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The Troglodytae (Greek: Τρωγλοδύται) or Troglodyti (literally "cave goers"), were a people mentioned in various locations by many ancient Greek and Roman geographers and historians including Herodotus, Agatharcides, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny, Tacitus, Josephus, etc.

Greco-Roman references[edit]

The earlier references refer to Trogodytes (without the l),[1] evidently derived from Greek trōglē, cave and dytes, divers. They were usually placed in the desert along the African side of the Red Sea coast, from Berenice Troglodytica southward as far as Somalia. They have been connected with the modern Afar of Eritrea and neighboring peoples, as well as with the Tuareg and possibly the Tubu.

Hippolytus of Rome (Chronicon of 254 AD) identified the Troglodytes with the descendants of Put.

In Herodotus[edit]

Herodotus referred to the Troglodytae in his Histories as being a people hunted by the Garamantes. He said that the Troglodytae were the swiftest runners of all humans known and that they ate snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. He also stated that their language was unlike any known to him, and sounded like the screeching of bats.[2]

In Strabo[edit]

In his work Geographica, Strabo mentions a tribe of Troglodytae living along with the Crobyzi in Scythia Minor, near the Ister (Danube) and the Greek colonies of Callatis and Tomis.[3][4]

In Josephus[edit]

Flavius Josephus alludes to a place he calls Troglodytis while discussing the account in Genesis, that after the death of Sarah, Abraham married Keturah and fathered six sons who in turn fathered many more. "Now, for all these sons and grandsons, Abraham contrived to settle them in colonies; and they took possession of Troglodytis, and the country of Arabia Felix..."[5]

The Troglodytis Josephus refers to here is generally taken to mean both coasts of the Red Sea.[6] However, Josephus goes on to state that the descendants of one of these grandsons, Epher, invaded Libya, and that the name of Africa was thus derived from that of Epher.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Agatharchides of Cnidus, On the Erythraean Sea
  2. ^ Herodotus, Histories, 4.183
  3. ^ Strabo 20 AD, VII 5,12.
  4. ^ Boardman 1991, p. 598.
  5. ^ Josephus, Flavius, Antiquities, 1.15.1
  6. ^ Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis




  • Boardman, John, ed. (1991). The Cambridge Ancient History. Vol. 3, Part 1: The Prehistory of the Balkans; and the Middle East and the Aegean world, tenth to eighth centuries B.C. London: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-22496-3. 
  • Murray, G.W. and E.H. Warmington (1967), "Trogodytica: The Red Sea Littoral in Ptolemaic Times", The Geographical Journal, Vol. 133, No. 1 (March issue), pp 24–33, 29.