In this first post, I want to talk about the meaning of the main picture in this website: Hadrian’s Wall.
Around 122 A.C Hadrian, Emperor of Rome, ordered the construction of a wall in northern Britain. Its purpose was to defend Roman territory against barbarians from the north. It was the last frontier in the west end of empire. The dividing line between civilization and barbarism.
Why northern inhabitants from Britain were considered barbarians?
It cannot be for lack of culture. Scottish and Irish had a very deep culture. When Julius Caesar arrived to Britain, he found an ancient religion, common to all Celtic tribes and similarities with Greco-Roman religion.
Neither can be their attacks on southern Britain. Romans themselves were extremely warlike, as we can see in “The Gallic Wars” by Julius Caesar. At that time much of the culture was about war and warriors.
Perhaps was lack of technology. But if we admit that, we would be saying that who has better and more advanced weapons is civilized. Then atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as bacteriological war would be civilized actions.
In this case, we still have the choice to find the answer in the very word “civilization”.
The word “civilization” comes from Latin word “civitas”. Cicero tells us that “civitas” is the body of total set of citizens, with their rights and obligations. If we look at life of great romans as Scipio, Marius or Julius Caesar, they gave high importance to this idea of civitas whereas in many cases risked their lives to defend it. From an abstract point of view, civitas is the link that integrates a man (citizen) with an ideal (Rome), which is bigger than person itself, which transcends time.
Therefore, barbarians had this title because they didn’t have a unifying ideal that transcend themselves and give them a sense of life beyond everyday, to provide the opportunity to make their mark in history.
So, perhaps we must ask ourselves: Do we have an ideal that transcends us and gives meaning to our life?
Are we barbarians or civilized people?