By Joseph Dragovich
Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 2009
Abstract: Throughout the course of human history, the interaction and conflict between civilization and barbarism, whether real or perceived, has existed in historical memory. The conflict, which spans continents and centuries, can be found in the historical writings of many sedentary civilizations, who felt a need to differentiate between “Us” and “Them.” In fact, many early civilizations defined themselves in the presence of groups which they considered barbarous.The project looks at two civilizations which had such interactions. Late Republican Rome and Han China are well known for their conflicts with peripheral groups. This thesis compares how these two empires conquered and assimilated these barbarian groups, namely the Roman conquest of Gaul and the Chinese conquest of the Xiongnu, a nomadic people that inhabited modern day Mongolia. Despite these two empires separation by time and geography, their methods of conquest were very similar. Where they differed was in their assimilation of conquered peoples, a difference which stems from the way the two civilizations defined themselves.By comparing these events in history, we can gain an insight into the topic which can not be achieved by studying each civilization individually. The interface of disparate cultures is at the heart of many modern issues, from immigration to the war on terror. By studying these past events, it can be seen that this aspect of the human experience not only transcends East and West but also the centuries that separate us from the ancient world.