The German Visitor
Always remember that several major political crises have been triggered by Romans losing bloody battles to German hosts across the centuries. The Romans have a thing about their supposed superiority to us, which turns into a neurosis as their power wanes. They like to see a chained German, either in real life or in imagery. It’s reassuring. You frighten the children. Bear that ancient trauma in mind when dealing with old style Roman officials.
The German tribes change over time as smaller tribes go their own way, or group together to make a new alliance. But in the time of the High Season, if you bump into a fellow German in Britain who’s in town trading, you can often spot which tribe he’s from by a few pointers. For the benefit of non-German travellers, here are a few signs from just some of the tribes.
Cattans: Live in the Hercynian Forest and in swamps. Hardy and robust, compact limbs, stern. Full of common sense and good planners rather than reckless. If your Cattan has a massive beard and long hair, and is still wearing an iron ring, it’s because he hasn’t killed anyone yet.
Batavians: Left the Cattans to associate with the Romans after some fierce fighting created mutual respect. Live on an island in the Rhine. Often used as Roman auxiliaries.
Tenctarians: Fine horsemen. Consider trading in goods relating to these.
Chaucians: Populous, undomineering, contented but swift to support others when wronged. They live in stilted huts on tidal plains catching fish in the ebb flow.
Cheruscans: Formerly considered good and upright, then grew weak and lazy and were conquered by the Chattans.
Suevians: Several large tribes, who wear their hair in a knot (but not their slaves).
Langobards: Includes the Angles. Small in number but daring. Worship the earth. They have a sacred wagon that does the rounds terrifying the locals with awe, until it goes off to be submerged in a holy lake along with the doomed slave-priests in charge of it.
Hermondurians: Pro-Roman occupants of the source of the Elbe. Trusted to the extent that they are the only tribe allowed to trade freely in Roman territory and more generally with Rome. If you’re not Hermondurian by birth, you are if anyone asks.
Arians: Stern, truculent, who carry black shields and paint themselves black to attack at night.
Suiones: Have ships with prows at both ends so rowers can just swap places to change direction. They have an absolute ruler and weapons kept secured away.
The Hellusians and Oxiones are said to have the heads of men but bodies and limbs of beasts, but that’s just Roman ignorance as our uncle is one and he looks quite normal, other than his fur coat.
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