Early medieval society

  • David Herlihy
Part of the Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


The richest of all ancient sources concerning the Germans is the Germania, written by the Roman historian Tacitus in a.d. 98. Although the author himself apparently never visited Germany, many Roman soldiers, administrators and merchants were personally familiar with the region and with the tribes which inhabited it. German captives and slaves were also common at Rome. Through interviewing such persons, Tacitus had ample opportunity to learn about Germanic society. Writing for Romans, he tended to emphasize those qualities of barbarian culture which differed from their own civilization (and which, incidentally, were to be of major influence in shaping the new medieval society). He thus stressed the predominantly rural tone of barbarian life (amounting even to an aversion for cities), the weakness of their kings, the role of kinship ties and of institutions of self-help such as the comitatus, and the importance of military virtues among them.


Arable Land Sacred Grove GERMANIC Culture Latin Text Silver Coin 
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© David Herlihy 1968

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  • David Herlihy

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