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Thread: Who Do You Believe Germania is Describing?

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    Who Do You Believe Germania is Describing?

    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.

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    Senior Member SwordOfTheVistula's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John View Post
    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
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    Quote Originally Posted by John View Post
    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 (XLVII). However some translate the word for the color to yellow.

    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.

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    Gauls historically limed their hair, producing the blond(yellow) effect.

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    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.


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    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/articl...16/1154815.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crimson Guard View Post
    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.
    "There are no races, only countries of people Chuck Norris has beaten to different shades of black and blue."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rik View Post
    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
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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John
    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.

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