Illyricum - Dalmatia
In Illyricum's early history, constant warfare with neighboring tribes
forced the Illyrians to unite for the common good. Over time,
they became a constant source of irritation for the Spartans
and the Macedonia. In 424 B.C, they assaulted the Spartans
during the Peloponnesian War,
on their march across Thessaly
and Macedon causing a Spartan retreat. In fact, in 359 BC,
the Illyrians nearly succeeded in destroying Macedon, however,
Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, subdued the Illyrians
and captured part of their kingdom.
After the fall
of Alexander and the decline of Greek power during the 3rd
century BC, the Illyrians turned their fortunes to piracy.
Conducting their raids from the secluded harbors of the coast,
they ravaged the shores of Italy and Greece and preyed on
the commerce of the Adriatic. In response to calls for help
from Greece, Rome demanded a cessation of the piracy, but
the Illyrians rejected. This rejection led to two successive
defeats in the Roman wars of 229 and 219 BCE, the Illyrians
remained a powerful kingdom with its capital at Skodra, until
180 BCE, when the Dalmatians declared themselves independent
of king Gentius. So the history of Dalmatia began when the
tribe from which the country derives its name declared itself
independent of Gentius, the Illyrian king, and established
a republic. After the Dalmatians had split from the kingdom,
the Romans conquered Gentius and established (168-167 BCE)
one of the earliest Roman colonies as Illyricum.
In 156 BCE the
Dalmatians were for the first time attacked by a Roman army
and compelled to pay tribute. They, however, resisted formal
surrender and Roman control until the early part of the first
century CE. They joined in an attempt with the Pannonians
and to liberate their territories from Roman occupation in
6 CE and they were not finally subdued until 9 CE by Augustus
and Tiberius. From then on, all of Illyria was annexed and
united as the Roman province of Illyricum
as it became an important trade link between western and eastern
Europe. The ports on the Illyrian coast became important trade
routes as well, and the Latin influence spread quickly and
without resistance throughout the region.
Known to be aggressive people in their early relations to Rome, they were eager and readily recruited into the Roman Legions. Illyricum eventually grew into one of the leading recruiting grounds for the Roman armies. Eventually, as it became highly Romanized, it was known as the birthplace of several Emperors including Diocletion. Parts of the area remained in the Byzantine Empire until the 14th century AD., though it mostly fell to Serbs, Bulgars and others by the 7th century.
Illyria's position on the Adriatic Sea and proximity to the Italian province made it an important stop in trade with the eastern empire. Gold, iron and silver were found in adequate quantities in the region and animal hides were also exported.
Tribes of Illyricum
Illyricum and Dalmatia
were very tribally diverse. People of Italic, Celtic, Thraco,
Hellenic and Illyric descent all settled and spread throughout
There were a number
of tribes, of disputed Illyrian origins, that settled the
eastern Italian coast such as the Messapi, the Iapyges, the
Picenti, and the Veneti to name a few.
The Breuci settled
on the Save river in northern Bosnia and it was this tribe
that rebelled against the Roman occupation
The Scordisci occupied
the area in northern Serbia where the Save and Drave rivers
meet and they may have migrated from the Scordus mountain
range in Albania and western Macedonia as the name suggests.
The Triballi occupied
an area in northwestern Bulgaria. The Agrianes once dwelled
in the area of lower eastern Serbia. The Paeones or Paeonians
once occupied the territory of northern Macedonia.
The Chaoni lived
in the region of southern Albania and the powerful Molossi
were found in the border region of Albania and Greece.
The Ardiaei, once
an inland tribe, eventually settled on the Adriatic coast.
The ancient geographer, Strabo, lists the Ardiaei as one of
the three strongest tribes - the other two being the Autariatae
and the Dardani. Situated in the central Bosnian/Serbian border,
Strabo expresses the Autariatae as the most powerful of the
Illyrians. Strabo writes of the Dardani or Dardanians as 'so
utterly wild that they dig caves beneath their dung hills
and live there.
The Dardani (once
occupied what is now Kosova and southcentral Serbia. They
would eventually be subdued by the Ardiaei and then later
by the Romans. The Delmatae or Dalmatians were situated on
the southern Croatian coast and came on to the historical
scene during the Roman conquests. The Encheleae controlled
most of southern Illyria. The Liburni, seafarers, were described
as the masters of the Adriatic Sea and once occupied the northern
Croatian coast and surrounding islands. The Taulanti dwelled
in what is today central Albania and were known to have dominated
the area thwarting foreign rule.
to the map of Illyricum