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Herodotus' Sigynnai (5.9) and Gipsies

  • D. S. Barrett

For well over 150 years commentators on Herodotus have raised the possibility of a connection between the Sigynnai and gipsies, sometimes on their own account, sometimes by reference to others. The latest is B. Virgilio, who cites Ph.-E. Legrand, who argues that the Sigynnai lived in what is now Hungary, and that their name is therefore linked with cigany, the Hungarian word for ‘gipsy’ (in German, Zigeuner). H. Verdin states that they are ‘sometimes' identified with gipsies, but warns that K. von Fritz regards the matter as very uncertain. F. H. Weissbach refers almost wearily to the prevalence of the theory;s R. W. Macan6 ascribes it to J. W. Blakesley; E. Abbot refers to it fleetingly; P. Bataillard propounded it in a series of studies between 1844 and 1885.

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1. Adloc, 1975.

2. Ad loc, 1946.

3. De historiscb-kritische methode van Herodotus (Brussels, 1971), p. 146 n. 3.

4. Die griechische Geschichtsscbreibung, i, Von den Anfängen bis Tbukydides Anmerkungen (Berlin, 1967), 163 n. 235.

5. PW IIA. 2 (1923), 2458, citing Hasse, , Die Zigeuner im Herodot (Konigsburg, 1803), which I have not been able to sight.

6. Ad loc, 1895.

7. Ad loc, 1854.

8. Ad loc, 1893.

9. EB 11 (London, 1910–11), vol. 12, pp. 3743, s.v. ‘Gipsies’–a masterly study with extensive bibliography, in an edition which is still a byword among reference librarians.

10. Anthropological Essays Presented to Edward Burnett Tylor in Honour of his 75tb Birthday (Oxford, 1907), pp. 255–76.

11. G. Rawlinson's explanation of ἒρημος χώρη is undoubtedly correct: ‘Hungary and Austria seem to be the countries intended in this description. Dense forests and vast morasses would in the early times have rendered them scarcely habitable.’

12. See photograph in Erdei, F. (ed.), Information Hungary (Oxford, 1968), p. 128.

13. Reich, E. in EB 11 (op. cit.), vol. 13, p. 898, s.v. ‘Hungary’.

14. Herodotus (Berkeley, 1924), p. 180.

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Greece & Rome
  • ISSN: 0017-3835
  • EISSN: 1477-4550
  • URL: /core/journals/greece-and-rome
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