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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

But the Roman legions broke the Cimbrian square


102 B. C.]

Instead of moving towards Rome, the Cimbrians and Teutons marched westward along the foot of the Alps, crossed into Gaul, devastated the country between the Rhone and the Pyrenees, and even obtained temporary possession of part of Spain. Having thus plundered at will for ten years, they retraced their steps and prepared to invade Italy a second time. The celebrated Consul, Marius, who was sent against them, found their forces divided, in order to cross the Alps by two different roads. He first attacked the Teutons, two hundred thousand in number, at Aix, in southern France, and almost exterminated them in the year 102 B. C. Transferring his army across the Alps, in the following year he met the Cimbrians at Vercelli, in Piedmont (not far from the field of Magenta). They were drawn up in a square, the sides of which were nearly three miles long: in the centre their wagons, collected together, formed a fortress for the women and children. But the Roman legions broke the Cimbrian square, and obtained a complete victory. The women, seeing that all was lost, slew their children, and then themselves; but a few thousand prisoners were made--among them Teutoboch, the prince of the Teutons, who had escaped from the slaughter at Aix,--to figure in the triumph accorded to Marius by the Roman Senate. This was the only appearance of the German tribes in Italy, until the decline of the Empire, five hundred years later.


Roman conquests, which now began to extend northwards into the heart of Europe, soon brought the two races into collision again, but upon German or Celtic soil. From the earliest reports, as well as the later movements of the tribes, we are able to ascertain the probable order of their settlement, though not the exact boundaries of each. The territory which they occupied was almost the same as that which now belongs to the German States. The Rhine divided them from the Gauls, except towards its mouth, where the Germanic tribes occupied part of Belgium. A line drawn from the Vistula southward to the Danube nearly represents their eastern boundary, while, up to this time, they do not appear to have crossed the Danube on the south. The district between that river and the Alps, now Bavaria and Styria, was occupied by Celtic tribes. Northwards they had made some advance into Sweden, and probably also into Norway. They thus occupied nearly all of Central Europe, north of the Alpine chain.

[Sidenote: 100 B. C. THE GERMAN TRIBES.]

At the time of their first contact with the Romans, these Germanic tribes had lost even the tradition of their Asiatic origin. They supposed themselves to have originated upon the soil where they dwelt, sprung either from the earth, or descended from their gods. According to the most popular legend, the war-god Tuisko, or Tiu, had a son, Mannus (whence the word _man_ is derived), who was the first human parent of the German race. Many centuries must have elapsed since their first settlement in Europe, or they could not have so completely changed the forms of their religion and their traditional history.

Two or three small tribes are represented, in the earliest Roman accounts, as having crossed the Rhine and settled between the Vosges and that river, from Strasburg to Mayence. From the latter point to Cologne none are mentioned, whence it is conjectured that the western bank of the Rhine was here a debatable ground, possessed sometimes by the Celts and sometimes by the Germans. The greater part of Belgium was occupied by the Eburones and Condrusii, Germanic tribes, to whom were afterwards added the Aduatuci, formed out of the fragments of the Cimbrians and Teutons who escaped the slaughters of Marius. At the mouth of the Rhine dwelt the Batavi, the forefathers of the Dutch, and, like them, reported to be strong, phlegmatic and stubborn, in the time of Caesar. A little eastward, on the shore of the North Sea, dwelt the Frisii, where they still dwell, in the province of Friesland; and beyond them, about the mouth of the Weser, the Chauci, a kindred tribe.

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