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Illyrian tribes.
Illyria (Ancient Greek or ; ; see also Illyricum) was in Classical antiquity a region in the western part of today's Balkan Peninsula, inhabited by the Illyrians, a heterogeneous coalition of tribes, about whom very little is known, though a number of them are assumed to have been united by a common Illyrian language.

Illyria and the Illyrians' prehistory is known from archaeological evidence. The Romans conquered the region in 168 BC. "Illyria" is thus a designation of a roughly defined region of the western Balkans as seen from a Roman perspective, just as Magna Germania is a rough geographic term not delineated by any linguistic or ethnic unity.

In the first decades under Byzantine rule (until 461), Illyria suffered the devastation of raids by Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths. Not long after these peoples swept through the Balkans, the Slavs appeared. Between the 6th and 8th centuries they settled in Illyrian territories and proceeded to assimilate Illyrian tribes in much of what is now Albaniamarker, Kosovomarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, Croatiamarker, Montenegromarker, Polog valley in The Republic of Macedoniamarker, Serbiamarker and Sloveniamarker.

In Greek mythology, the name of Illyria is aitiologically traced to an Illyrius, the son of Cadmus and Harmonia, who eventually ruled Illyria and became the eponymous ancestor of the Illyrians. A later version of it is having as parents Polyphemus and Galatea that give birth to Celtus, Galas and Illyrius. The second myth could stem perhaps from the similarities to Celts and Gauls.

Illyrian kingdoms

Map of the Illyrian wars.
The era in which we observe Illyrian kingdoms begins approximately at 400 BC and ends at 167 BC.The Autariatae under Pleurias (337 BC) were considered to have been a kingdom. The Kingdom of the Ardiaei began at 230 BC and ended at 167 BC. The most notable Illyrian kingdoms and dynasties were those of Bardyllis of the Dardani and of Agron of the Ardiaei who created the last and best-known Illyrian kingdom. Illyrian kingdoms were composed of small parts of the region of Illyria. Only the Romans ruled over all the region. The internal organization of the south Illyrian kingdoms points to imitation of their neighboring Greek kingdoms and influence from the Greek and Hellenistic world in the growth of their urban centers. Polybius gives as an image of society within an Illyrian kingdom as peasant infantry fought under aristocrats which he calls in Greek Polydynastae (Greek, "Πολυδυνάστες") each of one controlled a town within the kingdom.The monarchy was hereditary. Illyrian rulers used marriages as a means of alliance with other powers. Pliny (23–79 AD) writes that the people that formed the nucleus of the Illyrian kingdom were 'Illyrians proper' or Illyrii Proprie Dicti. They were the Taulantii, the Pleraei, the Endirudini, Sasaei, Grabaei and the Labeatae. These later joined to form the Docleatae.

Roman Illyria

The Romans defeated Gentius, the last king of Illyria, at Scodra in 168 BC and captured him, bringing him to Rome in 165 BC. Four client-republics were set up, which were in fact ruled by Rome. Later, the region was directly governed by Rome and organized as a province, with Scodra as its capital.

The Roman province of Illyricum replaced the formerly independent kingdom of Illyria. It stretched from the Drilon river in modern Albaniamarker to Istriamarker (Croatiamarker) in the west and to the Sava river (Croatiamarker) in the north. Salona (near modern Splitmarker in Croatia) functioned as its capital.

After crushing a revolt of Pannonians and Daesitiates, Roman administrators dissolved the province of Illyricum and divided its lands between the new provinces of Pannonia in the north and Dalmatia in the south.


After the province of Illyricum was divided into Dalmatia and Pannonia in 10, the terms "Illyria" and "Illyrian" would generally go out of use, but would still be used in some circles. The name Illyria was revived by Napoleon for the "Provinces of Illyria" that were incorporated into the French Empire from 1809 to 1813, and the Kingdom of Illyria was part of Austriamarker until 1849, after which time it was not used in the reorganised Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The land of Illyria is the setting for William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Jean-Paul Sartre's Les Mains Sales and in Lloyd Alexander's The Illyrian Adventure ISBN 0-14-130313-1.

See also


  1. Polybius, Histories,1.13.1,in Greek,"Illyrida"
  2. Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary at Perseus, Illyria
  3. Apollodorus, III, 61
  4. "... We may begin with the Venetic peoples, Veneti, Carni, Histri and Liburni, whose language set them apart from the rest of the Illyrians. ..."
  5. "... " In Roman Pannonia the Latobici and Varciani who dwelt east of the Venetic Catari in the upper Sava valley were Celtic but the Colapiani of the Colapis (Kulpa) valley were Illyrians ( ..."
  6. Subjugating: Webster's Timeline History, 393 BC - 2007 by Icon Group International,2009,page 1: "... " 168 BC Second Illyrian War: Illyria was finally conquered in 168 BC
  7. The Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal and A. R. Maxwell-Hyslop,ISBN 0631201025, 1996, page 230, "Illyrius (Ιλλυριός) The youngest son of Cadmus and Harmonia.He was born during their expedition against the Illyrians"
  8. The Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal and A. R. Maxwell-Hyslop, ISBN 0631201025, 1996, page 168, "The birth of three heroes is sometimes attributed to the love between Polyphemus and Galatea; Galas(see Galates), Celtus and Illyrius the eponymes respectively from the Galatians, the Celts and the Illyrians"
  9. The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes,1996,ISBN-9780631198079, page 298
  10. The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 6: The Fourth Century BC by D. M. Lewis, ISBN 0521233488, 1994, page 785
  11. Dalmatia Tome 2 of History of the provinces of the Roman Empire by J. J. Wilkes, 1969, page 13
  12. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology by Barbara Ann Kipfer, 2000, page 251
  13. The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes, 1996, ISBN-9780631198079, page 237
  14. The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes, 1996, ISBN-9780631198079, page 127
  15. The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes, 1996, ISBN-9780631198079, page 167
  16. J. J. Wilkes, The Illyrians, 1992, ISBN 0631198075, p. 216.


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