Ancient States & Regions

The Roman Conquest of Illyricum (Dalmatia and Pannonia) and the Problem of the Northeastern Border of Italy[1].

The history of the Illyrians and Illyria, variously understood in modern scholarship, is divided into different phases, of which the first, lasting to the collapse of the Illyrian kingdom in 168 BC, may be explained in terms of (varying) alliances of tribes and peoples of common or similar ethnic background, speaking similar languages. Extreme theses, such as pan-Illyrism, which saw Illyrians in the bearers of the Urnfield Culture, have been abandoned. From the first occurrence of the name in ancient authors the word had the meaning of a league of peoples, but the existence of an original eponymous people may be reflected in the legend of Cadmus and Harmonia and their son Illyrius (Fig. 1). After various disasters suffered by their children, Cadmus, a Phoenician by origin, and Harmonia migrated from Boeotian Thebes, where they had reigned, to the Enchelei. The anonymous mythographer, the author of the so-called “Mythological” Library of Apollodorus (first century AD), told the legend at length, but the most important passage reads: “Cadmus accompanied by Harmonia left Thebes and went to the Enchelei. They were at war with the Illyrians who had attacked them, but they had been advised by a god that they would defeat the Illyrians if they were led by Cadmus and Harmonia. They trusted in the prophecy and appointed them as leaders against the Illyrians, who were then defeated. Cadmus ruled over Illyria and had a son Illyrius. Afterwards, together with Harmonia, he was turned into a serpent and Zeus conveyed him to the Elysian Fields” (3.39.2)

Fig. 1. The peoples and places related to the legend of Cadmus and Harmonia (from Arheološki vestnik 44, 1993, 114)

The existence of the original eponymous Illyrians can also be inferred from the data referring to the “Illyrii proprie dicti” of Pliny[2] and Pomponius Mela[3]. Pliny located them in the conventus of Narona, between Epidaurum and Lissus, where the first contacts between Greek merchants (or explorers) and inhabitants of a region called Illyria could have occurred (Fig. 2). However, the Illyrians were barely known in the Greek world because Greek colonization of the eastern Adriatic was either limited (Epidamnus/Dyrrhachium and Apollonia), or late (colonization by Dionysius of Syracuse, notably the island of Issa with the town of the same name).

Linguistically, almost nothing but personal and geographical names have remained of the Illyrians, and it is uncertain whether the Illyrian language(s) belonged to the kentum or satem linguistic groups. In the lexicon of Hesychius only one word is defined as Illyrian, while over a hundred are Macedonian. There are great differences in the onomastics and material culture of the individual peoples; those living along the coast reached a higher stage of development.Several distinct onomastic regions have been delimited, one of which comprisesIllyrian names attested in the southeast part of the eastern Adriatic and its hinterland (the only group that may be defined as Illyrian), which is different from the middle Dalmatian and northern Adriatic onomastic regions (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2. The peoples settled in Illyricum (computer graphics: M. Belak)

The Illyrians are first mentioned by Hecataeus[4] and Herodotus[5], but moredata about the Illyrian peoples are contained in the “Periplus” of Pseudo-Scylax[6] (fourth century BC) and in Pseudo-Scymnus[7] (second century BC). Of the interior peoples, only the Autariatae are considered Illyrian. Already by the fifth century BC, Illyrian kingdoms were powerful, the name Illyrian becoming eponymous for a number of neighbouring peoples and tribes. The kings of the earlier dynasties (Bardylis, Grabos, Kleitos, Glaucias) are mainly known as the enemies of the Macedonian kingdom, particularly from the king Amyntas onwards. The best known is the Ardiaean dynasty of Agron and Teuta, as well as the kingdom with its center among the Labeates under the last Illyrian king, Genthius.

Fig. 3. The languages spoken in Illyricum and adjacent areas (from J. Šašel, Opera selecta, 1992,126). 1: Celtic; 2: Venetic; 3: Pannonian; 4: Istrian and Liburnian; 5: Dacian and Moesian; 6: Dardanian and Thracian; 7: Illyrian; 8: Epirote and Macedonian

The Illyrian kingdoms were ill-famed because of piracy, which threatened Greek, Italian, and Roman merchants, and even coasts along Greece. The Romans conquered them in three wars; the first, in 229 BC, was directed against Teuta and Agron’s son Pinnes, the second, in 219, was mainly against Demetrius of Pharos, while the capture of Genthius in the third and last Illyrian war (168 BC) marked the beginning of Roman dominion in the eastern Adriatic. Illyria, which the Romans established in 167 BC, dividing it in three parts[8], should be regarded as the origin of the Roman concept of Illyricum. All subsequent Roman conquests of northern coastal regions and the Dalmatian hinterland were gradually added to Illyria. Administratively, several peoples who were not ethnically related, such as the Liburni and the Iapodes, were included in Illyricum (Fig. 4), and were called Illyrian merely on this account.

Fig. 4. The Liburni, Iapodes, and the other peoples in their vicinity (computer graphics: M. Belak)

Greek and Latin authors of the late Republican and Imperial periods used the name Illyrian in terms of the administrative organization of the Balkans, or else in the geographical sense, since by their time a great deal of the northwestern part of the peninsula belonged to Illyricum.

Fig. 5. Issa (photo P. