The paper will be delivered at the late antique seminar, on Thursday, 27 April, at 4.45 p.m., in the library of the Department of Papyrology (Faculty of Law building, Collegium Iuridicum I) on the main campus.
Drawing upon case studies from geographical texts and from the Tabula Peutingeriana, the paper aims to analyse the richness and the adaptability of ethnographic nomenclatures at the disposal of Late Antique and Early Medieval mapmakers, geographers and orators. Due to the vague definition of geography as a discipline and widespread lexical conservatism, authors describing the barbarian peoples could easily blur distinctions between genres, historical events and even languages. In Late Antique geographical works the names of coeval gentes sit alongside names of groups that had long disappeared from historiographical records, as well as monstrous races such as dog-headed or all-ears-men. Ethnonyms with mythological origins or a telling etymology triggered readers’ imagination and recalled familiar literary commonplaces capable of conjuring images of distant places. The examination of several passages from Late Antique geographical treaties and of some sections of the Tabula Peutingeriana will shed light on the way ethnonyms function as conceptual tools in structuring and reinforcing ethnic discourses and political agendas.