Dissidence and Emigration in Late Antique Rome, Persia, and Neighbouring Lands


The I-SITE ULNE-funded project EX-PATRIA addresses the problem of dissent-driven emigration out of the Late Roman Empire.

Highly diverse, the Late Antique world was well-connected through intense mobility of different kinds: population migrations, group movements, and individual displacements.

Both original sources and modern historiography have been predominantly focused on massive migrations into the Roman Empire and on the range of crises attributed to these movements. However, the Roman Empire was not only a place of immigration but also that of emigration. The Sasanian Persian Empire frequently received Roman deserters and fugitives. Groups and enclaves of ‘barbarians’ could act as receiving societies that accepted migrants from the powerful Roman state.

EX-PATRIA shifts the traditional focus from incoming to outgoing mobility aiming to scrutinise the phenomenon of the “against-the-stream” movement and the reasons behind it. Preliminary research reveals that a considerable part of such outgoing mobility was fostered by different types of dissent and internal conflicts in various parts of the Late Antique world. The project assesses the spectre of different types of conflicts (religious, military, political) at the origin of individual, group, or collective departures.

We are planning to show how the types of dissent varied throughout different social strata and different territories of the Roman Empire, revealing comparative characteristics of sending societies, and to establish the peculiarities of individual experiences of dissent and migration, the specificity of the structural responses to the acts of leaving (connected to the problem of citizenship and loyalty), and of the public attitudes to emigration (ranging from associating outgoing with treason to expressing positive ideas about cosmopolitanism).

EX-PATRIA considers the problem of dissidence in connection with mobility. It relies on an innovative interdisciplinary methodology comprising network and spatial analysis of prosopography and case studies.