Paeonia and the Paeonians

Episode I: An Ancient Bridgehead

The Paeonians were an Illyrian tribe who in Antiquity were found along the upper valley of the river Axios (Vardar) all away into the river Struma in the east (current western Bulgaria). Their region was positioned in between the lands of the Dardanians and the ancient Macedonians. In the northwest Paeonia bordered the lowland of Pelagonia; in the north, the Illyrian tribes of the Dardanians and the Autariatae bordered them. In the east and southeast of Paeonia, Thracians were the ones that were most commonly found. In the south, the kingdom of Macedon was located. Domestically, apart from the Paeonians, Paeonia was composed of various generally Illyrian tribes such as the Agrianes, Laeaeans, Odomantes, Paeoplae, Almopians, Doberes, and Siropaiones. The lands of Paeonia correspond in large parts with the current lands of the FYR Macedonia. It should also be noted that Paeonia should not be confused with Pannonia (a Roman province near the Danube River).

The Paeonians are first mentioned in the epic work “Iliad” attributed to Homer. In that poem, the Paeonian tribe is listed among the allies of the Trojans in the Trojan War (c. 1180 B.C.E.). The Paeonians founded their own kingdom sometime during the first half of the IV century B.C.E. According to Polybius, the most important city of Paeonia was Bylazora (near Knezhje in modern FYR Macedonia). This city was positioned along the main road that leaded into Pelagonia through the valley of Babuna and Raec, thus connecting Macedon with Dardania. As a result of its strategic position, Bylazora was the target of both the Dardanians and the Macedonians. For the side that controlled the city, it meant holding a secure bridgehead into the lands of the other rival. In fact, the whole region of Paeonia was often turned into a buffer zone situated between the stronger states of Dardania and Macedon. It was in Paeonia where the Macedonians and Dardanians often clashed with one another. It appears that Bylazora itself soon fell into the hands of the Dardanians until in 217 B.C.E. was conquered by Philip V of Macedon (r. 221-179). As a result of the Dardanian conquest, the capital of the Paeonian kingdom moved further south into Stobi (Gradsko).

The Paeonian tribes made use effectively of the natural defences such as highlands and water bodies. The ability to adapt to difficult terrains allowed most of the Paeonian tribes to remain free from the Persian invasion. They even developed lake dwelling settlements that the Persians were unable to conquer. Herodotus describes in detail the presence of such settlements among the Paeonians:

“There is set in the midst of the lake a platform made fast on tall piles, to which one bridge gives a narrow passage from the land. In olden times all the people working together set the piles, which support the platform there, but they later developed another method of setting them. The men bring the piles from a mountain called Orbelus, and every man plants three for each of the three women that he weds. Each man has both a hut on the platform and a trap door in the platform leading down into the lake. They make a cord fast to the feet of their little children out of fear that they will fall into the water. They give fish as fodder to their horses and beasts of burden, and there is such an abundance of fish that a man can open his trap door, let down an empty basket by a line into the lake, and draw it up after a short time full of fish.” Herodotus (V, 16)

Episode II: War against the Persians

Megabazus, a Persian general, was appointed by Darius to control the Persian conquest in Europe. Herodotus states that the general conquered first the Perinthians who inhabited the area around the Hellespont. After the victory over the Perinthians, Megabazus was ordered directly by Darius (who at the time resided in Sardis) to advance further west, into Paeonia. The plan of the Persian ruler consisted in opening a clear way into Macedon by forcefully relocating some of the Paeonians who blocked this way and replacing them with other more friendly Thracian tribes. Upon hearing on the march of Megabazus against them, the Paeonian tribes joined forces and prepared a defence near the coastal area (near Philippi) assuming the Persians would assault them there. Megabazus, aware of the prepared defence of the Paeonians, avoided the direct clash near the seacoast by following a different route that passed through the highlands (Gazoros). Thus, the Persians entered eastern Paeonia that was left unprotected from the Paeonian ineffective mobilisation further south. Here, the Persians captured many Paeonian families that he exiled into Asia Minor.

The successful campaign of Megabazus against the southeastern part of Paeonia allowed the Persians the control of the strategic area from the mouth of the Strymon up to Prasiad Lake and the Rupel defile. However, Megabazus did not advance further north for either he was not instructed and/or unwilling to do so, or he found it unwise to further engage in battles against other better positioned Paeonians that held naturally defended positions at the foot of the Pangaeum. Megabazus may have been content to advance as far as the mountain of Belasitsa that he must have considered a natural border that separated the lower Strymon with the hinterland. The Persians had already increased their presence along the Aegean coast that was their priority at this time and thus did not marched towards the hinterland, although the Pangaeum, where gold and silver mines were present, could have provided an important target and possession. Ultimately, Herodotus writes the following as concerning the other parts of Paeonia:

Those [Paeonians] near the Pangaean mountains and the country of the Doberes and the Agrianes and the Odomanti [Paeonian tribes] and the Prasiad Lake itself were never subdued to Megabazus

