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Dardania prior to Roman conquest, shown with red on the upper part of the map
Dardanian Kingdom.

The Dardani (/ˈdɑːrdən/; Ancient Greek: Δαρδάνιοι, Δάρδανοι; Latin: Dardani), or Dardanians (Δαρδανίωνες) were a tribe which occupied the region that took its name from them of Dardania,[1][2] at the Thraco-Illyrian contact zone; their identification as either an Illyrian or Thracian tribe is uncertain.[3][4] Their territory itself was not considered part of Illyria[5] by Strabo. The term used for their territory was (Ancient Greek: Δαρδανική),[6] while other tribal areas had more unspecified terms, such as (Ancient Greek: Αὐταριατῶν χώρα), for the Autariatae. Other than that, little to no data[7] exists on the territory of the Dardani prior to Roman conquest, especially on its southern extent. Albanian historians concluded that the kingdom of Dardani included the territory of today's Kosovo and southern Serbia and later on north-western Macedonia during the wars with Macedonia.


According to Johann Georg von Hahn in 1854, 19th century historical linguistics concluded that Dardanoi and Dardania may be related to a word or derived from proto-Albanian meaning pear tree (dardha in modern Albanian the definite form, dardhë indefinite form < PAlb *dardā[8]), in view of the fact that toponyms related to fruits or animals are not unknown in the region (cf. Alb.rush-grapes < PAlb. râgusa, reflected in Illyrian Ragusa, Greek Ραγούσα, the ancient name of the city of Dubrovnik,[9] Alb. dele/delmë "sheep" supposedly related to Dalmatia, Ulcinj in Montenegro < Alb. ujk, ulk "wolf" etc.). Opinions differ whether the ultimate etymon of this word in Proto-Indo-European was *g'hord-, or *dheregh-.[10]

Greek mythological origin

In Greek mythology, Dardanus (Δάρδανος), one of the sons of Illyrius (the others being Enchelus, Autarieus, Maedus, Taulas, and Perrhaebus) was the eponymous ancestor of the Dardanoi (Δάρδανοι).[11] Some Roman ethnographers proposed a connection between Dardani of the Balkans and the Dardans of Troy, having a group of Dardan colonists settle in the Balkans and subsequently degenerate into a state of barbarism,[12] but the Romans[13] considered them to be Greeks as a whole, which contradicts modern scholarship.


Early history

The Dardanians are first mentioned in the 4th century BC, when their king Bardylis succeeded into bringing various tribes in a single organization. Under his leadership the Dardanians defeated the Macedonians and Molossians several times. At this time they were strong enough to rule Macedonia through a puppet king in 392-391 BC. In 385-384 they allied with Dionysius I of Syracuse and defeated the Molossians in a battle, killing up to 15,000 Molossian soldiers and ruling their territory for a short period. Their continuous invasions forced the Macedonian king[who?] to pay them a tribute in 372 BC. They returned raiding the Molossians in 360. In 359 BC Bardylis won a decisive battle against Macedonian king Perdiccas III, whom he killed himself, while 4,000 Macedonian soldiers fell, and the cities of upper Macedonia were occupied.[14][15]

Following this disastrous defeat of the Macedonians by the Dardanians, when king Philip II took control of the Macedonian throne in 358, he reaffirmed the treaty with the Dardanians, marrying princess Audata, probably the daughter or niece of Bardylis. The time of this marriage is somewhat disputed while some historians maintain that the marriage happened after the defeat of Bardylis.[16] This gave Philip valuable time to gather his forces and to defeat those Dardanians who were still under Bardylis in the decisive Erigon Valley battle by killing about 7,000 of them, eliminating the Dardanian menace for some time.[15][17]

In 334 BC, under the leadership of Cleitus, the son of Bardylis, the Dardanians, in alliance with other Illyrian tribes of the Taulanti under Glaukias and Autariate, attacked Macedonia, which was this time under Alexander the Great. The Dardanians managed to capture some cities but were eventually defeated by Alexander's forces.[14]

In winter 280-279 BC when Celts invaded Macedonia, the Dardanian king offered to help the Macedonians with 20,000 soldiers, but they were refused by Macedonian king Ptolemy Keraunos. This refusal eventually contributed to his defeat and consequent death.[18][19] Unlike Macedonia, Dardanians suffered little under the Celtic invasion and Dardanian forces attacked them while they were returning north.

