The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2023, 431-450

Migrations of Ethnonyms, Migrations of Peoples. Continuity and Change in the Ethnic Landscape around the Black Sea through the Study of Late Antique Lists of Ethnonyms

S. Liccardo

Universität Wien


For citation: Liccardo, Salvatore. Migrations of Ethnonyms, Migrations of Peoples. Continuity and Change in the Ethnic Landscape around the Black Sea through the Study of Late Antique Lists of Ethnonyms // Drevneishie gosudarstva Vostochnoi Evropy (The Earliest States of Eastern Europe). 2023: The Black Sea Region in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Problems of Historical Geography / Editor of the volume A.V. Podossinov. Мoscow: GAUGN-Press, 2023. S. 431–450.


DOI: 10.32608/1560-1382-2023-44-431-450


Abstract: This contribution aims at highlighting the importance of the study of ethnonyms and, in particular, of lists of ethnonyms for understanding late antique discourses of ethnicity. The selected sources for this contribution are the Laterculus Veronensis (314 CE) and the Cosmographia of Julius Honorius (5th century CE). Both works consist in a series of catalogues of place names and ethnonyms, which provide invaluable material for the analysis of the ethnic vocabulary of the time. Drafted with different purposes, these texts serve to elucidate the role of ethnonyms in both the political communication and the educational system of Late Antiquity. In this context, as a cultural and geographical borderland, the area north and east of the Black Sea represents an ideal subject of studies. Its apparently frozen representation in several Late Roman sources exemplifies the dynamic between direct knowledge of the area, the persistence of centuries-old ethnographic traditions, and the agenda of the authors. The following examination will focus on a few ethnic names, such as the Vandali and the Sciri, whose transmission history evidences continuity and change of the ethnic discourse applied to the populations inhabiting this geographical area. In Late Antiquity, the Greco-Roman world experienced numerous drastic transformations that made familiar representations of the ethnic landscape increasingly outdated. The selected sources represent two different examples of the attempt of reconciliating the developments on the ground with the older but authoritative ethnographic tradition. In conclusion, these registers reveal the importance of ethnonyms within the organization of knowledge and the learning techniques of the time, as well as the political undertone of ethnic names and their lists.

Late Antiquity, ethnonyms, Black Sea, Sciri, Laterculus Veronensis, Cosmographia of Julius Honorius, ethnic discourse


Almagor E., Skinner J. (eds.). Ancient Ethnography: New Approaches. London, 2013.

Altomare B. Géographie et cosmographie dans l'Antiquité tardive: la tradition grecque et les modèles latins // Dialogues d'histoire ancienne. 2013. T. 1. N. 1. P. 9–34.

Arnaud P. Mapping the Edges of the Earth: Approaches and Cartographical Problems // The Periphery of the Classical World in Ancient Geography / Ed. A. Podossinov. Leuven, 2014. P. 31–58.

Arnaud-Lindet M.-P. (ed. and transl.). Orose: Histoire contre les paiens. Paris, 1990.

Austin M. The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest: A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation. 2nd ed. Cambridge, 2006.

Avram A. Les premiers peuples germaniques sur le bas Danube. Autour du décret SEG 52, 724 // Studi ellenistici. 2015. Vol. 29. P. 27–76.

Barnes T. Emperors, panegyrics, prefects, provinces and palaces (284–317) // Journal of Roman Archaeology. 1996. Vol. 9. P. 532–558.

Barnes T. Constantine after Seventeen Hundred Years: The Cambridge Companion, the York Exhibition and a Recent Biography // International Journal of the Classical Tradition. 2007. Vol. 14. P. 185–220.

Barney S., Lewis W., Berghof B. and O. (tranl.). The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Cambridge, 2006.

Batty R. Rome and the Nomads. The Pontic-Danubian Realm in Antiquity. Oxford, 2008.

Billerbeck M., Neumann-Hartmann A. (eds.). Stephani Byzantii Ethnica. 5 vols. Berlin; New York, 2006–2017.

