Giuseppe (Joseph) A. Ricci
Fields of Study:
The Roman Empire in Late Antiquity (250 C.E. – 700 C.E.)
History of Roman Diplomacy
History of the Pontic Steppes and Eurasian Nomads in the Roman World
History of the Eurasian Steppe in the Ancient and Medieval Periods
History of Greco-Roman Literature, especially as concerns the description and understanding of the ‘Other’
Empire formation and its effects on external societies
Historiography of the steppe (particularly Russian historiography)
Advisors: John Haldon & Peter Brown
I am currently a sixth year graduate student in the History Department at Princeton University. My dissertation, tentatively entitled “Nomads in Late Antiquity: Gazing on Rome from the Steppe, Attila to Asparuch,” is a history of the Eastern Roman Empire’s diplomatic, military, and economic interactions with a series of peoples who emerged from the Pontic steppe: Huns, Avars, Bulgars, etc.
My dissertation unifies the long history of Roman interaction with nomadic steppe peoples, with a focus on the pivotal period of Late Antiquity (4th-7th centuries C.E.). I provide an explanation for both the consistency of these interactions and their evolution throughout the long history of the Roman/Byzantine Empire. Beyond outlining and defining the basic features of Roman policy toward the steppe, my work argues that these policies, whether military, diplomatic, or economic, had profoundly negative effects on nomadic political and social stability. While this has been broadly understood by historians, my work goes further and argues that Rome's destabilization of the steppe was significantly more responsible than otherwise acknowledged for the migrations of nomadic peoples towards the western end of the steppe, the sudden appearance of large nomadic polities on Rome's doorstep, and their equally sudden disappearance as political powers. I show that nomadic peoples, traditionally considered the bane of the Roman Empire, in fact bore the brunt of suffering which was the result of conflict between the two parties.
In my dissertation I also provide a framework within which historians can interpret Greco-Roman textual source material concerning the history and behavior of nomadic pastoralists. I argue that, although highly stylized and encapsulated in archaic literary forms, Greco-Roman literature concerning nomadic peoples can be understood as an evolving body of knowledge. The best example of this is perhaps the 6th century Greek text of the Emperor Maurice (582-602 C.E.) known as the “Strategikon.” Within the text exist highly stylized and ancient formulas for depicting and describing nomadic peoples alongside detailed descriptions on how to fight and defeat nomadic peoples in military and diplomatic engagements. The literary tropes of these texts therefore have critical explanatory value for the Greco-Roman author and reader.
My research, while situated in Roman and Late Roman history, branches into the fields of Eurasian History, the history of interactions between the ‘steppe and sown,’ as well as into the domains of anthropology and archaeology. My work incorporates for comparative purposes the history of interactions between Persia and China and the steppe. I utilize an extensive array of anthropological models, especially concerning the nature of state formation on the steppe, social structure amongst nomadic peoples, and the level of dependence of nomadic polities on sedentary, agricultural states. Finally, crucial to my work are the various grave sites, monuments, and the occasional settlements of nomadic peoples from Late Antiquity known from the modern territory of Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Archaeology is an indispensable part of my project, especially for its capacity to enlighten us on the nature and type of products reaching the nomadic world from the Roman Empire, as well as revealing possibilities for interpreting nomadic self-perception.
I plan to spend the majority of the Fall of 2013 and the Spring of 2014 continuing my dissertation research in Kiev, Ukraine at the Ukrainian National Institute of Archaeology.
This past academic year I lived in St. Petersburg Russia, where I conducted research at the Institute for the History of Material Culture. I received a Fulbright Institute for International Education Fellowship for the 2012-2013 academic year to conduct this research.
In the fall of 2011 I spent a semester in Sofia, Bulgaria, with a fellowship from the American Research Center in Sofia (ARCS). In Bulgaria I conducted research and traveled extensively to historical and archaeological sites critical to the history of Roman-steppe interactions.
Please see a short article about me on the History Department Webpage.
Click here for a short interview I gave to a friend and colleague concerning my research.