Dardanians were a constant threat to the Macedonian kingdom. In 230 under Longarus[20] they captured Bylazora from Paionians [21] and in 229 they again attacked Macedonia, defeating in an important battle Macedonian forces under Demetrius II.[22] In this period their influence on the region grew and some other Illyrian tribes defected Teuta joining Dardanians under Longarus, forcing Teuta to call off her expedition forces in Epirus.[23] When Philip V rose to the Macedonian throne skirmishing with Dardanians began in 220-219 BC and he managed to capture Bylazora from them in 217 BC. Skirmishes continued in 211 and in 209 when a force of Dardanians under Aeropus, probably a pretender to the Macedonian throne, captured Lychnidus and looted Macedonia taking 20.000 prisoners and retreating before Philip's forces could reach them.[24] In 201 Bato of Dardania along with Pleuratus the Illyrian and Amynander king of Athamania, cooperated with Roman consul Sulpicius in his expedition against Philip V.[25] Being always under the menace of Dardanian attacks on Macedonia, around 183 BC Philip V made an alliance with the Bastarnae and invited them to settle in Polog, the region of Dardania closest to Macedonia.[26] A joint campaign of the Bastarnae and Macedonians against the Dardanians was organized, but Philip V died and his son Perseus of Macedon withdrew his forces from the campaign. The Bastarnae crossed the Danube in huge numbers and although they didn't meet the Macedonians, they continued the campaign. Some 30,000 Bastarnae under the command of Clondicus seem to have defeated the Dardanians,[27] but eventually they returned home and the plan of Philip V failed. In 177 BC the Dardanians sent a report to the Roman Senate, accusing Perseus for being again in alliance with the Bastarnae, but the Roman investigating commission failed to find support for such accusations.[28]

Roman conquest of the Balkans

After the Roman conquest of Illyria at 168 BC, Romans colonized and founded several cities in the region.[29]

In 88 BC, the Dardani invaded the Roman province of Macedonia together with the Scordisci and the Maedi.[30]

Polybius[31] writes of an event in which the Dardani ask for Roman aid against their enemies.

When the Rhodian envoys arrived in Rome the Senate, after listening to their address, deferred its answer. Meanwhile the Dardanian envoys came with reports as to the number of the Bastarnae, the size of their men, and their courage in the field. They gave information also of the treacherous practices of Perseus and the Gauls, and said that they were more afraid of him than of the Bastarnae, and therefore begged the help of the Romans. The report of the Dardani being supported by that of the Thessalian envoys who arrived at that time, and who also begged for help, the Senators determined to send some commissioners to see with their own eyes the truth of these reports; and they accordingly at once appointed and despatched Aulus Postumius, accompanied by some young men.

According to Strabo's Geographica (compiled 20 BC–23 AD), they were divided into two sub-groups, the Galabri and the Thunaki.[32]

Dardania and the northern Balkans in Late Antiquity

It seems quite probable that the Dardani actually lost independence in 28 BC thus, the final occupation of Dardania by Rome has been connected with the beginnings of Augustus' rule in 6 AD, when they were finally conquered by Rome. Dardania was conquered by Gaius Scribonius Curio and the Latin language was soon adopted as the main language of the tribe as many other conquered and Romanized.[33]

Aftermath and legacy

At first, Dardania was not a separate Roman province, but became a region in the province of Moesia Superior in 87 AD.[34] Emperor Diocletian later (284) made Dardania into a separate[34] province with its capital at Naissus (Niš). During the Byzantine administration (in the 6th century), there was a Byzantine province of Dardania that included cities of Ulpiana, Scupi, Stobi, Justiniana Prima, and others.

The Illyrian language disappeared, with almost nothing of it surviving, except for names.[35] The Illyrian tribes in antiquity were subject to varying degrees of Celticization,[36][37] Hellenization,[38] Romanization[39][40] Byzantinization, and finally Slavicisation.


It is assumed that the Dardanian kingdom was made up of many tribes and tribal groups, confirmed by Strabo.[41] The first and most prominent king of the Dardani was Bardylis[42] who ruled from 385 BC to 358 BC. He was perhaps succeeded by Grabos (358–356 BC)[42] who may have been[43] Bardylis's son. Little is known about Bardylis II,[44] Bardylis's son. Cleitus[44] was Bardylis II's son. Tribal chiefs Longarus and his son Bato took part in the wars[3] against Romans and Macedonians. The Dardanians, in all their history, always[45] had separate domains from the rest of the Illyrians.[citation needed]


According to Ancient Greek and Roman historiography, the tribe was viewed of as "extremely barbaric".[46][page needed][47] Claudius Aelianus and other writers[who?] wrote that they bathed only three[48] times in their lives. At birth, when they were wed and after they died. Strabo refers to them as wild[49] and dwelling in dirty caves under dung-hills.[50] This however may have had to do not with cleanliness, as bathing had to do with monetary[47] status from the viewpoint of the Greeks. At the same time, Strabo writes that they had some interest in music as they owned and used flutes and corded instruments.[50]