Other lands of Paeonia were conquered by Alexander I of Macedon during 498-454 B.C.E. Notably these consisted of the narrow portions along the lower Axios (Vardar) including Pella and the seacoast. These conquests would deny the remaining Paeonians any direct access into the sea. During the same time, the Paeonian lands that had previously been invaded by the Persians, fell under the control of Macedon. Furthermore, during the same century, the Thracian tribes would overrun other portions of Paeonia. These parts that were annexed by the Thracians included the lands around Lake Prasiad as well as those of the Pangaion. These changes would limit the Paeonians into the middle stream of Axios and along the valleys of its rights and left tributaries. It was these area that should be regarded as the political entity of Paeonia including within it important cities such as Prilep (Stuberra), Bylazora (Veles), and Astibos (Štip). This condensed entity would border Macedon on the place called the Iron Gate (Demir Kapija) just north of Gortynia (Gevgelija). On the other hand, the mountains in between Scupi (Skopje) and Bylazora (Prilep) would separate Paeonia from Dardania. These would be the extents of the Paeonian entity during 454-358 B.C.E. The victory of Philip over the Paeonians would allow the Maedonians the annexation of some of their territories, notably the lands around Stobi after 356 B.C.E.

The reduction of the Paeonian lands during 512-358 B.C.E.
The reduction of the Paeonian lands during 512-358 B.C.E.

Episode III: Philip’s Campaign against Paeonia

Paeonia returns into the attention of ancient writers by the time Philip II was proclaimed king of Macedon. In the spring of 358 B.C.E., Philip II marched with his army through the mountainous region in the north of Macedon and entered Paeonia. This represented the first campaign of the Macedonian king after he had reformed his army and introduced the “phalanx” among his forces. It seems that the Paeonians did not constitute an immediate threat to Macedon at this time. Their actions were limited in sporadic raids at the northernmost border of Macedon. Thus, it can be argued that king Philip chose to wage a campaign against the Paeonians in order to further solidify and improve the capabilities of his army and test in an open battle the formations of his newly Macedonian phalanx “invention”. The Paeonians, now weaker than other neighboring states, would provide a descent “sparing partner” for the Macedonians.

Although in a declining stage, the Paeonians still preserved their military tradition. The Paeonian army was composed mainly of peltasts and javelin-armed light cavalry, similar to the military units used by tribes of western Thrace. Regarding the total number of troops that Paeonia could mobilize, we have no direct evidence on the figure. However, it is still possible to make assumptions on the number of Paeonian soldiers by counting on the reports that describe their participation in the ranks of Alexander’s the Great army. Accordingly, when the Macedonian forces of Alexander gathered in Egypt, about 600-650 Paeonian cavalrymen were present (presumably half of their total cavalry). Another 600 Paeonian horsemen joined later the main army of Alexander in Syria. Thus, it can be assumed that about 1,200 Paeonian cavalrymen were eligible for combat across all Paeonia in instances of mass mobilization. The campaign of Philip against them must have been one such instance and most of the 1,200 Paeonian cavalrymen must have showed up to face the Macedonian army. As for the number of Paeonian foot soldiers that the Paeonian deployed against Philip, Ray suggests that it consisted of about 5,000 soldiers.

Philip, in charge of a superior army, entered Paeonia in need of an open fight. From a tactical standpoint, the Paeonians had no reason to openly face Philip’s forces. They could have well chosen to avoid the clash until the Macedonians would eventually retreat and return into Macedon. Instead, the Paeonians chose to fight apparently evaluating the situation from a strategic standpoint. Other reasons for this decision may be related with a cultural tendency of not avoiding a fight. Another influencer may have been the Paeonian king himself. Just recently declared king, the new Paeonian ruler may have been eager to prove his leadership skills in an open battle. In case of victory, he would secure his authority across the country.

Ultimately, the Paeonians may have decided to confront Philip’s forces because they simply thought they could win. At the time, the forces of Philip had not yet acquired the favorable reputation they were to gain in the upcoming years. While the Macedonians had a higher number of foot soldiers deployed, the Paeonians could count on their seemingly superior cavalry. If Paeonian horsemen could overcome the Macedonian cavalry at the flanks, they could come into the help of their infantry against the phalanx in the center. If such was the reasoning of the Paeonian chieftains, they must have chosen to await the forces of Macedon into an area that gave their cavalry, as an elite unit, a large space to maneuver. It would have also been wise to hold a place with tree-covered uplands near their backline formations in case a covered retreat was required.

Upon seeing the Paeonian army waiting for him from a distance, Philip ordered his soldiers to shift from their marching formation into phalanx formation. It can be assumed that the Macedonian phalanx at this time was ten men deep. Philip himself apparently stood on the right side of the army along with his hypaspists and hoplite mercenaries. Cavalry units were positioned on both wings. Meanwhile, the Paeonian army was positioned in a similar fashion. The core part of their infantry, composed of approximately 4,000 soldiers, stood in the centre to face the phalanx while the cavalry was deployed on the flanks.

 

 

Statue of an Illyrian chieftain in modern Skopje (FYR Macedon)
Statue of an Illyrian chieftain in modern Skopje (FYR Macedon)

 

Dardania and the Dardanians

Episode I: Introduction

The Dardanians are mentioned for the first time in the Egyptian account describing the events of 1274 B.C.E. According to the Egyptian description, the Dardanians participated in the battle of Kadesh as allies of the Hittites and their king Muwatall II (r. 1295-1272) against the Egyptians led by their pharaoh Rameses II (r. 1279-1213). The two sides signed a peace treaty in 1258 B.C.E. but the Dardanians are not reported again among the concerning parties. It is unclear whether the Dardanians mentioned here refer to the Illyrian tribe that centered on Kosova during the antiquity, or refer to another tribe that carried the same name. Other reports linking the Dardanians with the city of Troy can be mentioned but they also deserve a separate study. The focus here is on the Illyrian Dardania located in the southwestern Balkans as descried by classical sources and not on the Dardanians of Asia Minor.

