In Tacitus's time, however, when the area occupied by the Teutonic peoples was, of course, considerably less than now, a consciousness of their relationship to one another was fully retained.
The concilium or tribal assembly figures largely in Tacitus's account of the Germani, and he represents it as the final authority on all matters of first-rate importance.
The origin of the earls or counts, on the other hand, is to be found in the governors of large districts (Tacitus's principes), who seem at first generally to have been members of the royal family, though later they were drawn from the highest barons.
There is a good deal of uncertainty in regard to both the exact position and the numbers of the nobles and freedmen of Tacitus's age.
On the other hand there are distinct traces of cognation not only in Tacitus's works but also in Northern traditions and more especially in the Salic law.
In England, however, the case was otherwise; we are told that the priests were never allowed to bear arms. There is record also of priests among the Burgundians and Goths, while in Tacitus's time they appear to have held a very prominent position in German society.
After the adoption of Christianity, and possibly to a certain extent even before, such persons came to be regarded with disfavour - whence the persecutions for witchcraft - but it is clear from Tacitus's works and other sources that their influence in early times must have been very great.
That the Germans were familiar with some sort of marks on wood at a much earlier period is shown by Tacitus's Germania, chap. x.