Teudogar and the Alliance with Rome

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Germanic houses were usually about 8 to 20 meters long and 4 to 6 meters wide, they usually had to accommodate 10 people - and often just as many cattle. For that reason one half of the house served as a barn with several boxes for the animals and the other half was used as one large living room.

There were many advantages to keeping the cattle indoors: Some of the large cattle could give off almost as much heat as a small oven. Combined with the small cooking fire the house remained comfortably warm even in the cold winter months. Furthermore, cattle was the most valuable possession of the farmer, which would cost him almost as much as a slave, for cattle was indispensable as a working animal and as milk producer.

The rustic Germanic people probably had a similar relation to their cattle as today's pet owners to their dogs or cats: They simply considered it natural to live with these animals under the same roof. The smell was probably hardly noticeable because the inside of these houses was usually very smoky.

The house basically consisted of a wooden frame, with the roof beams supported by two rows of columns on the inside, dividing the interior into three naves. The walls were made out of woven materials and then covered in clay, and the roof was then covered with straw or reed grass.

Alongside the house there would usually be two doors facing one-another. There weren't any windows, so that the heat would not be lost; instead there were small holes ('wind-eye' / 'window') to let in some fresh air.

In the center of the living room was an open fire space which was not only used for cooking, but also served as the main source of heat and light. The smoke could escape through a small hole in the roof.

There was no division into single rooms, which meant that the entire family, men, women, children and the slaves were always together in the same room. Privacy was not a possibility: From procreation till death a Germanic person was always surrounded by other people.

Fur-covered pedestals on the walls were utilized as space for sleeping or sitting. Food was consumed at a small table which after the meal was put away. Furniture was unknown, with the exception of a chair for the master of the house and a wooden box for the few belongings.

Inside the house were containers for grain, a grinding stone, bowls and cups made out of clay, and often there would be a loom as well. Often a separate small hut would be built right next to the main house, which was used for weaving, or as a storage space, a bakery, a blacksmith area, or as a barn. The servants also often lived in separate little huts. Some Germanic tribes also built extra stables and smaller living quarters.

Since the finishing of wood was unknown, these houses would only last a few decades and they had to be built again at a different spot. Whenever the arable land would no longer produce sufficient yields, the people would decide to give up their settlements and to look for new living space.

By the way many words in this context seem to be originally German, when in fact they have been taken from the Romans: Since the Germanic people didn't know windows, bricks, cellars, they adopted the Roman terms fenestra, tegulum, cellarium (in German: Fenster, Ziegel, and Keller).

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Teudogar and the Alliance with Rome - a Historical Role-Playing Game - © 2003-2012 by Wolf Mittag