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Terry Jones' Barbarians
Terry Jones' Barbarians
Actor: Terry Jones
Genres: Documentary
UR     2008     3hr 25min

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 u...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actor: Terry Jones
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Documentary
Studio: KOCH VISION
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 01/08/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 3hr 25min
Screens: Color,Full Screen,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Zero Stars For Revisionist Hit Piece.
Truthful History-You Are All Writin | The Unknown Realms. | 10/16/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Koch Vision & the BBC presents Terry Jones Barbarians. It is a 205 minutes long in color, a 2 disc 4 part series TV documentary that was first aired on BBC2 in 2006. The episodes are as follows.
The Primitive Celts: 1.Celtic Barbarians, 2.Caesar's Gallic Wars.
The Savage Goths: 1.Arminius, 2.Dacian wars, 3.Alaric's Sack Of Rome.
The Brainy Barbarians: 1.Antikythera, 2.Archimedes & Syracuse, 3.Parthians, 4.Sassanians
The End Of The World: Mainly about the leaders Geiseric & Attila.

Terry Jones is a has been comedian from Monty Python fame & has no credentials to lecture on history, let alone produce such a 1 sided documentary. Even the so-called experts he uses are highly suspect. The clear goal from the very first minutes of this series is to reverse the historical records we have to fit his thesis. Which clearly is that the Romans were 90% evil & their enemies were 90% humane, advanced, folks who were just on the losing side of history. There was no mention that much of the history of this period was lost, nor did he ever mention that much of the information we have on Rome came from their enemies. Example: he mentions the Roman author Polybius to berate him, the problem is that he was a Greek writing some positive things on Rome. That is a big error in itself.

This series also makes 2 lame implications, that the ancient Romans views of other cultures remained constant over a period of 1,200 years, & that history is always written by the winners. That in itself builds this series on sand.

1.Celtic Barbarians; The brehon laws he spoke of with Donnchadh O'Corrain did not even exist during the Roman period. These laws allowed men to beat their wives so long as they did not leave a mark. That should please the women dont you think? The Greeks, Etruscans, & Romans never sold their women into slavery which the Celts certainly did. As late as the Viking period the church in Ireland condemned this practice. So much for the matriarchal leaning Celts treating their women well. Also, Roman law was first codified in 451BC centuries before the Celts wrote their laws down. Even an ardent Celtophile like Frank Delaney in his series "The Celts," stated that after the initial conquest the Romans did indeed bring protection, order, & stability.

Another false claim was his stating without any proof{DNA, etc} that most modern day Europeans are descended from Celts. The term celtic was a linguistic tradition, not an ethnic or racial one, it did not even become common until Edward Lhuyd popularized it in 1707AD. The fact is these Celts were warlike, practiced human sacrifice{June-July 2002 issue of Archaeology magazine}, head hunting, & started the wars against both Greece & Rome{Their is no definitive proof that the Romans started it at Clusium-Bryan Garrett-archaeologist & scholar}. Thus, his portrayal of these people as being flowery, humane, just, & innocent victims is simply a lie.

2.Caesar's Gallic Wars: he turns Caesar into a Genghiz Khan figure which is a gross exaggeration. Does he truly believe that his tiny army killed a million Gauls? Where is the archaeological proof? He just uses Caesar's quote as fact in this case while disbelieving just about everything else in his Gallic Wars book. Mr.Jones barely mentioned the long period of the Celts in N. Italy{not Gaul as he wrongly stated} had attacked the Romans constantly from 390BC to 225BC until they were crushed at Telamon. Nor did he mention their genocidal behavior at the Etruscan city of Melpum 396BC or at the Greek city of Delphi 279BC. Ancient scholars like Pausanias & Strabo, & modern ones like Tim Newark in his book "Ancient Celts" pages 6,10, & 14 state that the Celts committed genocide. Another blatant omission was his failure to mention that had Caesar not conquered the Gauls the even more ruthless Germans were doing exactly that, he stopped them.

The Savage Goths: The Cheruscan German leader Arminius{Hermann} was no hero, if he had been his own people would not have killed him, just like Caesar he went to far. He had been a Roman citizen & swore an oath to Rome. This was a very short sighted part. If Germania had been Romanized
there would not have been a French-German problem, 2 world wars, Hitler, or the Holocaust. Does anyone truly believe that once the Roman empire became Christian that it was or could be as bad as Hitler's third reich? The Romans did not have insane racial theories, religious crusades, concentration camps, or religious wars of conversion. The latter was done by the church, not the Roman empire. It should be mentioned that both slavery by Trajan's time & the blood bath games had been declining long before the Emperor Constantine outlawed them.

4.Dacian wars: these people had been attcking the Romans for decades. what was the emperor trajan to do? he even set his dacian prisoners free nor did Mr.Jones prove that any genocide took place. If the Romans had been so bad, why do modern day Romanians{rightly or not?} consider themselves to be descended from Roman colonists?

5.Alaric's Sack Of Rome: this was the only actual truthful part in the 2 disc series, Alaric-Visigoth & Geiseric's-Vandal sacks of Rome were mild. But, Mr.Jones bashing the catholic church for spreading pro=Roman propaganda was totally false. The church is largely responsible for almost all of the negative information we have on ancient Rome. Most of our history books on this era were translated & written by people in the church. Remember, the church was seeking Christian converts by demonizing the whole Pagan world. Michael Grant's book "Fall Of the Roman Empire" part 6, chapter 13 gives plenty of proof how the church helped undermine the Roman state while adopting some of the administrative qualities that made the empire work. There was also no mention of Jordanes the Goth who wrote the history of his people. So much for the victors always writing the history books.

