Dine in the halls of heroes
back to nerd mode 
18th - Mar - 2011 - 01:24 am
logeirr: (TLU: Hunter)
{Edit: In case this wasn't clear enough, this is me fangirling. About Hetalia. OBVIOUSLY.}

I started reading Tacitus' Germania, and figured that quite a lot of social structures have not changed that much (granted, Tacitus does not delve as deep as he could have - but the few limited views he grants us, I find quite telling). They coincide with Viking social structure quite nicely. Does not sound that amazing (yet), but if you consider most sources on Viking society were written during the high middle ages... that's a gap of about 1000 odd years. Has so little changed? Or rather, are the fundamental powers still intact because of the things which have NOT changed (landscape, climate, foes)? Plus, isn't the sheer preservation in the face of Christianity just astonishing! Regardless, using what we know of Viking homosexuality and its hazards to back us up, Tacitus' record on punishment suddenly gains another level of meaning - So lets recapture, and then assume...

[Licet apud concilium accusare quoque et discrimen capitis intendere. distinctio poenarum ex delicto: proditores et transfugas arboribus suspendunt, ignavos et imbelles et corpore infames caeno ac palude, iniecta insuper crate, mergunt. Diversitas supplicii illuc respicit, tamquam scelera ostendi oporteat, dum puniuntur, flagitia abscondi.]

In their councils an accusation may be preferred or a capital crime prosecuted. Penalties are distinguished according to the offense. Traitors and deserters are hanged on trees; the coward, the unwarlike, the man stained with abominable vices, is plunged into the mire of the morass, with a hurdle put over him. This distinction in punishment means that crime, they think, ought, in being punished, to be exposed, while infamy ought to be buried out of sight.
                                                                                                                     - Germania, Ch. XII

I am merely speculating, of course. Considering virðing/drengskapr (similar to lat. virtus) as the forever unachievable ideal/social system, its origin and power it undeniably had over Vikings, the punishment for cowards does not seem so out of place anymore. The opposite of honor is shame, and what shames a man more if not meeting the ideal - an ideal, that is the ultimate goal of each individual. If a man is less than what he is supposed to be - what is he, then? Something different, the opposite. He must, by default, thus be female (or an animal.) Now, I won't open that Pandora's box today of how women were viewed - mostly because Tacitus' record of that differs a little from later Viking society's standard - and skip right into the actual argument instead:

Perversity, "the man stained with abominable vices", is regarded as severe as cowardice. How do these two coincide? Taking into account that only the receiving partner in a homosexual encounter had to suffer the full penalty of his sordid (or should I say sorðinn? Hurhurhur) act while the active partner is undoubtedly the victor, homosexuality was first and foremost a demonstration of dominance.It was a practice used against enemies and competitors as means of establishing a position within society. There was nothing shameful in using a man like a woman, but certainly in being used, in submitting and becoming less than a man. Simply the accusation of being a coward and thus unmanly, was so utterly shameful, a discredit disrupting not only to the man's equilibrium (helgi), but his kin's, that the Icelandic and Norwegian laws demanded the death (or exile) of the accuser, if it was unfounded.

Due to Tacitus' accumulation, we can easily make the connection between the coward, the unmanly and the sexual deviant. They all denote the same kind of person. It is obvious, then, why they would all be doomed to the same fate as well. Unlike traitors and deserters, whose crime it were to nourish different morals and not a fundamental flaw in their nature. One could even assume, that hanging traitors up on trees for all to see, the meaning becomes "Don't do it", as opposed to the unmistakable message of "Don't be it" when it comes to the second group of offenders.

I am not sure whether anyone has compared Tacitus' account of Germanic life/costume etc with the much later age of the Vikings, but I am sure, I wasn't the first one to follow that train of thought.  Aaaaanyways. What's more important right now... OMG I CAN HAZ?

18th - Mar - 2011 - 02:22 am (UTC)
What a coincidence! I'm staying up all night right now studying for my test on Tacitus tomorrow! But it's the Annales, though that work also has a lot on the Germans. I hear that Tacitus' ethnography of the Germans was the source to people studying Germanic history for a long time.
18th - Mar - 2011 - 11:19 am (UTC)
This is not what Hetalia fandom is like in general, right? Funny enough, I'm currently reading about sex and power structures as well. (Classical and 16th century though!)
9th - Apr - 2011 - 09:17 am (UTC)
I wouldn't know. Haven't ventured too deep into it. The "character" of Germania captured my interest and got my head gears going, lol. I am super predictable.

Oh, what are your findings so far? Any new conclusions?
8th - Apr - 2011 - 09:03 pm (UTC)
Gosh, I’ve been looking about this specific topic for about an hour, glad i found it in your website!

9th - Apr - 2011 - 09:10 am (UTC)
Hello, spambot.
14th - Apr - 2011 - 07:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for your share! very impressive!

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