Unveiling the Historical Roots of the Term "Barbarian" and its Evolving Meanings: From Ancient Greece to Real Madrid

In recent years, the term “barbarian” has become increasingly prevalent, particularly among Gen Z, to describe something perceived as unusual, beyond limits, or excessive. In the context of football, players like Kepler Laveran Lime Ferreira, also known as Pepe from Real Madrid, are often labeled as the “most barbaric football players in the world.” However, it’s important to note that the meaning of the word “barbarian” has undergone changes over time, and its origins can be traced back to Ancient Greece.

In the Indonesian Dictionary (Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia, or KBBI), “barbar” is defined as an adjective meaning “uncivilized.” This aligns with the English meaning of “barbaric,” which signifies “cruel, brutal, and not what is expected from educated and respectful individuals.” However, the meaning has shifted throughout history, and this interpretation is not always negative.

The term “barbarian” originates from the Greek language, specifically βάρβαρος (bárbaros), which means “chatterer.” Greeks perceived the speech of other nations as onomatopoeic “barbarbar,” and the word evolved into bárbaros. When the Romans borrowed the term, pronouncing it as barbaria, a shift in meaning began.

The shift in the meaning of the word “barbarian” occurred after the Persian Wars (492-449 BC), during which Greece engaged in conflict with the Persian Empire. Initially, the Greeks referred to nations other than their own as “bárbaros” without a negative connotation. However, after a series of battles with the Persian forces, the term’s meaning changed to an anti-Greek sentiment, characterizing the Persians as greedy, cruel, and uncivilized.

The Romans also contributed their perspective on the term “barbarian.” They regarded Barbaria as any nation that did not adopt Greco-Roman culture, especially those considered a threat to their existence. The Roman historian Tacitus, in his work “Germania,” depicted the Germanic people as those who preferred war over agriculture.

The migration of barbarian tribes, known as the Barbarian Invasions, occurred in the late 4th century AD, marking the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire. This event involved tribes such as the Germanic, Hun, Avar, and Slavic peoples and signaled a turbulent period leading to the collapse of the Roman order in many provinces.

From ancient Greece to Real Madrid, the journey of the word “barbarian” reflects a complex shift in meaning throughout history. In the context of modern football, the term may be used more lightly to describe aggressive or rough players. However, it is crucial to understand its historical roots and how these changes in meaning reflect shifts in societal views towards different cultures and adversaries.