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Waiting for the Barbarians

Posted by Henry on July 15, 2004

In Reply to: Waiting for the Barbarians posted by Shae 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).

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

Cis-alpine means from the south side of the Alps. The Barbarians came from North Africa, where the Barbary Coast was particularly lawless.