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Map of the Roman empire and contemporary indigenous Europe in AD 125, showing the location of the Bastarnae, divided into two groups. The smaller group, inhabiting the delta of the Danube and its northern environs, was known as the Peucini.

The Bastarnae or Basternae (Ancient GreekΒαστάρναι or Βαστέρναι) were an ancient tribal group of probably mixed Celtic and Germanic origin which, between not later than 200 BC and until at least AD 300, inhabited the region between the eastern Carpathian mountains and the Dnieper river (corresponding to the modern Republic of Moldova and western part of southern Ukraine). A branch of the Bastarnae, called the Peucini by Greco-Roman writers, occupied the region north of the Danube river delta.

Although possibly Celtic-speaking in 179 BC, the Bastarnae probably were Germanic in language and culture during the 1st century AD, but appear to have become assimilated by their neighbouring Sarmatians by the 3rd century. Like the latter, they were probably semi-nomadic. It has not yet been possible to identify specific Bastarnae archaeological sites.

The Peucini branch of the Bastarnae first came into conflict with the Romans in the 1st century BC, when they resisted, ultimately unsuccessfully, Roman expansion into Moesia, the region on the southern bank of the Danube. Although probably on friendly terms with the Romans in the early 1st century, there is little evidence of the Peucini until ca. 180, when they are recorded as participating in an invasion of Roman territory in alliance with Sarmatian and Dacian elements. In the mid 3rd century, the Bastarnae were part of a Gothic-led grand coalition of lower Danube tribes which inflicted immense damage on the Balkan provinces of the Roman empire in a series of massive invasions. Large numbers of Bastarnae were resettled within the empire in the late 3rd century.


Name etymology

The origin of the tribal name is uncertain. One possible derivation is from the proto-Germanic word *bastjan (from Proto-Indo-European root word *bhas) means "binding" or "tie".[1] In this case, Bastarnae may have had the original meaning of an alliance or bund of tribes. It is possible that the Roman term basterna, denoting a type of wagon or litter, is derived from the name of this tribe, which was known, like many Germanic tribes, to travel with a wagon-train for their families.[2] It has also been speculated that the name Bastarnae is connected with the English word bastard, meaning "illegitimate son". But there is no hard evidence of such a connection.

Ethno-linguistic affiliation

Livy, the Roman historian, writing in ca. AD 10, may imply that the Bastarnae were of Celtic origin. Relating events of ca. 180 BC, he describes them then as "similar in language and customs" to the Scordisci, a tribe of Illyria described as Celtic by Strabo (although he adds that they had mingled with Illyrians and Thracians).[3] Livy also names their king, Cotto.[4] This name is possibly of Celtic derivation (cf. Cottius, king of the Alpine Salassi tribe and friend of Augustus, after whom were named the Alpes Cottiae Roman province and the Cotini Celtic tribe of the northern Carpathians. Both probably derived from cotto- = "old" or "crooked").[5] It is possible that the Bastarnae were originally a mixed Celto-Germanic group.[6] If so, they may have originally comprised residual Celtic elements in central eastern Europe such as the Cotini, who formed a Celtic enclave in the Germanic-speaking zone and are described by Tacitus as iron-ore miners working as tributaries of the powerful Quadi Germanic people.[7]. The Romans often used "German" as a geographical rather than ethnic classification.[8].

In any case, other Greco-Roman writers of the 1st century AD are unanimous that the Bastarnae were, in their own time, Germanic in language and culture. The Greek geographer Strabo, writing ca. AD 5-20, says the Bastarnae are "of Germanic stock", although he includes the non-Germanic Roxolani, a Sarmatian tribe, among the sub-tribes of the Bastarnae (probably in error).[9] The Roman geographer Pliny the Elder (ca. AD 77), refers to "Bastarnae and other Germans".[10] The Roman historian Tacitus (ca. AD 100), states: "The Peucini, however, who are sometimes called Bastarnae, are like Germans in their language, way of life and types of dwelling and live in similar squalor and indolence...[However] mixed marriages are giving them to some extent the vile appearance of the Sarmatians."[11]

In the 3rd century, however, the Greek historian Dio Cassius states that the "Bastarnae are properly classed as Scythians" and "members of the Scythian race".[12] Likewise, the 6th century historian Zosimus, reporting events around AD 280, refers to "the Bastarnae, a Scythian people".[13] It is possible that the miscegenation mentioned by Tacitus had, by the 3rd century, resulted in the Bastarnae becoming assimilated by the Sarmatians, perhaps adopting their tongue (which belonged to the Iranic group of Indo-European languages) and/or Sarmatian customs. On the other hand, the Bastarnae maintained a separate name-identity into the late 3rd century AD, possibly implying retention of their Germanic cultural heritage, distinctive in the lower Danube, until the arrival of the Goths.[14]


A view of the Danube delta, showing the kind of swampy terrain originally inhabited by the Peucini branch of the Bastarnae.