An extenstive study based on onomastics has been undertaken by Radoslav Katičić which puts the Dardani language area in the Central Illyrian area ("Central Illyrian" consisting of most of ex-Yugoslavia, north of southern Montenegro to the west of Morava, excepting ancient Liburnia in the North-West, but perhaps extending into Pannonia in the north).[51][52] There are many words in Illyrian that have great similarity to Albanian[53] like: sika-thika(knife), aspetos-i shpejtë(fast), bilia-bijë,bilë(daughter), aran-arë(field). Also names of places and names of Dardanian and Illyrian personalities in general like: Bardhul-i bardhë(white), Dalmatia-delme,dele(sheep), Ulkin-ulk,ujq(wolf).

Notable people

See also


  1. "Δαρδάνιοι, Δάρδανοι, Δαρδανίωνες" Dardanioi, Georg Autenrieth, "A Homeric Dictionary", at Perseus
  2. Latin Dictionary
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wilkes 1992, p. 85

    Whether the Dardanians were an Illyrian or a Thracian people has been much debated and one view suggests that the area was originally populated with Thracians who where [sic?] then exposed to direct contact with illyrians over a long period...

  4. Papazoglu 1978, p. 131

    the Dardanians ... living in the frontiers of the Illyrian and the Thracian worlds retained their individuality and, alone among the peoples of that region, succeeded in maintaining themselves as an ethnic unity even when they were militarily and politically subjected by the Roman arms [...] and when, towards the end of the ancient world, the Balkans were involved in far-reaching ethnic perturbations, the Dardanians, of all the Central Balkan tribes, played the greatest part in the genesis of the new peoples who took the place of the old

  5. Papazoglu 1978, p. 217
  6. Papazoglu 1978, p. 523
  7. Papazoglu 1978, p. 187

    We have very little information about the territory of the Dardanians before its inclusion in the Roman state

  8. Albanian Etymological Dictionary, V.Orel, Koninklijke Brill ,Leiden Boston Köln 1998, p.56
  9. Albanian Etymological Dictionary, V.Orel, Koninklijke Brill ,Leiden Boston Köln 1998, p.391
  10. Elsie, Robert (1998): "Dendronymica Albanica: A survey of Albanian tree and shrub names". Zeitschrift für Balkanologie 34: 163-200 online paper
  11. Appian, The Foreign Wars, III, 1.2
  12. Wilkes 1992, p. 220

    Leaving aside Strabo's comment on the dirty habits of the Dardanians, there is little on which to judge the general health of the Illyrian population.

  13. Greeks and Barbarians (Edinburgh Readings on the Ancient World) by T. Harrison, 2001, ISBN 0-415-93959-3, page 140
  14. 14.0 14.1 Lewis, D. M.; Boardman, John (1994). The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 428–429. ISBN 978-0-521-23348-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 James R. Ashley (1 January 2004). The Macedonian Empire: The Era of Warfare Under Philip II and Alexander the Great, 359-323 B.C. McFarland. pp. 111–112. ISBN 978-0-7864-1918-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Elizabeth Donnelly Carney (2000). Women and Monarchy in Macedonia. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-8061-3212-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. N. G. L. Hammond (1 August 1998). The Genius of Alexander the Great. University of North Carolina Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-8078-4744-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Robert Malcolm Errington (1990). A History of Macedonia. University of California Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-520-06319-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Hammond 1988, p. 253
  20. Hammond 1988, p. 338
  21. A history of Macedonia Volume 5 of Hellenistic culture and society, Author: Robert Malcolm Errington, University of California Press, 1990 ISBN 0-520-06319-8, ISBN 978-0-520-06319-8, p. 185
  22. A history of Macedonia Volume 5 of Hellenistic culture and society, Robert Malcolm Errington, University of California Press, 1990, ISBN 0-520-06319-8, ISBN 978-0-520-06319-8 p. 174
  23. Hammond 1988, p. 335
  24. Hammond 1988, p. 404
  25. Hammond 1988, p. 420
  26. Hammond 1988, p. 470
  27. Hammond 1988, p. 491
  28. A history of Macedonia By Robert Malcolm Errington p. 212
  29. Hauptstädte in Südosteuropa: Geschichte, Funktion, nationale Symbolkraft by Harald Heppner, page 134
  30. Wilkes 1992, p. 140

    ... Autariatae at the expense of the Triballi until, as Strabo remarks, they in their turn were overcome by the Celtic Scordisci in the early third century

  31. Polybius, Histories,25.6
  32. Strabo: Books 1‑7, 15‑17 in English translation, ed. H. L. Jones (1924), at LacusCurtius
  33. http://www.balkaninstitut.com/pdf/izdanja/B_XXXVII_2007.pdf
  34. 34.0 34.1 Wilkes 1992, p. 210

