Roman senator and historian Tacitus wrote one of the most detailed accounts about the German peoples in the North of Europe during the first century CE. His account Germania has been considered an ethnographic work – an anthropological study of people’s and cultures. However, Tacitus does not remain an unbiased observer and much of his work has been interpreted as a moralizing critique of the Roman Empire by comparing its citizens to the virtues of the German peoples. Nevertheless, Tacitus most likely never travelled to the North of Europe and his accounts are most likely based on reports from travelers and soldiers, as well as on ancient (and sometimes) legendary sources on northern peoples. His reports therefore created an indealized version of Germanic peoples.
Read the primary source by Tacitus, Germania, and answer the following questions 1-2 paragraphs or in a video response:
1. How does Tacitus describe the physical characteristics of Germans?
2. What does Tacitus say about women in Germania?
3. How does Tacitus describe the German religious practices, and rituals?
4. What about their warfare activities?
5. Knowing that Tacitus is presenting a very positive image of Germans overall, why do you think this representation might be problematic (or even dangerous) to study history? Give specific examples?
Outcome: The purpose of this discussion is to encourage students to examine the interconnectedness of political structures with religious institutions in the ancient world.
No Other sources needed.
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