The Danger of Stereotypes

How stereotypes shape our views and perspectives.

The Fall of Rome

The Fall of Rome

“They [Mexicans] were like the barbarians outside the gates of Rome, only they were already inside, polluting the creek and crapping in the woods, threatening people and spraying graffiti all over everything, and where was it going to end?” (Boyle 311)

Rome falls as the Visigoths burn and sack the city

The Romans were starving, plagued, and frantic as the Visigoths prepared to sack and burn the capital of the once powerful empire. Rome was falling to the invading barbarians whom it once persecuted. Barbarians were classified as “any group not under Roman control” (Harl). In ancient Western European Civilization, Romans viewed the barbarians as insignificant second-class citizens. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall in order to keep the barbarians out of the empire, but the powerful military was failing due to insufficient financing. Tribes such as the Franks, Gauls, and Visigoths began closing in on the capital city (“Spartacus Educational”).

Romans held stereotypes about their barbarian counterparts; barbarians stereotyped Roman citizens as well. Romans believed barbarians were fierce, disloyal, uncivilized, and undisciplined (Mathisen). Romans held themselves to “higher” standards than barbarians. They believed that their society was more elegant and distinguished than the hostile and brutal barbarians. Barbarians were a threat to the distinguished Roman culture. Thus, Romans persecuted the foreigners. As the Roman military began to fail, the outsiders pressed in on Rome (Harl). Barbarians were enslaved and subject to any Roman citizen’s will within the bounds of the empire. Barbarians viewed their Roman conquerors as invasive oppressive foes (Mathisen).

Stereotypes during this historical period were as prevalent as they are today. The stereotypes of each culture were shaped based upon their outlooks on others. Stereotypes have fueled the motives of cultures throughout the course of history.


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