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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Illyrian tribes.

In classical antiquity, Illyria (Ancient Greek: Ἰλλυρία or Ἰλλυρίδα[1]; Latin: Illyria[2]; see also Illyricum) was a region in the western part of today's Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians, a heterogeneous coalition of tribes. Very little is known about the Illyrians, though a number of them are assumed to have been united by a common Illyrian language.[3][4]

Illyria and the Illyrians' prehistory is known from archaeological evidence. The Romans conquered the region in 168 BC in the aftermath of the Illyrian Wars. "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.

The term Illyris is sometimes used to define an area (now in modern Albania) north of the Aous valley such as Illyris Graeca.[5]



In Greek mythology, the name of Illyria is aitiologically traced to Illyrius, the son of Cadmus and Harmonia, who eventually ruled Illyria and became the eponymous ancestor of the Illyrians.[6] A later version of the myth identifies Polyphemus and Galatea as parents of Celtus, Galas and Illyrius.[7] The second myth could stem perhaps from the similarities to Celts and Gauls.


The era in which we observe Illyrian kingdoms begins approximately at 400 BC and ends at 167 BC.[8] The Autariatae under Pleurias (337 BC) were considered to have been a kingdom.[9] The Kingdom of the Ardiaei began at 230 BC and ended at 167 BC.[10] 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.[11] Agron ruled over the Ardiaei and had extended his rule to other tribes as well.[12] As for the Dardanians, they always had separate domains from the rest of the Illyrians.[13]

The Illyrian kingdoms were composed of small areas within region of Illyria. The exact extent of even the most prominent ones remains unknown.[14] Only the Romans ruled the entire 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.[15] 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) where each one controlled a town within the kingdom.[16] The monarchy was established on hereditary lines and Illyrian rulers used marriages as a means of alliance with other powers.[17] Pliny (23–79 AD) writes that the people that formed the nucleus of the Illyrian kingdom were 'Illyrians proper' or Illyrii Proprie Dicti.[18] They were the Taulantii, the Pleraei, the Endirudini, Sasaei, Grabaei and the Labeatae. These later joined to form the Docleatae.

Roman Illyria

Map of the Illyrian wars.

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 Albania to Istria (Croatia) in the west and to the Sava river (Croatia) in the north. Salona (near modern Split 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 AD, 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 Austria 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.

See also




  1. ^ Polybius. Histories, 1.13.1.
  2. ^ Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary, "Illyria".
  3. ^ Apollodorus. Chronicle, 3.61.
  4. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 81.
  5. ^ Boardman 1982, p. 623.
  6. ^ Grimal & Maxwell-Hyslop 1996, p. 230.
  7. ^ Grimal & Maxwell-Hyslop 1996, p. 168.
  8. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 298.
  9. ^ Lewis & Boardman 1994, p. 785.
  10. ^ Wilkes 1969, p. 13.
  11. ^ Kipfer 2000, p. 251.
  12. ^ Hammond 1993, p. 104.
  13. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 216.
  14. ^ Berranger, Cabanes & Berranger-Auserve 2007, p. 136.
  15. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 237.
  16. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 127.
  17. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 167.
  18. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 216.


  • Berranger, Danièle; Cabanes, Pierre; Berranger-Auserve, Danièle (2007). Épire, Illyrie, Macédoine: mélanges offerts au professeur Pierre Cabanes. Presses Univ Blaise Pascal. ISBN 2845163517. 
  • Boardman, John (1982). The Prehistory of the Balkans and the Middle East and the Aegean World, Tenth to Eighth Centuries B.C.. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521224969. 
  • Grimal, Pierre; Maxwell-Hyslop, A. R. (1996). The Dictionary of Classical Mythology. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0631201025. 
  • Hammond, Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière (1993). Studies concerning Epirus and Macedonia before Alexander. Hakkert. 
  • Kipfer, Barbara Ann (2000). Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology. Springer. ISBN 0306461587. 
  • Lewis, David Malcolm; Boardman, John (1994). The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 6: The Fourth Century BC. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521233488. 
  • Papazoglu, Fanula (1978). The Central Balkan Tribes in Pre-Roman Times: Triballi, Autariatae, Dardanians, Scordisci and Moesians. Hakkert. ISBN 9025607934. 
  • Wilkes, John J. (1969). History of the Provinces of the Roman Empire. Routledge and Kegan Paul. 
  • Wilkes, John J. (1995). The Illyrians. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0631198075. 

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Simple English

[[File:|right|thumb|200px|Illyrian tribes (pre-Roman conquest).]] Illyria was a ancient region in the western part of today's Balkan Peninsula, by tribes of Illyrians an old people who spoke the Illyrian languages. The Illyrians faded from history.


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