May 12, 2006


Decline and fall of the Roman myth by Terry Jones

We were ‘barbarians’, but early British civilisation outshone the Roman version, says ex-Python Terry Jones. We just lost the propaganda war Nobody ever called themselves barbarians. It’s not that sort of word. It’s a word used about other people. It was used by the ancient Greeks to describe non-Greek people whose language they could not understand and who therefore seemed to babble unintelligibly: “ba ba ba”. The Romans adopted the Greek word and used it to label (and usually libel) the peoples who surrounded their own world.

The Roman interpretation became the only one that counted, and the peoples whom they called Barbarians became for ever branded — be they Spaniards, Britons, Gauls, Germans, Scythians, Persians or Syrians. And, of course, “barbarian” has become a byword for the very opposite of everything that we consider civilised.

The Romans kept the Barbarians at bay for as long as they could, but finally they were engulfed and the savage hordes overran the empire, destroying the cultural achievements of centuries. The light of reason and civilisation was almost snuffed out by the Barbarians, who annihilated everything that the Romans had put in place, sacking Rome itself and consigning Europe to the Dark Ages. The Barbarians brought only chaos and ignorance, until the renaissance rekindled the fires of Roman learning and art.

It is a familiar story, and it’s codswallop.

Read the rest.

Posted by Ithildin at May 12, 2006 9:40 AM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE

That is utterly fascinating. Ooh-RAH for us Celts!

Posted by: CrankyBeach at May 12, 2006 12:41 PM

As a Celt my heart is a bit warmed, but in reality pointing out a few things that the Celts did better than the Romans is like using the fact that the USSR invented laser eye surgery to try to prove that communism was more scientifically inventive than capitalism.

Posted by: Daniel Upton at May 12, 2006 3:52 PM

I have to agree with Daniel. Take the author's first "advance", chariots. Of course the Romans were surprised by chariots. They were not used in warfare for centuries because they were easily neutralized and even rendered an liability to the users. A better analagy would read "the Romans, using automatic rifles, were surprised at the many innovations that the Celts had applied to their muzzle-loading black powder rifles".

Next, the roads example. "best preserved" applies to one of the Celtic roads while "Still in use today" applies to many Roman roads. How many cities still receive water from aquaducts?

The list goes on and on.

No doubt there were many cultural and technical innovations that surpassed the Roman models. However, the true test of a civilization's greatness is what it leaves behind for future civilizations to build upon.

Long post I know, but as a fan of history I greatly dislike revisionism. That is not to say that this research should not continue. It should, and be encouraged. Knowledge is the most wonderful posession.

Posted by: JC at May 13, 2006 4:30 PM