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A barbarian, or savage, is someone who is perceived to be either uncivilized or primitive. The designation is usually applied as a generalization based on a popular stereotype; barbarians can be members of any nation judged by some to be less civilized or orderly (such as a tribal society) but may also be part of a certain "primitive" cultural group (such as nomads) or social class (such as bandits) both within and outside one's own nation. Alternatively, they may instead be admired and romanticised as noble savages. In idiomatic or figurative usage, a "barbarian" may also be an individual reference to a brutal, cruel, warlike, and insensitive person.[1]


The Greeks used the term barbarian for all non-Greek-speaking people, including the Egyptians, Persians, Medes and Phoenicians, emphasizing their otherness. According to Greek writers, this was because the language they spoke sounded to Greeks like gibberish represented by the sounds ";" the alleged root of the word βάρβαρος, which is an echomimetic or onomatopoeic word. In various occasions, the term was also used by Greeks, especially the Athenians, to deride other Greek tribes and states (such as Epirotes, Eleans, Boeotians and Aeolic-speakers) and also fellow Athenians in a pejorative and politically motivated manner.[9][10][11][12] The term also carried a cultural dimension to its dual meaning.[13][14] The verb βαρβαρίζω (barbarízō) in ancient Greek meant to behave or talk like a barbarian, or to hold with the barbarians.[15]

"It was on [the appropriation and adaptation of Egyptian gods] that Greece was founded, according to Plato--and there is no more reliable witness," writes Roberto Calasso in The Celestial Hunter.[16] "The barbarians were therefore the opposite of what the word has come to mean in modern times. They were not new, rough, inarticulate, strong people. They were civilizations much older than Greece--particularly Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia--that had achieved a noble and immovable wisdom."[16] Even in Greek culture, however, the connotations of this word changed over time.[citation needed]

However, the disparaging Hellenic stereotype of barbarians did not totally dominate Hellenic attitudes. Xenophon (died 354 B.C.), for example, wrote the Cyropaedia, a laudatory fictionalised account of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, effectively a utopian text. In his Anabasis, Xenophon's accounts of the Persians and other non-Greeks who he knew or encountered show few traces of the stereotypes.

Aristotle makes the difference between Greeks and barbarians one of the central themes of his book on Politics, and quotes Euripides approvingly, "Tis meet that Greeks should rule barbarians".[34]

The statue serves both as a reminder of the Celts' defeat, thus demonstrating the might of the people who defeated them, and a memorial to their bravery as worthy adversaries. As H. W. Janson comments, the sculpture conveys the message that "they knew how to die, barbarians that they were".[38]

Historically, the term barbarian has seen widespread use in English. Many peoples have dismissed alien cultures and even rival civilizations, because they were unrecognizably strange. For instance, the nomadic Turkic peoples north of the Black Sea, including the Pechenegs and the Kipchaks, were called barbarians by the Byzantines.[42]

The term has also been used to refer to people from Barbary, a region encompassing most of North Africa. The name of the region, Barbary, comes from the Arabic word Barbar, possibly from the Latin word barbaricum, meaning "land of the barbarians."

Historically, the Chinese used various words for foreign ethnic groups. They include terms like 夷 Yi, which is often translated as "barbarians." Despite this conventional translation, there are also other ways of translating Yi into English. Some of the examples include "foreigners,"[46] "ordinary others,"[47] "wild tribes,"[48] "uncivilized tribes,"[49] and so forth.

Chinese historical records mention what may now perhaps be termed "barbarian" peoples for over four millennia, although this considerably predates the Greek language origin of the term "barbarian", at least as is known from the thirty-four centuries of written records in the Greek language. The sinologist Herrlee Glessner Creel said, "Throughout Chinese history "the barbarians" have been a constant motif, sometimes minor, sometimes very major indeed. They figure prominently in the Shang oracle inscriptions, and the dynasty that came to an end only in 1912 was, from the Chinese point of view, barbarian."[50]

The Chinese classics use compounds of these four generic names in localized "barbarian tribes" exonyms such as "west and north" Rongdi, "south and east" Manyi, Nanyibeidi "barbarian tribes in the south and the north," and Manyirongdi "all kinds of barbarians." Creel says the Chinese evidently came to use Rongdi and Manyi "as generalized terms denoting 'non-Chinese,' 'foreigners,' 'barbarians'," and a statement such as "the Rong and Di are wolves" (Zuozhuan, Min 1) is "very much like the assertion that many people in many lands will make today, that 'no foreigner can be trusted'."