Episode II: Dardania and Dardanians as neighbours of Macedon

European Dardania was formed as a kingdom during the middle of the IV century B.C.E. It occupied the whole area of the current Republic of Kosova and its surrounding regions. Notably, in the north and northwest it bordered with the territories of the Triballi (Thracian tribe) and the Autariatae (Illyrian tribe) respectively; in the southwest it approached the territories of the Taulantii including within its possessions the area of present-day Gostivar and Kukës, with the later being the location of the Illyrian Pirustae. In the east the Dardanian state stretched up until the southern Morava. In the south, it controlled the lands of upper Axios (Vardar) including the region around Scupi (Skopje).

Dardania
Approximate location of Dardania during the III-I century B.C.E.

In different periods of time, the Dardanians controlled much of Paeonia on their south, putting them into direct contacts and conflicts with the Macedonians. It is for this geopolitical situation that the Dardanians appear constantly in the reports of ancient writers since 345 B.C.E. At this time, Justin mentions them among the tribes that were forced by Philip II of Macedon (r. 359-336) to recognize the Macedonian rule. However, after some time, as Petrović suggests, “during the wars of the Diadochi, at the time Lysimachus created his empire, from 284 to 281 B.C.E., the Dardanians seem to have evaded Macedonian rule, and very soon they became a constant threat on the northern borders of Macedonia.

The Dardanians, the population that inhabited Dardania, were an Illyrian tribe who was organized into several villages with few urban centers. The level of urbanization among Dardanians during the Hellenistic period seems to have been lower than in southern Illyria and Epirus. However, a few Dardanian centers such as Damastion are established during the IV century B.C.E. The ancient city of Damastion represents the first Illyrian city that produced its own silver coins. Scupi (Skopje), another important center, seems to have been the capital of Dardania for some time. The Dardanian society was characterized by a high degree of social stratification incorporating social classes such as land aristocrats, craftsmen, prisoners of wars and slaves (dulloi).

During the years 280-279, Dardania had to cope with the invasions of Celtic/Gallic tribes that came from the middle stream of the Danube (where Austria and Hungaria are located today). The Dardanians managed to handle this great invasion and pushed the Celtic tribes towards Macedonia. The report of Justin shows that the Dardanian had by now become one of the strongest regional states since their king offered the Macedonian king Ptolemy Keraunos (r. 321-279) 20,000 Dardanian soldiers to help the later deal with the Celtic/Gallic invasion. The Macedonian king refused the help reminding to the Dardanian delegates the glorious past of Macedon. This would prove to be an unwise decision and soon Ptolemy himself would be killed in battle against the Celts. The later, after having causing many damages across Macedon, were defeated only at Delphi. Turning north, the remaining Celts passed again through the Dardanian lands where they were crushed completely. Diodorus describes this situation as follows:

…and when passing through the Dardani [Dardanians] land, they were all destroyed so that there was no one left to go back home“.

There seems to be an exaggeration in the account of Diodorus since it is known that a group of these Celts continued their journey north until they settled near the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. These seem to be the same people that are later labelled as the Scordisci.

Episode III: Battles against Philip V

After 221 the raids of the Dardanians towards Macedon become frequent. They capitalized on the fact that Philip V (r. 221-179), recently crowned king of Macedon, was young in age and thus inexperienced in political and military affairs. In 219, while the Macedonian king was in Peloponessus, the Dardaninans took control of the whole Paeonia along with its largest city called Bylazora (near Knezhje). Thus, Philip was forced to return from Peloponnesus in haste and reestablish Macedonian control it his northern border. This conflict against the Dardanians represented the first proper military campaign of the Macedonians under the new king. The fights were concentrated around the city of Bylazora because of the strategic importance of this settlement and along the valley of River Axios (Vardar). It seems that Philip was able to regain control of Bylazora and reestablish Macedonian authority over Paeonia. Philip continued to show concern for his northern frontier. Livy states that the Macedonian king returned in the northern lands in 211 B.C.E. and invaded the city of Sintia that was located north of Pelagonia and that controlled another important route used by the Dardanians to reach northern Macedon. With these measures taken along the northern border, the usual routes that the Dardanians had followed to carry out raids in northern Macedon were enclosed.

Although the measures taken by Philip strengthened the northern border of Macedon, they did not solve the Dardanian problem. Thus, the Dardanian assaults continued to target Macedonian lands. In 208, the Dardanians in collaboration with Eropus, a regional Illyrian ruler, stormed Macedon advancing into Orestis (northern Greece). For this advancement, the Dardanians used an alternative route that passed through the region of Dassaretis (southeast Albania), apparently using the support of the local tribe of the Dassaretae. The invasion of Orestis forced Philip to retreat from his war in Achaea and return into Macedon. Because of the damages caused by this assault, the Macedonian king was forced to postpone his planned actions against the Roman Republic. For now, the Macedonians had to deal with the Dardanian threat. Thus, during 208-206, Philip engaged in another proper military campaign against the Dardanians. However, the Macedonian ruler was unable to remove the Dardanian threat along the northern and northwestern border of his kingdom.

