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A barbarian, or savage, is someone who is perceived to be either uncivilized or primitive. The designation is usually applied as a generalization based on a popular stereotype; barbarians can be members of any nation judged by some to be less civilized or orderly (such as a tribal society) but may also be part of a certain "primitive" cultural group (such as nomads) or social class (such as bandits) both within and outside one's own nation. Alternatively, they may instead be admired and romanticised as noble savages. In idiomatic or figurative usage, a "barbarian" may also be an individual reference to a brutal, cruel, warlike, and insensitive person.
The Greeks used the term barbarian for all non-Greek-speaking people, including the Egyptians, Persians, Medes and Phoenicians, emphasizing their otherness. According to Greek writers, this was because the language they spoke sounded to Greeks like gibberish represented by the sounds "bar..bar..;" the alleged root of the word βάρβαρος, which is an echomimetic or onomatopoeic word. In various occasions, the term was also used by Greeks, especially the Athenians, to deride other Greek tribes and states (such as Epirotes, Eleans, Boeotians and Aeolic-speakers) and also fellow Athenians in a pejorative and politically motivated manner. The term also carried a cultural dimension to its dual meaning. The verb βαρβαρίζω (barbarízō) in ancient Greek meant to behave or talk like a barbarian, or to hold with the barbarians.
"It was on [the appropriation and adaptation of Egyptian gods] that Greece was founded, according to Plato--and there is no more reliable witness," writes Roberto Calasso in The Celestial Hunter. "The barbarians were therefore the opposite of what the word has come to mean in modern times. They were not new, rough, inarticulate, strong people. They were civilizations much older than Greece--particularly Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia--that had achieved a noble and immovable wisdom." Even in Greek culture, however, the connotations of this word changed over time.
However, the disparaging Hellenic stereotype of barbarians did not totally dominate Hellenic attitudes. Xenophon (died 354 B.C.), for example, wrote the Cyropaedia, a laudatory fictionalised account of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, effectively a utopian text. In his Anabasis, Xenophon's accounts of the Persians and other non-Greeks who he knew or encountered show few traces of the stereotypes.
Aristotle makes the difference between Greeks and barbarians one of the central themes of his book on Politics, and quotes Euripides approvingly, "Tis meet that Greeks should rule barbarians".
The statue serves both as a reminder of the Celts' defeat, thus demonstrating the might of the people who defeated them, and a memorial to their bravery as worthy adversaries. As H. W. Janson comments, the sculpture conveys the message that "they knew how to die, barbarians that they were".
Historically, the term barbarian has seen widespread use in English. Many peoples have dismissed alien cultures and even rival civilizations, because they were unrecognizably strange. For instance, the nomadic Turkic peoples north of the Black Sea, including the Pechenegs and the Kipchaks, were called barbarians by the Byzantines.
The term has also been used to refer to people from Barbary, a region encompassing most of North Africa. The name of the region, Barbary, comes from the Arabic word Barbar, possibly from the Latin word barbaricum, meaning "land of the barbarians."
Historically, the Chinese used various words for foreign ethnic groups. They include terms like 夷 Yi, which is often translated as "barbarians." Despite this conventional translation, there are also other ways of translating Yi into English. Some of the examples include "foreigners," "ordinary others," "wild tribes," "uncivilized tribes," and so forth.