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The Romans used the term barbarus for uncivilised people, opposite to Greek or Roman, and in fact, it became a common term to refer to all foreigners among Romans after Augustus age (as, among the Greeks, after the Persian wars, the Persians), including the Germanic peoples, Persians, Gauls, Phoenicians and Carthaginians.
The Greek term barbaros was the etymological source for many words meaning "barbarian", including English barbarian, which was first recorded in 16th century Middle English.
Xenophon (died 354 BC), for example, wrote the Cyropaedia, a laudatory fictionalised account of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian empire, effectively a utopian text.
In his Anabasis, Xenophon's accounts of the Persians and of other non-Greeks whom he knew or encountered show few traces of the stereotypes.
Eventually the term found a hidden meaning through the folk etymology of Cassiodorus (c. The female given name "Barbara" originally meant "a barbarian woman", and as such was likely to have had initially a pejorative meaning—given that most barbarian women in Graeco-Roman society had low social status (often being slaves).