It is generally assumed by scholars that the Bastarnae's original home was around the Vistula river (central Poland) and that they migrated south-eastwards to the Black Sea region around 200 BC (as, 400 years later, did the Gothic ethnos).[15]

Strabo describes the Bastarnae territory vaguely as "between the Ister (river Danube) and the Borysthenes (river Dnieper)". He identifies three sub-tribes of the Bastarnae: the Atmoni, Sidoni and Peucini. The latter derived their name from Peuce, a large island in the Danube delta which they had colonised.[9] a[›] The 2nd century geographer Ptolemy states that the Carpiani or Carpi (believed to have occupied Moldavia) separated the Peucini from the other Bastarnae "above Dacia".[16] The consensus among modern scholars is that the Bastarnae were, in the 2nd century, divided into two main groups. The larger group inhabited the north-eastern slopes of the Carpathians and the area between the Prut and Dnieper rivers (Moldova Republic/Western Ukraine), while a separate smaller group (the Peucini) dwelt in and North of the Danube delta region. Only the Peucini, therefore, were situated on the extreme northern border of the Roman province of Moesia Inferior, which ran along the southernmost branch of the Danube delta.[17]

Material culture

Map showing the extent of the Chernyakhov culture (in orange) in the 3rd century, and the peoples involved, including the Bastarnae.

It is uncertain whether the Bastarnae were sedentary or nomadic (or semi-nomadic). Tacitus' statement that they were "German in their way of life and types of dwelling" implies a sedentary bias, but their close relations with the Sarmatians, who were nomadic, may indicate a more nomadic lifestyle, as does the wide geographical range of their attested inhabitation.[15]

It has not to date been possible to identify individual archaeological sites as belonging to the Bastarnae, because no convincing typology of Bastarnae artefacts exists. It has been suggested that the Bastarnae are an especially good match, in location and in time, for the Zarubintsy culture, despite the fact that it was centred somewhat to the North of the main area of Bastarnae residence. This culture, which flourished in the upper Dnieper and Pripyat rivers between ca. 300 BC and AD 200, was sedentary, based on agriculture and the rearing of livestock. Its cultural artefacts show strong influences from the western steppe (i.e. Sarmatian influence) and, in a later phase, from the Roman Danubian provinces. But the Zarubintsy culture has also been "claimed" for the Venedi tribe, who are regarded by many scholars as proto-Slavic - although even this is uncertain.[18] In reality, it is not possible, on the current state of knowledge, to ascribe the Zarubintsy culture to any individual ethno-linguistic group. It is likely that Zarubintsy represents a wide range of peoples in the Poland- W. Ukraine region (possibly including the Bastarnae).[19]

Starting in about AD 200, the Chernyakhov culture became established in the W. Ukraine/Moldova region inhabited by the Bastarnae. The culture is characterised by a high degree of sophistication in the production of metal and ceramic artefacts, as well as of uniformity over a vast area. Although this culture has conventionally been identified with the migration of the Gothic ethnos into the region from the Northwest, Todd argues that its most important origin is Scytho-Sarmatian. Although the Goths certainly contributed to it, so probably did other peoples of the region such as the Dacians, proto-Slavs, Carpi, and possibly the Bastarnae.[20]

Conflict with Rome


Roman republican era (to 30 BC)

Allies of Philip of Macedon (179-8 BC)

Map showing the lower Danube provinces of the Roman empire, with the location of Illyrian and Thracian tribes
Silver tetradrachm of Philip V of Macedon. British Museum, London

