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date: 30 September 2022

migration and mobilityfree

migration and mobilityfree

  • Elena Isayev
  •  and George Baroud


There is no one discrete term in the ancient world that is equivalent to modern conceptions of “migration” today. Although the English term “migration” is derived from the Latin migratio, English usage, meaning a move across a national border for the purpose of permanent residence, dates to 18th-century North America. In ancient Greece and Rome, there was a wide-ranging vocabulary that referred to a variety of practices relevant to human mobility, and this reflects the cultural, legal, political, and other assumptions and practices surrounding movement idiosyncratic to each society and time period. How migration is conceptualized and practiced is therefore historically specific rather than universal, and we must be careful not to retroject contemporary, anachronistic attitudes, prejudices, and assumptions about migration and migrants onto the past. In the Classical world, for example, there was no equivalent to the national border and its sophisticated apparatus used to control civilian movement. This does not mean that ancient society was necessarily more inclusive, or disinterested in managing populations, but rather that there were different modes of understanding inclusivity, methods of control, and the way that geopolitical space related to these. This signals a different spatial perception from our own, and with it a particular relationship between community and land. As an object of study, migration poses unique challenges: evidence for migration is complex, spread over literary, archaeological, and epigraphic sources, and sometimes based on speculative demographic models. Further, what “counts” as migration is itself a theoretical question subject to interpretation. Realizing this affects how we investigate contingent questions about the agency of the mobile, displacement, or journey endings, not only in relation to antiquity, but in general.


  • Ancient Geography

Updated in this version

Article rewritten to reflect current scholarship.

Migration and Movement: Terminologies and Concepts

The fact that some people move and seek new homes is no more exceptional than the fact that some people do not. Yet, in the 21st century, as at other historical junctures, the former—termed migration—is perceived as a distinct practice outside the norm which is an identifiable object of measurement, control, and inquiry. But is there reason to believe that it was objectified similarly in the ancient world?

Although scholars used to believe that ancient societies were local, “face-to-face” communities, there is now a consensus that ancient Greece and Rome were deeply characterized by migration and movement, hence expanding the meaning of local. Nevertheless, almost every aspect of ancient migration remains a subject of scholarly debate: the numbers of those who moved; their status (free or enslaved, citizen or soldier); the socioeconomic, gender, ethnic, and other identities of migrants; the distances they travelled (whether migration was regional or long-distance); the duration of their sojourn (permanent, seasonal, temporary); their reasons for migration (labour, politics, military service); and whether their migration was volitional or not. Indeed, even the definition of migration is subject to scholarly debate, contingent on how we theorize and understand the categories above—whether, for example, we can meaningfully call an enslaved person forcefully transferred to a new region a migrant. Difficulties that confront this scholarly debate are compounded by differences in terminologies between the contemporary world and the Greek and Roman worlds, and by the fact that attitudes and practices in the ancient world—as today—were dynamic and changed over time. There can thus be no one definition of migration that adequately explains the practices within both the Greek and Roman spheres over the duration of their histories.

For these reasons we avoid a positivistic approach that quantifies, and offer here instead a meta-scholarly approach that explains the methodological challenges and opportunities of studying ancient migration, as well as what is at stake in any such discussion. Moreover, the discourse of migration intersects with those of travel, citizenship, demography, colonization, borders, and economic mobility, which, along with others, form discrete subjects of historical analysis and are discussed in depth in other entries of the OCD. Furthermore, the examples we provide here are by no means comprehensive, and more details about trends can be found in other entries on migration and mobility that deal with specific time periods and aspects of human movement. Hence, for example, we do not explore in depth issues of voluntary vs. involuntary mobility, push-pull factors, and rural-urban mobile trends, which are taken up in Holleran’s entry on economic mobility. What we offer here is rather the context within which other studies and inquiries into ancient world themes can be located, in order to help shape ongoing explorations and new questions in writing history from the perspective of movement rather than stasis.

In the surviving ancient sources from the Graeco-Roman world, there seems little interest in human mobility as a category or a topic in itself, nor is it articulated as a distinct entity separate from the practices of the everyday, such as colonization, slavery, or trade. Migration in this sense does not appear as a concern in terms of security, nor is it targeted for management, regulation, or control. Indeed, the English usage of the term “migration,” meaning a move across a national border for the purpose of permanent residence, is in fact relatively recent, dating to 18th-century North America. It presupposes the existence of national boundaries, national citizenship, and a nation-state—all anachronistic to ancient Greece and Rome.1 The term “migration” itself derives from the Latin migratio, and its derivatives, which originally meant “to remove” or “to change one’s abode.” But despite the close resemblance of the English to the Latin term, their semantic ranges are discrete, each reflecting their unique conceptions—the cultural, legal, and political practices that pertain to human movement and mobility in each tradition. It is not only the concept of migration that is elusive in the ancient context—as distinct from mobility, which is pervasive—but also the generic term “migrant.” Neither ancient Greek nor Latin has a single category for all those on the move that is comparable to “migrant” in English.2

In ancient Greek, a whole range of terms convey ideas of migrancy, but with significantly varying implications: xenos is a guest who is sometimes a “foreigner” or “outsider” (although initially the term could also be used to mean “host”). Metoikos, mostly associated with Classical Athens, is a “resident alien” or a “settler from abroad” and eventually becomes a legal status that recognizes outsiders and refers both to Greeks from external city-states and to non-Greeks as well.3 Alētēs is a “wanderer” in Homer or a “beggar” in tragedy; apoikos (“one who is away from their home”) is a “settler” or “colonist” (comparable to the English “emigrant”) and epoikos usually means an “alien” or “colonist” (comparable to “immigrant”), although these terms can be used interchangeably. The word metanastēs (“one who moves/is removed from their home”) signifies a wanderer, migrant, or fugitive, and is often used pejoratively. Other notable terms include apolis (“without a polis”), apopolis (“away from one’s polis”), hiketēs (“suppliant”), and phugas (“exile,” “refugee”), although the lexical boundaries between these terms is also grey. Although these terms cover our term “refugee,” some (e.g., apolis) can also refer both to voluntary or involuntary migration (like both “migrant” and “exile”).4

In Latin, the noun migratio is rare. It is used only a handful of times by Cicero and Seneca, twice by Livy, and once by Petronius (e.g., Cic. Tusc. 1.27, 98; Fam. 9.8.2, 16.17.1; Sen. Dial. 12.6.8; Ep. 69.1, 108.20; Livy 5.53.4, 41.8.12; Petron. Sat. 113.4). In Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations and Seneca’s works it is mostly used to mean a change of state or a passage of the soul from life to death, although Cicero also uses the term in reference to a change of residence (Fam. 9.8.2; Cael. 18). In Livy’s Book 5, Camillus uses it in his speech against “migrating” from Caere to Veii. More common in Latin texts is the verb migrare and its derivates. Republican usage of migrare did not differentiate between moving within one’s own state or community and moving away to a foreign one, nor was the motion perceived as a single or one-directional event. The word’s various derivatives, already present in the earliest Latin texts of the 3rd century bce, seem largely interchangeable. These were not used to articulate distance, duration, or border crossing. In the Latin comedies of Plautus, which depict a perpetually mobile world, they are used to describe a move next door, a colony, or a journey overseas. The most frequently used form is commigrare—a move to a different residence with one’s family and belongings. But emigrare or migrare could equally express the same kind of move.

In Latin there were various terms to refer to an individual who is mobile or an incomer: hospes for a friendly outsider, hostis for an outside enemy. Incola originally simply means an inhabitant but then comes to signify a legal status for resident aliens, roughly equivalent to the Greek metoikos. Externus designated someone who belongs to the outside, like “foreigner”; alienigena meant “foreign-born”; alienus or ignotus identified someone as being unknown; but peregrinus was the most common term used to mean a person from elsewhere. Advena referred to someone who arrives to a place, like “foreigner,” “stranger,” or “alien.” These terms could apply to Roman citizens and non-citizens alike—they simply distinguished an incomer from an inhabitant. Transitor—literally meaning one who goes over or is a passer-by—is the Latin term that comes closest to the English term “migrant,” but it only emerged at the end of the Roman Imperial period, developing over the course of the Middle Ages. A reference to someone as transitor, which was then associated with vagrancy, contains a pejorative connotation in the same way as “migrant” often does today. The terminology signals a change in the positioning of those on the move and an interest in forms of control.

Before Passports, National Borders, and Territory

This brief lexical overview hints at the methodological challenges of using the term “migration” as a category for analyzing and understanding ancient practices. First, defining migration even in contemporary society remains controversial, and the boundaries between migrants, expatriates, and travellers are ambiguous or sometimes arbitrary. Second, the range of ancient terminology related to migrancy hints at the limitations of using the category of “migration” to refer to ancient practices surrounding human movement. Although there may be some overlap between ancient and contemporary terms, each word has a specific meaning and nuances. Nor are these fixed; they are dynamic and evolve over time to reflect changing laws and societies. More importantly, even the provided definitions themselves are in some cases tentative or debatable, the result of analysis and interpretation of literary and legal documents and historical evidence.

