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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 an Indo-European tribe which settled in 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][5] they and their territory were by most writers not considered part of Illyria.[6]


The ethnonym was spelled in Greek as Dardaneis, Dardanioi and Dardanoi, and in Latin as Dardani.[7]

In 1854 within the context of 19th century historical linguistics, Johann Georg von Hahn was the first to propose that the names Dardanoi and Dardania were derived from a proto-Albanian word, meaning pear tree (dardha in modern Albanian the definite form, dardhë indefinite form < PAlb *dardā[8][9]), in view of the fact that toponyms related to fruits or animals are not unknown in the region (cf. 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]

The term used for their territory was Dardanike (Δαρδανική),[11] while other tribal areas had more unspecified terms, such as Autariaton khora (Αὐταριατῶν χώρα), for the "land of Autariatae."

Greek mythological origin[edit]

In Greek mythology, Dardanos (Δάρδανος), one of the sons of Illyrius (the others being Enchelus, Autarieus, Maedus, Taulas, and Perrhaebus) was the eponymous ancestor of the Dardanoi (Δάρδανοι);[12] 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,[13] but the Romans[14] considered them to be Greeks as a whole, which contradicts modern scholarship.


4th century BC[edit]

The Dardani are first mentioned in the 4th century BC, when their king Bardylis succeeded in bringing various tribes into a single organization. Under his leadership the Dardani 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, killing up to 15,000 of their soldiers and ruling their territory for a short period, their continuous invasions forced Amyntas III of Macedon 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.[15][16] Following this disastrous defeat, king Philip II took control of the Macedonian throne in 358 and reaffirmed the treaty with the Dardani, 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.[17] This gave Philip II valuable time to gather his forces against those Dardani who were still under Bardylis, defeating them at the Erigon Valley by killing about 7,000 of them, eliminating the Dardani menace for some time.[16][18]

In 334 BC, under the leadership of Cleitus, the son of Bardylis, the Dardani, in alliance with other Illyrian tribes attacked Macedonia held by Alexander the Great; the Dardani managed to capture some cities but were eventually defeated by Alexander's forces.[15]

3rd–1st century BC[edit]

Celts were present in Dardania in 279 BC;[19] the Dardanian king offered to help the Macedonians with 20,000 soldiers against the Celts, but this was refused by Macedonian king Ptolemy Keraunos.[20][21]

Dardani were a constant threat to the Macedonian kingdom. In 230 under Longarus[22] they captured Bylazora from the Paionians[23] and in 229 they again attacked Macedonia, defeating Demetrius II in an important battle.[24] In this period their influence on the region grew and some other Illyrian tribes deserted Teuta, joining the Dardani under Longarus and forcing Teuta to call off her expedition forces in Epirus;[25] when Philip V rose to the Macedonian throne, skirmishing with Dardani 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 Dardani 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.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28] 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 Dardani.[29] In 179 BC, the Bastarnae conquered the Dardani, who later in 174 pushed them out, in a war which proved catastrophic, with a few years later, in 170 BC, the Macedonians defeating the Dardani.[30] Macedonia and Illyria became Roman protectorates in 168 BC;[31] the Scordisci, a tribe of Celtic origin, most likely subdued the Dardani in the mid-2nd century BC, after which there was no mention of the Dardani for a long time.[32]

Roman period[edit]

Macedonia and Illyria became Roman protectorates in 168 BC.[31]

In 97 BC the Dardani are mentioned again, defeated by the Macedonian Roman army.[33] In 88 BC, the Dardani invaded the Roman province of Macedonia together with the Scordisci and the Maedi.[34][failed verification]

According to Strabo's Geographica (compiled 20 BC–23 AD), they were divided into two sub-groups, the Galabri and the Thunatae.[35]

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.[36]

Aftermath and legacy[edit]

At first, Dardania was not a separate Roman province, but became a region in the province of Moesia Superior in 87 AD.[37] Emperor Diocletian later (284) made Dardania into a separate[37] 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;[38] the Illyrian tribes in antiquity were subject to varying degrees of Celticization,[39][40] Hellenization,[41] Romanization[42][43] Byzantinization, and finally Slavicisation.


It is assumed that the Dardanian kingdom was made up of many tribes and tribal groups, confirmed by Strabo;[44] the first and most prominent king of the Dardani was Bardylis[45] who ruled from 385 BC to 358 BC.[citation needed] Bardylis' descendance (and inheritance) is unclear; Hammond believed that Bardylis II was the son of Bardylis,[46] earlier having believed it to have been Cleitus (as per Arrian),[47] while Wilkes believed Cleitus to be the son.[48] Tribal chiefs Longarus and his son Bato took part in the wars[3] against Romans and Macedonians; the Dardanians, in all their history, always had separate domains from the rest of the Illyrians.[49]

The term used for their territory was (Δαρδανική),[50] while other tribal areas had more unspecified terms, such as Autariaton khora (Αὐταριατῶν χώρα), for the "land of Autariatae." Other than that, little to no data[51] exists on the territory of the Dardani prior to Roman conquest, especially on its southern extent.


