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SOME of the accounts which we receive respecting the Cimbri are not worthy of credit, while others seem likely enough: for instance, no one could accept the reason given for their wandering life and piracy, that, dwelling on a peninsula, they were driven out of their settlements by a very high tide;1 for they still to this day possess the country which they had in former times, and have sent as a present to Au- gustus the caldron held most sacred by them, supplicating his friendship, and an amnesty for past offences; and having obtained their request, they returned home. Indeed, it would have been ridiculous for them to have departed from their country in a pet, on account of a natural and constant phenomenon, which recurs twice every day. It is likewise evidently a fiction, that there ever occurred an overwhelming flood-tide, for the ocean, in the influences of this kind which it experiences, receives a certain settled and periodical increase and decrease.2 Neither is it true, as has been related,3 that the Cimbri take arms against the flood-tides, or that the Kelts, as an exercise of their intrepidity, suffer their houses to be washed away by them, and afterwards rebuild them; and that a greater number of them perish by water than by war, as Ephorus relates. For the regular order the flood-tides observe, and the notoriety of the extent of the country subject to inundation by them, could never have given occasion for such absurd actions. For the tide flowing twice every day, how could any one think for an instant that it was not a natural and harmless phenomenon, and that it occurs not only on their coasts, but on all others bordering on the ocean? Is not this quite incredible? Neither is Clitarchus to be trusted,4 when he says that their cavalry, on seeing the sea flowing in, rode off at full speed, and yet scarcely escaped by flight from being overtaken by the flood; for we know, by experience, that the tide does not come in with such impetuosity, but that the sea advances stealthily by slow degrees. And we should think, besides, that a phenomenon of daily occurrence, which would naturally strike the ear of such as approached it, before even they could see it with their eyes, could not by any means terrify them so as to put them to flight, as if they had been surprised by some unexpected catastrophe.
1 See also book ii. chap. 3, § 6. Festus relates that the Ambrones abandoned their country on account of this tide. The Ambrones were a tribe of the Helvetii, and more than once joined with the Cimbri.
2 The French translation has happily paraphrased, not translated, this passage as follows: ‘For although it is true that the ocean has tides of more or less height, still they occur periodically, and in an order constantly the same.’
3 Aristotle, Ethics, Eudem. lib. iii. cap. 1, Nicolas of Damascus, and Ælian, Var. Histor. lib. xii. cap. 23, have attributed the like extravagant proceedings to the Kelts or Gauls. Nicolas of Damascus, Reliq. pp. 272, 273, says that the Kelts resist the tides of the ocean with their swords in their hands, till they perish in the waters, in order that they may not seem to fear death by taking the precaution to fly.
4 It is probable that Clitarchus obtained his information from the Gauls. As for the sudden influx of the tide, there are several other examples of the kind, in which the troops surprised were not so successful in getting off.
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