History according to Asterix

IMG_0546Once, I heard a well-known italian historian, Alessandro Barbero, explaining why we can consider ourselves “Medioeval” but not “Romans”, “Ancient Egyptians, Greeks” and so on… Basically if we could have the chance to speak with our ancestors and describe an ordinary day of our life,  a Roman wouldn’t get anything. For Example: “I went to the bank to retire some cash, I walked into a library to buy some books, I sent a letter from the Post-Office, I went to the church etc.” These are all concepts that a Roman could not understand, they were reading on scrolls, paper-money didn’t exist; whereas a Medioeval man, even if he would think that the cashing machine is a witchcraft, he would understand the concepts of bank, church, books.

Often, for a sort of need of identification, people (and their governments), identify themselves with a false stereotype of history. I don’t think it’s a bad things in absolute, to get inspired and proud of the past of your country, however, it can be dangerous (and historically wrong) to blindly believe to be the guardian of a higher destiny, because of a prestigious past. It already happened many times, for example, the “romanity” of italians was an invention of the fascist dictature, that re-wrote history forgetting centuries of barbaric invasions and melting pot.

I was wondering if a similar misconception is behind a definition that is commonly used in France, to indicate sites or manufacts of the Roman Empire (West) Period, until 476 AD. The most common definition is “Gallo-Roman”…. Gallo-Roman??? What it means exactly? I never heard of a Britannic-Roman civilization…. Hispano-Roman? Helvetico-Roman? Numidic-Roman? Lusitan-Roman? It’s not a news that Romans were adopting a politic of integration of cultures and religions within their province. What it makes so special the period, the culture and the society in the Roman France, to deserve a separated denomitation?

I am not a qualified person to answer this question, but I’ll dare to give an hypothesis. May be in France,  the mutual influence between  Gaules and Romans was more studied than  in other countries, because the historian of the 19th century, in the attempt to strenght the national spirit, found in their celtic origin a common value.  However, like Italians cannot identify themselves in Roman and Modern Egypt cannot cultural identify with the pharaons, it’s basically wrong identify France with the Gaules. France has a beautiful history from Charlemagne to French Revolution, without reinventing the wheel to find national unity.

If we speak of culture then, and not only of an historical period, it would be definitively correct refer to “Greek-Roman” culture with Egiptian and Persian influence, rather than evocate a celtic influence that was certainly present and important, but of minor relevance. Moreover, recently, thanks to  different New Age tendencies, it looks like history can be reinterpreted using a shamanic key.

It’s known, history is a controversial matter… but we should always have a critical view, and let Asterix to be the  fantastic  hero of a genial comic.

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2 comments

  1. Under the terms of Gallo Roman agree together one place and a particular time in history:

    Geographically, Roman Gaul covers the current France – except the Midi and the Rhone Valley, which gathered in the province of Narbonne, were considered part of the Roman homeland (and not of the Roman Empire), ie that is Roman Italy – and much of the current Belgium and Switzerland. The main town was Lugdunum (now Lyon), the capital of the Gauls.

    It covers the period of the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar (-52​​) at the Battle of Soissons (486) marking the start of the Merovingian dynasty.

    The Gallo-Romans are a set of people who, in Western Europe, were a specific civilization, after the Gallic Wars until the advent of the Franks.

    cf. Wikipedia! 🙂

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