Category Archives: ancient ethnography / ethnographic culture

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

Persian, Babylonian, and Scythian wisdom: Diogenes of Laertes refutes Magian and Chaldean origins for Greek philosophy (early third century CE)

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

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

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)

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

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

Phoenician, Egyptian and Babylonian wisdom: Porphyry of Tyre and Antonius Diogenes on Pythagoras (third century CE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.