Germania

Germania

Germania

Germania

Synopsis

The Germania of Tacitus is the most extensive account of the ancient Germans written during the Roman period, but has been relatively neglected in the scholarship of the English-speaking world: the last commentary appeared in 1938, and only a handful of studies have appeared since that time. In recent decades, however, there have been important scholarly developments that significantly affect our understanding of it. Ongoing archaeological work in western and central Europe has greatly increased our knowledge of the iron-age cultures in those regions, while new anthropological and literary approaches have called into question some of the traditional assumptions that shaped the use of this text as a historical source. This new commentary, together with the extensive introduction, provides a current and comprehensive guide to the relevant textual and archaeological evidence and also examines the methodological issues involved in the interpretation of this important work.

Excerpt

My goal in this commentary has been fairly simple: to elucidate the context of the Germania and so provide some guidance to those who wish to use it as a historical source. But while the goal itself was simple, its execution led me to confront a number of complexities. On the one hand, any evaluation of the Germania as a historical source must also involve consideration both of the literary and cultural circumstances in which it was produced, and of the political and ideological contexts in which it has been interpreted. On the other hand, those interested in the text form a rather diverse group: classicists, ancient historians, European archaeologists, early medieval historians, Anglo-Saxonists, and Germanists. For both reasons I have found it useful to discuss at some length subjects that do not always have an immediate bearing on the text. Some readers will no doubt find that some of the material I provide is overly familiar and at times perhaps overly simplistic; but I hope that for other readers this same material will help illuminate a dimension of the text that would otherwise remain obscure.

With a few exceptions, I have not attempted to provide a definitive solution to the many difficulties of this text, but have rather tried to indicate the nature of the problem, to discuss the relevant evidence, and to suggest what solutions, if any, seem most plausible. I have for this reason tried to give as many references to written sources as possible, so that readers may if they wish study the material themselves. It is not possible to handle archaeological evidence in quite the same way, nor am I qualified to do so. I have instead tried to indicate what seem to me the most useful general discussions; these in turn will serve as guides to more specific reports. I have deliberately avoided making my references to secondary works as comprehensive as they might be: much has been written on these topics, and much of it is otiose. The grounds on which I have decided to cite particular secondary sources are somewhat arbitrary, but include preferences for seminal discussions, recent works with good surveys of earlier scholarship, and works in English. For those seeking further bibliographic assistance, Lund (1991b) provides a comprehensive and fairly recent guide to earlier work on the text.

The bulk of this book was written while I was holding a Leverhulme Visiting Fellowship in the Department of Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester. I am indebted to the Leverhulme Trust for . . .

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