"When a Scythian overthrows his first enemy," Herodotus tells us, "he drinks his blood; and presents the king with the heads of the enemies he has killed in battle; for if he brings a head, he shares the booty that they take, but not if he does not bring one. He skins it in the following manner...." Well, OK, perhaps we don't need to revisit that part of the classics just now. But if you have a hankering for ancient and early-medieval history, Chronicles of the Barbarians will take you straight to the source. Among the other Greek and Roman authors cited in this anthology are Livy, Polybius, Tacitus, and Julius Caesar; later sections provide eyewitness glimpses of Genghis Khan ("in the subjugation of his foes his rigour and severity had the taste of poison") and Tamerlane (who "loved bold and brave soldiers, by whose aid opened the locks of terror and tore in pieces men like lions and through them and their battles overturned the heights of mountains"). One caveat: Edward Gibbon's passages on the death of Alaric and the Vandal attack on Rome are very eloquent, but they are, properly speaking, out of place in a collection of firsthand reports. --Ron Hogan
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