Page 1043

1043 BARBARIAN ASCENDENCY-TRIBES OF THE NORTH.

villages, and their days were spent in the vicissitudes of the chase and war. In their

personal habits they were coarse, heavy, gluttonous. They filled their capacious stomachs

with meat and cheese. They heated themselves with strong drinks. When excitement

failed, they would lie for whole days in half-stupor in the ashes of their hearth-stones, unkempt, and indifferent to all surroundings.

Very different, however, was their mood when

aroused by the summons of war. In battle

their onset was terrible. They fought both

on foot and on horseback-the footman running by the side of the cavalryman and supporting himself by the horse's mane. If the horseman fell in the fight, the footman bore

away his body and took his place in the next

onset. The intrepidity of these barbarian

warriors was such as to challenge the admiration as well as excite the terror of their enemies.

The government of the German tribes was

a kind of military monarchy; but the chieftain was elected by the warriors of his nation,

whose custom it was to raise their leader on

their shields and thus proclaim him king.

Between the various tribes there was a strong

bond of sympathy, and frequent alliances

were made, embracing many peoples and kindreds in different parts of Germany. Such

leagues, however, were generally formed for

a specific purpose, and when this end had

once been attained the confederation ceased,

and the tribes resumed their independence.

The nations of the North had their own

superstitions and systems of religion. The

great gods of the race were Odin and Thor-the

former being the supreme deity of the Teutonic pantheon, and the latter having some of

the attributes of Hercules and others of Jove.

The goddess Freya, or Frigga, was also worshipped as a favorite divinity, as the mistress

of nature and the guardian of the dead. The

superstitions of the race were peculiarly dark

and doleful, but the Germanic mythology was

far more rational than that of the Celts. In

general, the Teutons rejected the notion of

sacrifice. They refused to recognize as gods

any beings whom they could not see. Only the

obvious was worshipped. A deity by whose assistance they were not manifestly benefited

they rejected as worse than useless. They

adored the sun, the moon, and fire; but the

unseen deities of the Greeks and Romans they

regarded as inane abstractions, unworthy of

adoration. With the infinitely inflected mythological systems of the South the Germans

were unacquainted, even by common report.

Among the Teutonic nations the family tie

was especially strong and abiding. That which

the modern world defines as virtue appears to

have been an inherent quality of the German

nature. A common sentiment or instinct, rather than positive enactments of law upheld

the monogamic relation, and insured a chastity

which, if not universal, was the prevailing

rule of conduct. The German youth of both

sexes were reared in the utmost freedom; but

such was the force of public opinion among

the tribes that lapses from the established

standard of morality were almost unknown.

No young man might marry until he had

passed his twentieth year, and the preservation of continence to a still later period of life

was regarded as highly honorable. "For,"

says Caesar, "it is held among the Germans

that by this reservation of the bodily powers