Episode IV: The activities of the Dardanians during the Second Macedonian War (200-197 B.C.E.)

At the beginning of the year 200, Dardanians, represented by their king Bato (r.206-176), the son and successor of the previous king Longarus (r. 231-206), established an alliance with the Romans that were in turn represented by their consul. In this anti-Macedonian coalition other regional chieftains were involved including the king of the Ardiaei, Pleuratus II, and the king of the Athamanes, Amynander. Apparantly, the Dardanians hoped that after the eventual conquest of Macedon from the Romans, they would gain possession of the region of Paeonia as a reward for their contribution. Therefore, the Dardanians participated directly in military actions against Macedon during the Second Roman-Macedonian war (200-197 B.C.E.).

Being aware of the Dardanian threat, Philip V took protective and fortifying measures in the northern frontier of his kingdom sometime during the first year of this war. For the same purpose, Philip sent into the narrow pass the allowed the entrance in the region of Pelagonia a Macedonian force under the command of his son and future king Perseus. This force was stationed here for a very short period of time since Philip had to recall Perseus and his soldiers from there into central Macedon in order to increase the ranks of the main army. In this way, the northern border along Pelagonia was left once again unprotected. Thus, a Dardanian assault that raided the northern regions of Macedon took place in the beginning of 199. The Dardanian raid forced Philip into sending a force from his own troops lead by one of his generals, Atenagora, in pursuit of the northern enemy. Atenagora reached the Dardanian enemy as they were retreating and a battle took place between the two sides. The descriptions of Tit Livy on this battle reveal that the Dardanians had a regular army, equipped with its own flags, organized, disciplined, and well-positioned. However, the heavy armory and possibly the considerable spoils gained from the raids made the movements of the Dardanian warriors slower than the movements of the Macedonian light infantry and cavalry. Nevertheless, the splendid resistance of the Dardanian soldiers and the familiarity that they had with the terrain enabled them to successfully deal with the Macedonian retaliation. The losses were few among both sides and the Dardanians succeeded in returning into their lands with the army and their spoils almost unharmed and untouched.

The collaboration between Rome and Dardania did not continue long. The relationships between the two entities seem to have weakened before the conclusion of the Second Macedonian War. It seems that the Dardanians realized that they were not going to be granted with the control of Paeonia. Also, with Macedon now weakened significantly, Dardania represented the next frontier of the Roman expansion towards inner Balkans and Danube. Furthermore, their usual raids towards Macedon had become less valuable enterprises since a weakened Macedon was unable and unwilling to invest in their land cultivation and urban development. Thus, the Dardanians carried out some indirect actions against the Romans while on surface still behaving as their allies. One such action was carried out in the beginning of 197, when the Roman-Macedonian War was reaching its conclusion. In this occasion, the Dardanians provided mercenary forces for the Aetolians who were also at the time fighting against the Romans.

On the other hand, during the war against Macedon, the Roman commanders had replaced one another. Publius Villius replaced Suplicius in the second year of the war, whereas in 198 Titus Quincius Flaminius replaced Villius. In 197, Flaminius defeated the Macedonians at the battle of Cynoscephalae forcing them to sign a peace treaty according to which the Macedonians would retreat from their possessions in central Hellenic lands. Macedon gradually turned into a client kingdom of Rome. Philip V continued to stay in power but in many aspects as a vassal king. The Dardanians, left empty-handed from their alliance with the Romans, engaged in their usual independent actions against Macedon. They even seem to have tried to gain control of Paeonia on their own, as it is known that a Dardanian force led possibly by king Bato engaged in raids along the northern Macedon at this time. To counter measure, Philip sent 6,000 infantrymen and 500 horsemen in the north and crushed the Dardanians near Stobi (Gradsko) in Paeonia. This represented one of the most significant victories of Macedon against the Dardanian state.

Artistic depiction of an Illyrian warrior
Artistic depiction of a warrior in ancient Balkans.

Episode V: A Macedonian Enterprise

Even though Philip recorded a decisive victory over the Dardanians, he still considered them a constant threat for his kingdom. Being unable to conquer Dardania directly and subdue them, Philip came up with a plan that would ensure his northern frontier. The plan of the Macedonian king involved encouraging the Bastarnae, a Gallic/Celtic or Germanic tribe living in the northern bank of the lower Danube, to invade Dardania and resettle there. In this way, Philip hoped to exterminate the Dardanians in mass or at least force their migration further away from northern Macedon. According to some scholars, Philip had selected the area of the Polog valley as the territory for the potential settlement of the Bastarnae. This arrangement would at least enclose the pass that the Dardanians usually used to carry out raids against northern Macedon. On a larger scale and in case of an outstanding success against the Dardanians, the Bastarnae, encouraged by Macedon, planned to head against the Roman Republic itself through a journey of about 700 km that would pass across the Save valley and over the Julian Alps all the way into the plains of Trieste. It is for this large-scale strategy that Philip secured an alliance with the Scordisci, a tribe that occupied the area of modern Belgrade where the rivers Sava and Danube met and where the route towards Julian Alps went through.

