"Dezidijati": Identitetski konstrukt između antičkih i suvremenih percepcija

Translated title of the contribution: The Daesitiates: The Identity-construct between contemporary and ancient perceptions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper discusses the ancient identity known from the sources as the Daesitiates. The crucial question that this paper raises is: what is hidden behind the term Daesitiates? Is this term a construct of the ancient sources and modern interpretations, or did it exist once as a historical “reality”, and whose reality did that term represent? Currently the prevailing scholarly opinion is that the Daesitiates represented an ethnic or proto-ethnic community, which developed through different stages of social organisation from the late Bronze Age throughout the Iron Age to the arrival of the Romans in the fi rst century BC, ultimately becoming a “people” or a “people-making community”. The existing sources are analysed against the contexts in which they existed: the pre-Roman Iron Age arhaeological culture (Central-Bosnian culture) and the written and epigraphic sources. The archaeology shows the existence of a specifi c kind of regional identity, but it does not provide evidence for the assumption that a unifi ed identity-discourse existed in the pre-Roman era. Although the region is insuffi ciently explored, a few things might be deducted from the existing knowledge. The settlement pattern of known hillforts (gradine) shows a few different zones of habitation positioned around arable land and natural communications – usually the valleys of the rivers. Burial customs are partially known only from the Visoko-Breza sub-region and do not necessarily refl ect the whole region, which is ascribed to this archaeological culture. The earlier dated Vratnica-Donji Skladovi necropole presents an inhumated group burial of warriors without visible social differences, while in the recently published and later dated Kamenjača-Breza necropolis it is possible to detect gradual social differentiations. The written sources, Appian, Strabo, Velleius Paterculus and Cassius Dio, mention a group called the Daesitiates in relation to the events from the time of the Roman conquest in the late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD. Appian mentions a group of the Daisioi (Desii) in the context of Octavian’s expedition into Illyricum in 35-33 BC, as one of his most formidable opponents. Although the scholarship assumes links between the Daisioi and Daesitiates which were known from the later bellum Batonianum, from this mention it is impossible to determine with absolute certainty whether these Daisioi were related to the later Daesitiates. The other sources mention a group of the Daesitiates in regards to the events from the bellum Batonianum of AD 6 – 9. Dio notes that one of the leaders of the uprising, the Dalmatian Bato was “of Daesitiates”, Velleius Paterculus knew that the Daesitiates and Pirustae were located in the central part of the Dalmatian province, while Strabo saw the Daesitiates as one of the Pannonian ethne whose leader was Bato. It cannot be concluded from the works of Velleius or Dio who were the Daesitiates they mentioned: including the people, family, class, or regional identity. Strabo on the other hand saw the Daesitiates as a political identity, one of the barbarian ethne from central Dalmatia. Finally, the Daesitiates were mentioned by Pliny the Elder as one of the Roman administrative peregrine civitates in the Naronitan conventus of the Dalmatian province. The epigraphic evidence mentioning the Daesitiates exists in a few different contexts. Dollabela’s inscription from Solin dated AD 19/20 mentions (He) dum castellum Daesitiatum, indicating the existence of the central stronghold of this group. Other inscriptions mention individuals carrying administrative functions inside Roman civitas: the Roman military praefect and indigenous princeps. Finally, one military diploma from Herculaneum and a tombstone from the military camp in Tilurium (Gardun) record the administrative identities of soldiers, in accordance with the prevailing custom of the Roman army. This paper concludes that the earlier scholarship used contextually and chronologically different clusters of sources in order to construct the ethnicity of the Daesitiates. The archaeological evidence shows an indigenous Iron age culture. The written sources refl ect the perception of the barbarian “other” from outside observers who are not concerned with establishing an “objective” ethno91 graphic taxonomy. Finally, the epigraphic evidence mostly refl ects the existence of the Roman peregrine civitas mentioned in Pliny, not ethnicity. From the other comparative studies of similar communities in continental Europe it is possible to establish a new view on the origins and different aspects of this identity. The Daesitiates were probably one of the political alliances that were formed from the local communities in the future province of Dalmatia as a reponse to Roman imperialism in the late 2nd or 1st century BC, which initially had no sense of a common identity. The existence of these political alliances infl uenced Roman perception and written sources to etnicise them, assuming that those identities existed in a timeless and ahistoric vacuum of “barbarian” societies. The establishment of a peregrine civitas institutionalised the perception of Daesitiate ethnicity inside provincial structures. After a certain time these changes resulted in the establishment of the Daesitiate identity, which was in later antiquity transformed into municipal identitites and a provincial Dalmatian identity.
Translated title of the contributionThe Daesitiates: The Identity-construct between contemporary and ancient perceptions
Original languageCroatian
Pages (from-to)75-96
Number of pages22
JournalGodišnjak : Centra za Balkanološka ispitivanja
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'The Daesitiates: The Identity-construct between contemporary and ancient perceptions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this