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Terry Jones' Barbarians Hardcover – 18 May 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; Mti edition (18 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563493186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563493181
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.1 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 882,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Renowned as a member of Monty Python, Terry Jones also proved himself to be an unorthodox connoisseur of history with "Terry Jones Medieval Lives." Now, Professor Jones shows us once again that history can be fun."

Book Description

An entertaining rewriting of Roman history from the perspective of the 'Barbarians' - who weren't really barbaric at all! --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In "Barbarians," Terry Jones and Alan Ereira finally answer the question posed in "Monty Python's Life of Brian": "What did the Romans ever do for us?" "The answer," according to the authors, "is not usually very nice."

Jones and Ereira explain that while there are many books setting out the history of Rome from the Roman perspective, there is no general history in English that tells the tale from the viewpoint of the so-called "barbarians." This book is their attempt to remedy this omission, and it recounts the history of Rome as experienced by the Atlantic Celts, the Germans (including the Dacians), the Hellenes (Greeks and Persians), the Huns and others who encountered the pointy end of Roman civilization. The message is that the Romans were not so much bringers of civilization as destroyers of advanced societies, not innovators but relentless conservatives who deliberately suppressed the hard-earned knowledge of the peoples they conquered. In Tacitus' famous phrase, the Romans had a habit of making a wasteland and calling it peace--at least until they encountered the equally ruthless Parthian and Sassanian empires.

"Barbarians" is "popular history" (it accompanies a BBC TV series), and the effort to tell the story from a non-Roman point of view sometimes lapses into exaggeration--for instance, I'm skeptical that the Greeks were really on the verge of an "industrial revolution" before being rolled by the Romans. Still, Jones (of Monty Python fame) and Ereira are witty racontuers--their latest book is a highly readble and surprisingly illuminating account of the ancient world that will raise the hackles of Romanophiles everywhere.
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Format: Hardcover
As you might expect from a Terry Jones book it is highly entertaining as well as informative and the book is chock-full with attested quotes and facts. However you need to be a bit careful with some of the conclusions. True enough the Greeks had the steam engine theory down pat and were inventing vending machines but this was often after the supposedly oppressive Romans conquered them. Jones emphasizes the engineering achievements of the "barbarian" nations at the exclusion of Roman achievements - yet the Roman achievements were often far greater; it took 1,500 years for anyone to put up a dome that was bigger than that at the Pantheon in Rome. The art of making concrete was lost after the Roman period. And the phenomenal engineering achievement in taking aqueducts over dozens of miles to provide Rome (and other cities) with a consistent source of fresh water, something which evades many cities in the world today (and which certainly was not done by the Huns, Goths, Germans, Celts or any of the other "barbarian" races that Jones thinks superior to the Romans), is totally ignored.

Had the book's central thesis been that the Romans were a bit rubbish after the 2nd century AD, when religious dogma pretty much stymied original thought and continuity of rule was shattered by emperor after emperor after emperor, then he would have had a point; but the Romans' only real sin in the context of this book was being a couple of hundred years behind the Greeks, which is no shame as they pretty much invented democracy, comedy, mathematics, atomic theory, literary criticism and so on in about a hundred year period. The West did not catch up till around 1600.
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By Squirr-El HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 24 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
The author(s) have a point to make about the Romans not being the greatest civilization ever to dominate the western world, but being a "made for television" story, they appear to have to enhance the negative side of things in order to present their view. The Roman's neighbours did have many things they did better than the Romans, but they also had numerous faults, which don't get mentioned - in and out of each others' countries with each others' wives and property day and night, for example. And don't get me started about those so-called democratic Greeks continually massacring each other either.

Much about the Greek technical advances has entered the public consciousness since the original TV series, the Greek mirrors even featuring on children's science programmes, and built by Germans...

The author(s) succeed in writing as if Mr Jones was reading the book aloud - which is not necessarily a good thing for 250 pages; I found it did start to drag.

Lord Acton, a once-famous historian, said that you shouldn't judge historical people by our standards, but by their contemporaries' standards. Unfortunately, the Romans (and Christians) didn't leave anyone alive to give their views, apart from the occasional Greek. They do however quote from Tacitus, who does agree with the author(s), so we must let them get away with it.

Here are some recommended books that fill in some of the obscure corners of the period covered by this book, but in a more reasonable tone:
The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History
The Tribes of Britain
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Format: Hardcover
The Romans were the all conquering, civilising super-heroes of ancient history. Or at least that is pretty much what we have all been brought up to believe. This book is an enjoyable and very readable counterpoint to that hypothesis.

Perhaps the key point to this book is not whether it is completely correct in all its assertions, but that this gives an alternative option to how the world was in those distant days. I have never considered the point of view of a Celt having his life turned upside down by some very violent chaps in togas. I did not realise that the Dacians were very happy in their peaceful world with its manufactured religion that gave them the basis for political stability and a hugely wealthy economy.

The explanation of the demise of the Roman Emoire into two parts, sometimes three or four, was useful and revealing. It actually makes you realise that the Romans were the same as all the other empires that came and went in those tumultuous ancient times, except that the Roman story survives.

The emergence of Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism (the Arians never stood a chance!) is, in my opinion, probably the real reason that the history of Rome has endured as such a bright star. The Church selected certain customs and elements of the culture and preserved a selective history.

This book is a very welcome view from the recieving end of the Legions.
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