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Terry Jones' Barbarians

Terry Jones' Barbarians

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Terry Jones' Barbarians is a 4-part TV documentary series first broadcast on BBC 2 in 2006. It was written and presented by Terry Jones
Terry Jones
Terence Graham Parry Jones is a Welsh comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director, children's author, popular historian, political commentator, and TV documentary host. He is best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy team....

, and it challenges the received Roman and Roman Catholic notion of the barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...


Professor Barry Cunliffe
Barry Cunliffe
Sir Barrington Windsor Cunliffe, CBE, known professionally as Barry Cunliffe is a former Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford, a position held from 1972 to 2007...

 of the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 acted as consultant for the series.

1. "The Primitive Celts"

First broadcast 26 May 2006

The popular view of Celtic society is that it was primitive
Primitive may refer to:* Anarcho-primitivism, an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization* Primitive culture, one that lacks major signs of economic development or modernity...

 and uncivilized. Terry Jones sets out to challenge this view. Far from being primitive compared to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, it was an advanced society that was in some ways even more advanced than Rome. For example, many of the roads in Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 that were assumed to have been built by the Romans, turn out to have been built by the Celts themselves. However, Gaul was rich and tempting to Rome. The Roman general, Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

, set out to conquer Gaul with a professional army. The Celts stood no chance against Caesar and the Romans, and so today what we have is Rome's version of history.
  • Celt
    The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

    ic Barbarians
  • Caesar's Gallic Wars
    Gallic Wars
    The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. They lasted from 58 BC to 51 BC. The Gallic Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the...

2. "The Savage Goths"

First broadcast 2 June 2006
  • Arminius
    Arminius , also known as Armin or Hermann was a chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest...

  • Dacian Wars
  • Alaric I
    Alaric I
    Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

    's sack of Rome

3. "The Brainy Barbarians"

First broadcast 9 June 2006

Jones argues that the ancient Greeks and Persians were in reality far from the Roman view of them as effeminate and addicted to luxury. The Greeks valued science and mathematics, while the Persians had initially allowed multiculturalism among the different ethnic groups of its empire (until years of war with Rome).
  • Antikythera Mechanism
    Antikythera mechanism
    The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was recovered in 1900–1901 from the Antikythera wreck. Its significance and complexity were not understood until decades later. Its time of construction is now estimated between 150 and 100...

  • Archimedes
    Archimedes of Syracuse was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Among his advances in physics are the foundations of hydrostatics, statics and an...

     and Syracuse
  • Parthians
  • Sassanids

4. "The End of the World"

First broadcast 16 June 2006

Around 400 AD, two Barbarian babies were born. One would grow up to become the most feared of all - Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun
Attila , more frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River to the Rhine River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. During his reign he was one of the most feared...

. The other, Geiseric, led the Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 whom history has cast as destroyers. Jones claims that Roman civilization wasn't destroyed by the invasion of these tribes, but by the loss of the North African tax base. He sees the common view of Rome and "Barbarians" as a result of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 popularizing the Roman version of the truth.
  • Sack of Rome (455)
    Sack of Rome (455)
    The sack of 455 was the second of three barbarian sacks of Rome; it was executed by the Vandals, who were then at war with the usurping Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus....

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