For now, Philip had already secured for the Bastarnae a relatively safe passage across Thracia and had also provided them with food reserves. The Macedonian king was conscious that the Bastarnae could not challenge the Roman power, but he hoped that the instability that they would bring would allow him the control over Dardania and even provide him with an opportunity to revive the independence of Macedon. However, Philip did not live to realize his venture. Thus, his son and successor, Perseus (r.212-166), continued his plan. Around 30,000 Bastarnae under the command of their chieftain named Clondicus, advanced towards Dardania. At the end of the year 179, they stormed Dardania, apparently helped by the forces of Perseus, and caused many damages to the local population. This situation continued for some time. Therefore, in 177 the Dardanians sent a delegation into the Roman Senate. Before the Senate, they expressed their concerns over the destructions occurring in their country and over the increased power and regional influence of Perseus. Despite their report, Rome apparently took no measures to change the situation.

With Rome unwilling to help, the Dardanians had to depend on their own strength in order to force the Bastarnae out of their domains. After some struggles, the major battle took place under the walls of a Dardanian city, the name and location of which it is unknown. Apparently, the battle was enduring and difficult but the Dardanians were able to defeat the enemy. The rest of the Bastarnae were forced to leave Dardania during the winter of 176-175. With the country now liberated but severely damaged, the Dardanians had to go through a period of slow recovery during 175-168. This meant, among others, that the Dardanian state had to endure the attacks of other local enemies. Livy reports one occasion in 169 when the Dardanians had to deal with an assault from certain Thracian tribes.

Episode VI: Resisting the Roman Strength

After the conquest of Macedon in 168 BCE and its official transformation into a Roman province in 148, the Dardanians left the alliance with Rome from which they had profit only the right to trade salt (salis commercium). During 168-148 BCE, the conquered Macedon remained divided into four small republics until the Senate decided to give to it the status of the province. The population was disarmed and the weapons were meld and burned. Rome, now a bordering force with Dardania, became the new major threat for the Dardanians in the region. While the Romans started their attempts to establish order across the province, the Dardanians tried to prevent them from doing so. Collaborations between Dardanians and the Thracian Maedi in the east and other Illyrian tribes in the southwest increased. Marital relations were conducted with these allies to strengthen the alliances like the marriage between the king Gentius and the princess Etuta, daughter of the Dardanian king, in 169 B.C.E.

The alliance of the Dardanians with the Maedi, a Thracian tribe, was especially efficient in preventing Rome to advance in their countries. In 98, the Dardanian along with the Scordisci and Maedi were partially defeated by Cornelius Sulla however they were able to successfully face the Roman attacks of the years 97 B.C.E and 85 B.C.E. In 86 B.C.E, Cornelius Sulla had crushed a Dardanian resistance after he returned from a winning campaign against Mithridates, king of Pontus. The attempts of Sulla during the years 86-85 BCE were finalized with regaining control of Athens by Rome at the expense of Mithridates, but were not followed by a fully stabilization of the Roman province of Macedonia. The Dardanians, along with the Scordisci and the Maedi conducted a military raid across the province of Macedonia during 84-83. This raid is thought to have reached as far as Delphi.

In 77, the Romans under the leadership of Clausius Pulcher, who was assigned proconsul of Macedonia one year before, achieved some level of success against the Dardanians and the Maedi, probably around the mountains of Rhodopa, south of today’s Bulgaria. A year later, the leadership of the Macedonian province was assigned to Scibonius Curio who arrived in the Balkans at the head of five legions.

Episode VII: Roman Invasion of Dardania

The first fully successful military campaign of Rome against the Dardanians must have been the one headed by Scribonius Curio during the years 75-73 (bellum Dardanicum). Few things are known on this campaign since there is a lack of written sources on this event. However, it can be suggested that the campaign was carried out with a great determination, coarseness, and impact. Ammiani Marcellini compares the cruelty that Curio exercised over the Dardanians with the cruelty that emperor Valentian exercised over his own troops. Regarding the campaign in itself, a force of 30,000 soldiers spread into four legions lead by Curio was enough to crush every resistance from the Dardanians. However, it should be mentioned that the Dardanians of that time were still one of the greatest power in the region and the Romans themselves were aware of this even before the initiation of their campaign. For this, it is useful to consider a fragment of the author Frontini who writes about an event occurring in the eve of the campaign as follows:

The council S.Curio during the campaign against Dardania in the outskirts of Dyrrachium (Durrës), when one of the legions rebelled and avoided military service and stated that they had no intention to follow the unreasonable general into a difficult and dangerous expedition, ordered the four legions to position in fighting formation and with the arms engaged. Then, he ordered the soldiers of the rebelled legion to come unarmed and unclothed and, in front of the armed military, forced them to cut straw. Unaffected by the begging of this legion, he withdrew their flags, removed their name and redistributed them in the other legions.”

After he defeated the Dardanians, Curio advanced up north until he reached the banks of the Danube, becoming the first Roman general to reach there. In 72, Curio returned in Rome and celebrated the Dardanian triumph publicly. The campaign of Scribonus Curio has traditionally been considered as putting Dardania under Roman rule.

 

Bibliography

Hammond, N.G.L. & Wallbank, W. (1972). A History of Macedonia 336-167 B.C.

Iustini, M.I. Historiarum Philippicarum.

Petrović, V.P. (2007). Pre-Roman and Roman Dardania. Historical and Geographical Considerations. Balcanica, 27, 7-22.

Shukriu, E. (2008). Prehistory and Antique History of Kosovo. Thesis Kosova.

