Terry Jones' Barbarians Hardcover – 18 May 2006
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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."
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting read - answers the time-honoured question 'what did the Romans ever do for us' in a new and riveting way, combining history and entertaining narrative. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Mr. Dominic J. Newton
It started well but I have to admit I didn't finish it. Found it more difficult to engage with than 'Medieval Lives.'Published 6 months ago by cupcake
Entertaining, and actually a good introduction to this period, if you knew very little about it, like mePublished 8 months ago by Leonie Potter
An entertaining read...but judging by the latest archaeological evidence just that.
If not for Rome we would NOT have the way of life we enjoy in Europe and the US. Read more
Let me start with the mild annoyance. It was clear quite quickly that Mr. Jones, probably monika'd after the Roman republican poet Terence, holds the Romans in the same regard and... Read morePublished 24 months ago by R. Jones
A great read and very well researched, it's entertaining and yet very educational at the same time. I am glad that I am a barbarian and proud to be one.Published on 6 July 2014 by Nicholas Soar
I never knew I that all I had learnt about "Barbarians" was so wrong, just Roman propaganda! Just shows that even a geriatric can learn something.Published on 20 Sept. 2013 by Baby Dragon
"Terry Jones' Barbarians" is the title of a documentary film presented by Terry Jones and first broadcast on BBC2 in 2006. Read morePublished on 2 Aug. 2013 by Torben Retboll