Welcome to Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World (edited by Kotrosits and Harland)

[For Phil’s other websites or courses, please navigate using the main menu at the top.]

Highlighted contributors: > Maia Kotrosits > Daniel Mitchell  > Justin Nadeau

The purpose of this website (now with over 525 posts) is to collect, organize, and make public resources for the reconstruction of ethnic relations and ethnographic culture in the ancient Mediterranean and near eastern worlds (fifth century BCE-sixth century CE). Please use the accordion-style arrows and categories in the right sidebar to navigate the site.

“Ethnographic culture,” as we intend it, moves beyond the idea of “ethnography” (literally “representing peoples” or “writing about peoples”) as a Greek and Roman literary genre describing non-Greek and non-Roman peoples (“barbarians”). Instead, ethnographic culture refers to the ways in which the imagination, classification, description, and representation of “other peoples” actively played out in large-scale and small-scale ways across societies and among many different peoples. This is especially the case in connection with conquest and colonization, but also in local social interactions and within diasporic communities of immigrants. Judeans (Jews) and Jesus adherents (Christians) were very much a part of this larger sphere of ethnic encounters, so they have a place here too (see especially category five to your right).

This website, then, combines literary, papyrological, epigraphic, numismatic, and other visual data in order to aid students and researchers in a fuller understanding of ethnographic culture and interactions between peoples. It also facilitates the reconstruction of minoritized ethnic groups spread across time (from the fifth century BCE to the sixth century CE) and geography (across the Mediterranean and near east).

There are times when the organization of material mimics or uses terms from the ancient material. This is not to naturalize those categories or terms, but rather to more clearly demonstrate the categories with which ancient people were working.

Who did it?: This website reflects the ongoing work of Maia Kotrosits and Phil Harland (along with voluntary scholarly contributors) supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) under the rubric of “Ethnicity, Diaspora, and Ethnographic Culture in the Greco-Roman World.” Many thanks to the Research Assistants from York University who have helped with inputting or checking translations: Amy House (Strabo), Victoria Muccilli (Diodoros), Daniel Mitchell (Herodotos, Lucian), Justin Nadeau (Persian related items and others), and Rosalie Reis (detailed proof-reading). Special thanks also go out to several websites that have already taken the time to clean up and convert to html public domain sources, including Lacus Curtius (led by Bill Thayer), Attalus (led by Andrew Smith), and Topostext (led by Brady Kiesling).

Who are those guys shaking hands at the top?: Aglibol and Malakbel. The monument is from Rome and is a dedication to the Palmyrene gods Aglibol (Moon) and Malakbel (Sun) by Iahari son of Haliphi from Palmyra in Syria (IGUR I 119-120; 236 CE). The inscription is bilingual, in both Greek and Palmyrene. That is not a giant asparagus in the middle. (Currently in the basement of the Capitoline museum in Rome; photo by Harland).

Who is the cowering figure? This is a somewhat disturbing depiction of a soon-to-be subjugated, defeated and killed Persian, likely originally depicted in a monument set up by king Attalos of Pergamon, on which go to this link (now in the Louvre; photo by Harland).

How to cite this website: Maia Kotrosits and Philip A. Harland, eds., Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, accessed 2023, https://philipharland.com. For citing individual posts, see the short link citation at the top of each post.

Syrians, Persians, Indians, Libyans, and others: Hekataios of Miletos on peoples of Asia (sixth century BCE)

Pelasgians, Lelegians, and others: Hekataios of Miletos and Strabo on barbarians of Greece (sixth century BCE on)

Lycians: Menekrates of Xanthos and Polycharmos on Lycian origins and the practice of fish-divination (late fifth century BCE on)

Carthaginians: Plato, Aristotle, Polybios and others on their character and communal organization (fourth century BCE on)

Armenians: Kyrsilos and Strabo on a Thessalian origin story, on worship of Anahita and on supposed sacred prostitution (early first century CE)

Medes: Nearchos and Strabo on neighbouring bandit-peoples and on Median customs (early first century CE)

Carians, Galatians, Halizonians, and others: Ephoros and Apollodoros of Athens on Anatolian peoples (mid-fourth century BCE on)

Trojans, Lelegians, and Kilikians: Homer and Strabo on legendary peoples and migrations of historical peoples in Anatolia (early first century CE)

Lycians, Pamphylians, and Cilicians: Strabo contrasts civilized and uncivilized peoples in southern Anatolia (early first century CE)

Romans: Dionysios on Roman origins, Italic peoples, and legends of Greek and Pelasgian migrations to Italy (late first century BCE)

Italic peoples: Cato, Livy, and Florus on Sabines, Samnites, and others (early second century BCE on)

Italic peoples: Strabo on Latins, Sabines, Samnites, Umbrians, Lucanians, and others (early first century CE)

Romans: Strabo on Roman superiority and conquest of peoples (early first century CE)

Italic peoples: Antiochos of Syracuse on migrations of peoples to and within Italy (late fifth century BCE)

Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Macedonians, and Parthians: Polyhistor, Bion and Agathias on a succession of empires (mid-first century BCE on)

Persians, Celts, Thracians, and others: Polyainos on “tricky” barbarians (mid-second century CE)

Persians, Tyrrhenians and Lycians: Plutarch on brave women and effeminate men (early second century CE)

Lycians, Lydians, and Egyptians: Pseudo-Plutarch on the effeminacy of grief (third-fourth centuries CE)

Egyptian wisdom: Plutarch on wise Egyptian priests and on Isis and Osiris (early second century CE)

Libyan perspectives: Juba of Numidia on ethnographic matters (late first century BCE)

Karmanians, Ichthyophagians, and others: Nearchos, Onesikritos, Juba, and Pliny on the area around the Persian Gulf and Red Sea (fourth century BCE-first century CE)

Phoenician diasporas: Timaios of Tauromenion, Trogus, and Appian on Tyrians, on the founding of Carthage and on child sacrifice (first century BCE)

Egyptians, Lydians, Cilicians, and other peoples: Kratinos, Aristophanes, Suetonius and others on “Egyptianizing” and other ethnicizing stereotypes (sixth century BCE on)

Babylonian diasporas: Josephos and other Judeans on legends of migration from Babel (first-second centuries CE)

Persian diasporas: Pseudo-Clement, Eusebios, Epiphanios, and Basil on the Magusaeans and their customs (third century CE on)

Persians, Babylonians, and Egyptians: Pseudo-Clementines on Zoroaster and the origins of Magian skill (second-fourth centuries CE)

Judeans, Syrians, Indians, and others: Porphyry of Tyre on abstinence from meat (third century CE)

Persian, Babylonian, and Indian wisdom: Pseudo-Lucian on long-living sages and peoples (third century CE and earlier)

Pontic peoples: Phlyarchos on traits and customs of Thibians and Scythians (early second century BCE)

Israelites, Egyptians, Idumeans, Scythians, and others: Origen on ethnic hierarchies and their spiritual equivalents (mid-third century CE)

Mediterranean peoples: Pausanias, ethnographic interests, and local traditions (mid-second century CE)

Gauls, Kimbrians, Numidians, Indians, and others: Valerius Maximus’ collection of “barbarian customs” (early first century CE)

Persians and Medes: Douris, Herakleides, Klearchos, and others on royal banquets (fifth-fourth centuries BCE)

Lydians: Xanthos of Lydia on kings and luxurious customs (mid-fifth century BCE)

Syrian diasporas: Diodoros and Florus on Eunous of Apameia’s leadership of the slave rebellion on Sicily (mid-first century BCE / second century CE)

Iberians: Diodoros on Viriathus and the Lusitanians’ resistance to Roman rule (mid-first century BCE)

Sikelians, Sikanians, Sardinians and Iolaeians: Diodoros on ancient migrations and local customs on Sicily (mid-first century BCE)

Babylonian and Persian wisdom: Various authors on reception and expulsion of Chaldeans, Magians, and other foreign experts at Rome (first century CE on)

Celtic, Indian, and Assyrian wisdom: Polyhistor on Pythagoras’ education by wise barbarians (first century BCE)

Egyptian / Persian / Judean wisdom: Judean legends of Jannes and Jambres as Magians in the Exodus account (third century CE and earlier)

Europeans, Asians, and Greeks: Aristotle on hierarchies, slaves, and environmental determinism (fourth century BCE)

Judean wisdom: Tatian the Assyrian on the priority of Moses’ “barbarian wisdom” (second century CE)

Persian and Babylonian wisdom: Pseudo-Demokritos and others on Demokritos’ training by Magians and Chaldeans (first century BCE on)

Celts: Appian of Alexandria on their character and on ambassadorial relations with Romans (second century CE)

Colchians, Phrygians, and others: Vitruvius theorizes development from primitives to civilized peoples (first century BCE)

Carians: Strabo on long-term interactions with Greeks and on “Carianizing” (early first century CE)

Barbarian peoples: Hellanikos, Nymphodoros, Nikolaos, and others with collections of “barbarian customs” (fifth century BCE on)

Ethiopians and Thracians: Xenophon of Kolophon theorizes human representations of gods (sixth century BCE)

Mediterranean peoples: Maximus of Tyre on images for the gods as ubiquitous among peoples (late second century CE)

Thracians and other Black Sea peoples: Ammianus Marcellinus on their “savage” character and on Roman control (late fourth century CE)

Persians and neighbouring eastern peoples: Ammianus Marcellinus on Persian territories and lifestyles (late fourth century CE)

Asian Albanians, Iberians, Mardians and others: Demodamas and Pliny the Elder on peoples in the Caucasus region and further east (third century BCE / first century CE)

Scythians, Germans, and others: Pliny the Elder on peoples on the western and northern coasts of the Black Sea (first century CE)

Judean wisdom: Testament of Solomon on Solomon’s superiority in controlling lower spirits and in healing (first-third century CE)

