Tacitus (55?-117?), Germania xii-xv (A.D. 98)


"They join the rest of the older men who have long proved themselves, and it is no shame to be seen in a band of companions.  There are various ranks in a band assigned by the judgment of the chief.  And so there is great rivalry among the companions for the foremost place by the chief's side, and amongst chiefs for the most numerous and keenest companions.  This is the source of their position and power:  continual attendance by a body of chosen youths brings respect in peace and protection in war.  If a chief becomes noted for the number and courage of his band of companions, his fame and reputation is not confined to his own tribe but spreads to adjoining ones as well.  Chiefs are courted by embassies, and rewarded with gifts and often bring wars to an end by their reputation alone.


"When it comes to battle, it is a disgrace for a chief to be surpassed in valour; for his followers not to match up to the valour of their chief.  Furthermore it is lifelong infamy and disgrace to have left the battle alive after the death of the chief.  To defend and protect him, to ascribe to his credit one's own brave deeds is the essence of their sworn allegiance.  The chiefs fight for victory; the companions for their chief. If the land of their birth is stagnating in a lengthy period of peace and quiet, many noble youths on their own account seek out other tribes which are at war, because peace is not welcome to this people; they can win renown more easily amidst perils, nor can a large band of companions be maintained but by violence and war.  Companions are always making demands on the generosity of their chief for 'that much-prized war-horse' or 'that blood-stained and victorious spear'.  But meals and feasts with their plain but plentiful fare are just counted as pay.  The means of providing all this is war and plunder.  You will persuade a German to plough the land and wait for the yearly crops as easily as you will to challenge an enemy and earn the prize of wounds....


"The chiefs take special delight in gifts from neighbouring tribes, which are sent not only by private individuals but also by the people as a whole--choice horses, magnificent arms, metal discs and collars, and we have even taught them to value money."



The case for Christianity was strengthened by Coifi, the chief pagan priest, who argued for it: 


"For none of your people has applied himself more diligently to the worship of our gods than I; and yet there are many who receive greater favors from you, and obtain greater dignity than I, and are more prosperous in all their undertakings."  He is disillusioned with paganism's lack of material usefulness.  He goes on to say that the Christian religion may offer a more comforting haven during one's brief life:  "O king, the present life of man on earth seems to me, in comparison with the time of which we are ignorant, as if you were sitting at a feast with your chief men and thanes in the winter time, and a fire were kindled in the midst and the hall warmed, while everywhere outside there were raging whirlwinds of wintry rain and snow; and as if then there came a stray sparrow, and swiftly flew through the house, entering at one door and passing out through another.  As long as he is inside, he is not buffeted by the winter's storm; but in the twinkling of an eye the lull for him is over, and he speeds from winter back to winter again, and is gone from your sight. . . .  So this life of man appeareth for a little time; but what cometh after, or what went before, we know not."