Romanticizing the Barbaric

Ann Pepi, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002

In this excerpt Montaigne elaborates on valor. To him it is a quality based upon things deeper than mere might and brawn. He romanticizes valor as a lost quality that Europeans once possessed, yet do no longer, and which to "barbarians" comes as a second nature.

Valor is the strength, not of legs and arms, but of heart and soul; it consists not in the worth of our horse or our weapons, but in our own. He who falls obstinate in his courage, if he has fallen, he fights on his knees [Seneca]. He who relaxes none of his assurance, no matter how great the danger of imminent death; who, giving up his soul, still looks firmly and scornfully at his enemy--he is beaten not by us, but by fortune; he is killed, not conquered.

My questions is this: Is Montaigne intending to excessively romanticize the simplicity and honor of the "barbaric" life to prove a point about prejudice and cause his essay to influence the audience or does he truly believe that Europeans would be better off leading a glorified "simple" style of life as opposed to their more technically advanced but seemingly valueless lifestyle?


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Last modified 13 February 2002