Timid Souls at the Gates

Next we'll hear that Attila spent his life knitting doilies and Genghis Khan raised ponies for children's petting zoos!

What else to expect after reading solid research reports indicating that: (1) The much-feared Vikings of yore were often mild agrarian folk. And (2) the barbarians who supposedly did in Rome were actually good neighbors to the Romans in pre-medieval Holland.

Go borrow a cup of sugar from your friendly next door Visigoth. And have a chat about those nice Vandals who just moved in down the block!

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It's easy thus to make fun of what seems one more bit of multicultural revisionism. But despite yielding to the temptation, we're delighted to see research by Dutch archaeologists puncturing the long-taught concept of "barbarians at the gates" harassing the outposts of the Roman Empire.

Any far-flung civilization tends to look down on less technologically and organizationally advanced peoples around its periphery. But the Dutch archaeologists who sifted remains of Germanic tribal settlements found plentiful evidence that the supposed savages were instead bucolic peasants who coexisted quite happily with Roman colonists. It was only in distant Rome that imaginative writers turned them from villagers into pillagers. A lesson to remember today.

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