According to Ancient Greek and Roman historiography, the tribe was viewed of as "extremely barbaric".[52][page needed][53] Claudius Aelianus and other writers[who?] wrote that they bathed only three[54] times in their lives. At birth, when they were wed and after they died. Strabo refers to them as wild[55] and dwelling in dirty caves under dung-hills;[56] this however may have had to do not with cleanliness, as bathing had to do with monetary[53] 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.[56]

Dardanian slaves or freedmen at the time of the Roman conquest were clearly of Paleo-Balkan origin, according to their personal names,[57] it has been noted that personal names were mostly of the "Central-Dalmatian type".[58]


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 former Yugoslavia, north of southern Montenegro to the west of Morava, excepting ancient Liburnia in the northwest, but perhaps extending into Pannonia in the north).[59][60]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Δαρδάνιοι, Δάρδανοι, Δαρδανίωνες" Dardanioi, Georg Autenrieth, "A Homeric Dictionary", at Perseus
  2. ^ Latin Dictionary
  3. ^ a b 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 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. ^ Waldman, Carl; Mason, Catherine (2006). Encyclopedia of European Peoples. Infobase Publishing. p. 205. ISBN 1438129181. According to ancient sources, the Dardani - variously grouped but probably Illyrians - lived west of present-day Belgrade in present-day Serbia and Montenegro in the third century B.C.E, their homeland in the ancient region of Thrace (and possibly there since the eight century B.C.E).
  6. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 217, Papazoglu 1969
  7. ^ Papazoglu 1969, p. 201.
  8. ^ Albanian Etymological Dictionary, V.Orel, Koninklijke Brill ,Leiden Boston Köln 1998, p.56
  9. ^ Wilkes, John (1992). The Illyrians. Wiley. p. 244. ISBN 9780631146711. "Names of individuals peoples may have been formed in a similar fashion, Taulantii from ‘swallow’ (cf. the Albanian tallandushe) or Erchelei the ‘eel-men’ and Chelidoni the ‘snail-men’. The name of the Delmatae appears connected with the Albanian word for ‘sheep’ delmë) and the Dardanians with for ‘pear’ (dardhë)."
  10. ^ Elsie, Robert (1998): "Dendronymica Albanica: A survey of Albanian tree and shrub names". Zeitschrift für Balkanologie 34: 163-200 online paper
  11. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 523
  12. ^ Appian, The Foreign Wars, III, 1.2
  13. ^ 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.

  14. ^ Greeks and Barbarians (Edinburgh Readings on the Ancient World) by T. Harrison, 2001, ISBN 0-415-93959-3, p. 140
  15. ^ a b Lewis, D. M.; Boardman, John (1994). The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 428–429. ISBN 978-0-521-23348-4.
  16. ^ a b 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.
  17. ^ Elizabeth Donnelly Carney (2000). Women and Monarchy in Macedonia. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-8061-3212-9.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Mócsy 2014, p. 9.
  20. ^ Robert Malcolm Errington (1990). A History of Macedonia. University of California Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-520-06319-8.
  21. ^ Hammond 1988, p. 253
  22. ^ Hammond 1988, p. 338
  23. ^ 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
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ Hammond 1988, p. 335
  26. ^ Hammond 1988, p. 404
  27. ^ Hammond 1988, p. 420
  28. ^ Hammond 1988, p. 470
  29. ^ Hammond 1988, p. 491
  30. ^ Mócsy 2014, p. 10.
  31. ^ a b Papazoglu 1978, p. 173.
  32. ^ Mócsy 2014, p. 12.
  33. ^ Mócsy 2014, p. 15.
  34. ^ 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

  35. ^ Strabo: Books 1‑7, 15‑17 in English translation, ed. H. L. Jones (1924), at LacusCurtius
  36. ^ http://www.balkaninstitut.com/pdf/izdanja/B_XXXVII_2007.pdf
  37. ^ a b 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)

  38. ^ Wilkes 1992, p. 67

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

  39. ^ 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"
  40. ^ Pannonia and Upper Moesia. A History of the Middle Danube Provinces of the Roman Empire. A Mocsy, S Frere
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ 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', ..."
  43. ^ 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 ..."
  44. ^ 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

  45. ^ a b 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.
  46. ^ Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond (1994). Collected studies. 3. Hakkert. p. 14.
  47. ^ Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond (1993). Studies concerning Epirus and Macedonia before Alexander. Hakkert. p. 114. Bardylis' son Cleitus
  48. ^ a b Wilkes 1996, p. 120
  49. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 216
  50. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 523
  51. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 187

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

  52. ^ Aelian; Diane Ostrom Johnson (June 1997). An English translation of Claudius Aelianus' Varia historia. E. Mellen Press. ISBN 978-0-7734-8672-0.
  53. ^ a b 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.

  54. ^ 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."
  55. ^ James Oliver Thomson (1948). History of Ancient Geography. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. pp. 249–. ISBN 978-0-8196-0143-8.
  56. ^ a b 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"
  57. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 224.
  58. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 245.
  59. ^ 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
  60. ^ Katičić, Radoslav. Ancient languages of the Balkans; the Hague - Paris (1976)
  61. ^ Heckel 2006, p. 64
  62. ^ a b Heckel 2006, p. 86
  63. ^ Hammond 1988, p. 47
  64. ^ a b 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[edit]