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Re: Waiting for the Barbarians

Posted by Shae on July 12, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Waiting for the Barbarians posted by ESC on July 12, 2004

: : : Does anyone know the first use of the phrase "barbarians at the gate"?
: : : Thanks

: : I think it was first used in the movie "Conan the Barbarian".

: This poem has a gate and people are waiting for barbarians. I found the reference in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Could be the origin.

: Waiting for the Barbarians

: What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

: The barbarians are to arrive today.

: Why such inaction in the Senate?
: Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?

: Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
: What laws can the Senators pass any more?
: When the barbarians come they will make the laws.

: Why did our emperor wake up so early,
: and sits at the greatest gate of the city,
: on the throne, solemn, wearing the crown?

: Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
: And the emperor waits to receive
: their chief. Indeed he has prepared
: to give him a scroll. Therein he inscribed
: many titles and names of honor.

: Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out
: today in their red, embroidered togas;
: why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
: and rings with brilliant, glittering emeralds;
: why are they carrying costly canes today,
: wonderfully carved with silver and gold?

: Because the barbarians are to arrive today,
: and such things dazzle the barbarians.

: Why don't the worthy orators come as always
: to make their speeches, to have their say?

: Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
: and they get bored with eloquence and orations.

: Why all of a sudden this unrest
: and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become).
: Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
: and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

: Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
: And some people arrived from the borders,
: and said that there are no longer any barbarians.

: And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
: Those people were some kind of solution.

: Constantine P. Cavafy

: Cavafy, one of the most prominent Greek poets, was born on April 29, 1863 and died on the same date in 1933 in Alexandria (Egypt). http://users.hol.gr/~barbanis/cavafy/

Barbarians at the Gate might also refer to the sacking of Rome by the Cisalpine Gauls (Celts) in 390 BC.