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From Tacitus' Germania, Section 16

Winfred P. Lehmann and Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Latin with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Latin Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Latin language and its speakers' culture.

from Tacitus' Germania, Section 16

Nullas Germanorum populis urbes habitari satis notum est, ne pati quidem inter se iunctas sedes. Colunt discreti ac diversi, ut fons, ut campus, ut nemus placuit. Vicos locant non in nostrum morem conexis et cohaerentibus aedificiis. Suam quisque domum spatio circumdat, sive adversus casus ignis remedium sive inscientia aedificandi. 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 liniamenta colorum imitetur. Solent et subterraneos specus aperire eosque multo insuper fimo onerant suffugium hiemis et receptaculum frugibus. Quia rigorem frigorum eius modi loci molliunt, et si quando hostis advenit, aperta populatur. Abdita autem et defossa aut ignorantur aut eo ipso fallunt, quod quaerenda sunt. Tegumen omnibus sagum fibula aut, si desit, spina consertum. Cetera intecti totos dies iuxta focum atque ignem agunt. Locupletissimi reste distinguuntur, non fluitante, sicut Sarmatae ac Parthi, sed stricta et singulos artus exprimente. Gerunt et ferarum pelles, proximi ripae neglegenter, ulteriores exquisitius, ut quibus nullus per commercia cultus. Eligunt feras et detracta velamina spargunt maculis pellibusque beluarum, quas exterior Oceanus atque ignotum mare gignit. 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.


It is well known that cities are not inhabited by the peoples of the Germani, indeed that connected habitations are not permitted among them. They live separately and independently, where a spring, an open field or a wood has pleased them. They do not arrange their villages according to our custom, with adjoining and continuous buildings. Each surrounds his house with an open space, whether as a remedy against the occurrence of fire, or because of ignorance of construction. There is not even use of quarry-stones or tiles among them. For all things they use unshapely materials, without pleasant appearance or beauty. Some places they smear so carefully with such pure and shiny earth that they resemble a painting and designs of colors. And they also dig underground pits and cover them with much dung on top, for a shelter from the winter and a storage place for fruits. Because those places moderate the rigorous cold; and when an enemy appears, he would plunder only the open things. For the hidden places and the caves remain unknown or they elude them because they would have to be sought out.
The clothing for all is a rough mantle held together with a brooch or if that is lacking by a thorn. Otherwise they are unclothed; they spend entire days in this way near the hearth and fire. Only the richest are distinguished by an undergarment, not flowing, like those of the Sarmatians and Parthians, but tight and revealing all the limbs. They also wear hides of wild animals, those along the river not discriminating among them, but those more remote also more exquisitely. Because there is no culture through commerce there! They select the hides and spread the removed coverings with spots and hides of wild animals that the outer ocean and an unknown sea produce.
The clothing of the women does not differ from that of the men, except that they often are covered with flaxen outer garments and those they variegate with purple cloth. And they do not extend part of their upper clothing to their arms. Their lower and upper arms are bare. In fact, the nearest part of their breast also lies open.

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