Livy, T. Ab Urbe Condita.

Frontini, J. Strata Gematon.

Glaucias, the Illyrian

Episode I: King of the Taulantii/King of the Illyrians

Glaucias was, according to Arrian, king of the Taulantti, an Illyrian tribe that occupied the current region of Central Albania. On the other hand, Plutarch and Diodorus describe him as the king of the Illyrians. However, there should be no confusion between the terms “king of the Taulantii” and “king of the Illyrians”. These are just alternative and complementary ways of illustrating the same picture. It should be noted that when Glaucias is referred here as king of the Illyrians, Illyria, or Illyrian kingdom, it is done for purpose of simplicity and it only suggests that he reigned over a territory that was inhabited by Illyrian tribes including the Taulantii. It does not suggest that Glaucias ruled over all the Illyrian tribes across the Balkans. Glaucias seems to have been the son of Pleuratus I and thus, around 335, succeeded him on the throne of the Taulantii. Regarding the center of his kingdom, it was located somewhere around Tirana (in the ancient ruins of Perqop), controlling the plain of that region.

Map showing the areas and cities mentioned in the text and the realm of Glaucias in its initial form and in its greatest expansion during 335-302 B.C.E.
Map showing the ancient areas (Illyria, Epirus, Macedon, Paeonia, Agrianes, Dardania) and cities mentioned in the text and the realm of Glaucias in its initial form and in its greatest expansion during 335-302 B.C.E.

Episode II: Battle against Alexander the Great

Glaucias appears for the first time as a political and military figure in the events related to the campaign of Alexander the Great against the Illyrians in the summer of 335. At that time, Alexander was conducting a campaign in northwestern area of his inherited kingdom, when he was notified that Cleitus, son of Bardylis, had rebelled against the Macedonian rule and that Glaucias was assisting him. Another Illyrian tribe, the Autariatae, who were apparently allied with Cleitus and Glaucus, had planned to assault Alexander on his march. Alexander, anticipating the interception of the Autariatae, engaged the king of the Agrianes, Langarus, to crush them in their own lands. Langarus did so energetically thus opening the way for Alexander to lead his forces against Cleitus and Glaucus. The Macedonians marched safely through the valley of the Erigon (Crna) River to arrive near the city of Pelion that was captured by the Illyrian forces of Cleitus and that dominated the area of Dassaretis. Meanwhile, the Illyrian forces of Glaucus were on their way to join Cleitus at Pelion. Hammond rightly states that Illyrian region was already familiar to Alexander:

As a royal Page, he had accompanied Philip on Illyrian campaigns, and then in 337 he had escorted Olympia to Epirus and gone from there to Illyria, where he stayed with one or more kings, perhaps indeed with Glaucias”.

The Illyrian forces were divided into two main parts. One was positioned within Pelion while others had occupied the highest peaks around the area and above the main passes. Upon arriving near Pelion, Alexander set his camp outside the city with the aim of recapturing it by keeping the Illyrian forces divided as they were. The arrival of Glaucias and his large number of troops in the area forced Alexander in a defensive position and changed his aim of recapturing the city. The first move of the Macedonian ruler was to sent Philotas, one of his commanders, with a cavalry unit, on a nearby expedition to secure food for the army. It is Arrian that gives us the description of the following events:

When Glaucias heard of the expedition of Philotas he marched out to meet him, and seized the mountains, which surrounded the plain, from which Philotas intended to procure forage. As soon as Alexander was informed that his cavalry and beasts of burden would be in danger if night overtook them, taking the shield-bearing troops, the archers, the Agrianians, and about four hundred cavalry, he went with all speed to their aid. The rest of the army he left behind near the city, to prevent the citizens from hastening forth to form a junction with Glaucias (as they would have done), if all the Macedonian army had withdrawn. Directly Glaucias perceived that Alexander was advancing, he evacuated the mountains, and Philotas and his forces returned to the camp in safety. But Cleitus and Glaucias still imagined that they had caught Alexander in a disadvantageous position; for they were occupying the mountains, which commanded the plain by their height, with a large body of cavalry, javelin-throwers, and slingers, besides a considerable number of heavy-armed infantry. Moreover, the men who had been beleaguered in the city were expected to pursue the Macedonians closely if they made a retreat. The ground also through which Alexander had to march was evidently narrow and covered with wood on one side it was hemmed in by a river, and on the other there was a very lofty and craggy mountain so that there would not be room for the army to pass, even if only four shield-bearers marched abreast.

Then Alexander drew up his army in such a way that the depth of the phalanx was 120 men; and stationing 200 cavalry on each wing, he ordered them to preserve silence, in order to receive the word of command quickly. Accordingly he gave the signal to the heavy-armed infantry in the first place to hold their spears erect, and then to couch them at the concerted sign; at one time to incline their spears to the right, closely locked together, and at another time towards the left. He then set the phalanx itself into quick motion forward, and marched it towards the wings, now to the right, and then to the left. After thus arranging and re-arranging his army many times very rapidly, he at last formed his phalanx into a sort of wedge, and led it towards the left against the enemy, who had long been in a state of amazement at seeing both the order and the rapidity of his evolutions. Consequently they did not sustain Alexander’s attack, but quitted the first ridges of the mountain. Upon this, Alexander ordered the Macedonians to raise the battle cry and make a clatter with their spears upon their shields; and the Taulantii, being still more alarmed at the noise, led their army back to the city with all speed.

