Herodotus And Sima Qian Summary

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“The Definition of Barbarians as Proposed by Herodotus and Sima Qian” In the opinions of Herodotus and Sima Qian, a barbarian was less of an un-evolved caveman, as is typically the picture that comes to mind with the word, but rather someone from a different geographical area whose customs were different, and sometimes misunderstood, from those of their own respective cultures. These “barbarian” societies were highly military based; however, they were good to the many cities they conquered. While the ideas on punishment may have been vastly different within each society, both historians’ definitions of barbarian are extremely similar. Herodotus’ perception of who the barbarians were was defined as “non-Greeks” (31). Although he did briefly…show more content…
However; the main trait that characterizes both of these people groups, other than the fact that they are simply different from that of the author who wrote about the group’s principles and customs, is the emphasis they place on having a strong army capable of conquering much land. Each society basically revolves around the training of soldiers. While providing insight on Persian customs Herodotus writes, “In terms of manliness, manly courage on the battle field is the greatest proof, with fathering many sons the second greatest. Every year the king sends rich gifts to the man who has produced the largest number: They believe that large quantity is strength. They carefully educate their sons from the age of five to the age of twenty in only…show more content…
Both Greece and China worked to conquer land and win wars as often as those whom they call the barbarians, but the differences in culture caused them to think of themselves more highly than those of other sects. For example, the Chinese are taught to put honor above all else in life. They would rather die than to be taken captive and they literally worship their ancestors (Sima Qian 90, 113). In contrast, if the Xiongnus army were to perceive eminent defeat, they would not hesitate to retreat in order to save their lives (130). Also, while the Xiongnus love their families, they tend to look more at the “greater good” than what we recognize as typical behavior. Instead of making old age a relaxing and utmost enjoyable time in life, the elders of the Xiongnu community basically get the leftovers of every meal. This is not out of disrespect, but out of the belief that those who are working to defend the territory need the best food in order to have the stamina and strength to carry out their duties (135). Although these customs seem outlandish to Sima Qian, leading him to give this society the title of barbarian, they are just the outward actions of a society that follows a different way of thinking than that of

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