Hun cavalry charge Empires, Barbarians,
& Barbarian Empires
Hun cavalry charge
Huns crossing a river

This site is dedicated to exploring the histories and cultures of those groups of people who are so often classified as "barbarians." One of the most familiar examples are those tribal peoples who invaded the Western Roman Empire during its decline and fall. And in the Far East there are those various non-Chinese peoples who attacked Imperial China over a period spanning many centuries. When they were successful in their conquests they often formed an empire of their own. Or they succeeded in taking over the very empire they had invaded, only to be swallowed up by it. Actually, the same could be said for the "barbarians" of the remainder of Eurasia. Most Europeans today, for example, have barbarian ancestors.

What exactly is a barbarian? According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, there are two definitions for the adjective barbarian:

  1. of or relating to a land, culture, or people alien and usually believed to be inferior to one's own
  2. lacking refinement, learning, or artistic or literary culture
The dictionary indicates two nouns that derive from the adjective:
  1. barbarian
  2. barbarianism
The same dictionary does not give definitions for either of these two nouns. But, for barbarian, the definitions that most readily derive from the adjective are:
  1. a person who is alien and usually believed to be inferior
  2. a person lacking refinement, learning, or artistic or literary culture
To make this more close to actual, common usage of the noun barbarian, we may transform these definitions into:
  1. a person who is a member of social group or culture that is regarded as being alien and usually believed to be inferior
  2. a person who is a member of a social group lacking refinement, learning, or artistic or literary culture
Note that both the adjective and noun barbarian are both relative and subjective. To be inferior can only have meaning in the context of comparing one thing to another. In this case, one is comparing a social group or a culture to another which is regarded as the standard. This standard is usually one's own social group or culture -- or a social group or standard which seems closer to our own. (And of course we do not consider any real social group or culture to be higher than our own.) Thus the whole business of determining which groups of people or cultures are barbarian and which is often a subjective operation highly susceptible to prejudice and other forms of bias.

But here one distinction we can make for the "barbarians" is that they they were usually not among those who wrote down what passes now as the records of history. Indeed, what passes for human history is almost entirely the "History of Civilization", meaning mostly the history of those peoples who were literate enough to record their own history. For the history of those societies not so literate, we must depend almost entirely on what their more literate contemporaries had to say about them. So again we find that "barbarian" people and cultures can exist only in relation to cultures and peoples having a "higher standard" of civilization, albeit the one true distinction is that the "higher standard" is one of literacy and some means of preserving or passing on a significant records of their history.

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