As Alexander saw only a few of the enemy still occupying a ridge, along which lay his route, he ordered his body-guards and personal companions to take their shields, mount their horses, and ride to the hill; and when they reached it, if those who had occupied the position awaited them, he said that half of them were to leap from their horses, and to fight as foot- soldiers, being mingled with the cavalry. But when the enemy ‘saw Alexander’s advance, they quitted the hill and retreated to the mountains in both directions. Then Alexander, with his companions, seized the hill, and sent for the Agrianians and archers, who numbered 2,000. He also ordered the shield-bearing guards to cross the river, and after them the regiments of Macedonian infantry, with instructions that, as soon as they had succeeded in crossing, they should draw out in rank towards the left, so that the phalanx of men crossing might appear compact at once. He himself, in the vanguard, was all the time observing from the ridge the enemy’s advance. They, seeing the force crossing the river, marched down the mountains to meet them, with the purpose of attacking Alexander’s rear in its retreat. But, as they were just drawing near, Alexander rushed forth with his own division, and the phalanx raised the battle cry, as if about to advance through the river. When the enemy saw all the Macedonians marching against them, they turned and fled. Upon this, Alexander led the Agrianians and archers at full speed towards the river, and succeeded in being himself the first man to cross it. But when he [Alexander] saw the enemy pressing upon the men in the rear, he stationed his engines of war upon the bank, and ordered the engineers to shoot from them as far forward as possilile all sorts of projectiles which are usually shot from military engines. He directed the archers, who had also entered the water, to shoot their arrows from the middle of the river. But Glaucias durst not advance within range of the missiles so that the Macedonians passed over in such safety, that not one of them lost his life in the retreat.

The Illyrians had no reason to engage in close combat with the Macedonian force that was leaving the site in such an organized manner. Glaucus and Cleitus thought the initial Macedonian departure as a victory since they have managed to keep the city of Pelion into their possession. This initial impression caused the Illyrians to encamp carelessly near the city without expecting Alexander’s return. On noticing this weakness, Alexander returned on the site three days later and caught the Illyrian forces by surprise killing many of them and capturing many others. Cleitus himself managed to escape the slaughter and burned his city. Glaucias had also left the area with the surviving forces and returned to his kingdom through the surrounding mountains. After burning the city of Pelion, Cleitus went into the territory of the Taulantii and found refugee in Glaucus’ dominion.

The defeat that Glaucias suffered at Pelion did not challenged his authority over his central possessions, which were located further west from the battlefield. On the other hand, Alexander had no intention to pursue the army of Glaucias deep in the Illyrian hinterland and risk suffering further losses in a rough and unsuitable terrain for the military formations of the Macedonians. The victory of Macedon at Pelion served mainly to secure the kingdom’s northwestern border on the verge of the main expedition against Persia.

Despite the description of classical sources, the campaign against the Illyrians proved difficult for Alexander, so much so that a news that he was killed during battle spread out in Thebes and other places under Alexander’s control. This was another important reason why, soon after the victory over Glaucias and Cleitus, Alexander had to return into Thebes where his presence was required in order to reaffirm his authority and prepare for his major campaign against Persia. As e result, Glaucias continued his reign for another generation over the Illyrians, including into his possessions the lands of other surrounding Illyrian tribes.

Little is known about the activity of Glaucias during 334-317. Some scholars suggest that Glaucias, in addition to the lands of the Taulantii he already controlled, gradually took over the region that was once ruled by Cleitus, apparently capitalizing on the fact that Alexander was engaged far away in war against the Persians.

Episode III: Becoming the adoptive father of Pyrrhus of Epirus

In 317, Cassander, the ruler of Macedon, interfered in the internal affairs of Epirus, encouraging a civil unrest there, in a continuous effort to expand his authority over this region that was after all the homeland of Olympia, mother of Alexander the Great and thus Cassander’s ultimate enemy. As a result of the civil unrest and the Macedonian pressure, Aeacides, up until then the ruler of Epirus and supporter of Olympia, was forced to resign from the throne and leave his state. Aeacides’ two-year old son and the rightful heir of Epirus, Pyrrhus II, was saved from Cassander’s persecution and brought for protection in the court of king Glaucias. It was the same child that would later be known as Pyrrhus of Epirus or Pyrrhus the Great, one of the most skilled generals of his time who challenged the forces of the Roman Republic in the southern Italian peninsula. By the time Pyrrhus was brought in the Illyrian court, Glaucias had already established a friendly relationship with the monarchy of Epirus. Thus, the Illyrian king had married Beroea, a Molossian princess, who, as Pyrrhus, was a member of the Aeacide family. Plutarch describes romantically the encounter of Glaucias with the infant Pyrrhus:

Having thus outstripped their pursuers and reached a place of safety, the fugitives [supporters of Molossian monarchy] betook themselves to Glaucias the king of the Illyrians; and finding him sitting at home with his wife, they put the little child [Pyrrhus] down on the floor before them. Then the king began to reflect. He was in fear of Cassander, who was an enemy of Aeacides [Pyrrhus father], and held his peace a long time as he took counsel with himself. Meanwhile Pyrrhus, of his own accord, crept across the floor, clutched the king’s robe, and pulled himself on to his feet at the knees of Glaucias, who was moved at first to laughter, then to pity, as he saw the child clinging to his knees and weeping like a formal suppliant. Some say, however, that the child did not supplicate Glaucias, but caught hold of an altar of the gods and stood there with his arms thrown round it, and that Glaucias thought this a sign from Heaven. Therefore he at once put Pyrrhus in the arms of his wife, bidding her rear him along with their children; and a little while after, when the child’s enemies demanded his surrender, and Cassander offered two hundred talents [about 20,000 silver coins] for him, Glaucias would not give him up…

