World History

Read source 3.1 “A Greek Historian on Persia” pg. 130-131 and source 3.3 “A Roman Historian on the Germans.” pg. 133-134 and answer the following question in a few sentences:In your opinion, are either of these sources biased? Why or why not?Pg.130-131WORKING WITH EVIDENCEPerceptions of Outsiders in the Ancient WorldThe peoples of ancient Eurasia did not live in splendid isolation from one another. Nor did they inhabit the kind of deeply interconnected and globalized world that the past century has created. But through war, commerce, the migration of peoples, the spread of religions, and sheer geographic proximity, some of those peoples became sharply aware of one another and developed mental images of life beyond the familiar confines of their own culture. What distortions arose as they pondered those outside their circle? How did the “other” provide opportunities to question or critique their own society? How and in what contexts were outsiders depicted in ancient art and in writing? The sources that follow provide five examples of this process from the ancient world.Source 3.1 A Greek Historian on PersiaBorn to a wealthy Greek family in Asia Minor, Herodotus (ca. 485–425 B.C.E.) came of age when the wars between the Greeks and Persians were still recent memories. He devoted much of his life to recording the history of that great conflict in a series of books known as The Histories. In doing so, he pretty much invented for the Western world the craft of history as a systematic and connected narrative based on research. As a man of means, he was able to travel widely in the Persian Empire, Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Sicily, and Italy, making notes of what he saw and collecting stories, myths, and oral recollections along the way. The selection that follows contains some of his personal impressions of Persia.What cultural differences does Herodotus notice between Greek ways of living and those of Persia?What posture does Herodotus take toward these differences? He does refer to Persians as “barbarians,” but at the time that term may have meant simply “non-Greek,” without the implication of “savage” or “uncivilized” that it later acquired. Does he express a critical view of the Persians or a more positive understanding?What parts of this account might be helpful to historians seeking to describe life in ancient Persia? What might a historian learn about the Greeks’ views of themselves from this description?HERODOTUSThe Historiesmid-5th century B.C.E.The customs that I know the Persians follow are these. They have no images of the gods and no temples or altars; they consider the use of them a sign of foolishness. This comes, I think, from their not believing the gods to have the same nature as human beings, as the Greeks imagine. The Persians’ practice is to climb to the tops of the highest mountains to offer sacrifices to Zeus, the Greek name for the chief god of the universe. The Persians use this god’s name to refer to the whole extent of the sky. They also sacrifice to the sun and moon, to the earth, to fire, to water, and to the winds. . . .Of all the days in the year, the one they celebrate the most is their birthday. It is customary to serve much more food on that day than usual. The richer Persians have an ox, a horse, a camel, and an ass roasted whole for the meal; poorer people cook smaller kinds of cattle. They eat relatively few main courses but many extra courses, which they serve a few dishes at a time. For this reason, the Persians say that the Greeks leave a meal hungry because they have nothing worth mentioning served to them as an extra after the meats and that if the Greeks did have extra courses served, they would never stop eating. The Persians love wine and drink large amounts of it. . . .When they meet another person in the street, you can tell if the people meeting are of equal status by the following indication: If they are, instead of speaking, they kiss each other on the lips. In the case where one is a little inferior to the other, the kiss is given on the cheek. Where the difference of rank is great, the inferior lies down on the ground in front of the superior. . . . The farther away other peoples live, the less the Persians respect them. The reason is that they regard themselves as very greatly superior in all respects to the rest of humanity, believing that other peoples’ excellence is directly proportional to how close they live to Persia. . . .No one so readily adopts foreign customs as the Persians. For this reason, they wear clothing like that of the Medes, considering it superior to their own. In war, they wear Egyptian armor to protect their chests. As soon as they hear of any luxury from any country, they instantly make it their own. In particular, they learned from the Greeks to have sex with adolescent boys. Each man has several wives and an even greater number of concubines.In terms of manliness, manly courage on the battlefield is the greatest proof, with fathering many sons the second greatest. . . . They carefully educate their sons from the age of five to the age of twenty in only three subjects: riding horses, shooting arrows, and speaking the truth. Until boys are five, they are not allowed to come into the sight of their fathers, but instead spend their time with the women. They do this so that if the child dies young, the father will not be saddened at losing him.I praise this custom and the following one too. The king does not put anyone to death for a single instance of wrong-doing, and no Persian inflicts an extreme penalty on a slave for a single instance of wrong-doing.I can say all these things about the Persians with complete certainty, relying on my own personal knowledge.Source: Herodotus, The Histories, 1:131–37, 140, in Herodotus and Sima Qian: The First Great Historians of Greece and China, edited by Thomas R. Martin (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010), 46–49.Pg133-134Source 3.3 A Roman Historian on the GermansOccupying much of Central Europe north of the Roman Empire, ancient Germanic-speaking peoples were never a single “nation” but rather a collection of tribes, clans, and chiefdoms. They were regarded by the Romans as barbarians, though admired and feared for their military skills. These Germanic peoples were famously described by Tacitus (56–117 C.E.), a Roman official and well-known historian. Tacitus himself had never visited the lands of the people he describes; rather, he relied on earlier written documents and interviews with merchants and soldiers who had traveled and lived in the region. Unlike Herodotus, he wrote about people who lived without the states and cities characteristic of civilizations.What