The Germanic Peoples
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The Germanic Peoples book
Between the Rhine and what is now Lithuania, northern Europe was inhabited by peoples whom the Romans called Germani. In Latin, the name means simply 'related', and might refer to the Germans' kinship with the Celts, but Tacitus tells us that it was originally the name of one tribe and was later generalised to the whole people (Germania 2). Whatever the origin of the name, the tribes living east of the Rhine did not seem to think of themselves as a collective, and modern scholarship is equally disinclined to speak of any deep distinction between the peoples living east and west of the Rhine at the beginning of the Common Era.1 Their differences, linguistic and cultural, seem to have been intensified by Julius Caesar's creation of an artificial boundary between them. In what follows we trace the religious history of the people who lived, or at least originated, east of the Rhine in Roman times.