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the general name of a broad group of Indo-European tribes, which, in antiquity, occupied the northwestern Balkan peninsula, from the middle course of the Danube to the Adriatic Sea (the most important of the Illyrian tribes were the Dalmatae, Liburnians, Istrians, Iapodi, Pannonians, Desitiatoi, Pirusti, Dicionai, Dardanai, Ardaei, Taulantii, and Plerei), and the southeastern part of the Italian Peninsula (the Japyges, Messapians).

The Illyrians are first mentioned in the works of the Greek writers Hecataeus of Miletus (sixth century B.C.) and Herodotus (fifth century B.C.). Archaeologically the Illyrians are connected with the Hallstatt culture of the Early Iron Age (the cultic vehicles, the ceramic and bronze utensils with figures and raised friezes, and the ornaments date from the period of the greatest development of the Hallstatt culture in 700–400 B.C.). In the seventh to the third centuries B.C. the Greeks founded a number of commercial and agricultural colonies on the territory settled by the Illyrians. At first, the Illyrians constructed fortresses of unhewn stone, but later, under the Greek influence, they began to build walls of dressed blocks and decorate their sanctuaries with sculpture. At the beginning of the third century B.C. the Celts invaded the Illyrian provinces; they partly drove the Illyrians back and partly subjected them to Celticization (thus forming a group of Illyro-Celtic tribes).

In the third century B.C., when the Illyrians came into conflict with the Romans, they were at the stage of declining primitive communal relations (the first early class formations developed even sooner among the southern Illyrian tribes: among the En-chelei, in the fourth century B.C.; among the Taulantii, in the second half of the fourth century B.C.; and among the Ardaei, in the middle of the third century B.C.). After subjugating the neighboring tribes, the Ardaei created a vast state with its capital at Scodra (modern Shkoder). As a result of the so-called Illyrian Wars (229–228, 219, 168–167 B.C.) between the Ardaei and the Romans, the territory of the Ardaei’s state was conquered by the Romans (167 B.C.) and became part of the Roman province of Macedonia (148 B.C.). The northern coastal regions, which were inhabited by the Liburnians, Dalmatae, and Iapodi, were conquered by the Romans in the second to the first century B.C.; the tribes were finally subjugated during the Illyrian War of 35–33 B.C. At that time, the Pannonian tribes on the Middle Sava were also conquered. From 13 to 9 B.C. the tribes to the north of the Sava up to the course of the Middle Danube were subjugated by the Romans. The tribes of the interior of Dalmatia (the Desitia-toi, Pirusti, and others) were subdued by the Romans in the course of the suppression of the Pannonian-Dalmatian insurrection (6–9 A.D.). The Illyrians were subjected to rapid and powerful Romanization, especially in the coastal areas and the cities. In the course of the Great Migration of Peoples, the Illyrians were finally assimilated; the ancient Illyrian language also gradually disappeared. Some scholars consider the modern Albanians to be descendents of the ancient Illyrians. Remains of the Illyrian culture have been preserved in Austria, Italy, Albania, and Yugoslavia.


Sviridova, I. N. “llliriiskie plemena v kon. 1 v. do n.e.—v nach. 1 v. n.e.” Uch. zap. Moskovskogo Gos. pedagogicheskogo in-ta im. V. I. Lenina, 1960, no. 153 [a].
Budimir, M. “Iliri i prailiri.” Vjesnik za arheologiju i historiju dolmatinsku. 1952, no. 53.
Stipcevic, A. “O umjetnosti starih ilira.” Republika, [Zagreb], 1960, no.1, pp. 16–17.
Alfoldy, G. Bevolkerung und Gesellschaft der römischen Provinz Dalmatien. Budapest, 1965.
Stipcevic, A. Bibtiographia illyrica. Sarajevo, 1967.
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