General Information

The database GENS offers a selection of early medieval Latin sources containing ethnic terminology, with a special focus on the meanings of Romanness in the post-imperial West. The passages included in GENS have been selected from already edited works, which are available in online full-text databases (Library of Latin Texts, MGH and Patrologia Latina). Moreover, GENS includes a limited number of pertinent items deriving from edited sources, some of which were not taken from the available full-text databases but from modern critical editions. GENS includes texts from an extensive range of genres all written approximately between 400 and 1200, currently with the exception of charters.

GENS is intended to provide a wide overview of how ethnic terminology was employed. It allows users to undertake a qualitative evaluation of the meaning and recurrence of such terminology in the Latin West from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages up until 1200. The potential of the database for quantitative analysis and corpus linguistic approaches is limited because routine, unspecific or unproblematic uses of the search terms have as a rule not always been included. However, even full inclusion of all occurrences in accessible editions/full-text databases would just constitute a selection of the total documented uses of the terms in written texts of the period. Therefore, those passages have been selected that are in some way relevant for the significance of the terms.

Criteria used for the selection of the entries

So far, the selection of passages from online full-text databases and from modern editions has been carried out by searching for following terms:

civ* roman*
civ* + roman*
gens christiana/christianorum
gens romana
gens +romana
gent* + roman*
gens *orum
gens + Dei
gent* + Dei
popul* + gentium
popul* + nationum
romana* civita*
natio* + gentium

For each of these items GENS offers a reasoned selection of significant occurrences, thus providing the interested scholar with a corpus of relevant sources to start their research. So, for instance, if a scholar is interested in analysing the development in use and meaning of "gens romana" during the Early Middle Ages up until ca. 1200, he or she will find in GENS all the significant sources already gathered together and ready to be studied.

Since the passages selected with such criteria often contained not only the above-mentioned search terms but also a wider range of ethnic terminology (e.g. genus, patria), geographical designations (provincia), and titles (dux, imperator, episcopus), it seemed interesting to match such words in a special field called Keywords. The user can find the complete list of matched keywords within the mask "Search in special fields". Thus, it is possible to search GENS for any of the Keywords, for instance to search for "dux". In this case, however, the list of occurrences will return only instances of "dux" which are present among the passages included in GENS, rather than all the relevant occurrences of this term in early medieval sources.

Search Methods

The database GENS can be investigated both through a filtered and a full-text search:

Search in special fields

The Author, as well as the Title, the Place and the Time of composition of the sources have been recorded, if known, for every entry of the database. Thus, the user can search for the recurrence of a given term among the work(s) of a given author and/or within a given region and range of time. Text Type is a further filter, allowing the user to search for a given term among a specific genre of texts. Moreover, Proper Names (ethnonyms, geographical designations) and specific Keywords matched within the items included in GENS can also serve as search criteria. The user may want, for instance, to start a search for the Keyword "patria": as a result, the database will show the recurrence of the word "patria" (in its complete Latin declension) among all the items included in GENS.

Full-text search

This option allows the user to search for any of the terms included within the items of the database. It is possible to employ the following operators:
? (for replacing one character in a word)
* (for replacing none, or one or more of the characters in a word)
# (for searching the exact word included between #s)

A Full-text search is particularly recommended in the case that a given ethnonym has not been recorded among the Proper Names.

The results of both filtered and full-text searches can be visualised in a Map showing the recurrence of a given term in a given range of time.

So far GENS includes 4.660 items from 1055 works (May 15th 2019).


The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-13) under the ERC grant agreement No. 269591; title of the project: 'Social cohesion, identity and religion in Europe, 400-1200 (SCIRE)'. Currently, the database GENS is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) within the SFB-project VISCOM: Visions of Community.

Many of the passages from hagiographical sources written between the fourth and the ninth century have been drawn from a previous work by Pascal Betrand, who kindly allowed their inclusion in GENS.

Austin Howard selected and commented on all the entries collected from Geoffey Malaterra’s De rebus gestis Rogerii et Roberti Guiscardi. The corresponding English version of the ethnonyms and passages is taken from Graham Loud's translation, which is freely available online. 

Peter Fraundorfer played a vital role by supporting the enrichment of this database.