According to the archeologist William Meacham, it was only by the time of the late Shang dynasty that one can speak of "Chinese," "Chinese culture," or "Chinese civilization." "There is a sense in which the traditional view of ancient Chinese history is correct (and perhaps it originated ultimately in the first appearance of dynastic civilization): those on the fringes and outside this esoteric event were "barbarians" in that they did not enjoy (or suffer from) the fruit of civilization until they were brought into close contact with it by an imperial expansion of the civilization itself."[63]In a similar vein, Creel explained the significance of Confucian li "ritual; rites; propriety".

The fundamental criterion of "Chinese-ness," anciently and throughout history, has been cultural. The Chinese have had a particular way of life, a particular complex of usages, sometimes characterized as li. Groups that conformed to this way of life were, generally speaking, considered Chinese. Those that turned away from it were considered to cease to be Chinese. ... It was the process of acculturation, transforming barbarians into Chinese, that created the great bulk of the Chinese people. The barbarians of Western Chou times were, for the most part, future Chinese, or the ancestors of future Chinese. This is a fact of great importance. ... It is significant, however, that we almost never find any references in the early literature to physical differences between Chinese and barbarians. Insofar as we can tell, the distinction was purely cultural.[52]

Thought in ancient China was oriented towards the world, or tianxia, "all under heaven." The world was perceived as one homogenous unity named "great community" (datong) The Middle Kingdom [China], dominated by the assumption of its cultural superiority, measured outgroups according to a yardstick by which those who did not follow the "Chinese ways" were considered "barbarians." A Theory of "using the Chinese ways to transform the barbarian" as strongly advocated. It was believed that the barbarian could be culturally assimilated. In the Age of Great Peace, the barbarians would flow in and be transformed: the world would be one.[64]

According to the Pakistani academic M. Shahid Alam, "The centrality of culture, rather than race, in the Chinese world view had an important corollary. Nearly always, this translated into a civilizing mission rooted in the premise that 'the barbarians could be culturally assimilated'"; namely laihua 來化 "come and be transformed" or Hanhua 漢化 "become Chinese; be sinicized."[65]

Two millennia before the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote The Raw and the Cooked, the Chinese differentiated "raw" and "cooked" categories of barbarian peoples who lived in China. The shufan 熟番 "cooked [food eating] barbarians" are sometimes interpreted as Sinicized, and the shengfan 生番 "raw [food eating] barbarians" as not Sinicized.[66]The Liji gives this description.

Dikötter explains the close association between nature and nurture. "The shengfan, literally 'raw barbarians', were considered savage and resisting. The shufan, or 'cooked barbarians', were tame and submissive. The consumption of raw food was regarded as an infallible sign of savagery that affected the physiological state of the barbarian."[68]

Some Warring States period texts record a belief that the respective natures of the Chinese and the barbarian were incompatible. Mencius, for instance, once stated: "I have heard of the Chinese converting barbarians to their ways, but not of their being converted to barbarian ways."[69] Dikötter says, "The nature of the Chinese was regarded as impermeable to the evil influences of the barbarian; no retrogression was possible. Only the barbarian might eventually change by adopting Chinese ways."[70]

According to the historian Frank Dikötter, "The delusive myth of a Chinese antiquity that abandoned racial standards in favour of a concept of cultural universalism in which all barbarians could ultimately participate has understandably attracted some modern scholars. Living in an unequal and often hostile world, it is tempting to project the utopian image of a racially harmonious world into a distant and obscure past."[76]

The first problem is that, "it is impossible to translate the word barbarian into Chinese because the concept does not exist in Chinese," meaning a single "completely generic" loanword from Greek barbar-.[84] "Until the Chinese borrow the word barbarian or one of its relatives, or make up a new word that explicitly includes the same basic ideas, they cannot express the idea of the 'barbarian' in Chinese.".[85] The usual Standard Chinese translation of English barbarian is yemanren (traditional Chinese: 野蠻人; simplified Chinese: 野蛮人; pinyin: yěmánrén), which Beckwith claims, "actually means 'wild man, savage'. That is very definitely not the same thing as 'barbarian'."[85] Despite this semantic hypothesis, Chinese-English dictionaries regularly translate yemanren as "barbarian" or "barbarians."[86] Beckwith concedes that the early Chinese "apparently disliked foreigners in general and looked down on them as having an inferior culture," and pejoratively wrote some exonyms. However, he purports, "The fact that the Chinese did not like foreigner Y and occasionally picked a transcriptional character with negative meaning (in Chinese) to write the sound of his ethnonym, is irrelevant."[87] 041b061a72


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