period makeups: iron-age barbarians

Barbarians Rising
Astérix & Obélix contre César
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Period makeups: Iron-age barbarians

Very few, if any, peoples, described themselves as barbarians – though there’s many a rugby player who would be proud to be invited to play for the Barbarians. The word originated as a disparaging, if not outright abusive term (indeed racist in modern day terms though to define it as such would be anachronistic) meaning something like ‘non-Greek speaking wogs from the North-West’.

Even the meaning of – supposedly – more specific terms like Celts, Huns, Vandals and Goths are elusive and the subject of present-day contention: they pose a whole series of interesting historical questions the everyday answers to which have at least as much to do with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century nationalisms and the Romantic Revival as any reality-on-the-ground in the early years of the Common Era. Taking the Celts as an example, early writers used the term in different ways – from being a term akin to ‘wog’ to describing a group of peoples who may actually have used the term to identify themselves: what is clear is that the current Celtic peoples (eg the Welsh) have little connection geographicaly, culturally, or linguistically – nevermind genetically – to anyone who may have described themselves as Celtic at the time of Julius Caesar.

Anyway, what we have here is some examples of the depiction of the enemies, or allies, of Rome on its North-West frontiers and their immediate post-Roman successors. So very crudely European barbarians from the first century BCE through to the fifth century CE, including those usually labelled Celts, Gauls, Picts, Huns, Vandals and Goths.

More mythical barbarians such as the Amazons and Xena are in the Mythical section – though where they anachronistically encounter Cleopatra or Boudica those characters will be included in their appropriate sections.