Roman Ethnography : Bias Of The Roman Empire

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Roman Ethnography: Bias of the Roman Empire The Roman ethnographies, interpretations of outside cultures, on the tribes people they encountered during the Empire’s expansion reveal more about unique Roman characteristics than the characteristics of the barbarian tribes. The Roman Empire was vast, densely populated, and militarily, politically and socially sophisticated. This structure created shared customs, religious beliefs, orders, values, and goals for all Roman citizens. During the Roman Empire’s expansion, Roman historians wrote ethnographies about the different foreign tribes of people encountered. The shell-shock of hearing and experiencing new and different cultures for the first time contributed to the Roman bias found …show more content…

A similar view can be found in Strabo’s ethnography when he describes the tribe’s people of Gaul as barbaric and exotic due to their custom of hanging the decapitated heads of their enemies around their horses necks after a victorious battle (Strabo 12). Both Strabo and Ammianus insinuate that the tribes violent cultures result from their exotic customs and gruesome characteristics. These prejudice undertones are born out of the Roman value of mos maiorum (the way of the elders). The Romans avoided change and valued keeping old traditions and customs passed down from previous generations; to illustrate, Strabo and Ammianus were prejudice towards the lack of uniformity and continuity of the tribes peoples strange customs and differing characteristics. Prejudice is only one of the ways we can see Roman bias in these ethnographies.
Throughout their observations of the Gauls and the Huns and Alans, both Strabo and Ammianus have a Roman agenda implicating the supreme values and status of the Roman Empire to Roman readers in order to bolster their ethnocentrism . When referring to the Celtic people (tribes of Gauls), Strabo reveals the ethnocentrism of the Roman Empire, “At the present time, they are all at peace, since they have been enslaved and are living in accordance with the commands of the Romans who captured them, but it is from the early times that I am taking this account of them…” (Strabo 4).

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