Thursday, June 30, 2016

Terry Jones' Barbarians (Terry Jones and Alan Ereira)

Terry Jones' Barbarians
Terry Jones and Alan Ereira
BBC Books
Nonfiction, History
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: The word "barbarian" conjures images of rough-mannered brutes dressed in animal skins, covered in war paint and scars, torching and looting their way through history while barely able to conceptualize double digits, let alone the wonders of the civilizations they harry. Everyone knows how evil barbarian hordes were the bane of the greatest civilization in Western history, ancient Rome. At least, so wrote the Romans... and those afterwards who bought their imperial propaganda. Turns out that many of those people labelled "barbarians" were far from warlike or stupid. Some even had civilizations more advanced than they did. In this volume, the authors dig into the archaeological record to shed some light on the many cultures tarred with Rome's barbarian brush.

REVIEW: I liked Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, so I was intrigued by this title (not to mention the discounted price of the Kindle version when I downloaded it.) It turns out that, once again, our popular notions of history are heavily tainted by the prejudices of previous eras - few more prejudiced than the Romans, who drew clear and often bloody lines between themselves and the rest of the world. Indeed, it could be argued that Rome actually held Western civilization back by centuries with their stagnant thinking and willingness to destroy anything they didn't understand (or see a military advantage in adopting.) Not that every culture Romans encountered in their long and storied rule were pure or intellectual themselves... The information is accessible to armchair researchers, with plenty of footnotes for further reading should one be so inclined. I clipped it a half-star for some formatting issues; misplaced punctuation, particularly quotation marks, sometimes made for confusion, and there are pictorial sections that cut off text mid-sentence, last for several pages, then return as if the reader still remembered what was being discussed. Overall, though, it's an enlightening look at a time in history that's been shrouded by Roman propaganda (coupled with the politics of the early Christian church) for far too long.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (Terry Jones and Alan Ereira) - My Review
Mysterious Places (Jennifer Westwood, editor) - My Review

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