Differences in language between ancient Greek, Latin, and English are indicative of political, institutional, and cultural differences with regard to migrancy. In the ancient world, the category of “migrant” as it exists today was not especially meaningful, and it was certainly not set in opposition to “citizen.” Unlike in modern nation-states, there were no systematic, uniform, universally enforced laws governing human circulation, and any laws or norms that did exist were not static.5 Furthermore, there were a variety of rules, regulations, and documents, but these tended to be for specific contexts, such as conflict or trade, and were inconsistently enforced, often on an ad hoc basis when the need arose.

For example, there was no lexical or institutional equivalent in the Roman world for a single state-issued document that established a citizen’s identity, proved their citizenship, and permitted them to travel, as passports do today. This does not mean that no documentation to prove identity (or citizenship) existed, only that there were multiple ways to do so, both “official” (or “state-issued”) and “unofficial” (designated by one’s social network), and the documents themselves did not necessarily constitute proof. We know that tokens such as the tessera hospitalis, which already circulated in the Archaic period, were created between two people as a contract of hospitality and allowed for recognition of each other even decades into the future (see Plaut. Poen. 1047–1055 for a demonstration of its use).6 Roman citizens who were registered at birth would receive a wooden diptych as a certificate of citizenship, but this was introduced by Augustus as late as 4 ce, and both Sherwin-White’s and Gardner’s works underscore the unreliability of such documents.7 As for movement, there was no one specific document that “permitted” a free person from within the empire to move in the empire, although there were a variety of documents that might be used depending on the status and identity of the person or the nature of their travel: tokens for travel included the legatio libera, a commeatus, or a diploma (for Roman officials), or a permissum for non-citizens from outside the Roman sphere.8 We have still to understand how people who were enslaved or tethered in other ways, including hostages, were able to move around independently. Moreover, there were no national borders or migration controls as they exist today: the nature of the border depended on Rome’s (diplomatic) relationship to the non-Roman peoples, and what border control did exist (often defined as viewed from the sea, e.g., promontories) was usually restricted to extracting customs taxes rather than regulating migration.9 This does not mean that ancient society was necessarily more inclusive, or uninterested in managing populations, but rather that there were different modes of understanding inclusivity, methods of control, and the way that geo-political space related to such management.

Both in the various ancient Greek city-states and in Rome, regulation of mobility was thus not part of a program to control migration and human movement as such (“migrants” being an imperfect and anachronistic category anyway) but was usually linked with a person’s status or their social function in particular contexts. This could sometimes create surprising combinations of people whose movement was controlled: political or religious authorities (magistrates, administrators), soldiers, traders, exiles, and enslaved people. In such instances, regulation and control was not part of a universal policy surrounding migration but a means for the state to exert hegemony over martial, economic, and political affairs: managing elite behaviour, especially elite access to sensitive provinces; taxing goods; ensuring soldiers remained at their posts; or controlling the movement of political dissidents or outcasts. Movement may also have been inhibited for social reasons, such as those relating to issues of age, gender, marital status, or sacral duties.

How appropriate, then, is our terminology to a time some two thousand years ago when key elements of mobility appear to be missing? How do we understand its meaning in a world where state territory was not circumscribed and boundaries were differently conceived—lacking the kind of physical presence that could be traced on the space of the modern map? Boundaries did exist, but these were of status, between citizen and non-citizen for example, and their relationship to any specific territorial entity was ambiguous. Ancient society made a distinction between accessing the land and accessing the membership privileges (such as those of citizenship) of the community that occupied that land. Hence the possibility of gaining the status of a metic (resident alien) who had certain privileges and duties in 5th-century bce Athens, but without citizenship.10 Centuries later, the Roman statesman Cicero, in his De officiis (3.11.47), expressed the distinction more explicitly, by stating that while “it is right not to permit the rights of citizenship to one who is not a citizen . . . to debar foreigners from using the city is clearly inhuman.”11 Both actions he refers to were the result of political infighting rather than any xenophobic or anti-migrant (in our sense of the word) policies. The separation of status from land was to change with the onset of the nation state, with its resulting “trinity of state-people-territory,” as Hannah Arendt referred to it.12 It created a particular form of statelessness, in which the dimension of physical placed-ness became part of the difficulty in accessing human rights.13 It also created a sense of attachment to the land as elemental and migration as exceptional.

