1044 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.
the stature is increased, the strength augmented, and the whole body nerved with additional strength." In the barbarian society
little care was taken to conceal the person,
and no shame was felt on account of the exposure. The men and women of the tribe
bathed promiscuously, but preserved the utmost respect. For clothing, skins of deer were
used, but nakedness was the rule.
Caesar goes on to say that the Germans
were little given to the cultivation of the soil.
"Nor," says he, "has any one a fixed portion
of land or definite boundaries to his possessions. In each year the magistrates and chiefs
allot to each one, in what place it is considered best, a certain portion of ground, and in
the following year they compel the occupants
to remove to another tract." For this custom
they ascribed the following reasons; namely,
that the possessors of lands might lose then warlike disposition by the acquirement of
estates, and that the more powerful would
absorb the lands of the weak and humble. To
this the additional reason is added that the
common people, seeing the lands of the great
held by the same tenure as their own, would be
more likely to remain contented with their lot.
There was another fiction of the Teutonic
barbarians that that state has the greatest
praise whose borders are solitudes and whose
frontiers are a waste. "They think it a peculiar evidence of their valor," adds the Roman
historian, "that their neighbors, expelled from
their lands, abandon them, and that no one
dare settle near their boundaries." At the
beginning of war an officer corresponding to
the military dictator of the Romans was chosen
who, during the continuance of hostility,
wielded the power of life and death, but in
peace there was no such supreme magistrate,
the chiefs of each canton resuming control of
their respective tribes. The Germans are said
by Caesar, perhaps not without a touch of
slander, to have held robbery as no crime
when committed beyond the limits of their
own state. They even regarded depredation
abroad as a healthful exercise for the youth
of the nation.
The peculiar usage of self-election to leadership is cited by the Roman historian as another feature of German political life. It appears that any chief sitting in the council of the tribes might proclaim himself a leader and call upon those who desired to follow his fortunes to express their preference by announcing their names. When such a choice had once been made it might not be revoked, and those who had enlisted and then failed to follow the chieftain were reckoned as deserters and traitors.
In common with the other Aryan races the
Germans recognized the rights of hospitality.
They thought it not lawful to injure guests or
to fail in courtesy to those whom will or accident had thrown into their communities. The
stranger coming to the German village must
be housed and fed. His person was inviolable, and, if necessary, the German sword
must be drawn to protect him from injury.
Another feature of Teutonic life, to omit
the mention of which would be resented by
the descendants of the old barbarians of the
North, is the chivalrous respect which they
are said to have shown to woman. Upon a
passage of Tacitus, Germanic pride has reared
the temple of traditional honor and sentiment.
The German wife and mother is said to have
been regarded not only by those of her own
household, but also by all the members of her
nation, with a sentiment of veneration bordering on awe and worship. Although so great
a thinker and historian as Guizot has declared
the statement of Tacitus, regarding the superior honor of womanhood among the Germans,
to be a pure chimera, it would nevertheless
appear from the rank which woman attained
under German auspices, in the age of chivalry,
and from the strong domestic ties manifested
to the present day in households of the Fatherland, that the claim of German patriotism may
well be allowed to stand unchallenged.
It is, however, with the influences of the
ancient Teutonic peoples upon modern civilization that the historian of today is mostly concerned. There appear to be at least two of the sentiments upon which the modern world
is largely framed which owe their origin to
the barbarians. The first of these is the notion of personal independence, which constituted, indeed, the very essence of all that is