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John
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008, 09:27 AM
Tacitus wrote: "For my own part, I agree with those who think that the tribes of Germany are free from all taint of intermarriages with foreign nations, and that they appear as a distinct, unmixed race, like none but themselves. Hence, too, the same physical peculiarities throughout so vast a population. All have fierce blue eyes, red hair, huge frames, fit only for a sudden exertion. They are less able to bear laborious work. Heat and thirst they cannot in the least endure; to cold and hunger their climate and their soil inure them."

This is a rather peculiar description, because it implies two things;

1) That the Germans widely had red hair. Today, red hair is a trait widely appearing only in Scotland and other western fringes.

2) That the Germans had "huge frames," when most today are given to a slender one.

Most likely I think he was describing the Gauls rather than any Germanic branch found today.

SwordOfTheVistula
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008, 11:22 AM
That the Germans had "huge frames," when most today are given to a slender one

Maybe if they eat too much soy products. When I was at the Tower of London I saw the largest suit of armor ever made, for a 6-5 man in Brunswick (Braunschweig) in Germany

ĈinvargR
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008, 12:25 PM
Most likely I think he was describing the Gauls rather than any Germanic branch found today.
Caligula had Gauls "dye their hair red and to let it grow long" to look like Germans (Germanics?), according to Suetonius (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ford ham.edu%2Fhalsall%2Fancient%2Fsuetonius-caligula.html) (XLVII). However some translate the word for the color to yellow (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.goog le.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3DSeutonius%2B%2522d ye%2Btheir%2Bhair%2522).

This might be the case with the words of Tacitus too; he might have meant blonde, or reddish blonde. In fact, my Swedish translation says "red-blonde hair."

Looking in the commentary section of my translation, the translator writes that there's been much discussion about this, and it seems like the color in question has got something to do with red at least.

And regarding the size of the bodies, everything's relative. They may have been smaller than or like the slender ones today, but still bigger than the average Roman of the time. :)

Don't forget the first sentence of his work:
The whole of Germany is thus bounded; separated from Gaul...
Like Caligula he couldn't have confused the two peoples, the Romans of the time could tell them apart.

Crimson Guard
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008, 08:45 PM
Gauls historically limed their hair, producing the blond(yellow) effect.

Dagna
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008, 08:47 PM
The version of Tacitus I have read mentions "yellow hair":

For myself, I concur in opinion with such as suppose the people of Germany never to have mingled by inter-marriages with other nations, but to have remained a people pure, and independent, and resembling none but themselves. Hence amongst such a mighty multitude of men, the same make and form is found in all, eyes stern and blue, yellow hair, huge bodies, but vigorous only in the first onset. Of pains and labour they are not equally patient, nor can they at all endure thrift and heat. To bear hunger and cold they are hardened by their climate and soil.

Ibn Fahdlan, an Arabian explorer who wrote about the Vikings in Southern Russia mentions blonde appearance in "Risala":

I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Volga. I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blonde and ruddy; they wear neither tunics nor caftans, but the men wear a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free.

Crimson Guard
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008, 09:04 PM
Its important to understand that Tacitus was a politician and basically a political pundit of his era. He was commenting on the Rome of his own time, as much as on the Germanics themselves. Sometimes he was favorable, other times not so much.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germania_(book)


Here's an interesting link too btw :

Ancient Germans weren't so fair

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/07/16/1154815.htm

Rik
Wednesday, July 30th, 2008, 10:24 AM
Gauls historically limed their hair, producing the blond(yellow) effect.
Indeed. Tacitus said the Germanics are blonder than Celts. So I presume the Celts actually had light brown hair or unnatural-looking blond hair with darker roots (which again "creates" the sight of light brown hair). In contrast with Germanics , who are "pure" in terms of complexion.



1) That the Germans widely had red hair. Today, red hair is a trait widely appearing only in Scotland and other western fringes.

2) That the Germans had "huge frames," when most today are given to a slender one.

1) Did you know , that red hair is a typical Celtogermanic trait , and that the red hair found among Scotsmen for the greatest part is descended from Vikings ? In every Celtic/Celtogermanic/Germanic land you can find native "gingers".

