunt. Nec aliud
infantibus ferarum imbriumque suffugium,
quam ut in aliquo ramorum nexu contegantur:
huc redeunt juvenes, hoc senum receptaculum.
Sed beatius arbitrantur, quam ingemere agris,
illaborare domibus, suas alienasque fortunas
spe metuque versare. Securi adversus homines,
securi adversus deos, rem difficillimam
assecuti sunt, ut illis ne vote quidem opus esset.

The Helusii and the Oxiones seem indeed
To have a man’s face and the body of a brute
but that’s just a fable open to dispute

Cetera iam fabulosa: Hellusios et Oxianas
ora hominum vultusque, corpora atque artus
ferarum gerere: quod ego ut incompertum
in medium relinquam.

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