can we learn from Tacitus’s account about the economy, politics, society, and culture of the Germanic peoples of the first century C.E.?Which statements of Tacitus might you regard as reliable, and which are more suspect? Why?Modern scholars have argued that Tacitus used the Germanic peoples to criticize aspects of his own Roman culture. What evidence might support this point of view?What differences might you notice between Herodotus’s description of Persian civilization and Tacitus’s discussion of an agricultural village society?TACITUSGermania1st century C.E.The tribes of Germany are free from all taint of intermarriages with foreign nations, and they appear as a distinct, unmixed race, like none but themselves. . . . All have fierce blue eyes, red hair,huge frames, fit only for a sudden exertion. They are less able to bear laborious work. Heat and thirst they cannot in the least endure; to cold and hunger their climate and their soil inure them. . . .They choose their kings by birth, their generals by merit. These kings have not unlimited or arbitrary power, and the generals do more by example than by authority. . . . And what most stimulates their courage is that their squadrons or battalions, instead of being formed by chance or by a fortuitous gathering, are composed of families and clans. Close by them, too, are those dearest to them, so that they hear the shrieks of women, the cries of infants. . . .Tradition says that armies already wavering and giving way have been rallied by women who, with earnest entreaties and bosoms laid bare, have vividly represented the horrors of captivity, which the Germans fear with such extreme dread on behalf of their women. . . . They even believe that the female sex has a certain sanctity and prescience, and they do not despise their counsels, or make light of their answers. . . .Mercury is the deity whom they chiefly worship, and on certain days they deem it right to sacrifice to him even with human victims. . . . Augury and divination by lot no people practice more diligently. . . .When they go into battle, it is a disgrace for the chief to be surpassed in valor, a disgrace for his followers not to equal the valor of the chief. . . . Feasts and entertainments, which though inelegant, are plentifully furnished, are their only pay. The means of this bounty come from war or rapine. Nor are they as easily persuaded to plough the earth and to wait for the year’s produce as to challenge an enemy and earn the honor of wounds. Nay, they actually think it tame and stupid to acquire by the sweat of toil what they might win by their blood.Whenever they are not fighting, they pass much of their time in hunting, and still more in idleness, giving themselves up to sleep and to feasting, the bravest and the most warlike doing nothing, and surrendering the management of the household of the home, and of the land, to the women, the old men, and all the weakest members of the family. . . . It is the custom of the states to bestow by voluntary and individual contribution on the chief a present of cattle or of grain, which, while accepted as a compliment, supplies their wants. They are particularly delighted by gifts from neighboring tribes . . . such as choice steeds, heavy armor, trappings, and neckchains. We have now taught them to accept money alsoIt is well known that the nations of Germany have no cities, and that they do not even tolerate closely contiguous dwellings. They live scattered and apart. . . . No use is made by them of stone or tile; they employ timber for all purposes, rude masses without ornament or attractiveness. . . .Their marriage code, however, is strict, and indeed no part of their manners is more praiseworthy. Almost alone among barbarians they are content with one wife, except a very few among them. . . .Very rare for so numerous a population is adultery, the punishment of which is prompt, and in the husband’s power. Having cut off the hair of the adulteress and stripped her naked, he expels her from the house in the presence of her kinfolk, and then flogs her through the whole village. The loss of chastity meets with no indulgence; neither beauty, youth, nor wealth will procure the culprit a husband.To limit the number of their children or to destroy any of their subsequent offspring is accounted infamous, and good habits are here more effectual than good laws elsewhere. . . .It is the duty among them to adopt the feuds as well as the friendships of a father or a kinsman. These feuds are not implacable; even homicide is expiated by the payment of a certain number of cattle and of sheep, and the satisfaction is accepted by the entire family, greatly to the advantage of the state, since feuds are dangerous in proportion to a people’s freedom. . . .[S]laves are not employed after our manner with distinct domestic duties assigned to them, but each one has the management of a house and home of his own. The master requires from the slave a certain quantity of grain, of cattle, and of clothing, as he would from a tenant, and this is the limit of subjection.Source: Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, The Agricola and Germania of Tacitus (London: Macmillan, 1877), 87ff.Source 3.4 A Roman Depiction of SarmatiansGermans were not the only people to periodically threaten the borders of the Roman Empire. Various groups of pastoralists from north of the Black Sea regularly migrated west, raiding and sometimes invading Roman territory, especially along the Danube River. The Romans respected the military prowess of these nomadic horsemen, whom they frequently fought and sometimes absorbed into their armies. Dating from the second century C.E., this bas-relief sculpture of pastoralist Sarmatians battling Roman forces was one scene among dozens carved onto a nearly one-hundred-foot-tall triumphal column in Rome celebrating the victories of Emperor Trajan. It depicts the distinctly heavily armored Sarmatian cavalry fleeing from advancing Romans. Some Sarmatians were taken as prisoners to Rome by Trajan in 104 C.E. to participate in victory celebrations, which may explain why they were incorporated into the column.Trajan’s column was created to celebrate the emperor’s victories. How might its purpose affect how you interpret and use this source?Notice the detailed depiction of Sarmatian weapons and their distinctive scale-like armor, which protected both rider and horse. What can these elements of the sculpture tell us about Roman knowledge of their enemies?What can the depiction of Scythians in Source 3.2 and Sarmatians here tell us about the pastoralists that lived on the northern fringes of the Greek and Roman civilizations?

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