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Serboi (Greek: Σέρβοι/Sérvoi, also rendered Sirboi and Serbi) is an ethnonym recorded in Greco-Roman ethnography. It designated an Iranian[1] or Proto-Slavic[citation needed] tribe dwelling in Sarmatia (north Caucasus), probably by the Lower Volga region.

Original appearances in Caucasus[edit]

Pliny the Younger in his work Plinii Caecilii Secundi Historia naturalis from the first century AD (69–75) mentioned people named Serbi,[2] who lived near the Cimmerians, presumably on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

In the 2nd century (around 175 AD), the Egyptian scientist Claudius Ptolemy mentioned in his Geography people named Serboi or Sirboi,[2] who presumably lived behind the Caucasus, in the hinterland of the Caspian Sea in present-day Astrakhan.

Later appearances in Caucasus[edit]

In the 10th century, Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (912–959) mentioned in his book De Ceremoniis two tribes named Krevatades (Krevatas) and Sarban (Sarbani), which some researches identified as Croats and Serbs.[citation needed] These tribes were located in the Caucasus near the river Terek, between Alania and Tsanaria.[3][non-primary source needed][4] The Sarban tribe in the Caucasus in the 10th century was also recorded by an Arab geographer.[5]

Later appearances in Central Europe and the Balkans[edit]

Names in same or similar forms (Surbii, Suurbi, Serbloi, Sorabi, Surben, Sarbi, Serbii, Serboi, Zirbi, Surbi, Sorben) were later used by various authors to designate South-Slavic Serbs in the Balkans and Western Slavic Sorbs in Lusatia.[6]

Theory about Iranian origin of the Serbs assumes that ancient Serbi / Serboi from north Caucasus were an Sarmatian (Alanian) tribe.[7] The theory subsequently assumes that Alanian Serbi were subdued by the Huns in the 4th century and that they, as part of the Hunnic army, migrated to the western edge of the Hunnic Empire (in the area of Central Europe near the river Elbe, later designated as White Serbia in what is now Saxony (eastern Germany) and western Poland). After Hunnic leader Attila died (in 453), Alanian Serbi presumably became independent and ruled in the east of the river Saale (in modern day Germany) over local Slavic population.[8][7] Over time, they, it is argued, intermarried with the local Slavic population of the region,[8][7] adopted Slavic language, and transferred their name to the Slavs.[9] According to Tadeuš Sulimirski, similar event could occur in the Balkans or Serbs who settled in the Balkans were Slavs who came from the north and who were ruled by already slavicized Alans.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Van Antwerp Fine, Jr. (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. University of Michigan Press. p. 56. ISBN 0-472-08149-7. 
  2. ^ a b Aleksandar M. Petrović, Arheografija naroda jugoistočne Evrope, Beograd, 2006, page 19.
  3. ^ De administrando imperio, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (Emperor of the East), Gyula Moravcsik, Pázmány Péter Tudományegyetemi Görög Filológiai Intézet, 1949, page 115.
  4. ^ Dvornik 1959, p. 28.
  5. ^ Fine 1991, p. 56.
  6. ^ Živko D. Petković, Prve pojave srpskog imena, Beograd, 1996, page 9.
  7. ^ a b c Miodrag Milanović, Srpski stari vek, Beograd, 2008, page 81.
  8. ^ a b c Relja Novaković, Još o poreklu Srba, Beograd, 1992, page 46.
  9. ^ Relja Novaković, Još o poreklu Srba, Beograd, 1992, page 48.