The Bastarnae first appear in the historical record in 179 BC, when they crossed the Danube in massive force (probably ca. 60,000 men, both cavalry and infantry, plus a wagon-train of accompanying women and children). They did so at the invitation of their long-time ally, king Philip V of Macedon, a direct descendant of Antigonus, one of the Diadochi, the generals of Alexander the Great who had shared out his empire after his death in 323 BC. The Macedonian king had suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Romans in the Second Macedonian War (200-197 BC), which had reduced him from a powerful Hellenistic monarch to the status of a petty client-king with a much-reduced territory and a tiny army.b[›] After nearly 20 years of slavish adherence to the Roman Senate's dictats, Philip had been goaded beyond endurance by the incessant and devastating raiding of the Dardani, a warlike Thraco-Illyrian[21] tribe on his northern border, which his treaty-limited army was too small to counter effectively. Counting on the Bastarnae, with whom he had forged friendly relations in earlier times, he plotted a strategy to deal with the Dardani and then to regain his lost territories in Greece and his political independence. First, he would unleash the Bastarnae against the Dardani. After the latter had been crushed, Philip planned to settle Bastarnae families in Dardania (southern Kosovo/Skopje region), to ensure that the region was permanently subdued. In a second phase, Philip aimed to launch the Bastarnae on an invasion of Italy via the Adriatic coast. Although he knew that the Bastarnae were hardly likely to achieve the same success as Hannibal some 40 years earlier, Philip hoped that the Romans would be distracted long enough to allow him to reoccupy his former possessions in Greece.[22]

But Philip, now 60 years of age, died before the Bastarnae could arrive. The Bastarnae host was still en route through Thrace, where it became embroiled in hostilities with the locals, who were unable (or unwilling) to provide them with sufficient food at affordable prices as they marched through. Probably in the vicinity of Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv, Bulgaria), the Bastarnae broke out of their marching columns and pillaged the land far and wide. The terrified local Thracians took refuge with their families and animal herds on the slopes of Mons Donuca, the highest mountain in Thrace (Mt. Musala, Rila Mts., Bulgaria). A large force of Bastarnae chased them up the mountain, but were driven back and scattered by a massive hailstorm. Then the Thracians ambushed them, turning their descent into a panic-stricken rout. Back at their wagon-laager in the plain, around half the demoralised Bastarnae decided to return home, leaving ca. 30,000 to press on to Macedonia.[4]

Philip's son and successor Perseus, while protesting his loyalty to Rome, deployed his Bastarnae guests in winter quarters in a valley in Dardania, presumably as a prelude to a campaign against the Dardani the following summer. But in the depths of winter their camp was attacked by the Dardani. The Bastarnae easily beat off the attackers, chased them back to their chief town, and besieged them. But they were surprised in the rear by a second force of Dardani which had approached their camp stealthily by mountain paths and proceeded to storm and ransack it. Having lost their entire baggage and supplies, the Bastarnae were obliged to withdraw from Dardania and to return home. Most perished as they crossed the frozen Danube on foot, only for the ice to give way.[23] Despite the failure of Philip's Bastarnae strategy, the suspicion aroused by these events in the Roman Senate, which had been warned by the Dardani of the Bastarnae invasion, ensured the demise of Macedonia as an independent state.[24] Rome declared war on Perseus in 171 BC and after the Macedonian army was crushed at the Battle of Pydna (168 BC), Macedonia was split up into 4 Roman puppet-cantons (167 BC).[25] 21 years later, these were in turn abolished and annexed to the Roman Republic as the province of Macedonia (146 BC).

Allies of Getan high king Burebista (62 BC)

Map of Scythia Minor (Dobruja), showing the Greek coastal cities of Histria, Tomis, Callatis and Dionysopolis (Istria, Constanţa, Mangalia and Balchik).
Coin issued by the Greek coastal city of Histria (Sinoe)

The Bastarnae first came into direct conflict with Rome as a result of expansion into the lower Danube region by the proconsuls (governors) of Macedonia in the period 75-72 BC. Gaius Scribonius Curio (proconsul 75-3 BC) campaigned successfully against the Dardani and the Moesi, becoming the first Roman general to reach the river Danube with his army.[26] His successor, Marcus Licinius Lucullus (brother of the famous Lucius Lucullus), campaigned against the Thracian Bessi tribe and the Moesi, ravaging the whole of Moesia, the region between the Haemus (Balkan) mountain range and the Danube. In 72 BC, his troops occupied the Greek coastal cities of Scythia Minor (modern Dobruja region, Romania/Bulgaria),c[›] which had sided with Rome's Hellenistic arch-enemy, king Mithridates VI of Pontus, in the Third Mithridatic War (73-63 BC).[27]