Blänsdorf J. Herodot bei Curtius Rufus // Hermes. 1971. T. 99. N. 1. P. 11–24.

Boissevain U. (ed.). Cassii Dionis Cocceiani historiarum Romanarum quae supersunt. Berlin, 1895–1931.

Braund D. Steppe and Sea: The Hellenistic North in the Black Sea Region before the first century BC // The Hellenistic World. New perspectives / Ed. D. Ogden. Swansea, 2002. P. 199–219.

Castritius H. Die Vandalen. Etappen einer Spurensuche. Stuttgart, 2007.

Castritius H. Das vandalische Doppelkönigtum und seine ideell-religiösen Grundlagen // Das Reich der Vandalen, und seine (Vor-) Geschichten / Ed. G. Berndt, R. Steinacher. Wien, 2008. P. 79–86.

Coumert M. Représenter le barbaricum entre Antiquité et Moyen Age. Texte et dessin dans le manuscrit d’Albi // Communication inédite, publiée en ligne sur. URL: 2013.

Dan A. Les Leukosyriens: Quelques notes d'ethnographie sinopéenne // Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia. 2010. T. 16. P. 73–102.

Dan A. The Sarmatians: Some Thoughts on the Historiographical Invention of a West Iranian Migration // Vom Wandern der Völker. Migrationserzählungen in den Altertumswissenschaften / Ed. F. Wiedemann et al. Berlin, 2017. (a)

Dan A. La mappemonde d'Albi - un pinax chorographikos. Notes sur les origines antiques de la carte et du texte du ms Albi 29 fol. 57v–58r // Bulletin du Comité Français de Cartographie. 2017. T. 234. P. 13–44. (b)

Diederich S. Kartenkompetenz und Kartenbenutzung bei den römischen Eliten – Teil 2 // Orbis Terrarum. 2019. T. 17. P. 101–184.

Dusi S., Schwedler G., Schwitter R. Transformationen des Wissens zwischen Spätantike und Frühmittelalter // Exzerpieren Kompilieren – Tradieren / Hrsg. S. Dusil et al. Berlin; Boston, 2017. S. 1–22.

Free A. Bemerkungen zur Topik als unvermeidbarem Element antiker Geschichtsschreibung // Der ethnographische Topos in der Alten Geschichte Annäherungen an ein omnipräsentes Phänomen / Hrsg. M. Zerjadtke. Stuttgart, 2020. P. 27–38.

Fuhrmann M. Der Laterculus Veronensis // Handbuch der lateinischen Literatur der Antike 5: Restauration und Erneuerung. Die lateinische Literatur von 284 bis 374 n.Chr. / Hrsg. R. Herzog. München, 1989. S. 99, § 519.

Gautier Dalché P. L’enseignement de la géographie dans l’antiquité tardive // Klio. 2014. T. 96. N. 1. P. 144–182.

Godley A. (ed. and transl.). Herodotus. The Persian Wars, Vol. 2: Books 3–4. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, 1921.

Goffart W. Barbarian Tides: the Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire. Philadelphia, 2006.

Grumeza L. Sarmatae and Sarmatia: From the North Pontic Area to the Great Hungarian Plain // Environment and Habitation around the Ancient Black Sea / Ed. D. Braund et al. Berlin; Boston, 2021. P. 157–176.

Gryson R. Altlateinische Handschriften/Manuscrits Vieux Latins 1-275. Vetus Latina 1/2A Freiburg, 1999.

Hansen G. (ed.). Sozomenus. Kirchengeschichte. Berlin, 1995.

Hartmann U. Die literarischen Quellen // Die Zeit der Soldatenkaiser: Krise und Transformation des Römischen Reiches im 3. Jahrhundert n.Chr. (235–284) / Hrsg. K.P. Johne. Berlin, 2008. S. 19–44.

Haury J., Wirth G. (eds.). Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia. Vols. 12: De Bellis. Leipzig, 1962–1963.