    Here the old name of Dardania appears as a new province formed out of Moesia, along with Moesia Prima, Dacia (not Trajan's old province but a... Though its line is far from certain there seems little doubt that most of the Dardanians were excluded from Illyricum and were to become a part of the province of Moesia)

  35. Wilkes 1992, p. 67

    Though almost nothing of it survives, except for names, the Illyrian language has figured prominently

  36. A dictionary of the Roman Empire Oxford paperback reference, ISBN 978-0-19-510233-8, 1995, page 202, "...contact with the peoples of the Illyrian kingdom and at the Celticized tribes of the Delmatae"
  37. Pannonia and Upper Moesia. A History of the Middle Danube Provinces of the Roman Empire. A Mocsy, S Frere
  38. Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, and Sarah B. Pomeroy. A Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society, and Culture. Oxford University Press, p. 255.
  39. Epirus Vetus: The Archaeology of a Late Antique Province (Duckworth Archaeology) by William Bowden, 2003, page 211: "... in the ninth century. Wilkes suggested that they represented a `Romanized population of Illyrian origin driven out by Slav settlements further north', ..."
  40. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (3-Volume Set) by Alexander P. Kazhdan, 1991, page 248, "...were well fortified. In the 6th and 7th C. the romanized Thraco-Illyrian population was forced to settle in the mountains; they reappear ..."
  41. Papazoglu 1978, p. 445

    The assumption that the Dardanian kingdom was composed of a considerable number of tribes and tribal groups, finds confirmation in Strabo's statement about

  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Phillip Harding (21 February 1985). From the End of the Peloponnesian War to the Battle of Ipsus. Cambridge University Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-521-29949-7. Grabos became the most powerful Illyrian king after the death of Bardylis in 358.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. Wilkes 1992, p. 121

    The Illyrians of Grabus are unlikely to have been the subjects of Bardyllis defeated only two years earlier though some have suggested Grabus was his son and successor.

  44. 44.0 44.1 "The Journal of Hellenic Studies by Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies (London, England)", 1973, p. 79. Cleitus was evidently the son of Bardylis II the grandson of the very old Bardylis who had fallen in battle against Phillip II in 385 BC.
  45. Papazoglu 1978, p. 216
  46. Aelian; Diane Ostrom Johnson (June 1997). An English translation of Claudius Aelianus' Varia historia. E. Mellen Press. ISBN 978-0-7734-8672-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  47. 47.0 47.1 Papazoglu 1978, p. 517

    There must have been some reason why it was said of the Dardanians, and not of any other people, that they only bathed three times in their lives ...like the Dardanians', which was applied not to dirty folk, as might be expected, but to the miserly (ἐπὶ τῶν φειδωλῶν)! For the Greeks, obviously, to bathe or not was only a question of expense and financial means.

  48. Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898) "...whence it is said of the Dardanians, an Illyrian people, that they bathe only thrice in their lives—at birth, marriage, and after death."
  49. James Oliver Thomson (1948). History of Ancient Geography. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. pp. 249–. ISBN 978-0-8196-0143-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  50. 50.0 50.1 Strabo,7.5, "The Dardanians are so utterly wild that they dig caves beneath their dung-hills and live there, but still they care for music, always making use of musical instruments, both flutes and stringed instruments"
  51. Katičić, Radoslav (1964b) "Die neuesten Forschungen über die einhemiche Sprachschist in den Illyrischen Provinzen" in Benac (1964a) 9-58 Katičić, Radoslav (1965b) "Zur frage der keltischen und panonischen Namengebieten im römischen Dalmatien" ANUBiH 3 GCBI 1, 53-76
  52. Katičić, Radoslav. Ancient languages of the Balkans. The Hague - Paris (1976)
  53. Erik Hamp, The Position of Albanian, University of Chicago, ..Jokl's Illyrian-Albanian correspondences (Albaner §3a) are probably the best known. Certain of these require comment...
  54. Heckel 2006, p. 64
  55. Wilkes 1996, p. 120
  56. 56.0 56.1 Heckel 2006, p. 86
  57. Hammond 1988, p. 47
  58. 58.0 58.1 Wilkes 1992, p. 86

    ... including the names of Dardanian rulers, Longarus, Bato, Monunius and Etuta, and those on later epitaphs, Epicadus, Scerviaedus, Tuta, Times and Cinna. Other Dardanian names are linked with...


External links

bg:Дардания (провинция)

bs:Dardanija de:Dardanien es:Dardanios hr:Dardanija sq:Dardania sv:Dardanien