Integration trajectories of nomadic peoples in the Roman empire

Start - End 
2008 - 2014 (completed)
Department of History
Research Focus 
Research Period 



There is a general tendency in modern research to defend the perception of an almost “natural” disinclination of nomadic societies to various forms of integration in (sedentary) imperial systems. The main aim of the project is to verify this image, and to determine to what extent integration trajectories of various nomadic peoples in the Roman Empire during the Principate are actually marked by differentiation. Importantly, the project reconsiders the grand narrative of Romanization while simultaneously testing the application of post-colonial assertions of plurality and negotiation. Eventually, the analysis of political, socio-cultural and economic integration trajectories will make us draw conclusions regarding integration mechanisms of this particular segment of the empire’s population, as well as the character of Roman imperial rule towards these peoples. The different analytical sections will provide valuable insights in the relationships between the urban (/Roman) world and the nomads, which may have ranged from severe opposition to harmony and symbiosis. It will be investigated (why and) to what extent the Romans tried to implement the urban ideal on nomadic societies, and (why and) to what extent nomadic segments of the imperial population were reluctant to do so.

The project will comprise at least of two regional studies. The results obtained in the first research context (the North African provinces) will be compared with the situation in at least one other region (Syria & Judaea/Syria Palestina & Arabia Petraea). Can similar patterns of coexistence and oppositions be observed in the latter context, and how can the discrepancies – if there are any – be explained?

Considering the dearth of sources on many nomadic cultures of the Roman imperial period, sociological and social anthropological studies will be fairly important to understand the social, economic and political characteristics of nomadic societies. Thus, the study aims to engender a valuable dialogue between history and these other disciplines, for instance with respect to issues considering the assessment of dependency patterns between sedentary and nomadic groups, as well as the impact of a centralized (world-)empire on the nomadic communities it included and neighboured.



Phd Student(s)