Heather P. Disappearing and Reappearing Tribes // Strategies of Distinction. The Construction of Ethnic Communities, 300–800 / Ed. W. Pohl, H. Reimitz. Leiden, 1998. P. 95–111.

Herrmann J. Griechische und lateinische Quellen zur Frühgeschichte Mitteleuropas bis zur Mitte des 1. Jahrtausends u.Z. 3. Teil: Von Tacitus bis Ausonius (2. bis 4. Jh. u.Z.). Berlin, 1991.

Isaac B. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity. Princeton; Oxford, 2004.

Jones A. The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey. Oxford, 1964.

Kaldellis A. Ethnography after Antiquity. Foreign Lands and Peoples in Byzantine Literature. Philadelphia, 2013.

Kuhoff W. Diokletian und die Epoche der Tetrarchie. Das römische Reich zwischen Krisenbewältigung und Neuaufbau (284–313 n.Chr.). Frankfurt-am-Main, 2001.

Lampinen A. Cultural Artefacts in Transit. Notes on the Transmission and Translation of Ethnonyms in the Greco-Roman Eastern Mediterranean // Translation and Transmission / Ed. J. Hämeen-Anttila, I. Lindstedt. Münster, 2019. P. 139–179.

Liccardo S. Geography of Otherness. Ethnonyms and non-Roman Spaces in the Tabula Peutingeriana // Orbis Terrarum. 2020. Vol. 18. P. 147–165.

Lindsay W. (ed.). Isidori Hispalensis episcopi Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX. 2 vols. Oxford, 1911.

Lozovsky N. The Earth is Our Book. Ann Arbor, 2002.

Lucarini C. (ed.). Q. Curtius Rufus Historiae. Berlin; New York, 2009.

Martin G. (ed. and transl.). Dexipp von Athen. Tübingen, 2006.

Mathisen R. Catalogues of Barbarians in Late Antiquity // Romans, Barbarians, and the Transformation of the Roman World / Ed. R. Mathisen, D. Shanzer. Farnham; Burlington, 2011. P. 17–32.

Mayhoff K. (ed.). Plinius Secundus, Gaius: Naturalis historiae libri XXXVII. Leipzig, 1875–1906.

Merrills A., Miles R. The Vandals. New York, 2010.

Miller K. Itineraria Romana, Römische Reisewege an der Hand der Tabula Peutingeriana. Stuttgart, 1916.

Mineo B. (ed. and transl.). Abrégé des Histoires Philippiques de Trogue Pompée. 3 vols. Paris, 2016–2020.

Monda S. La Cosmographia di Giulio Onorio. Un excerptum scolastico tardo-antico. Roma, 2008.

Müllenhoff K. Über den Anhang zu dem Provinzialverzeichniss von 297 // Verzeichnis der Römischen Provinzen / Hrsg. Th. Mommsen. Berlin, 1863. S. 518–531.

Neira Faleiro C. (ed.). Notitia Dignitatum, La Notitia Dignitatum nueva edición crítica y comentario histórico. Madrid, 2005.

Neumann G. Namenstudien zum Altgermanischen. Berlin; New York, 2008.

Nicolet C., Gautier Dalché P. Les “quatre sages” de Jules César et la “mesure du monde” selon Julius Honorius: réalité antique et tradition médiévale // Journal des savants. 1986. T. 4. P. 157–218.

Önnerfors A. (ed.). P. Cornelii Taciti Libri qui supersunt. Vol. II.2. De origine et situ Germanorum liber. Stuttgart, 1983.

Paschoud F. (ed. and transl.) Histoire nouvelle. 3 vols. Paris, 1971–1989.

Pharr C. (transl.). The Theodosian Code and Novels, and the Sirmondian Constitutions. Princeton, 1952.

Podossinov A.V. Vostochnaya Evropa v rimskoi kartograficheskoi traditsii (Eastern Europe in Roman Cartographic Tradition). Moscow, 2002. [Подосинов A.В. Восточная Европа в римской картографической традиции. М., 2002.]

