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View Full Version : The Germanic Peoples, Rome and Primitivism



Friedrich
Sunday, July 25th, 2010, 07:33 PM
This is my first thread on Skadi.

I have many questions on the Roman Empire and the Germanic peoples, and I find most modern history quite obscure on the topic.

Unlike postcolonial topics like slavery or the coloniztion of native peoples in the southern lands, it is never put into over-simplistic terms. The reduced message that politically correct history has posited as a stream with some truth and selective facts is that: whites stole the lands of the aboriginal peoples, and commited slavery and genocide against them.

Of course, colonialism is never that simple, since it always uses existing divisions and feuds. For example, slavery was widespread in Africa, Pizarro and Cortez used local mistresses and their armies to conquer the unpopular Incas and Aztecs, and native trackers and soldiers were used against traditional enemies to great effect in the US and Australia.

Why is it that the Romans are not widely seen as the first conquerors of natural peoples, for slaves, land and gold?

The situation was certainly complex, with various tribes fighting in the Roman armies. It also appears that Rome had its counter-culture that was sympathetic to the vanquished nothern tribes. I'm just reading an interesting book that argues this was the first Primitivism - an idealistic idea that viewed urban civilization as decadent, and longed back to what it percieves as more "natural" and uncomplicated and lives, customs and foods. (See "From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 To the present: 500 Years of Western civilization", Jaques Barzun, HarperCollins, 2001.)

Primitivism would influence the Protestant movement and its return to the "basics" of Christianity. In the 16th Century some regarded the Native Americans as "noble primitives", especially authors like Montaigne would reflect the earlier view of Tacitus. The stereotype of the Noble Savage:
"... He is fearless, healthy in his uspoiled habitat, devout in the spontaneous worship of the one god of nature. He may be cruel to his enemies, but he is altogether moral in his relations to kin and enemy alike. Knowing nothing of kings, popes and churches, he needs no improving tracts like Castiglione's for his manners to be impeccable. He attracts, because an old encrusted culture likes to think that a simple existence means an easy life. Tacitus ... believed it in the Roman times. The Germanic tribes were to him what the "wild Indians" were to Montaigne - or the Apostles to Luther and Thomas More. Primitivism takes many forms." (Barzun 2001, p.126.)It does appear that romantic Primitavism began with the Romans. As such the Germanic tribes are the forerunners to contemporary anti-colonial positions. Joseph Conrad recognized this in "Heart of Darkness", when he compared his journey on the Congo River to the Roman colonial armies travelling up the Thames (and the Vietnam film "Apocalypse Now" would adapt the narrative to American "interventionism").

Similarly, it seems that while one part of Western civilization and its many southern allies conquered, another part was critical of that conquest.
But what of the Romans? Were they one Germanic tribe to begin with?

A lot of conspiracy theorists argue that some alien or "satanic" bloodline started in ancient Babylon, then moved to Rome, then to London, and finally to Washington. Was Rome really a corrupt form of Empire, or was it a racial identity? Was "racism" even a concept similar to ours at that point, or was it the "barbarian" customs, languages and beliefs that made the Germanic tribes the colonial original "other"?