Ethiopian Troglodytes



Greek Name:  τρωγλοδύται Αἰθίοπες

Latin Name: 


Cultural Notes in Herodotos

Troglodytes who are faster than any other men; live in caves; eat snakes, lizards, and other creeping things. Their speech is like bats squeaks. 

Geographical Notes


Citations in Herodotos

4.183 chase by Garamantes in Chariots 

Key Passages in English Translation

[4.183] After ten days' journey again from Augila there is yet another hill of salt and springs of water and many fruit-bearing palms, as at the other places; men live there called Garamantes, an exceedingly great nation, who sow in earth which they have laid on the salt. [2] The shortest way to the Lotus Eaters' country is from here, thirty days' journey distant. Among the Garamantes are the cattle that go backward as they graze, the reason being that their horns curve forward; [3] therefore, not being able to go forward, since the horns would stick in the ground, they walk backward grazing. Otherwise, they are like other cattle, except that their hide is thicker and harder to the touch. [4] These Garamantes go in their four-horse chariots chasing the cave-dwelling Ethiopians: for the Ethiopian cave-dwellers are swifter of foot than any men of whom tales are brought to us. They live on snakes and lizards and such-like creeping things. Their speech is like no other in the world: it is like the squeaking of bats.

English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920. Retreived from <>

Key Passages in Greek

[4.183] ἀπὸ δὲ Αὐγίλων διὰ δέκα ἡμερέων ἀλλέων ὁδοῦ ἕτερος ἁλὸς κολωνὸς καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ φοίνικες καρποφόροι πολλοί, κατά περ καὶ ἐν τοῖσι ἑτέροισι: καὶ ἄνθρωποι οἰκέουσι ἐν αὐτῷ τοῖσι οὔνομα Γαράμαντες ἐστί, ἔθνος μέγα ἰσχυρῶς, οἳ ἐπὶ τὸν ἅλα γῆν ἐπιφορέοντες οὕτω σπείρουσι. [2] συντομώτατον δ᾽ ἐστὶ ἐς τοὺς Λωτοφάγους, ἐκ τῶν τριήκοντα ἡμερέων ἐς αὐτοὺς ὁδός ἐστι: ἐν τοῖσι καὶ οἱ ὀπισθονόμοι βόες γίνονται: ὀπισθονόμοι δὲ διὰ τόδε εἰσι. τὰ κέρεα ἔχουσι κεκυφότα ἐς τὸ ἔμπροσθε: [3] διὰ τοῦτο ὀπίσω ἀναχωρέοντες νέμονται: ἐς γὰρ τὸ ἔμπροσθε οὐκ οἷοι τε εἰσὶ προεμβαλλόντων ἐς τὴν γῆν τῶν κερέων. ἄλλο δὲ οὐδὲν διαφέρουσι τῶν ἄλλων βοῶν ὅτι μὴ τοῦτο καὶ τὸ δέρμα ἐς παχύτητά τε καὶ τρῖψιν. [4] οἱ Γαράμαντες δὴ οὗτοι τοὺς τρωγλοδύτας Αἰθίοπας θηρεύουσι τοῖσι τεθρίπποισι: οἱ γὰρ τρωγλοδύται Αἰθίοπες πόδας τάχιστοι ἀνθρώπων πάντων εἰσὶ τῶν ἡμεῖς πέρι λόγους ἀποφερομένους ἀκούομεν. σιτέονται δὲ οἱ τρωγλοδύται ὄφις καὶ σαύρους καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα τῶν ἑρπετῶν: γλῶσσαν δὲ οὐδεμιῇ ἄλλῃ παρομοίην νενομίκασι, ἀλλὰ τετρίγασι κατά περ αἱ νυκτερίδες.

Other Testimonia

Periplus of Hanno, Section 7 

Other Commentary

Perseus Encyclopedia: Troglodytae, "cave-dwellers," an Ethiopian tribe, their habits

Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898): Troglodytae,(Τρωγλοδύται, “dwellers in caves”). A name applied by the Greek geographers to various uncivilized people who had no abodes but caves, especially to the inhabitants of the western coast of the Red Sea, along the shores of Upper Egypt and Aethiopia (Herod.iv. 183). The Troglodytae of the west coast of the Red Sea are described by Agatharchides as a barbarous people, who wore little clothing, had wives in common, and put to death the aged and infirm. They lived on the produce of their flocks and herds. In the Periplus the Ethiopian Troglodytae are described as of a wild appearance and swifter than horses. This swiftness of foot is noticed also by Herodotus as characterizing the Ethiopian Troglodytae, and is said to be still a characteristic of the cavedwellers in the same district. Herodotus adds that their language was like the twittering of bats, and that their food consisted of lizards and other reptiles. There were also Troglodytae in Moesia, on the banks of the Danube.



Munson, Rosaria Vignolo. 2005. Black Doves Speak: Herodotus and the Languages of Barbarians. Harvard University Press. 25, 79n50.

Chapelle, Jean. Nomads noirs du Sahara. Paris: Plon, 1958.


Strabo's Geography refers to Troglodytes who live near the red sea (17.4.17), as does Diodorus Siculus (3.32-33).