The presence of Roman forces in the Danube delta was seen as a major threat by all the neighbouring transdanubian peoples: the Peucini Bastarnae, the Sarmatians and, most importantly, by Burebista (ruled 82-44 BC), king of the Getae. The Getae occupied the region today called Wallachia as well as Scythia Minor and were either a Dacian- or Thracian- speaking people.d[›] Burebista had unified the Getan tribes into a single kingdom, for which the Greek cities were vital trade outlets. In addition, he had established his hegemony over neighbouring Sarmatian and Bastarnae tribes. At its peak, the Getan kingdom reportedly was able to muster 200,000 warriors. Burebista led his transdanubian coalition in a struggle against Roman encroachment, conducting many raids against Roman allies in Moesia and Thrace, penetrating as far as Macedonia and Illyria.[28]

The coalition's main chance came in 62 BC, when the Greek cities rebelled against Roman rule. In 61 BC, the notoriously oppressive and militarily incompetent proconsul of Macedonia, Gaius Antonius, nicknamed Hybrida ("The Monster", an uncle of the famous Mark Antony) led an army against the Greek cities. As his army approached Histria (Sinoe), Antonius detached his entire mounted force from the marching column and led it away on a lengthy excursion, leaving his infantry without cavalry cover, a tactic he had already used with disastrous results against the Dardani.[29] Dio implies that he did so out of cowardice, in order to avoid the imminent clash with the opposition. But it is more likely that he was pursuing a large enemy cavalry force, which was possibly acting as a decoy. A Bastarnae host, which had crossed the Danube to assist the Histrians, promptly engaged, surrounded and massacred the Roman infantry, capturing several of their vexilla (military standards).[30] This battle resulted in the collapse of the Roman position on the lower Danube. Burebista annexed the Greek cities (55-48 BC).[31] At the same time, the subjugated "allied" tribes of Moesia and Thrace evidently repudiated their treaties with Rome, as they had to be re-conquered by Augustus in 29-8 BC (see below).

For 44 BC, Roman dictator-for-life Julius Caesar planned to lead a major campaign to deal with Burebista and his allies once and for all, but he was assassinated before it could start.[32] However, the campaign was made redundant by Burebista's overthrow and death in the same year, after which his Getan empire fragmented into 4, later 5 independent petty kingdoms. These were militarily far weaker, as Strabo assessed their combined military potential at just 40,000 armed men, and were often involved in internecine warfare.[33][34] The Geto-Dacians did not again become a threat to Roman hegemony in the lower Danube until the rise of Decebal 130 years later (AD 86).

Augustan era (30 BC - AD 14)

Statue of Augustus in the garb of Roman imperator (military supreme commander). By the end of his sole rule (AD 14), Augustus had expanded the empire to the line of the Danube river, which was to remain its central/eastern European border for its entire history (except for the occupation of Dacia 105-275). Musei Vaticani, Rome

Once he had established himself as sole ruler of the Roman state in 30 BC, Caesar's grand-nephew and adopted son Augustus inaugurated a strategy of advancing the empire's southeastern European border to the line of the Danube from the Alps, the Dinaric Alps and Macedonia. The primary objective was to increase strategic depth between the border and Italy and also to provide a major fluvial supply-route between the Roman armies in the region.[35] On the lower Danube, which was given priority over the upper Danube, this required the annexation of Moesia and Thrace; the latter, however, was spared annexation as it was in the hands of a friendly king. e[›] The Romans' target were thus the tribes which inhabited Moesia, namely (from West to East) the Triballi, Moesi and those Getae who dwelt South of the Danube. The Bastarnae were also a target because they had recently subjugated the Triballi, whose territory lay on the southern bank of the Danube between the tributary rivers Utus (Vit) and Ciabrus (Tsibritsa), with their chief town at Oescus (Gigen, Bulgaria).[36] In addition, Augustus wanted to avenge the defeat of C. Antonius 32 years before and to recover the lost standards. These were held in a powerful fortress called Genucla (Isaccea, near modern Tulcea, Rom., in the Danube delta region), controlled by Zyraxes, the local Getan petty king.[37] The man selected for the task was Marcus Licinius Crassus, grandson of Crassus the triumvir and an experienced general at 33 years of age, who was appointed proconsul of Macedonia in 29 BC.[38]

