*** ancient civilizations -- barbarian/nomadic civilized blance of power

Civilized/Barbarian-Pastoral Balance of Power: Barbarian Culture

Figure 1.--This is surely how the Romans viewed the Barbarians. The painting is the work of French artist Paul Jamin, excuted in 1893. It was entitled 'Brenn and his share of the spoils.' Brenn was a Gailish chief a depicts the Gaulish sack of Rome (390 BC). Rome would go on to sack many other peoples, most notably Carthage (146 BC0, but would not be sacked again until the Germanic invasions beginning with the Visigoths (410 AD).

When admiring the startling achievements of the agricultgural-based great river valley civilizations, one can't help from wondering how rude, numerically inferior 'babarian' herding people could have threatened these great civilizations. But as described below, the barbarians had a range of military advantages over srttled agricultural people. Barbarian is not a good term to use, especially given the modern connotations of the term. Some of these so-called barbarin socities were sophisticated. Economically they relied on nomadic herding, which limited their cultural achievements. The nomadic lifestyle of these tribes prevented civilization from developing because this required urbanization and the specialised skills that agruculture and urbanization makes posible. While agriculture was the primary source of wealth, agriculture inevitanly led to urbnization. And it is in the ciie that high culture developed. While barbarian herders were not capable of high culture, they were capable of making war. In fact they had some advantages over the more cultured agricultural civilizations. We are not sure what the early river valley civilizations called these people. Nomadic hersing developed after the settled agriculture. They appeared millenia befor the Greeks, but the Greeks would give them their definitive name--barbarians. The Greek word was 'βάρβαρος' (barbaros). The original Greek meaning was 'whoever is not Greek'. A reader writes, "One of my history profesors insisted that the word barbarian came from the ancient Greeks referring to the horsemen of the East who only talked in strange tongues which to the Greeks sounded like Bar Bar." We are not entirely sure this was the case as the primary barbarians that the Greeks came into contact were the Celts to the north and the Persians to the east. The Greek term of course is a far cry from the modern meaning, uncivilized, brutal, cruel, warlike, and insensitive. In fact, the Persins were in many ways more civilized and cultured and less warlike than the Greeks. And notably slavery was less important in Persian socity. (Although the Persian peasantry and other Fertile Cresent peasants were not far removed from slavery, so much so that actualm slavey was not required by the ruling classes.) Some Greek city states even leveled the charge against rival Greeks. This was how many Greeks viewed Macedonia, the northern kingdom which produced Alexander. It is also imoprtnt to note that there were two types of Barbarians. The major group was the Steppe peole with socities based on the horse and herding. The second was the agicultural people that the war-like Steppe people relenlessly drove west. And here the most imoprtant was the Germanuc people--an agricultural people albeit not as advnced as the Greeks and Romans. Classical Europe primarily faced the second group who were seeking security and land to farm. China faced the Steppe nomads with no interest in farming, but a drive for conquest and plunder.



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Created: 6:51 PM 5/30/2023
Last updated: 6:51 PM 5/30/2023