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(4.6 stars; 150 reviews)

The Germania (Latin: De Origine et situ Germanorum, literally The Origin and Situation of the Germans), written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire. Germania fits squarely within the tradition established by authors from Herodotus to Julius Caesar. Tacitus himself had already written a similar essay on the lands and tribes of Britannia in his Agricola. The Germania begins with a description of the lands, laws, and customs of the Germanic people; it then segues into descriptions of individual tribes, beginning with those dwelling closest to Roman lands and ending on the uttermost shores of the Baltic, among the amber-gathering Aesti, the primitive and savage Fenni, and the unknown tribes beyond them.

Tacitus’ descriptions of the Germanic character are at times favorable in contrast to the opinions of the Romans of his day. He holds the strict monogamy and chastity of Germanic marriage customs worthy of the highest praise, in contrast to what he saw as the vice and immorality rampant in Roman society of his day, and he admires their open hospitality, their simplicity, and their bravery in battle. One should not, however, think that Tacitus’ portrayal of Germanic customs is entirely favorable; he notes a tendency in the Germanic people for what he saw as their habitual drunkenness, laziness, and barbarism, among other traits. Tacitus says that physically, the Germans appeared to be a distinct race, not an admixture of their neighbors. In Chapter 4, he mentions that they have common characteristics of blue eyes, blond or reddish hair and large size.

In Chapter 7, Tacitus describes their government and leadership as somewhat merit-based and egalitarian, with leadership by example rather than authority and that punishments are carried out by the priests. He mentions that the opinions of women are given respect. In Chapter 9, Tacitus describes a form of folk assembly rather similar to the public Things recorded in later Germanic sources: in these public deliberations, the final decision rests with the men of the tribe as a whole.

Tacitus further discusses the role of women in Chapters 7 and 8, mentioning that they often accompany the men to battle and offer encouragement. He says that the men are often motivated to fight for the women because of an extreme fear of their being taken captive. Tacitus says that the Germans are mainly content with one wife, except for a few political marriages, and specifically and explicitly compares this practice favorably to other barbarian cultures, perhaps since monogamy was a shared value between Roman and Germanic cultures. He also records that adultery is very rare, and that an adulterous woman is shunned afterward by the community regardless of her beauty.

This translation by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, was first published in 1877. (Summary from Wikipedia.) (1 hr 9 min)


Section 1 28:06 Read by Andrew Coleman
Section 2 18:28 Read by Anna Simon
Section 3 23:19 Read by Julie VW


Brilliant account, well read by all

(5 stars)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well narrated by all readers. A hint to those who complain about the readers... if you click the rabbit icon top right, you can adjust the speed of your reader to suit you. I personally appreciate the volunteers. Thank you for taking the time and effort and making it possible for me to relax, and enjoy a good book...well done!

Good readers and great story.

(5 stars)

sure there were more than one reader but they got the story done right. I love Germany.

mark for the reader

(3 stars)

first section was good but 2. worse and 3. again worse. I liked the book though

Very good

(5 stars)

Short book but packed with historical importance. All three parts are read very well. Highly recommended listen.

I think it's good.

(5 stars)

I'm wondering, however, is this really the entire book? Kind of short.

complex history

(5 stars)

good readers, listening with a Roman map of the era would be helpful.

interesting, good readers

(5 stars)

not every culture has everything. so learn about more cultures