Patriots and Tyrants - Marion Lansing

Three Teuton Boys

Long, long ago, at the time when our calendar begins, there lived in the imperial city of Rome three Teuton boys. They came from Old Germany, and are the first boys of our own race about whom we know anything; for all English-speaking peoples are descended from the Teutons, who lived in the eastern part of Europe, which the Romans called Germany. Their names were Hermann, Flavus, and Marbod. Marbod was the oldest by eight or ten years. He was a lad of noble family, from the tribe of Marcomans, who lived in South Germany. Hermann and Flavus were brothers, sons of Sigimer, an honored North German chief.

The three come together in our story because they all spent their childhood in Rome. The Romans on their long expeditions used to invite the best boys and young men of the barbarian tribes with which they had had dealings to go back with them and receive training in the Roman language and ways. This they did in the hope that when the boys grew up they would stay in the Roman armies as paid soldiers and would help Rome to conquer the world. Their fathers let the boys go because they wanted them to see something of the world and to learn Roman ways, which were then the standard for every other nation.

Life in the wonderful city of Rome seemed strange and marvelous to these fair-haired barbarians from the north. They had never seen a city of paved streets and stone houses, for the Teutons lived in villages of log huts scattered here and there through a wide forest land. Roman boys had been to school all their lives, but these lads had never seen a school-room. Why should there be schools where no one knew nor cared to know how to read or write? History they knew, though they did not call it by that name. It had been told to them by their fathers and by the old men of the tribe as it had been handed clown to them by their fathers and grandfathers.

Our three Teuton boys had not, however, been idle all their lives. They had had lessons to learn in the wilderness, and it had been needful that they learn them well, for on them depended their living. A Teuton boy must be skillful in the hunt, for how else could he obtain food? There were no stores, and no gold with which to buy provisions if there had been stores. Deer he could have for his dinner if he killed it; fish if he fished in the rivers; bread if he plowed the ground in the spring, scattered seed in the furrows, cut the grain when it came up, and threshed it with the flail till the flour was ready for mixing and baking. If he did these things with skill and energy, he could live royally, for the land was rich and fertile and well stocked with game.

Such accomplishments the boys found of little use in their new home, but they learned quickly to do in Rome as the Romans did. At first they were laughed at for their clumsy ways and their halting efforts to speak Latin; but it was not many months before they exchanged the free, wide tread of the forest for the soldierly step of the Roman drill. They were learning what their fathers had sent them to learn. As the years passed, each was made an officer in the army; each won his Roman citizenship; each was admitted to the small circle of favorite courtiers of the great Emperor Augustus; and each wore the golden chain of Roman knighthood around his neck. But what of the hearts that beat beneath these chains? Had they become Roman? Had the desire of the Romans been realized, and were these tall, splendid young Teutons ready to spend their lives in Rome's legions, fighting her battles for her? History gives the answer of each boy in the story of his after life.