The Bastarnae provided the casus belli by crossing the Haemus and attacking the Dentheletae, a Thracian tribe who were Roman allies. Crassus marched to the Dentheletae's assistance, but the Bastarnae host hastily withdrew over the Haemus at his approach. Crassus followed them closely into Moesia but they would not be drawn into battle, withdrawing beyond the Tsibritsa.[39] Crassus now turned his attention to the Moesi, his prime target. After a successful campaign which resulted in the submission of a substantial section of the Moesi, Crassus again sought out the Bastarnae. Discovering their location from some peace envoys they had sent to him, he lured them into battle near the Tsibritsa by a stratagem. Hiding his main body of troops in a wood, he stationed as bait a smaller vanguard in open ground before the wood. As expected, the Bastarnae attacked the vanguard in force, only to find themselves entangled in the full-scale pitched battle with the Romans that they had tried to avoid. The Bastarnae tried to retreat into the forest but were hampered by the wagon-train carrying their women and children, as these could not move through the trees. Trapped into fighting to save their families, the Bastarnae were routed. Crassus personally killed their king, Deldo, in combat, a feat which qualified him for Rome's highest military honour, spolia opima, but Augustus refused to award it on a technicality.f[›] Thousands of fleeing Bastarnae perished, many asphyxiated in nearby woods by encircling fires set by the Romans, others drowned trying to swim across the Danube. Nevertheless, a substantial force did escape over the river and dug themselves into a powerful hillfort. Crassus laid siege to fort, but had to enlist the assistance of Rholes, the Getan petty king who ruled on the opposite bank, to dislodge them, for which service Rholes was granted the title of socius et amicus populi Romani ("ally and friend of the Roman people").[40]

The following year (28 BC), Crassus marched on Genucla. Petty king Zyraxes escaped with his treasure and fled over the Danube into Scythia to seek aid from the Bastarnae and Sarmatians.[41] But before he was able to bring reinforcements, Genucla fell to a combined land and fluvial assault by the Romans.[37] The strategic result of Crassus' campaigns was the permanent annexation of Moesia by Rome.

Roman imperial era (14 - 180)

The Res Gestae Divi Augusti ("Acts of the divine Augustus"), a self-congratulatory inscription commissioned by Augustus to list his achievements, states that he received an embassy from the Bastarnae seeking a treaty of friendship.[42] These would most likely have been the Peucini, who bordered on the empire. Such a treaty was seemingly remarkably effective, as the Bastarnae disappear, save for a single passing mention in Tacitus, from the Roman chronicles until ca. AD 175, some 160 years after Augustus' inscription was carved.[43] But the literary evidence for the history of this period is so thin that it cannot be excluded that the Bastarnae clashed with Rome during it.g[›] Most notably, it would be surprising if the Bastarnae had no involvement in the Dacian Wars of Domitian (86-8) and Trajan (101-2 and 105-6), since these took place in the lower Danube region and it is known that both sides were supported by neighbouring indigenous tribes. In the late 2nd century, the Historia Augusta mentions that in the rule of Marcus Aurelius (161-80), an alliance of lower Danube tribes including the Bastarnae, the Sarmatian Roxolani and the Dacian Costoboci took advantage of the emperor's difficulties on the upper Danube (the Marcomannic Wars) to invade Roman territory.[44]

3rd century

During the late 2nd century, the main ethnic change in the northern Black sea region was the immigration, from the Vistula valley in the North, of the Goths and accompanying Germanic tribes such as the Taifali and the Hasdingi, a branch of the Vandal people. This migration was part of a series of major population movements in the European barbaricum (the Roman term for regions outside their empire). The Goths appear to have established a loose political hegemony over the existing tribes in the region, or at least to have played the leading role in a series of major invasions of the empire launched by a grand coalition of lower Danubian tribes from ca. 238 onwards. The participation of the Bastarnae in these is likely but largely unspecified, due to Zosimus' and other chroniclers' tendency to lump all these tribes under the general term "Scythians" - meaning all the inhabitants of Scythia, rather than the specific people called the Scythians.[45] Thus, in 250-1, the Bastarnae were probably involved in the Gothic and Sarmatian invasions which culminated in the Roman defeat at the Battle of Abrittus and the slaying of the emperor Decius (251). This disaster was the start of the Third Century Crisis, a period of military and economic collapse which came close to destroying the empire. At this critical moment, the Roman army was crippled by the outbreak of a second smallpox pandemic, the plague of Cyprian (251-70). The effects are described by Zosimus as even worse than the earlier Antonine plague (166-80), which probably killed 15-30% of the empire's inhabitants.[46]

