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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Map showing Roman Dacia and surrounding peoples in 125 AD

Bastarnae (बस्तरने) were ancient Germanic peoples who inhabited areas north of the Roman frontier on the Lower Danube between 200 BC and 300 AD . The Bastarnae lived in the region between the Carpathian Mountains and the river Dnieper, to the north and east of ancient Dacia. In the third century, the Greek historian Dio Cassius states that the "Bastarnae are properly classed as Scythians" and "members of the Scythian race".[1] Likewise, the sixth-century historian Zosimus, reporting events around 280 AD, refers to "the Bastarnae, a Scythian people". [2] (Scythian Jats)


  • Latin: Bastarni (Greek: Βαστάρναι)
  • Latin: Basternae (Greek:Βαστέρναι)

Jat History

In the third century, the Greek historian Dio Cassius states that the "Bastarnae are properly classed as Scythians" and "members of the Scythian race".[3] (Scythian Jats)

Bastar is district in Chhattisgarh.


The earliest Graeco-Roman historians to refer to the Bastarnae imply that they spoke Celtic languages. In contrast, later historical sources imply that they spoke Germanic languages, and could be considered Germanic peoples. Like other peoples who lived in the same geographical region, Graeco-Roman writers also referred to the Bastarnae as a "Scythian" (Jats) people, but this was probably a reference to their general way of life, rather than a linguistic category.

Although largely sedentary, some elements may have adopted a semi-nomadic lifestyle. So far, no archaeological sites have been conclusively attributed to the Bastarnae. The archaeological horizons most often associated by scholars with the Bastarnae are the Zarubintsy and Poienesti-Lukashevka cultures.

The Bastarnae first came into conflict with the Romans during the first century BC when, in alliance with Dacians and Sarmatians, they unsuccessfully resisted Roman expansion into Moesia and Pannonia. Later, they appear to have maintained friendly relations with the Roman Empire during the first two centuries AD. This changed c. 180, when the Bastarnae are recorded as participants in an invasion of Roman territory, once again 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 that repeatedly invaded the Balkan provinces of the Roman Empire.

Many Bastarnae were resettled within the Roman Empire in the late third century.

Encyclopedia Britannica[4] mentions that ... Bastarnae, in Hellenistic and Roman times, large tribe settled in Europe east of the Carpathian Mountains from the upper valley of the Dniester River to the Danube River delta. The Bastarnae were used by the Macedonian kings Philip V and Perseus against their Thracian enemies and by Mithradates of Pontus against the Romans. The name Peucini, occasionally applied to the tribe, properly belonged only to part of it. Pliny and Tacitus, as well as recent archaeological discoveries, confirm the Germanic origins of the tribe. Subdued by the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus in 29 BC, the Bastarnae caused the Romans little trouble until the 3rd century AD, when they joined with other tribes in raiding Roman territory. The Roman emperor Probus then transplanted them to the southern bank of the Danube (AD 279–280).


The original homeland of the Bastarnae remains uncertain. Babeş and Shchukin argue in favour of an origin in eastern Pomerania on the Baltic coast of today's north-west Poland, on the grounds of correspondences in archaeological material, e.g. a Pomeranian-style fibula found in a Poieneşti site in Moldavia, [5] although Batty considers the evidence insufficient.[6] Babeş identifies the Sidoni, a branch of the Bastarnae which Strabo places north of the Danube delta[7] with the Sidini located by Ptolemy in Pomerania.[10]

Batty argues that Greco-Roman sources of the first century AD locate the Bastarnae homeland on the northern side of the Northern Carpathian mountain range, encompassing south-east Poland and south-west Ukraine (i.e. the region traditionally known as Galicia).[8] In one garbled passage Pliny located the Bastarnae "and other Germans" somehow near what is now northern Hungary and Slovakia.[9] In another he located them and the Peucini above the Dacians.[10] The Peutinger Map (produced ca. 400 AD, but including material from as early as the first century) shows the Bastarnae (mis-spelt Blastarni) north of the Carpathian mountains and appears to name the Galician Carpathians as the Alpes Bastarnicae.[11]

From Galicia, the Bastarnae expanded into the Moldavia and Bessarabia regions, reaching the Danube Delta. Strabo describes the Bastarnae as inhabiting the territory "between the Ister (the Danube) and the Borysthenes (the 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.[12] The second-century geographer Ptolemy states that the Carpiani or Carpi (believed to have occupied Moldavia) separated the Peucini from the other Bastarnae "above Dacia" (i.e. north of Dacia).[13]

