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 (5th century BC), Agatharchides (2nd century BC), Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC), Strabo (64/63 BC – c.  24 CE), Pliny (1st century CE), Josephus (37 – c. 100 CE), Tacitus (c. 56 – after 117 CE), etc.

Greco-Roman period

The earlier references allude to Trogodytes (without the l), evidently derived from Greek trōglē, cave and dytes, divers.[1]

In Herodotus

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] According to Alice Werner (1913), this was a clear allusion to the early Khoisan since, aside from being hunter-gatherers, their native languages contain distinctive click sounds.[3]

In Strabo

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.[4][5]

In Josephus

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..."[6]

The Troglodytis Josephus refers to here is generally taken to mean both coasts of the Red Sea.[7] 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

Look up troglodyte in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


  1. Agatharchides of Cnidus, On the Erythraean Sea
  2. Herodotus, Histories, 4.183
  3. Werner, A. (January 1913). "The Languages of Africa". Journal of the Royal African Society. 12 (46): 120–135. JSTOR 715866.
  4. Strabo & 20 AD, VII 5,12.
  5. Boardman 1991, p. 598.
  6. Josephus Flavius, Antiquities, 1.15.1
  7. 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.
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