Caius Iulius Solinus, Latin grammarian and compiler from the third century AD, wrote a curious sentence in his work Collectanea rerum memorabilium or Polyhistor. Solinus in 2.51 called the Liburni, indigenous group that inhabited part of the northeastern coast of the Adriatic – “Asiatic people” (… per Liburnos, quae gens Asiatica est). The scholarship never took this statement seriously as its historical inaccuracy is beyond any doubt in both written and material evidence. However, the very same historical inaccuracy prevented a more substantial analysis of this statement in the scholarship, making it just one of (quite a) few of Solinus’ bizarre statements. The paper will use available written sources to explore the reasoning behind this statement. The analysis will show that Solinus was not inventing fairy tales but was utilizing existing Graeco-Roman ethnographic ‘knowledge’ about this part of the world, and the Liburni in particular. This ‘knowledge’ was in its essence inter-textual and orientalizing, combining descriptive literary techniques and information gathered through different phases of cultural contact with indigenous population in order to construct a ‘barbarian other’. The statement about Asian origins of the Liburni does not have factual accuracy but is still extremely useful as it reveals insight into some of the ways indigenous communities from the eastern Adriatic coast were perceived by the ancient Greek and Roman intellectual elite.
- Caius Iulius Solinus
- ancient ethnography