The ancient Mediterranean was a world of city-states, empires, areas of hegemony, and regional powers, with conceptions of value attached to the land (which was administratively or fiscally defined, and at times sacred) that were different from the territoriality of nation-states. This was also a period that had no regional maps to scale on which the borders of such entities could be drawn. Depictions of the known world, such as the 4th-century ce Peutinger map, reveal an interest in the dynamism of the journey and in connectivities and place-moments, not in the landmass nor any abstract Euclidian space.14 They do not provide a spatial framework—like the gridded maps of today—with empty spaces onto which new locations can be plotted within delineated territory.15 Studies of ancient mobility challenge prevailing conceptions of a natural tie to the land and a demographically settled world, showing that much human mobility was ongoing and cyclical.16

Recent Historiography of Migration

Ancient authors were themselves interested in, and often wrote about, human movement: a text as early as the Odyssey focuses on a journey across an expansive and indeterminate geographic space; Herodotus’s inquiries take him across his known world, and Thucydides discusses migrations in the opening chapters of his Peloponnesian War. Using such narratives, scholars in Classics have been preoccupied with the specific subject of human movement in antiquity for at least two centuries. Whether we think of comparative linguists, tracing and attempting to explain connections between Indo-European languages or the dialects of ancient Greek; scholars of religion and myth, seeking to account for references to gods with “foreign” origins, such as Dionysus; military historians, studying the movement of soldiers during imperial campaigns; epigraphers, focused on inscriptions—bilingual or otherwise—in so-called “peripheral” spaces, such as North Africa or Roman Britain; or, more recently, scholars studying ethnicity and otherness, human movement is central to the subject of study. But although all such research includes a study of migration or human movement, this tends not to be their primary analytical focus.

Migration as a subject of formal study dates back at least to Ernst Ravenstein, who in 1885 posited several “laws of migration,” including (a) that migrants move short distances, (b) that economic factors are the major cause of migration, and (c) that men migrate more than women.17 Although many of these laws are now challenged, they became a standard typology, and it was thus taken as self-evident by scholars that ancient societies were “static” and that ancient peoples remained regional. On this view, further advanced by Zelinsky, migration was a feature of modernized, industrial society, when it was thought that the need for migration, usually for labour, and the infrastructure for facilitating movement first emerged.18 The attempt to formally classify various types of migration was taken up once again in 1978 by Charles Tilly, among whose contributions was the distinction between “migration” (longer distances) and “mobility” (shorter distances).19 But it was not until the early 1990s that the study of migration intensified in earnest, with scholars of Early Modern Europe leading the way in challenging established paradigms to revolutionize how we understand pre-modern migration. In 1992, Leslie Moch published Moving Europeans, in which she focused on migration in Western Europe between 1650 and the 1980s to demonstrate that pre-industrial society was mobile rather than static.20 Since then, the study of migration has grown, informed by (and in turn shaping) the “culture wars” of the 1990s and beyond. Thus Myron Weiner argues in The Global Migration Crisis: Challenge to States and to Human Rights that multiculturalism (here the consequence of migration) is a threat to society (a position already implied in the title of the work), while Adrian Favell’s work has argued that mobility is the norm in human history.21 Such polar attitudes have also characterized discussions in Classics—for example, those surrounding the fall of the Roman empire: scholars such as Peter Heather and Bryan Ward-Perkins maintain a “clash of civilizations” narrative whereby migrations of Germanic tribes destabilized Rome, while Walter Goffart, Michael Kulikowski, and Mischa Meier have sought to undermine the notion of a stable, or discrete, Germanic identity and have resisted attributing Roman state collapse to the migration of these peoples.22

Classical scholarship, inspired by a nascent “Migration Studies” and discussions of migrations by historians of Early Modern Europe, has begun to make its own contributions. In Classics, a milestone work that considered human movement explicitly was Horden and Purcell’s The Corrupting Sea.23 Influenced by the work of Fernand Braudel and building on world-systems theory, this study centres on the Mediterranean region as a unique nexus of connectivity and mobility to argue for a highly fluid and mobile ancient society full of economic and social exchange.24