It thus appears that the Bastarnae were settled in a vast arc stretching around the northern and eastern flanks of the Carpathians from south-east Poland to the Danube Delta. The larger group inhabited the northern and eastern slopes of the Carpathians and the region between the Prut and Dnieper rivers (modern-day Moldova/western Ukraine), while a separate group (the Peucini, Sidoni and Atmoni) dwelt in and north of the Danube Delta region. [14]

Ethno-linguistic affiliation

Scholars hold divergent theories about the ethnicity of the Bastarnae. One view, following what appears to be the most authoritative view among earliest scholars, is that they spoke a Celtic language.[15] However others hold that they were Scythian/Germanic,[16] or mixed Germanic/Sarmatian.[17] A fringe theory is that they were Proto-Slavic.[18] Shchukin argues that the ethnicity of the Bastarnae was unique and rather than trying to label them as Celtic, Germanic or Sarmatian, it should be accepted that the "Basternae were the Basternae".[19] Batty argues that assigning an "ethnicity" to the Bastarnae is meaningless; as in the context of the Iron Age Pontic-Danubian region, with its multiple overlapping peoples and languages, ethnicity was a very fluid concept, which changed rapidly and frequently, according to socio-political vicissitudes. That was especially true of the Bastarnae, who are attested over a relatively-vast area.[20]


Strabo includes the Roxolani, generally considered by scholars to have been a Sarmatian tribe, in a list of Bastarnae subgroups.[21]However, this may simply be an error due to the close proximity of the two peoples north of the Danube Delta.

In the third century, the Greek historian Dio Cassius states that the "Bastarnae are properly classed as Scythians" and "members of the Scythian race".[22] Likewise, the sixth-century historian Zosimus, reporting events around 280 AD, refers to "the Bastarnae, a Scythian people". [23] (Scythian Jats)

However, it appears that these late Greco-Roman chroniclers used the term "Scythian" without regard to language. The earliest Scythians were steppe nomads associated with Iranic languages, as were their successors the Sarmatians, who were also called Scythians, while classical authors such as Zosimus also routinely refers to the Goths, who were undoubtedly Germanic-speakers, as "Scythians".

It is possible that some Bastarnae may have been assimilated by the surrounding (and possibly dominant) Sarmatians, perhaps adopting their tongue (which belonged to the Iranian group of Indo-European languages) and customs. Thus Tacitus' comment that "mixed marriages are giving [the Bastarnae] to some extent the vile appearance of the Sarmatians".[24] On the other hand, the Bastarnae maintained a separate name until ca. 300 AD, probably implying retention of their distinctive ethno-linguistic heritage up to that time.[25] It seems likely, on balance, that the core population of Bastarnae had always been, and continued to be, Germanic in language and culture.

See also

External links


  1. Dio LI.23.3, 24.2
  2. Zosimus Historia Nova (c. 500 AD), I.34
  3. Dio LI.23.3, 24.2
  5. Shchukin, Mark (1989). Rome and the Barbarians in Central and Eastern Europe: 1st Century B.C.-1st Century A.D. B.A.R. ISBN 978-0-86054-690-0. 65-6, 71–2
  6. Batty, Roger (2008): Rome and the Nomads: the Pontic-Danubian region in Antiquity, p.248
  7. Strabo VII.3.17
  8. Batty (2008) 238
  9. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, English IV.25, Latin IV.xii.81
  10. Pliny the Elder, New History, IV.xiv.100 (Peucini, Basternae, supra dictis contermini Dacis)
  11. Batty (2008) 238
  12. Strabo VII.3.17
  13. Ptolemy III.5.9
  14. Barrington (2000): Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, Plate 22
  15. "Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 40, chapter 57".
  16. "LacusCurtius • Strabo's Geography — Book VII Chapter 2".
  17. "Cornelius Tacitus, Germany and its Tribes, chapter 46".
  18. Trubačev INDOARICA в Северном Причерноморье, pp. 212–3
  19. Shchukin, Mark (1989). Rome and the Barbarians in Central and Eastern Europe: 1st Century B.C.-1st Century A.D. B.A.R. ISBN 978-0-86054-690-0. p.10
  20. Batty (2008), 243.
  21. Strabo VII.3.17
  22. Dio LI.23.3, 24.2
  23. Zosimus Historia Nova (c. 500 AD), I.34
  24. Tacitus G.46
  25. cf. Historia Augusta Probus 18