Nicolas René Jollain, le Jeune. Infant Pyrrhus brought before Glaucus (Original: Le jeune Pyrrhus présenté à Glaucias).Musée du Louvre.
Nicolas René Jollain, le Jeune. Infant Pyrrhus brought before Glaucus (Original: Le jeune Pyrrhus présenté à Glaucias).Museum of Louvre (Musée du Louvre).

Despite the intimate description of Plutarch, Glaucias had strategical reasons to keep the infant Pyrrhus under his protection. Epirus was of geostrategic importance in order for his kingdom to be secured from the south. The way to secure this influence over Epirus was to raise Pyrrhus safely in Illyria and to establish him on the throne of Epirus at a proper age. The establishment of Pyrrhus on the throne of Epirus would reactivate the marital relations Glaucias already had established with the family of Pyrrhus. Thus, from now on, Pyrrhus would be his adoptive son.

The sitting of Pyrrhus on the throne of Epirus was realized in 309 when Glaucias, carrying Pyrrhus with him, entered into that region with a large Illyrian force. The Illyrians crushed any opposition from the pro-Macedonian group centered on king Alketas and Pyrrhus was declared the legitimate king of Epirus. After leaving appropriate guardians to assist Pyrrhus, then 12 years of age, in governance, Glaucias returned into his kingdom victorious.

The relations between Glaucus and Pyrrhus remained friendly in the coming years. In 302, Pyrrhus, would return into Illyria to attend the marriage of a son of Glaucus, with whom Pyrrhus was reared and whom Pyrrhus considered to be his brother. This event serves also to suggest that in 302 Glaucias was still alive and still ruling over his Illyrian kingdom.

Episode IV: Struggle for coastal control

Before being able to put Pyrrhus on the throne of Epirus, Glaucias had to endure the military retaliation the Macedonian king. In 314, the Macedonians led by Cassander himself, sailed from Epirus and assaulted the Illyrian coast. They conquered the main cities of Apollonia and Dyrrachium and then entered the Illyrian hinterland. During this campaign, Glaucias and his Illyrian troops were defeated, thus forcing the Illyrian king to temporarily retreat from the coastal areas. Macedonian garrisons were put in both Dyrrachium and Apollonia in order to keep their citizens under Macedonian rule and keep away potential Illyrian assaults. The Macedonian pressure forced Glaucias to sign a treaty of neutrality where he promised not to intervene in Epirus and its affairs. Although in difficult position after this Macedonian invasion, Glaucias did not surrender Pyrrhus to Cassander and continued to keep him under his protection until eventually sat him on the throne of Epirus. For now, the Illyrian king aimed at regaining possession of the coastal area and forcing the Macedonians retreat from there.

Glaucias quicly reorganized his troops and in 313 sieged the city of Apollonia. It was during this time that Acrotatus from Sparta who, up until now, had almost nothing to do with this conflict, conducted a forced naval landing in the area around the sieged city, forced here by a sea storm while on his way towards Acragas (modern Agrigento). Inside the city of Apollonia, the Macedonian garrison positioned there by Cassander, was leading the stance against the Illyrian king, thus attempting at the same time to ensure the Macedonian authority over an otherwise free colony. Acrotatus came into close contact with king Glaucias with whom he entered into peace negotiations on behalf of the citizens of Apollonia who were apparently influenced by a pro-Macedonian party. These negotiations were concluded with the Illyrian king signing e peace treaty with the city of Apollonia and releasing it from the siege. The terms of this treaty are unknown, but it can be assumed that they favored the position of Glaucias and threatened the authority of the Macedonians. Thus, a political tension between a pro-Macedonian party and an opposition may have been triggered in the city of Apollonia.

The Macedonian rule was undesired by the Hellenic colonies along the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea. Thus, in 312 the citizens in both Dyrrachium and Apollonia revolted against the Macedonian rule and expelled the Macedonians from their cities. In their liberation the state of Corcyra provided the main military assistance but it seems that Illyrians offered their support as well. After their liberation, Corcyra awarded Glaucias with the control of Dyrrachium. The following attempt of Cassander to regain these possession and especially Apollonia was useless. The forces of Apollonia along with possible Illyrian reinforces defeated the forces of Macedon in front of the city walls. The whole coastal Illyria had now been freed from the Macedonian forces.

 

Bibliography

Arriani. Alexandri Anabasis.

Diodori. Bibliotheca Historica.

Hammond, N.G.L. (1966). The Kingdoms in Illyria circa 400-167 B.C. The Annual British School at Athens, 61, 240-253.

Hammond, N.G.L. & Wallbank, W. (1972). A History of Macedonia 336-167 B.C. pp.39-47.

Plutarchi. Vitae Parallelae. Pyrrhus.

Velija, Q. (2012) Mbretëri dhe Mbretër Ilirë. West Print, Tiranë.