Tacitus’ Germania, written roughly at the end of the first century AD, serves as an ethnography of the Germanic tribes and aims to provide concrete analysis of the fundamental aspects of barbaric society. However, historians often note the significant difficulties with the work particularly when observing the source of Tacitus’ information on the Germanic tribes. Additionally, stemming from the uncertain origin of Tacitus’ knowledge of barbaric society surfaces various tensions naturally produced by the structure of the work. Of specific interest lies the notion of Roman stereotypes of the Germanic tribes. The Germania presents the reader with a type of rhetorical puzzle whereby a fine line exists between Tacitus’ beliefs regarding the Germanic tribes, and his intent for writing the work. Although Tacitus seems to ultimately sympathize with the morality and courage of the barbarians, the Germania, in an effort to appeal to his Roman audience, subtly references Roman stereotypes regarding the need for Roman expansion into the barbaric territory.
Edward James, a medieval era historian, describes the Roman perspective on barbarian culture. Early in his work, entitled Europe’s Barbarians, AD 200-600, he states the origin of the word “barbarian” in Roman culture: “Primarily it meant non-Roman, someone who came from outside the Roman Empire; but secondarily it meant ‘barbarous’, that is, someone who was not civilized.” Thus, the word barbarian is associated with two