This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 Another practice, not restricted to the Iberians alone, is for two to mount on one horse, so that in the event of a conflict, one may be there to fight on foot. Neither are they the only sufferers in being tormented with vast swarms of mice, from which pestilential diseases have frequently ensued. This occurred to the Romans in Cantabria, so that they caused it to be proclaimed, that whoever would catch the mice should receive rewards according to the number taken, and [even with this] they were scarcely preserved, as they were suffering besides from want of corn and other necessaries, it being difficult to get supplies of corn from Aquitaine on account of the rugged nature of the country. It is a proof of the ferocity of the Cantabrians, that a number of them having been taken prisoners and fixed to the cross, they chanted songs of triumph. Instances such as these are proofs of the ferocity of their manners. There are others which, although not showing them to be polished, are certainly not brutish. For example, amongst the Cantabrians, the men give dowries to their wives, and the daughters are left heirs, but they procure wives for their brothers. These things indicate a degree of power in the woman, although they are no proof of advanced civilization.1 It is also a custom with the Iberians to furnish themselves with a poison, which kills without pain, and which they procure from a herb resembling parsley. This they hold in readiness in case of misfortune, and to devote themselves for those whose cause they have joined, thus dying for their sake.2
1 We must remark that so far from the dowry given by men to their wives being an evidence of civilization, it is a custom common amongst barbarous people, and indicative of nothing so much as the despotic power of the man over the wife. These dowries were generally a sum of money from the husband to the father of his intended, on the payment of which he acquired the same power over her as over a slave. Aristotle, speaking of the ancient Greeks, tells us expressly that they bought their wives, (Polit. ii. c. 8,) and observing that amongst barbarous nations women were always regarded in the same light as slaves, he cites the example of the Cyclopes, who exercised, according to Homer, sovereign authority over their families (Odyss. 1. ix. 114). This custom was so well established amongst the Greeks at the time of the poet, that he does not hesitate to introduce it amongst the gods (Odyss. viii. 318). It was not unknown among the Jews, and Strabo, in his fifteenth book, tells us that the Indians bought their wives.
2 Cæsar and Athenæus attribute this custom to the Gauls, and Valerius
Maximus to the Keltiberians. Those men who attached themselves to
the interests of any prince or famous personage, and who espoused all his
quarrels, even devoting themselves to death on his account, are named by
Athenæus σιλοδοῦοͅοι, and by Cæsar soldurii. Speaking of 600 soldiers
devoted in this manner to a Gaulish prince, named Adcantuannus, Cæsar
(1. iii. c. 22) says, ‘Sibi mortem consciscant; neque adhuc hominum
memoriâ repertus est quisquam, qui, eo interfecto cujus se amicitiæ
devovisset, mori recusaret.’ Plutarch tells us that Sertorius had in his
suite many thousand Iberians devoted to him. The following epitaph of
these men, who, after the death of Sertorius, sacrificed themselves, being
unwilling to survive him, was extracted by Swinburne from the Annals of
Hic multæ quæ se manibus
Q. Sertorii turmæ, et terræ
Mortalium omnium parenti
Devovere, dum, eo sublato,
Superesse tæderet, et fortiter
Pugnando invicem cecidere,
Morte ad presens optata jacent.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.