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The Mamertini are unusual in the ancient world, if not unique, as a group of mercenaries for whom we have both a record in ancient authors of their movements and behaviour (to some extent, and with some variation between authors), and a small number of inscriptions which can be attributed to them partly on linguistic grounds (being written in Oscan in an otherwise Greek-speaking milieu) and partly because some of them explicitly state that they have been erected on behalf of the τωϝτο μαμερτινο ‘the Mamertine people’.
The study of migration in the ancient world unexpectedly became a topic of the global news cycle in the summer of 2017. ‘The Story of Britain’, a BBC cartoon for schools that depicted a black soldier in Roman Britain generated Twitter exchanges, subsequently expanded into blogs, newspaper articles and think pieces around the world. Historians, archaeologists, geneticists, statisticians as well as others from outside academia contributed to a debate about the amount of ethnic diversity in Roman Britain and the origin and impact of ancient migrants to the British Isles. The editors of this volume do not expect that it will have an impact equivalent to the BBC cartoon, but we hope that the chapters within it can both contribute to the gradual disentanglement of scanty, sometimes contradictory, evidence and present new ways of looking at ancient migration, while also laying bare some of the tacit or unwarranted assumptions that have been made.
Migration, Mobility and Language Contact in and around the Ancient Mediterranean is the first volume to show the different ways in which surviving linguistic evidence can be used to track movements of people in the ancient world. Eleven chapters cover a number of case studies, which span the period from the seventh century BC to the fourth century AD, ranging from Spain to Egypt, from Sicily to Pannonia. The book includes detailed study of epigraphic and literary evidence written in Latin and Greek, as well as work on languages which are not so well documented, such as Etruscan and Oscan. There is a subject index and an index of works and inscriptions cited.
Oscan was spoken in Southern Italy in the second half of the first millennium BC. Here, for the first time, all the evidence for the spelling of Oscan in the Greek alphabet is collected and examined. Understanding the orthography of these inscriptions has far-reaching implications for the historical phonology and morphology of Oscan and the Italic languages (for example providing unique evidence for the reconstruction of the genitive plural). A striking discovery is the lack of a standardised orthography for Oscan in the Greek alphabet, which seriously problematises attempts to date inscriptions by assuming the consistent chronological development of spelling features. There are also intriguing insights into the linguistic situation in South Italy. Rather than a separate community of Oscan-speakers who had adopted and subsequently adapted the Greek alphabet in isolation, we should posit groups who were in touch with contemporary developments in Greek orthography due to widespread Greek-Oscan bilingualism.