The Germania, written in 98 AD by Publius Cornelius Tacitus, is an ethnic monograph of the Germanic tribes on the Roman frontier along the Rhine. At first glance, its sole purpose appears to be to inform the Romans about the Germanic peoples and to warn them about the Germans as a future potential military threat. However, in delineating the characteristics of the Germans, Tacitus was criticizing Roman morality and decline in virtue through unspoken comparisons to a society which was viewed as more primitive in nature. In Germania, Tacitus describes the "warlike ardour of the people" who "actually think it tame and stupid to acquire by the sweat of toil what they might win by their blood" in an almost awe-stricken manner. Tacitus also explains their strict marriage laws, and that "no part of their manners is more praiseworthy" as he idealizes German life. Tacitus later confronts the immorality of conteporary Rome directly in The Annals. He recounts the rise to power of Sejanus, who, in contemplating revenge against Drusus, "thought his easiest revenge was to turn his attention to Livia, Drusus' wife." In contrast to the Germans' ardor in war, Sejanus pretends an "ardent passion for her, seduced her...lured her on to thoughts of marriage...and of her husband's destruction" even before divorcing his own wife Apicata.

Interestingly enough, after its writing, Germania pretty much disappeared until 520 when Cassiodorus quoted Tacitus verbatim in a letter to Theodoric, the Ostrogoth king. It may also have been known of in Constantinople at that time. The next reference in known history comes in the 860s, when a monk in the monastery of Fulda quotes from it. A copy resurfaced in Italy in the 15th century. Under the auspices of Pope Nicholas V, a number of old manuscripts were found in the 'north'. This copy, known as the Fulda manuscript, has been lost. All extant manuscripts were copied in the 15th and 16th centuries, and all are thought to depend on the Fulda Manuscript. The Germania gained popularity at that time as a tool to the emerging German nationalism movement.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.