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Editor’s Note13

Admission to Citizenship and Enrolment in a Chief's Retinue

They transact no business, public or private, except under arms. But it is their practice that no one may bear arms until the community has recognized him as fit to use them. Then in the assembly itself either one of the chiefs or his own father or his kinsmen present the young man with shield and spear. These are their equivalent of our toga; this is the first distinction conferred in youth. Up to this time the young men are regarded as belonging to their family, from now on they are part of the commonwealth. Especially noble birth or great services rendered by their fathers can gain the approval of a chief even for boys in their teens. They are attached to others of maturer years and those who have been already approved, and there is no shame in being seen among the chief's companions. There are grades of rank, indeed, within the retinue, determined by the chief whom they follow. There is great competition between the followers to gain the highest place in the chief's estimation, and among the chiefs as to which one has the largest and bravest retinue. This is their form of prestige, this means power for them: to be continually surrounded by a large train of picked young warriors is in time of peace a distinction, in war a protection. And it is not only in their own states that the chiefs gain glory and renown if they excel others in the number and valour of their followers. They are courted by embassies and honoured with presents. Very often their reputation itself decides the outcome of wars.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
13 equivalent of our toga: the toga virilis, 'toga of manhood', assumed at a formal ceremony, when the boy (puer), usually aged between 14 and 16, became a young man (iuvenis).
Editor’s Note
can gain the approval of a chief even for boys in their teens: this rendering makes better sense than the alternative, 'the status of a chief', even though the former sense of dignatio is not normal in Tacitus' other writings.
Editor’s Note
the chief's companions. There are grades of rank, indeed, within the retinue: much has been made of Tacitus on the 'retinue', taken to refer to a fundamental Germanic institution, which it certainly was, cf. the two hundred 'comites' of the Alamannic king Chnodomar, who expressed loyalty to the death to their lord, Ammianus 16. 12. 60. But similar customs existed among the Gauls, Caesar, BG 3. 22, etc.
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