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  • D01

    Comparing in Ethnographic Thought of Antiquity – The Roman Age to Late Antiquity (1th – 7th Century AD)

    Römisches Münzenpaar aus der Zeit des Kaisers Trajan
    © The Trustees of the British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (

D01 (B04) | Comparing in Ethnographic Thought of Antiquity – The Roman Age to Late Antiquity (1th – 7th Century AD)


The second phase further elaborates and extends the perspectives elaborated for Greek ethnography with regard to the development and function of comparison to actors within the Roman Empire from the first century AD to the Late Christian and Byzantine periods (7th century AD). The study enquires into the extent to which, with the establishment and, in Late Antiquity, the power-political reduction of the Imperium Romanum together with the formation of new communities of practice (Roman military, Christian writers as well as functionaries and their respective audiences), ethnographic practices of comparing also underwent transformations on the micro- and meso-levels; the study goes on to enquire whether these transformations, for their part, both reacted to and influenced historical change. Here, focus is placed on the prose texts of Roman historians as well as Christian authors (ecclesiastical history, the vitae of the saints); these are then compared with the most important early Byzantine historians. Experience has revealed that the triad of audience expectation, intellectual-social milieus and the explanation of new ethnographic practices of comparing, of no less importance for the research question of this project, may be reconstructed more fruitfully in historiographical works than, for example, in the field of political rhetoric, the novels of the Imperial period or poetry. Ultimately, historiography is a genre spanning epochs ranging from the early Imperial through to the early Byzantine periods; this not only facilitates the determination of longer-term conjunctures of comparison in relation to politico-military changes, but also permits tracing the consolidation of practices of comparing at the meso level, some of which continued to exert an impact on the modern era.

Project Management

© Philipp Ottendörfer

Raimund Schulz

Academic Co-worker

© Philipp Ottendörfer

Marthe Becker

© Philipp Ottendörfer

Malte Speich

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