Since then, the study of migration in the ancient world has continued to flourish.25 This subject has often been closely connected to the study of demography, since our understanding of human movement is in part predicated on population size, mortality, and fertility. Discussions of Roman demography are indebted to Peter Brunt’s pioneering Italian Manpower, especially for its estimates of the size of the Roman population.26 Walter Scheidel’s studies developed a demographic, quantitative model for population transfers in the Roman Republic: Scheidel argued for a low number of citizens in Rome and contended that Roman imperialism accounted for the vast proportion of human movement, particularly in the form of state-sponsored resettlement programs and the circulation of enslaved peoples, and that most people who moved within the empire did so against their will.27 Other scholars have presented a variety of push and pull factors encouraging centripetal migration to Rome itself, and have incorporated thinking about the extent of individual mobility beyond state-organized mass mobility processes and events. Relevant facts include low birth rates in Rome; high urban mortality (the “urban graveyard” theory, explored by Hin, who also analyzes the relationship between demography, gender, and migration); the urban need for labour; or a rural-urban dichotomy whereby unskilled workers, or seasonally unemployed men from the countryside, might be attracted to labour prospects in the city.28 Greg Woolf argues that most people in the Roman world were “stayers” rather than “movers,” i.e., that the majority of people stayed close to home rather than moving further away, but that, although movement was limited, its influence was far-reaching.29 Woolf also argues that, in contrast with other ancient empires, which moved people wholesale, the Roman empire moved specific categories of people, distinguishing between individual agents (who moved slaves) and the state (which moved soldiers).30

Other notable studies include those of Noy, focusing on the evidence for “foreigners” at Rome and reasons for them to migrate there; Tacoma, who offers a recent full-length study of migration to Rome during the principate; and Isayev, who analyzes pre-Imperial mobility, especially attitudes toward it, as well as the extent to which it was an everyday phenomenon in both the literary and the material evidence.31 In so doing, Isayev interrogates the very terms that we use, exposing those that reflect contemporary rather than ancient categories and conceptions— they impact on how we interpret the creation and disappearance of settlements in light of mobility. Isayev’s work also considers what it meant to be “out of place” in antiquity, particularly with reference to refuge and hospitality.32 The work of Claudia Moatti is helps thinking about how citizenship, security, border control, and documentation interact with mobility during the Roman Empire.33

As for ancient Greece, helpful studies include those of Osborne, who argues for high rates of mobility, Malkin, on Greek colonization and network theory, and Robert Garland, who examines various kinds of mobility across multiple categories of ancient Greek society.34 A number of important edited collections on the topic of migration have also been published both in Classics and other disciplines. These include those of Lucassen and Lucassen (framed by a discussion focused on free versus unfree migration as well as the relationship between labour and migration), Lucassen, Lucassen, and Manning (who note that the initial focus of migration studies was either Europe or the transatlantic region, and that it was only subsequently that this phenomenon was studied on a global scale), de Ligt and Tacoma (who trace the scholarly interest in migration studies over the last twenty-five years, and explore how Roman historians have responded to—and built on—this work), and Lo Cascio and Tacoma.35 More recent studies encompassing migration patterns over extended periods include such edited volumes as Meller et al. on migration and integration, Amiri’s collection of studies on religious mobility and intersections, and Daniels’s edited volume on diverse ways of modelling mobility.36

Increasingly these and other studies have shown that there were high levels of mobility in the ancient world, whether individually or en masse. From a long historical perspective, such studies of the Mediterranean as those of Broodbank and Horden and Purcell bring together multiple investigations, especially of the material remains, demonstrating dynamic networks that go back millennia into prehistory.37 Evidence from other historical periods show the extent to which ongoing mobility was part of everyday life and was built into how society functioned. This is visible as much in qualitative analysis of material and written evidence as in more quantitative demographic approaches.38 In-depth studies of administrative and legal mechanisms, especially of the Roman Imperial period, such as those by Moatti, Kaiser, and Pébarthe, have shown the ancient world’s flexibility in coordinating flows of people, and have demonstrated that dichotomies of mobile and sedentary are not helpful in understanding the nature of movement at that time: their work demonstrates that any regulation of movement needs to be seen not in terms of keeping foreigners out or reducing mobility, but as part of negotiations and relationships between different categories of people, and the role each played in society.39

