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 It is reported that the Cimbri had a peculiar custom. They were accompanied in their expeditions by their wives; these were followed by hoary-headed priestesses,1 clad in white, with cloaks of carbasus2 fastened on with clasps, girt with brazen girdles, and bare-footed. These individuals, bearing drawn swords, went to meet the captives throughout the camp, and, having crowned them, led them to a brazen vessel containing about 20 amphoræ, and placed on a raised platform, which one of the priestesses having ascended, and holding the prisoner above the vessel, cut his throat; then, from the manner in which the blood flowed into the vessel, some drew certain divinations; while others, having opened the corpse, and inspected the entrails, prophesied victory to their army. In battle too they beat skins stretched on the wicker sides of chariots, which produces a stunning noise.
1 Tacitus, De Morib. Germanor. cap. viii., says that these priestesses were held in great reputation, and mentions one Veleda as ‘diu apud plerosque numinis loco habitam.’
2 Pliny, lib. xix. cap. 1, describes this carbasus as very fine flax, grown in the neighbourhood of Tarragona in Spain. The Père Hardouin considers that the carbasus or fabric manufactured of this flax was similar to the French batiste.—The flax and the fabric were alike called carbasus.
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