More than three hundred years before the birth of Christ, a traveller from the Greek colony of Marseilles, named Pytheas, made known to the civilized world the existence of a people called Guttones, who lived near the Frische Haff, in the country since known as East Prussia, and traded in the amber that was gathered on the Baltic shores. For four whole centuries these amber merchants of the Baltic are heard of no more. The elder Pliny, a Roman writer who died in the year 79 after Christ, tells us that in his time they were still dwelling in the same neighbourhood; and a generation later, Tacitus, the greatest of Roman historians, twice mentions their name, though he spells it rather differently as Gotones. In his little book on Germany, he says—in that brief pointed style of his which it is so difficult to translate into English—”Beyond the Lygians live the Gotones among whom the power of the kings has already become greater than among the other Germans, though it is not yet too great for them to be a free people.” And in his Annals he mentions that they gave shelter to a prince belonging to another German nation, who had been driven from his own country by the oppression of a foreign conqueror. These two brief notices are all that Tacitus, who has told us so much that is interesting about the peoples of ancient Germany, has to say of the Gotones. But if he could only have guessed what was the destiny in store for this obscure and distant tribe, we may be sure that they would have received a far larger share of his attention. For these Gotones were the same people who afterwards became so famous under the name of Goths, who, a few centuries later, crowned their kings in Rome itself, and imposed their laws on the whole of Southern Europe from the Adriatic to the Western sea...
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