The Brainy Barbarians: 1 & 2 the Antikythera mechanism & Archimedes' genius does not prove that the greeks were on the verge of an industrial revolution. If that was the caes, it still could have occurred under Rome or the later Byzantine empire. He totally failed to prove that the Romans were suppressing knowledge. In fact Michael Woods book "Ancient Machines:
Wedges To Waterwheels" shows how the Romans advanced technology like the Mill at Barbegal in S.France which provided the 12,000 people of Arles with a huge surplus food supply. Mr.Jones also failed to prove{sources?] that the Romans ever called their eastern neighbors Greece, Persia, etc barbarians. It should be common knowledge that when people are at war they tend to demonize each other.

7&8 Parthians & Persians: these peoples were no more humane than the Romans. In fact the Greeks learned about crucifixion from these peoples after having it done to them. The Romans learned it from the human sacrificing Carthaginians. Contrary to the claim in this series it was the Romans who were the first people to give citizenship to the conquered, which is something even the Greeks never did until the Byzantine era. The mini-industrial revolution occurred under the Roman-Benedictine order in the middle ages, as was stated in James Burke's book "Connections."

9.The End Of The World: here is where he & his experts failed to mention many of the real causes of Rome's decline & fall. Things like constant civil wars between aspiring emperors, outbreaks of disease & famine, political insatbility, & invasions. All of which helped caused a massive decline in trade & population. His claim that the loss of the north african tax base was short sighted. it was the loss of the grain supply from there that led to starvation in parts of Europe. the true loss of the tax base was the occupation & often destruction of the european cities by the Huns. They were the worst of the barbarians since for this reason & their extorting from both halves of the empire which fatally weaked the western half.

If Attila was the gentler leader that Mr.jones portrayed him to be, why did so many Germans fight with Rome to defeat him at Chalons in 451AD? shortly after his death in 453, the Germans in his empire revolted & destroyed it. Lastly, the Vandals did persecute the non-Arian Christians in north africa. Once again Mr. jones failed to give any sources to try & prove his thesis that the Vandals had been more humane than the Romans. The bishop Quodvultdeus was exiled, Saint Augustine & Procopius' books describe in detail how many fled from Vandal persecution.

I recommend reading the scholarly books by JPVD Balsdon "Romans & Aliens," G.K.Chesterton's "Everlasting Man," Saint Aquinas' "Dumb Ox, Catholicism & Conversion," Henry Adams "Montsaint Michele & Chartre," Hillaire Belloc's "The Crusades," & any books by Michael Grant & John Keegan. I'm very glad I rented this from the library rather than having wasted twenty dollars."
Not as Good as the Book...
F. Scalfano | Trinity, AL USA | 04/16/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Of course, a television program, which is what this was before it was made into a DVD, is never going to have the kind of detail and cogency of a book. The book which was made for the series (or is it the other way round?) contains a lot more information, and documentation of the propositions made by the author regarding the short-comings of Roman civilization. My review of the DVD is colored by the fact that I read the book before seeing the DVD, but this does not really invalidate my criticisms since reading the book has given me (at least I hope) a more complete picture of what Mr. Jones was trying to say in the video.

Much of what the author says regarding the European barbarians (Goths, Vandals, and Celts) is not new, and has been known for much of the last two centuries. The kind of pro-Roman chauvinism to which Mr. Jones is so opposed largely went out with Edward Gibbon in the 18th century. It may be that they were still teaching Gibbon when he was going to school. After all, he is kind of old. I remember when I was in college having a professor who actually believed that the Roman fleet used galley slaves, as was portrayed in Ben Hur. I tried to explain to him that even Mommsen, back in the 19th century, knew that was not the case, but he just accused me of being credulous. I digress.

Still, there is a lot of very interesting new archaeological information presented in the series, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in history of the period, with the caveat that Mr. Jones really has it in for the Romans, and he tends to stack the deck against them. I suspect he is descended from Boudicca, or at the very least was bullied by a classicist in school. The idea that the Roman contribution to western (and world) civilization is grossly overrated seems to be an obsession. In particular, I think the idea that the Romans (and that all Romans in all periods had the same attitudes) thought of the Greeks as barbarians is particularly extreme. The emperor Hadrian is a specific contrary example, and he is by no means alone. Furthermore, while some Romans doubtless thought of Parthians as at least depraved eastern foreigners, I doubt they were considered barbarians in the same sense as the Germanic tribes or even the Celts. The concept that a feudal political organization (Parthians/Persians) is somehow superior to a centralized state with a national bureaucracy (Rome) betrays Mr. Jones' medievalist roots.

To summarize: Buy it. Enjoy, but try to overlook some of the more strident anti-Roman diatribe."
Barbaric Humor
Michael I. Mcclung | Cincinnati, Oh USA | 03/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Terry Jones brings the humor of his works with Monty Python into the realm of historical documentary in "Barbarians". Jones debunks many inaccuracies regarding the Roman Empire and the treatment of civilizations that came into contact with Rome. A great source for High school or college level students, as well as the history enthusiast."
A Good Solid and Fun History Lesson
David D. Lawson | The Peoples Republic of California | 06/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Mr. Jones is to be congratuated for a fun, interesting & breezy history lesson about some of the myths about the Folks who finally knocked off the Roman Empire. Altogether its a good introduction about an interesting period of History."