Barbarian, the very term brings to mind an uncouth, undereducated, savage human animal devoid of civilized behavior. So how can we trace the roots of our nation and the seeds of our democracy with three branches of government as a check and balance to such people?
Perhaps our negative perception and built in bias upon hearing the term barbarian, first deserves a bit of debunking. The Romans referred to the tribes of northern Europe as barbarians but we must consider at the time the Roman’s had a mega ego. In the centuries before Christ the leadership of a Germanic tribe known as Goths evolved from a king born into the position of leadership to governance earned by bravery on the battlefield. Leadership was thus earned and respected and not a matter of birth-right.
During the first century AD a form of democracy was found in Gothic leadership in election of their kings. The kings were not omnipotent and in times of crisis would share their power with judges. We are at this time beginning to see the belief in the rights of man develop and a division of power in leadership.
There is no question that Thomas Jefferson looked at the Gothic leadership structure as a basis for our founding fathers to follow. The British had a system more closely related to the Romans with power of justice in the hands of a King born to be ruler. Jefferson rejected the notion of human rights being granted from a King in favor of the rights of man being endowed by our creator. It should be noted that the Gothic barbarians that entered Rome in 410AD were also Christians and not viewed in a positive light by the Romans.
It was a suggestion of Jefferson’s that the seal for our new nation should include the following:
“The children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and on the other side Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs, from whom we claim the honor of being descended, and whose political principles and forms of government we have assumed.”
On the night of August 24, 410 the Goths entered Rome and yes they did pillage but they also protected the churches and the people within those churches. So while they were still called barbarians by the Romans there were in fact seeds of civilized behavior as we view their actions in the light of today.