Judean wisdom: Pseudo-Clementines on Abraham the astrologer and legends of migration (second-fourth centuries CE)

Eastern and northern peoples: Bardaisan of Edessa’s Book of the Laws of Countries and the Pseudo-Clementines on astrology and peoples (second-third centuries CE)

Panchaians: Euhemeros and Diodoros on a noble people worshipping Zeus on a utopian island (fourth / first century BCE)

Midianites and Moabites / Arabians: Josephos and Philo on intermixing and the dangers of acculturation (first century CE)

Judean wisdom: Josephos on Solomon as the ultimate wise man, controller of lower spirits, and healer (late-first century CE)

Judean wisdom: Josephos on Abraham’s dissemination of astrological knowledge (late-first century CE)

Assyrians: Trogus on the achievements of Ninos and Semiramis and on the extreme effeminacy of Sardanapalus (first century BCE)

Judean wisdom: Aristoboulos on Moses and the Judean god as source for Plato and Pythagoras (mid-second century BCE)

Libyans, Assyrians and Arabians: Kleodemos and Josephos on Abraham and Keturah’s descendants and their many colonies (second or first century BCE on)

Arabians and Judeans: Jubilees, Molon, and Josephos on identifying the Ishmaelites (second century BCE on)

Iberians and others: Avienus on a journey along the southern coast of Spain (mid-fourth century CE)

Kolchians, Heniochians, Drillians, and others: Arrian on his journey along the Black Sea coast near the Caucasus mountains (ca. 131-132 CE)

Barbaria’s inhabitants, Arabians, and Indians: Anonymous author on trade and peoples on the Erythraian sea all the way to eastern India (mid-first century CE)

Indian wisdom: Alexander Polyhistor and Clement of Alexandria (VII) on the Brahmans and naked sages (first century BCE / late second century CE)

Persians, Hyrkanians, Armenians, Derbikians and others: Curtius Rufus on the mixed composition of the army of Darius III (first century CE)

Libyans and Ausourianians: Synesios on years of incursions into Cyrenaica (early fifth century CE)

Ethiopians, Nubians, and Egyptians: Christian authors picturing darker-skinned peoples as “demons” (second century CE on)

Thracians, Galatians, Daans, and others: Polybios on the mixed composition of the armies of Ptolemy IV and Antiochos III (second century BCE)

Romans, Egyptians, Persians, and others: Minucius Felix’s ethnographic defence of the Christian people (early third century CE)

Persians: Acts of Archelaos on Mani’s foreignness (early fourth century CE)

Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Phoenicians: Julius Africanus on competitive chronologies (ca. 222 CE)

Sarmatians, Marcomannians, Quadians, and Iazygians: Reliefs on Marcus Aurelius’ column including women and children (176-193 CE)

Libyans: Dionysios of Mytilene and Diodoros on competing claims about the god Dionysos (third / mid-first century BCE)

Libyans: Dionysios of Mytilene and Diodoros on Nasamonians, Marmaridians, and Libyan Amazons (third / mid-first century BCE)

Mediterranean peoples: Roman coins [part 3] on kneeling in supplication or adoration (first century BCE on)

Mediterranean peoples: Roman coins [part 2] on humiliated captives kneeling or on the ground (first century BCE on)

Mediterranean peoples: Diodoros, Pliny and Plutarch on Pompey’s subjugation of peoples of the world (mid-first century BCE on)

Mediterranean peoples: Augustus on his own achievements, conquests and alliances with peoples (14 CE)

Egyptian perspectives: Oracles of the Lamb and the Potter on Greco-Macedonians and other foreigners (third-second centuries BCE)

Judeans: Hekataios, pseudo-Hekataios and Diodoros on Judean origins and migration with the exodus (first century BCE)

Egyptians: Attic vase paintings, Isocrates and others on king Bousiris and human sacrifice (fifth century BCE on)

Assyrians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Celts, and others: The Cicero brothers on the nature and effectiveness of divination (mid-first century BCE)

Assyrian / Babylonian wisdom: Sibyl of Babylon on the superiority of the Judean people (second century BCE)

Indians: Palladios and George on naked philosophers or Brahmans (fourth / ninth centuries CE)

Barbarian peoples: Caesarius of Nazianzos’ and George the Monk’s collection of extraordinary customs (sixth / ninth centuries CE)

Phrygians: Alexander Polyhistor, Hermogenes, and others on Phrygian Matters (first century BCE on)

Mediterranean peoples: Pliny the Elder on inventors around the world (first century CE)

Babylonian perspectives: Bel-re’ushu / Berossos on the origins of civilization (late fourth century BCE)

Persian wisdom: Lactantius and others on the Oracles of Hystaspes the Mede (third century CE)

Egyptian wisdom: Vettius Valens and others on Petosiris and pharaoh Nechepsos as astrologers (first-fifth centuries CE)

Mediterranean peoples: Pomponius Mela on peoples of the known world (mid-first century CE)