Thursday, February 13, 2020

How did Roman authors choose to portray barbarians (particularly Gauls Essay

How did Roman authors choose to portray barbarians (particularly Gauls and Germans) How realistic can we expect these portraits - Essay Example The Romans enjoyed a culture based on fine arts and literature, superior technologies and advanced training techniques for their military campaigns. As the empire extended ever further, there was increasing contact with those â€Å"other† tribes and nations and the Roman historians recorded their impressions from this rather one-sided perspective of the conqueror. This paper examines the way that two Roman authors, Julius Caesar and Tacitus, portray the barbarians and examines the very different motivations of these two writers and the consequent limitations of their respective approaches. The early account of the Germans which is given by Julius Caesar (100-44BC) in Book VI of De Bello Gallico [Gallic War] is presented as a contrast to the way that he perceives the Gauls. It is interesting that this great Roman leader comments first on religious matters and war, pointing out that the Germans do not have druids and sacrifices, like the Gauls, but instead have their own gods wh om they can see and who help them in their warlike lifestyle.1 It is quite clear that Caesar accepts the different gods of these two barbarian peoples as actors in the battles that occur, and he accepts also their direct link with the sun, sky and natural world of groves and springs that go with these gods. There is no attempt to layer Roman ideas into these practices, but there is an implicit assumption that Roman ways are better. Caesar appears impressed by their dependence on animal products, rather than agriculture, and the way that leaders ensure loyalty by organising a rotation of lands and a focus on plundering neighboring tribes, since in his view this keeps them always ready for war.2 It is striking that Caesar notes also the generosity of the Germans in offering protection hospitality and food to those who visit them, because this reveals a fair-minded appreciation of German moral standards. He does not demonize his enemies, but seeks to portray them in a sympathetic light . One reason for this may be that his experience on campaigns and in the battlefields has taught him how difficult it is to maintain fitness and commitment in his fighting troops. Roman troops were motivated by monetary rewards and the promise of a happy retirement back in the warmer climes of their homeland, while the German warriors appear less materialistic and better trained for a life of fighting. For a general this must have seemed like a far better underpinning for the provision of fighting forces. When it comes to the Gauls, Julius Caesar reflects a common classical notion that those who are located furthest from the centre of the Empire in Rome are the most valiant and the greatest of the barbarians: â€Å"For Caesar this distance, combined with the Belgae’s close proximity and daily confrontations with the Germans, both offensively and defensively, had made them the bravest of the Gauls.†3 This traditional wisdom could not fail to have influenced his percepti on of the peoples that he encountered on his exploratory travels throughout the vast regions of Gaul. There is a strong possibility that he actually seeks out evidence to support these theories, and to stress that he values the barbarians more, the further away from Rome they are, thus at the same time extolling their powerful image but minimizing any possibility

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