Who’s Counting? Statistics, Numbers, and Bio-archaeology

As already mentioned, there is nothing surviving within the ancient Mediterranean record that resembles immigration statistics, and there is little evidence for the presence of any state-boundary checkpoints where such data could have been collected, despite a sophisticated system of commercial treaties, taxation, and trade duties which required monitoring and reporting.40 The preoccupation with measuring and limiting human flows is a modern phenomenon and, as many scholars have stressed, the current 21st-century refugee “crisis” is not one of numbers but of politics. The ancient boundaries that were difficult to cross were not physical but those of status—especially that between enslaved and free—and managing immigration would have made little sense in this period. For those who were forced to abandon their homes either through exile, expulsion, flight, or capture, the pressing issue was the inability to return rather than the desire to find another place of settlement. It is what we today refer to as displacement (or de-placement).41 Yet ancient governing authorities were less concerned with how to keep civilian foreigners out than with how to control their own subjects and keep them from moving for long enough to tax them and recruit them into the army.

If not migration or the migrant as understood today, what elements of human mobility is it that we are looking for in the historical record, especially one where written sources may be lacking? Is it:

rates of people on the move?

societal frameworks that enhanced, compelled, or suppressed human flows?

diverse modes and moments of intensity of the movement?

perceptions of mobility and of those leaving or arriving?

categories of classification related to im/mobility?

The biggest challenge in addressing these questions with respect to antiquity is the visibility of people on the move – who are difficult track. The most prominent and traceable migration events in our material and written records are mass mobility events. We know about them in part because they are largely state-initiated, in the form of colonies or relocations of enemies, soldiers, slaves, and veterans. Yet this is only one form of migration event: others were made up of individual and small-group movements. These more quotidian non-state-initiated mobilities are more difficult to track, but cumulatively may make up the majority of movements at any given time. While rates of mobility are difficult to capture, what evidence there is nevertheless suggests that they were relatively high. The figures for ancient Italy for example, drawn from census and other data, indicate that the total number of individual migratory movements over the last two centuries bce could have been as high as forty million.42 Estimates of the number of male Romans over the age of forty-five who were born somewhere other than their place of residence are in the range of 30%.43 Additional forms of evidence, including material remains, suggest that at any one time a quarter or even a third of a community’s population may have consisted of outsiders.44

The most concrete and distinct indications that people at a particular site came from elsewhere are material: those left by the environment in the fabric of the body, deposited in the bones and teeth. Stable isotope analysis, with its potential to provide a geographic location at birth and at death, along with other bio-archaeological data, can expose elements of an individual’s mobility history.45 Examples of isotopic studies carried out in Italy, as at the Roman cemeteries of Isola Sacra, Casal Bertone, and Castellaccio Europarco, show that of the buried individuals approximately one-third were not of local origin.46 This proportion of outsiders is also found in more self-representative forms of evidence.47 At the cemeteries belonging to Etruscan Volsinii (modern Crocifisso del Tufo, Orvieto) about one-third of the hundreds of names recorded in inscriptions from the Archaic period are of non-local origin.48 The onomastic data at Caere and Rome, while difficult to use for identifying geographic origins, still suggests that outsiders would have formed a significant proportion of the population.49 The available figures should not be surprising considering what we know about the extent of the far-reaching trade and diplomatic networks throughout the Mediterranean in this period. Remaining challenges for understanding mobility rates in the ancient context concern not only the lack of figures across time, but also relate to how a “move” is defined when nations lack clear territorial borders. Which moves matter, and how leaving or entering a different “community” relates to spatial distance travelled, very much depends on the context being explored. The long-distance journeys within the Homeric texts, or those between poleis of the Classical Greek period, were differently conceived and experienced than those within the Roman Empire.


The application of the contemporary notion of migration to historical processes is not a neutral statement but the activation of an explanatory framework that brings with it assumptions about the nature of human mobility, privileging certain narratives over others. Terms such as “movement,” “mobility,” and “flows,” on the other hand, encompass a wider range of processes, and their definition is not limited to those with a single direction, end point, or purpose. As Favell has argued, using migration to classify movement is one way that states constitute power and invent a fixed population envisaged as a nation, “but historically and in the modern world there is a range of possible social orders other than the modern nation-state society.”50 The ancient Mediterranean provides some of the alternative paradigms engendered in an environment where there is an expectation of motion. Deconstructing the formation of contemporary views of migration allows us to be wary of the effects of current historically contingent frameworks of understanding and their impact on analyzing earlier periods of history.51 It ensures that we do not project into the past the prejudices of the current age.52 Even the seemingly timeless sedentary peasant has been exposed as a product of myth.53 All this is not to say that there was not a persistent fear of conquest, colonial enterprise, expulsion, and displacement, or an interest in the outsider.


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