2)"Huge frames" can mean various things . It can mean muscled , wide , tall.
With "huge frames" he probarly means the height of Germanics , so modern Germanics fit that description (of a tall , AKA slender , person) well.

SwordOfTheVistula
Thursday, July 31st, 2008, 01:54 AM
red hair is a typical Celtogermanic trait , and that the red hair found among Scotsmen for the greatest part is descended from Vikings ? In every Celtic/Celtogermanic/Germanic land you can find native "gingers".

Yeah, like Eric the Red :D

vikingblood
Thursday, July 31st, 2008, 05:26 AM
I think Tacitus meant that they were tall, thin/athletic, and broad-shouldered when he referred to "huge frames." Also--- I know that Blonde hair has many definitions and shades... For example, it's my opinion that scandinavians have more "golden" blonde hues versus the ash blonde hues that some baltics and east germans (especially in northeast germany and northern poland-- i.e. old prussia) exhibit. My hair color is golden blonde--- some refer to me as just blonde, reddish blonde, golden blond, and depending on the lighting, even a red-head. Now that it's summer, my hair is light golden blonde at the roots and almost white at the tips-- so I haven't been mistaken for a red-head recently. ;)

When Tacitus said "blue eyed" -- I personally interpret that as meaning having an eye color that is anything but brown or dark hazel. Including blue, gray, and green-- or mixtures of those colors.

Bridie
Wednesday, August 6th, 2008, 09:03 AM
2) That the Germans had "huge frames," when most today are given to a slender one.
It has been my (subjective) observation that Germans often have "big bones". They often appear tall, solid and big, despite their lack of surplus body fat. I think this would be referred to as being "robust" or "unreduced".

Perhaps this is what Tacitus was talking about? "Frame" generally does refer to bone structure anyway I think... rather than fat ratios.

Berrocscir
Wednesday, August 6th, 2008, 05:52 PM
The Redheads=Celts assumption has got to be biggest anthropological urban myth ever!

I admire tacitus, he's taught us so much we won't otherwise know, but always be aware of things getting lost in translation.

forkbeard
Sunday, January 25th, 2009, 11:23 AM
"Ruttilae comae" is the Latin term used by Tacitus. It can mean reddish or red gold, like my hair.
http://i415.photobucket.com/albums/pp234/wilhelmII/moi.jpg
I take it to mean my kind since even the brunettes in my family have a very reddish tinge in sunlight.
Caesar though specifically says the celts of the Belgae that inhabited south-east Britain were fairer than the Germans and had gold about their necks and golden hair upon their heads. He also qualifies this that the Belgic celts had Germanic origins. (The Battle for Gaul by Julius Caesar).
As for the blue eyes I can say no one in my family or relations have ever had brown eyes though one had his eyes turned greenish after going abroad to work. I beleive there are only two kinds of genes for eye colour blue and brown. Variations in the green are caused by damage of some kind, like a tan.
I remember as a kid always doing eye colour surveys and the proportion was always about 12:1 blue to brown. Of course this has changed now because of immigration. The action of dominant genes is so devastating I find it entirely feasable that Europe was once wholly Germanic (Fair) in appearance at one time and that all negrescence is invasive. People that want their descendants to still remain Germanic in character and appearance need to shun any negrescence marriage wise. Those wanting to be Germanic need to submit to a eugenic programme.
I wouldn't want brown eyed dark haired people to feel shunned though. People like this can still be regarded as honorary Germanics if they can produce Germanic children.
This is an illustration of Pope (later St Gregory)
http://i415.photobucket.com/albums/pp234/wilhelmII/scan0056.jpg
He is inspecting the slave market in Rome. The story is that he noticed a lot of blonde slaves. "Who are these people?" he asked. "They are Angles", he was told. "They should be called angels", he replied. "What is the name of their king?", he went on. The slaver retorted "their King is Aella, and they are devils not angels, these children will stab you in the back with a knife at the first opportunity." Gregory then sent Augustine to convert the heathen English. The rest is history.
This is my little brother. He was of the blonde angel/angle type. Which was the norm here once upon atime.
http://i415.photobucket.com/albums/pp234/wilhelmII/1_clive_1.jpg