Taking advantage of Roman military disarray, a vast number of barbarian peoples overran much of the empire. The Sarmato-Gothic alliance of the lower Danube carried out major invasions of the Balkans region in 252, and in the periods 253-8 and 260-8.[47] The Peucini Bastarnae are specifically mentioned in the 267/8 invasion, when the coalition built a fleet in the estuary of the river Tyras (Dnieper). The Peucini Bastarnae would have been critical to this venture since, as coastal and delta dwellers, they would have had seafaring experience that the nomadic Sarmatians and Goths lacked. The barbarians sailed along the Black Sea coast to Tomis in Moesia Inferior, which they tried to take by assault without success. They then attacked the provincial capital Marcianopolis (Devnya, Bulg.), also in vain. Sailing on through the Bosporus, the expedition laid siege to Thessalonica in northern Greece. Driven off by Roman forces, the coalition host moved overland into Thracia, where finally it was crushed by emperor Claudius II (r. 268-70) at Naissus (269).[48]

Ultimate fate

Claudius II was the first of a sequence of military emperors (the so-called "Illyrian emperors" from their main ethnic origin) who restored order in the empire in the late 3rd century. These emperors followed a policy of large-scale resettlement within the empire of defeated barbarian tribes, granting them land in return for an obligation of military service much heavier than the usual conscription quota. The policy had the triple benefit, from the Roman point of view, of weakening the hostile tribe, repopulating the plague-ravaged frontier provinces (bringing their abandoned fields back into cultivation) and providing a pool of first-rate recruits for the army. But it could also be popular with the barbarian prisoners, who were often delighted by the prospect of a land grant within the empire. In the 4th century, such communities were known as laeti.[49] The emperor Probus (r. 276-82) is recorded as resettling 100,000 Bastarnae in Moesia, in addition to other peoples (Goths, Gepids and Vandals). The Bastarnae are reported to have honoured their oath of allegiance to the emperor, while the other resettled peoples mutinied while Probus was distracted by usurpation attempts and ravaged the Danubian provinces far and wide.[13][50] A further massive transfer of Bastarnae was carried out by emperor Diocletian (ruled 284-305) after he and his colleague Galerius defeated a coalition of Bastarnae and Carpi in 299.[51]. Such numbers may have amounted to a substantial proportion, if not all, of the Peucini Bastarnae: Victor claims that the Carpi resettled in Pannonia by Diocletian at the same time, together with those previously transferred by Aurelian, amounted to the entire Carpi tribe.[52]

The remaining Bastarnae of the Ukraine disappear into obscurity in the late empire. Neither of the main ancient sources for this period, Ammianus Marcellinus and Zosimus, mention the Bastarnae in their accounts of the 4th century, possibly implying the loss of their separate identity, presumably subsumed into the neighbouring Sarmatians or Goths. If the Bastarnae remained an identifiable group, it is highly likely that they participated in the vast Gothic-led migration, driven by Hunnic pressure, that was admitted into Moesia by emperor Valens in 376 and eventually defeated and killed Valens at Adrianople in 378. Zosimus consistently refers to the migrants as "Scythians" (unlike Ammianus, who refers to them as "Goths"), specifically stating at one point that, in addition, "Goths, Taifali and other tribes" were involved.[53]

However, after a gap of 150 years, there is a final mention of Bastarnae in the mid 5th century. In 451, the Hunnic leader Attila invaded Gaul with a large army which was ultimately routed at the Battle of Châlons by a Roman-led coalition under the general Aetius.[54] Attila's host, according to Jordanes, included contingents from the "innumerable tribes that had been brought under his sway."[55] One such were the Bastarnae, according to the Gallic nobleman Sidonius Apollinaris.[56] But the accuracy of Sidonius' list of Hunnic allies is doubtful, as he also gives the names of two Scythian tribes (the Neuri and Geloni) that were last mentioned in Ptolemy's Geographia some three centuries earlier.[57] According to E.A. Thompson, it is likely that Sidonius, whose purpose was to write a panegyric and not a history, simply added some spurious names to his list, including the Bastarnae. On the other hand, Thompson does accept that some peoples on the list are plausible e.g. Burgundians, Sciri and Franks.[58]


