Barbarians, with Terry Jones (2006) BBC

Episode 3: The Brainy Barbarians

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Video Description

Terry Jones immerses himself in the world of the 'barbarians' of the East - the Greeks and the Persians - and discovers that it was they, and not the Romans, who were the real brains of the ancient world. The story begins and ends with a strange lump of rusty metal discovered on the sea bed in the Mediterranean in 1900. It turned out to be a 2,000-year-old piece of highly complex engineering, the like of which would not be seen for another 1,500 years. What had happened to halt the progress of ancient know-how? The Romans had happened.

From the great Parthian Empires of the East to their closer neighbours, the Greeks, the Roman world was surrounded by mathematical and scientific brilliance. But Terry discovers that all the Romans were interested in was conquest and money. Tragically, in the single-minded quest to expand their Empire, the Romans buried scientific treasures and wonderfully enlightened societies that are only just coming to light.

Documentary Description

Welcome to the other side of Roman history. The Romans gave us sophisticated road systems, chariots and the modern-day calendar. They also had to contend with barbarian hordes who continually threatened the peace, safety and prosperity of their Empire. Right? Maybe not. In this four-part BBC series, Monty Python alum Terry Jones travels throughout the geography of the Roman Empire and 700 years of history arguing that we have been sold a prejudiced history of Rome that has twisted our entire understanding of the Britons, Gauls, Vandals and Goths. A rare blend of scholarly research (as in Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives) combined with Jones’ witty approach makes this a must for history lovers as well as Monty Python fans.

Victims of a well-oiled propaganda machine, the Celts, Huns and Goths – among others – have endured thousands of years of misrepresentation. As Terry Jones reveals, the image of brutal savages hell-bent on nothing more than slaughter, pillage and rape, handed down to us by the Romans, is little more than a monumental exercise in ancient spin.

In an epic journey from the misty bogs of southern Ireland to the arid deserts of Persia, Jones exposes the depth of this Roman deception, bringing the fabulously rich and varied ‘barbarian’ cultures back to life; exploding myths and setting records straight wherever he goes. These ‘barbarians’ were the ‘bogeymen’ who stalked the dark corners of the Roman psyche, derided as “absolutely mad about war... otherwise simple”. But were they really that different from the Romans themselves? As one of the most dominant empires the world has ever known, the Romans wrote their own history. But recent archaeological evidence has revealed a completely different story to that of Roman propaganda.

The Celts wore beautiful clothes and jewellery; their society was complex and sophisticated; they made their own roads and calendar. Human rights, female freedom and flower arranging were all part and parcel of Persian society. The Goths used their knowledge of Roman military training and tactics to inflict a series of devastating defeats on Rome. And the Dacians – the now extinct indigenous people of what is modern day Romanian – were not only teetotal but they had their own unique religion. None of theses facts fit with how the Romans have led us to perceive these ‘barbarians’. It seems Rome’s mission to civilise the ancient world was little more than a cynical and well organised looting; that the ‘Glory of Rome’ was built with barbarian wealth, blood and sweat.

Source: BBC

Review, by

So you think you know everything about the Romans?

Monty Python’s Terry Jones invites you on an entertaining expedition through Roman history from an entirely different perspective – that of the Barbarians. Far from the uncivilized savages they have been believed to be, many of these "non-Romans" were not barbaric at all. They were, in fact, highly organized and intelligent societies that had no intentions of overthrowing Rome or its Empire. A rare blend of scholarly research and archaeological evidence along with Jones’ familiar brand of irreverent humor gives this fascinating series a unique insight into the Barbarians, the Romans and the creation of the modern world.


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