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Analysis Of “Herodotus’ Scythian Narrative, Sima Qian’s Account Of The Xiongnu, Tacitus’ Germania”

1047 words - 5 pages

Many great works have been written throughout history and have left a lasting impact in our world. These works have taught us about the history and structure of many great civilizations. However, if we wish to observe the relationships between empires and outsiders and how outsiders were seen during the early part of human history, the works of Herodotus, Sima Qian, and Xiongnu are the best to consider. These works have given us the ability to compare and contrast how relationships between societies were back in the age of territorial empires; also, they show us how uncivilized people were looked at during this period of history. Although alien to each other, Sima Qian’s Account of the ...view middle of the document...

For instance, outsiders are seen as barbaric in Herodotus’ Scythian narrative when Herodotus mentions that the Scythian warriors scrape the skin off their dead victims, and use it either as a handkerchief or a cloak (Hdt. 4.64). This can also be observed in Sima Qian’s Account of the Xiongnu which shows how primitive they were when it is said that sons whose father has passed away will marry their stepmothers and brothers of diseased brothers will marry their widow (Xiongnu 130). These works of about people who were considered as different give us and understanding of how they were looked down upon by others which came from an established society.
Although there were similarities in the relationships between territorial empires and outsiders, there are also many differences, which can be distinguished by observing these three works. For example, some empires viewed outsiders with admiration. This can be observed in Tacitus’ Germania during which Germania is used as a way to frame Rome and shows Roman admiration for some values of the Germans. Tacitus’ mentions in his book that Germans “choose their kings for their noble birth, their leaders for their valor…As for their leaders, it is their example that wins them special admiration—their energy, their distinction, or their presence in front of the line” (Ger. 7). Sima Qian’s Account of the Xiongnu shows the level of arrogance that the Xiongnu feels toward the Han Dynasty. For instance, it can be shown when Sima Qian says that after the Eastern Barbarians had sent Maodum a horse that can ride 1000li, the Shanyu asked to receive one of the Shanyu’s consorts, but after receiving this, the ruler of the tribe asked for more and grew more arrogant (Xiongnu 135). Arrogance is also shown in Herodotus’ Scythian Narrative when Darius mentions that the Scythians should stop running and either fight or accept their fate, give gifts to their master, and submit (Hdt. 4.126). As a result of observing these works, we found many differences between works that exposed many differences in the relationship between empires and outsiders.

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