24. The Limes Moesiae-Scythiae

24. The Limes Moesiae-Scythiae, dynamic landscapes and places

Session Chairs: Jonathan Quiery & Matthew Previto
Affiliation: Durham University, United Kingdom
Affiliation of co-organiser: Stanford University, United States of America

Session Abstract: The development of the Roman Limes Moesiae/Scythiae between the first and seventh centuries CE wrought profound alterations to the landscape of the lower Danube. The construction of urban and rural settlements, military installations, infrastructure, and other monumental architecture transformed the experience of place by ancient peoples. Moreover, politico-military, religious, and social frameworks engaged with both the geographic and human-made features of this frontier during the seven centuries of Romano-Byzantine occupation and were ultimately remade in turn. As a result, the Moesian/Scythian limes was a dynamic region throughout antiquity as numerous peoples and religions converged here. The recent historical and archaeological research undertaken in the region has demonstrated the vibrant nature of this frontier, as other scholars have revealed elsewhere along borders such as Hadrian’s Wall and the Limes Germanicus.

The proposed session calls for papers to examine a broad range of topics that consider the place-making effects and experience along the Limes Moesiae/Scythiae and seeks to create a proactive discussion among frontier specialists from varied academic backgrounds. The session welcomes new insights and perspectives from both methodological approaches and theoretical paradigms that provide a keener insight into the lives of ancient peoples on the lower Danube frontier.


  • How did the Limes Moesiae/Scythiae become embedded within the pre-existing Iron Age social structures and infrastructures? How were the pre-Roman systems altered as a result?
  • How did the shifting politico-military nature in Late Antiquity affect the lives of ancient peoples along the Limes Moesiae/Scythiae?
  • How did religious changes impact the experience of place along the Limes Moesiae/Scythiae between the first and seventh centuries CE (pre-Roman–Roman, pagan-Christian)?


Time Presenter (s) Presentation


10.50 Dominic Moreau The Limes Moesiae/Scythiae According to the Historical Sources
11.10 Martin Lemke From imperial guardians to local patriots: the defenders of Novae (Moesia inferior) in Late Antiquity and their relationship to state, church and neighborhood

The Limes Moesiae/Scythiae According to the Historical Sources
Dominic Moreau, Université de Lille / HALMA-UMR 8164 Research Centre

Relying on ancient textual sources, but not always, contemporary research on Roman borders established a series of conventional names for the “limites” of the Roman Empire (Limes Arabicus, Limes Britannicus, Limes Germanicus, etc.), in order to distinguish them from a regional point of view. Some of these names only appear in Late Antique texts, sometimes only once, but we do not hesitate to use them as if they were attested since the Principate. It is as if a great border strategy had been thought out by the central authorities from the beginning of the Empire, a strategy based on the nature of the provincial ground to be defended. As part of the work carried out within the framework of the DANUBIUS project (University of Lille / HALMA-UMR 8164 Research Centre, France), this paper proposes to examine the designations Limes Moesiae and Limes Scythiae, and to define what the textual sources exactly tell us about them.

From imperial guardians to local patriots: the defenders of Novae (Moesia inferior) in Late Antiquity and their relationship to state, church and neighborhood
Martin Lemke, University of Warsaw

After the difficulties of the third century, the region around Novae experienced a “golden age” in the mid 4th century, but after the battle of Adrianople in 378 new challenges emerged. In the early 5th century, Rome had regained control in the Lower Danube provinces, although the price for this included foederati settling all over the Balkan south of the Danube. In these demanding times a visible shift in the consciousness of the local garrison occurred, which may have been a symptom of a general trend in Late Antiquity, stretched out over centuries, but one that has some striking examples in the archaeological and historical sources concerning Novae, a fort garrisoned by the same trusty legio I Italica since the first century. By the mid 3rd century, the legion had made its name as protector of the larger region, as evidenced for instance by an inscription dedicated by the thankful city of Dionysopolis. But with the legionary fortress becoming a civil town with a garrison (both as a consequence of military reforms as well as a natural progression), other changes took place, to which a number of factors contributed: Christianity (the town became not merely the seat of a bishop, but it had been home for a martyr in the times of Galerius, St. Lupus of Novae), the revival of the Greek language and also the developing consciousness of a community, which resulted from a connection to the land far stronger than it had been for the eponymous Italic legionaries. Thus Novae had clearly developed a distinct identity. It had the backstory of being a sturdy rock in the waves and committed defenders who would refuse to leave their home behind when asked to join a campaign against the Slavs in the late 6th century.