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.]

*In Progress* (so far over 325 posts)

The purpose of this website 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 categories one and 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.

Highlighted contributors: > Maia Kotrosits > Daniel Mitchell  > James Adam Redfield (coming soon)

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), 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).

What about the people traveling in the wagon? This is a depiction of a family of northern peoples (Sarmatians or Dacians) pictured as nomads by the creators of “Trajan’s trophy” (link to discussion; photo by Cristian Chirita, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).

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

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

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)

Various peoples: Polybios on the mixed composition of Ptolemy IV’s and Antiochos III’s armies (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: Pausanias, ethnographic interests, and local traditions (mid-second century CE)

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)

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)

Scythians: Lucian on a competition between Toxaris and Mnesippos about ethnic superiority (mid-second century CE)

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)

Scythians: Lucian on Toxaris’ and Anacharsis’ differing encounters with Greeks (late second century CE)

Lydians, Maionians, Arimians, and Solymians: Strabo on a variety of peoples in Lydia, Phrygia and Pisidia (early first century CE)

Barbarian and Judean wisdom: Clement of Alexandria [V] on the sources of Plato’s thought (late second century CE)

Amazons, Tibarenians, and Mossynoikians: Apollonios of Rhodes on a voyage to the Kolchians (third century BCE)

Trojans, Lelegians, and Kilikians: Homer and Strabo on legendary peoples and migrations in the Troad (early first century CE)

Persians: Matthew and Luke-Acts on two contrasting approaches to Magians (late first century CE)

Persians: Pliny on the dissemination of Magian skill to the peoples of the world (first century CE)

Barbarian peoples: Nymphodoros, Nikolaos, and others with collections of paradoxical customs (third century BCE on)

Mysians, Galatians, Pisidians, and others: Strabo on relations among Anatolian peoples (early first century CE)

Getians, Scythians, and Goths: Jordanes on their supposed origins and achievements (mid-sixth century CE)

Scythians and Getians: Dio of Prusa on inter-ethnic encounters at Olbia and on Getian Matters (late first century CE)

Ethnic diversity in Alexandria: Dio of Prusa on the cross-roads of the world (late first century CE)

Parthians and Scythians: Julius Africanus on barbarian military techniques (early third century CE)

Libyans / Africans: Tacitus on Tacfarinas and resistance by Numidians, Maurians, and Musulamians (early second century CE)

Northern peoples: Inscriptions on barbarians as bandits (second-third centuries CE)

Barbarians and Greeks: Thucydides theorizes the shift from barbarian banditry to settled civilization (late fifth century BCE)

Pelasgian diasporas: Hekataios of Miletos and Herodotos on legends of migration, language, and influence (mid-fifth century BCE)

Assyrians, Medes and Persians: Ktesias on Persian Matters via Diodoros and Photios (early fourth century BCE)

Scythians and Ethiopians: Agatharchides and Diodoros theorize about the effects of climate (second-first centuries CE)

Ethiopians: Agatharchides and Diodoros on lifestyles and diets in the extreme south (second-first centuries BCE)

Thracians, Getians, Paionians, and others: Herodotos (mid-fifth century BCE)

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

Judean diasporas: Josephos on conflicts in Babylonia, ca. 40-66 CE (late first century CE)

Ichthyophagians: Nearchos and Agatharchides on Fish-eaters around the Arabian Sea (fourth-first centuries BCE)

Daans, Kadousians, Hyrkanians, and Sakians: Strabo on peoples east of the Caspian Sea (first century CE)

Kimmerians and Kolchians: Herodotos on other Pontic peoples (mid-fifth century BCE)

Iberians, Albanians and others of the Caucasus area: Strabo (early first century CE)

Babylonians and Assyrians: Herodotos on legendary queens and outstanding customs (mid-fifth century BCE)

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

Celts / Gauls: Cicero and the link between imperial conquest and negative stereotypes (mid-first century BCE)

Maiotians, Bosporians, Kaukasians, and other Pontic peoples: Strabo on northern Asia (early first century CE)

Judeans, “Asiatics”, and Greeks: Cicero’s ethnic invective aimed at eastern witnesses against Flaccus (mid-first century BCE)

Indians: Herodotos on eastern peoples at the ends of the earth (mid-fifth century BCE)

Judeans and Celts: Various authors on Claudius’ actions against foreigners in the 40s CE (second / third centuries CE

Ethiopians: Herodotos on southern peoples at the ends of the earth (mid-fifth century BCE)

Mediterranean peoples: Artemidoros theorizes foreign elements in dreams (second century CE)

Indian wisdom: Apuleius on the amazing naked philosophers and Pythagoras’ journeys (mid-second century CE)

Judeans, Syrians, Celts, Scythians and others: Plutarch on the “barbarian” origins of fearing the gods, or “superstition” (early second century CE)

Judeans, Syrians, and Egyptians: Epiktetos engages with ethnographic discourses for philosophical aims (mid-first century CE)

Judeans, Egyptians, and Magians: Various authors on Tiberius’ actions against foreign practices 17-19 CE (first-third centuries CE)

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

Parthians, Libyans, Egyptians and others: Acts of the Apostles on legends of Judean migration (early second century CE)

Britons, Armenians, Bessians, and others: Reliefs of subjugated peoples at Aphrodisias (first century CE)

Getians, Dacians, and Scythians: Strabo (early first century CE)

Mediterranean peoples: Sextus Empiricus engages with ethnographic discourses for philosophical aims (second-third centuries CE)

Northern peoples: Antonios Diogenes’ Wonders Beyond Thule and ethnographic fiction (second century CE / ninth century CE)

Scythians, Amazons, and Persians: Isocrates on the superiority of the Athenian people (early fourth century BCE)

Scythians, Amazons, and Hyperboreans: Diodoros on some northerners (mid-first century BCE)

Scythians and other Pontic peoples: Herodotos on the “most ignorant peoples of all” (fifth century BCE)

Britons and Iernians (Irish): Julius Caesar, Pytheas, and Strabo on customs including eating human flesh (early first century CE)

Egyptian diasporas: Manetho, Josephos and others on legends of migration concerning Hyksos and Judeans (third century BCE and on)

Egyptians: Diodoros on the origins of civilization and on Egyptian views (mid-first century BCE)

Parthians, Celts and Iberians or Germans: Scenes on the breastplate of the “Augustus of Prima Porta” (early first century CE)

Amazons: Greek artistic depictions of a female warrior people (fourth century BCE to second century CE)

Medes, Assyrians, Baktrians, and others: Herodotos on the mixed composition of the Persian army under Xerxes (fifth century BCE)

Libyans: Herodotos on customs and colonization (fifth century BCE)