The Prehistoric Background of Illyrian Albania

  • Anthony Harding
Part of the Warwick Studies in the European Humanities book series


The peoples whom the Greeks and Romans called Illyrians occupied an extensive tract of territory bordering on the Adriatic stretching from Epirus in the south and Macedonia in the south-east to Istria in the north. Such a large area naturally contained considerable diversity in its cultural make-up, and the ancients regarded the term ‘Illyrian’ as a wider whole within which smaller tribal groupings were to be discerned — Iapodians, Liburnians, Dalmatians, Taulantii, and others. The earliest references to the Illyrians in the ancient authors emanate from around 500 BC, in the works of Herodotus and Hecataeus, but it is with Thucydides, around 400, that the Illyrians come to occupy a real place on the world stage. One of the causes of the Peloponnesian War was the quarrel between Corcyra and Epidamnus (later Dyrrhachium, modern Durrës). Epidamnus, we are told, lay in territory occupied by the Taulantii, ‘barbarians, an Illyrian people’; the Corcyraeans in their attack ‘took the Illyrians along with them’. The geographers Strabo (c. 54 BC–24 AD) and Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD) give a more detailed account of the disposition of the various tribes, and the latter’s reference to ‘Illyrii proprie dicti’, which seems to separate Illyrians properly so called from a wider grouping of tribes commonly called Illyrian, has caused much discussion.


Archaeological Record Burial Form Iron Iron Archaeological Science Dalmatian Coast 
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© Tom Winnifrith 1992

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  • Anthony Harding

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