Podossinov A.V. Nomads of the Eurasian Steppe and Greeks of the Northern Black Sea Region: Encounter of Two Great Civilisations in Antiquity and Early Middle Ages // Competing Narratives between Nomadic People and their Sedentary Neighbours / Ed. Chen Hao. Szeged, 2019. P. 237–251.

Pohl W., Heydemann G. [eds.]. Strategies of Identification. Ethnicity and Religion in Early medieval Europe. Turnhout, 2013.

Pohl W., Reimitz H. (eds.). Strategies of Distinction. The Construction of Ethnic Communities, 300–800. Leiden, 1998.

Porena P. Le origini della prefettura del pretorio tardoantica. Roma, 2003.

Racine F. Literary Geography in Late Antiquity. [PhD diss.] Yale, 2009.

Rees R. Diocletian and the Tetrarchy. Edinburgh, 2004.

Riese A. Geographi Latini Minores. Heilbronn, 1878.

Riggsby A. Mosaics of Knowledge. Oxford, 2019.

Rosafio P. La constitutio de Scyris e l’insediamento dei barbari nell’impero // Figures d’empire, fragments de mémoire: Pouvoirs et identités dans le monde romain impérial / Ed. S. Benoist et al. Villeneuve d'Ascq, 2011. P. 407–423.

Rübekeil L. Völkernamen Europas // Namenforschung: Ein internationales Handbuch zur Onomastik / Name Studies : An International Handbook of Onomastics / Les noms propres: Manuel international d'onomastique / Ed. E. Eichler et al. Berlin; New York, 1996. P. 1330–1343.

Schmidt L. Geschichte der deutschen Stämme bis zum Ausgang der Völkerwanderung. Bd. 1: Die Ostgermanen. München, 1934.

Seeck O. (ed.). Notitia Dignitatum: Notitia Dignitatum accedunt Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae et Laterculi prouinciarum. Berlin, 1876.

Silberman A. (ed. and transl.). Pomponius Mela. Chorographie. Paris, 1988.

Simon J. Chorography reconsidered // Mapping Medieval Geographies. Geographical Encounters in the Latin West and Beyond, 300–1600 / Ed. K. Lilley. Cambridge, 2013. P. 23–44.

Sitzmann A., Grünzweig F. Die altgermanischen Ethnonyme. Ein Handbuch zu ihrer Etymologie. Wien, 2008.

Spallone M. La Cosmographia di Iulius Honorius e Cassiodoro // Segno e testo. 2003. T. 1. P. 129–181.

Spagnolo A., Marchi S. I manoscritti della biblioteca capitolare di Verona: catalogo descrittivo. Verona, 1996.

Steinacher R. Die Vandalen: Aufstieg und Fall eines Barbarenreichs. Stuttgart, 2016.

Stenger J. Education in Late Antiquity: Challenges, Dynamism, and Reinterpretation, 300550 CE. Oxford, 2022.

Swan M. The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio’s Roman History. Books 55–56 (9 B.C.–A.D. 14). Oxford; New York, 2004.

Szabat E. Late Antiquity and the Transmission of Educational Ideals and Methods // A Companion to Ancient Education / Ed. M. Bloomer. Chichester, 2015. P. 252–266.

Tsetskhladze G., Avram A., Hargrave J. (eds.) The Greeks and Romans in the Black Sea and the Importance of the Pontic Region for the Graeco-Roman World (7th century BC 5th century AD): 20 Years On (19972017). Oxford, 2021.

Vinogradov Yu.G. Severnoe Prichernor’e posle padenija velikoj Skifii (Northern Black Sea region after the fall of the Great Scythia) [Виноградов Ю.Г. Северное Причерноморье после падения великой Скифии] // Hyperboreus. 1999. T. 5. N. 1. P. 56–82.

Zuckerman C. Sur la Liste de Vérone et la province de Grande Arménie, la division de l’empire et la date de creation des dioceses // Travaux et Mémoirs. 2002. T. 14. P. 617–637.