^ a: Peuce island: It is not possible to identify the exact location of this feature both because of the imprecision of ancient sources and the fact that the Danube delta configuration has changed greatly since ancient times, as well as expanding into the sea by ca. 20km. Peuce (from the classical Greek word for "pine") was also the name of a town, most likely on the island. Strabo states the the Danube had 7 mouths, the southernmost of which was known as the Hieron Stoma or "Sacred Mouth". Peuce town lay 120 stadia (ca. 22km) upriver from the "Sacred Mouth".[59] In other words, Peuce island was not a true island, but delta land delimited by river branches. Strabo's directions, allowing for the advance of the coastline, would place Peuce town near today's Mahmudia (Rom.), if the course of the southernmost branch of the Danube (called the Braţul Sfântu Gheorghe today) has not changed since ancient times.[60]
^ b: Peace terms after 2nd Macedonian War: The terms imposed on Philip V of Macedon in 196 BC were: (i) loss of all possessions outside Macedonia proper (Philip had previously ruled extensive territories in Greece, Thrace and Asia Minor); (ii) standing army limited to 5,000 men and no elephants; (iii) navy limited to 5 warships plus royal galley; (iv) reparation payment of 1,000 talents (ca. 26 tonnes) of silver, equivalent then to ca. 4 tonnes of gold. (In antiquity, silver was far more valuable than today: the gold/silver value ratio was ca. 1:7, compared to ca. 1:100 today); (v) prohibited from waging war outside his borders without the Roman Senate's permission[61]
^ c: Greek cities of Scythia Minor: The main ones were: Histria (Sinoe), Tomis, Callatis, Apollonia (Istria, Constanţa, Mangalia, Sozopol)[62]
^ d: Language of the Getae: There is controversy about whether the Getae were Dacian or Thracian speakers and whether those two languages were similar. Strabo claims that the Getans were Thracians.[63]. He adds that the Dacians spoke the same language as the Getae.[64] This gave rise to the hypothesis that Thracian and Dacian were essentially the same language (the Daco-Thracian theory). But the modern linguist Vladimir Georgiev disputes that Dacian and Thracian were closely related for various reasons, especially that Dacian and Moesian town names commonly end with the suffix -DAVA, while towns in Thrace proper generally end in -PARA. According to Georgiev, the language spoken by the Getae should be classified as "Daco-Moesian" and regarded as quite distinct from Thracian.[65] Support for the Daco-Moesian theory can be found in Dio, who confirms that the Moesians and Getae on the south bank of the Danube were Dacians.[66] But the scant evidence available for these two extinct languages does not permit any firm conclusions. For the dividing-line between the two placename forms, see the following map (lower map, scroll down): [1].
^ e: Roman annexation of Thrace: Thrace, the country between Macedonia and Moesia, was a Roman satellite-state ruled by a friendly native dynasty, the Odrysae. It was eventually annexed in AD 46, by the emperor Claudius (r. 41-54).[67]
^ f: Spolia opima: Crassus' feat, as Roman commander, of killing the enemy leader in combat arguably entitled him to the highest honour a Roman soldier could gain: the spolia opima (literally: "bountiful spoils", but this term may be a corruption of spolia optima, "supreme spoils"), the right to hang the armour stripped from the enemy leader in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius in Rome, in emulation of the Founder of Rome Romulus, a privilege granted only twice previously. But Crassus was denied the honour by Augustus on the technicality that he was not commander-in-chief of Roman forces at the time, a position claimed by Augustus himself.[2] Augustus also forbade Crassus to accept the honorary title of imperator ("supreme commander") from his troops, traditional for victorious generals. Instead, Augustus claimed the title for himself (for the 7th time).[68][69] Finally, although Dio states that Crassus was voted a Triumph in Rome by the Senate, there is no evidence in inscriptions of that year (27 BC) that it was actually celebrated. After his return to Rome, Crassus disappears from the record altogether, both epigraphic and literary. This is highly unusual in a relatively well-documented period for a person of such distinction who was still only about 33 years old. His tomb has not been found in the excavated Crassus family mausoleum in Rome. This official "air-brushing from history" may imply punitive internal exile to a remote location, similar to that inflicted on the contemporary poet, Ovid, who in AD 8, for an unknown offence, was ordered by Augustus to spend the rest of his life in Tomis (Constanţa) on the Black Sea. Ronald Syme points out the similarity of Crassus' removal from the official record with that of Cornelius Gallus, the contemporary disgraced governor of Egypt, who was recalled by Augustus for assuming inappropriate honours.[70]
^ g: Historical evidence for the early empire: The Julio-Claudian period and the subsequent Roman Civil War of 68-9 (until AD 69) is reasonably well-covered by Tacitus' Annales (although substantial parts are missing) and Historiae. But the loss of Tacitus' narrative for the entire Flavian period (69-96) and of Ammianus Marcellinus's continuation until 353, as well as of most of Dio Cassius's History (up to 229), leaves a massive gap in our knowledge of the political history of the early empire, which is only patchily filled by inferior chronicles such as the Historia Augusta, inscriptions and other evidence


