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Imperial Rome, during the first century A.D. was expanding it's boundaries by adding new territories. They expanded into northern Europe and Britain and conquered or attempted to conquer various types of people. Based on my reading of Tacitus' The Agricola and The Germania, I have knowledge of the life and customs of the Britons, subject of the Agricola, and the Germans, subject of the Germania. This of course being the Romans, and more specifically Tacitus,' observation and view of these groups of people.
The customs of the Britons differed from that of the Romans. Britain was the largest of the islands known to the Romans, who thought of Britons as barbarians. The physical characteristics of the Britons varied, suggesting that they mixed with the different peoples surrounding them, for example the Gauls. With whom they shared a common language and religious beliefs. Tacitus speaks of the Britons Military and fighting style. The Britons strength is in their infantry, and their weakness lies in their lack of cooperation. They fight as separate states instead of uniting as one against a common enemy, and therefore they are usually conquered.
The Romans thought that Britain was worth conquering because it yields gold, silver and other metals and pearls in the seas. The Britons were rather submissive following being conquered, in that they were obedient to the new leaders. Even so, they dreaded slavery and always put up a fight to prevent it. Unlike the Romans, the Britons didn't view women as inferior, but instead allowed them to hold very high ranks and offices in society, government, and the military.
The Britons didn't know how to appreciate peace because they were used to fighting. So the Romans enlightened them in that area, and educated them, and taught them the Latin language. They eventually dressed in the toga of the Romans and practiced their activities including arcades, baths and banquets. The Romans viewed the Britons as spiritless cowards because instead of dying for their cause and families- wives and children at home, they would run away and therefore be captured in stead of dying for the cause.
The customs of the Germans also differed from those of the Romans. Germany contained various people and was thought of by Tacitus as indigenous with little foreign blood. Their physical characteristics are all the same, they cannot endure hard work and tiring chores as the Romans can. Their only form of wealth was in numbered livestock, because their lands didn't have a lot of silver or gold. But after being exposed to the Romans, they began to value gold and silver.
Unlike the weapons of swords and lances, the Germans use spears with short and narrow blades, javelins and shields. They don't train their horses like the Romans, for speed. Their strength is in their infantry, not their cavalry. Their system of power and authority is quite different. For instance, the power of the kings is not absolute, the commanders lead by example not authority, and the priests inflict punishments. The chiefs fight for victory on the battlefield, and the followers fight for their chiefs not themselves. Tacitus views the Germans as having a need for violence.
The women in Germania stay close their men. The men go to their mothers and wives to be treated, encouraged and supplied with food. The women in German culture are treated with respect, because they believe women possess an element of holiness and a gift of prophecy. For the Germans there are many gods to whom they make sacrifices, including humans, and they see the woods and groves as holy places. They also have a method of obtaining omens unfamiliar to the usual birds of the Romans, which is from horses.
Judgment and justice is carried out by the chiefs and the community as a whole. The Germans believe in doing things after the new moon or before the full moon, they use night times unlike the Romans who use day times. The Germans are not punctual and they express themselves at the judgment place or court assembly by making noises with their weapons. Their method of executing the guilty varies by the type of crime that was committed.
Germans are always armed. The passage from youth to manhood is signaled by presenting the youth with a spear and shield, which is unlike the toga ritual of the Roman. The young men and women are not hurried into marriage. A mans possessions are inherited by his children. Having a lot of relatives is a good thing in German culture because it allows for authority. The Germans have a very strict marriage law, and they were usually happy with one wife. The dowry is given to the wife by her husband, unlike the usual way. The wife also gives her husband a gift, and the exchange of gifts symbolizes their bond. Adultery was rare in Gemania and if caught a wife was punished by her husband.
The Germans were idle when not in war-time. The German people never lived in cities but rather in open spaces, not buildings like the Romans. The Romans are very hospitable to their guests and treat them very well. Germans usually wear a cloak and a brooch, not togas. They also wear animal skins. Germans like to have feasts for various occasions, including marriage, and decisions concerning war. They drink liquor and eat wild fruit, fresh game, and curdled milk. The German method of slavery and funerals are also different from Romans.