Dacians and Istrians: Trogus on peoples west of the Black Sea (first century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Dacians and Istrians: Trogus on peoples west of the Black Sea (first century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified April 1, 2024, https://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=16349.

Ancient authors: Pompeius Trogus (first century BCE) as cited by Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus 32.3 (link; link to Latin).

Comments: This is a brief ethnographic digression on Istrians and Dacians west of the Black Sea and north of Thrace. Trogus (via Justin) suggests that Istrians (on the Danube) were originally migrants from Kolchos on the opposite (eastern) shore of the Black Sea, citing mythology connected with the Argonauts. Like many others (and perhaps accurately in some way), Trogus suggests that the people labelled Dacians in his own day were related to Getians of earlier times. Here he refers to clashes with Bastarnians, who are usually located north of the Black Sea, as in Strabo (link).


(32.3) It is reported that the Istrians derive their origin from those Kolchians (or: Colchians) [i.e. just south of the Caucasus mountains on the eastern coast of the Black Sea] who were sent by king Aeetes in pursuit of the Argonauts, that had carried off his daughter. After they had sailed from the Euxinos sea [Black Sea] into the Ister [Danube] river, and had proceeded far up the channel of the river Save, pursuing the track of the Argonauts. The Istrians carried their vessels on their shoulders over the tops of the mountains, as far as the shores of the Adriatic sea, They knew that the Argonauts must have done the same before them, because of the size of their ship. These Kolchians, not overtaking the Argonauts, who had sailed off, remained, whether from fear of their king or from weariness of so long a voyage, near Aquileia, and were called “Istrians” from the name of the river up which they sailed out of the sea.

The Dacians are descendants of the Getians. Under their king Oroles, this people has fought unsuccessfully against the Bastarnians. They were compelled by his order, as a punishment for being cowards, to put their heads in the position of their feet when they were going to sleep, and to perform duties for their wives which the wives used to do for them. Nor were these regulations changed, until they had reversed this disgrace which they had incurred in the previous war by new exertions in the field.


Source of the translation: J.S. Watson, Justin, Cornelius Nepos, and Eutropius (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), public domain, adapted by Harland.

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