  1. ^ Köbler *bhas
  2. ^ a b Dio LI.24.4
  3. ^ Strabo VII.5.2
  4. ^ a b Livy XL.58
  5. ^ Faliyeyev (2007) entries 3806, 3890
  6. ^ Todd (2004) 22-3
  7. ^ Tacitus G.43
  8. ^ See "Atlas of Ancient History", p.50 by Colin McEvedy for a historiographic discussion of this point
  9. ^ a b Strabo VII.3.17
  10. ^ Pliny NH IV.81
  11. ^ Tacitus G.46
  12. ^ Dio LI.23.3, 24.2
  13. ^ a b Zosimus I.34
  14. ^ cf. Historia Augusta Probus 18
  15. ^ a b Todd (2004) 23
  16. ^ Ptolemy III.5.9
  17. ^ Barrington Plate 22
  18. ^ Todd (2004) 24
  19. ^ Todd (2004) 23-4
  20. ^ Todd (2004) 26
  21. ^ A Mocsy. Pannonia and Upper Moesia
  22. ^ Livy XL.57
  23. ^ Livy XLI.19
  24. ^ Livy XLI.23 and XLII.12-4
  25. ^ Livy XLV.19
  26. ^ Smith's Dictionary: Curio
  27. ^ Smith's Dictionary: Lucullus
  28. ^ Strabo VII.3.11-12
  29. ^ Dio XXXVIII.10.2
  30. ^ Dio XXXVIII.10.3 and LI.26.5
  31. ^ Crişan (1978) 118
  32. ^ Strabo VII.3.5
  33. ^ Strabo VII.3.11
  34. ^ Dio LI.26.1
  35. ^ Res Gestae 30
  36. ^ Ptolemy
  37. ^ a b Dio LI.26.5
  38. ^ Dio LI.23.2
  39. ^ Dio LI.23.5
  40. ^ Dio LI.24
  41. ^ Dio LI.26.6
  42. ^ Res Gestae Aug. 31
  43. ^ Tacitus A.II.65
  44. ^ Historia Augusta Marcus Aurelius II.22
  45. ^ Wolfram (1988) 45
  46. ^ Zosimus I.16, 21
  47. ^ Zosimus I.16, 20, 21
  48. ^ Zosimus I.22-3
  49. ^ Jones (1964) 620
  50. ^ Historia Augusta Probus 18
  51. ^ Eutropius IX.25
  52. ^ Victor 39.43
  53. ^ Zosimus IV.104-7; 107
  54. ^ Jordanes 38-40
  55. ^ Jordanes 38
  56. ^ Sidonius Carmina 7.341
  57. ^ Ptolemy III.5
  58. ^ Thompson (1996) 149
  59. ^ Strabo VII.3.15
  60. ^ Times Atlas of the World Plate 79
  61. ^ Livy XXXIII.30
  62. ^ Strabo VII.6.1
  63. ^ Strabo VII.3.2
  64. ^ Strabo VII.3.13
  65. ^ Vladimir Georgiev (Gheorghiev), Raporturile dintre limbile dacă, tracă şi frigiană, "Studii Clasice" Journal, II, 1960, 39-58.
  66. ^ Dio LI.22.6-7
  67. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online Thrace
  68. ^ Dio LI.25.2
  69. ^ CIL VI.873
  70. ^ Syme (1986) 271-2




  • Barrington (2000): Atlas of the Greek and Roman World
  • Crişan, Ion (1978): Burebista and his Time
  • Faliyeyev, Alexander (2007): Dictionary of Continental Celtic Placenames (online)
  • Goldsworthy, Adrian (2000): Roman Warfare
  • Jones, A.H.M. (1964): Later Roman Empire
  • Köbler, Gerhard (2000): Indo-Germanisches Wörterbuch (online)
  • Thompson, E.A. (1996): The Huns
  • Todd, Malcolm (2004): The early Germans
  • Wolfram, Herwig (1988): History of the Goths

See also

Redirecting to Bastarnae


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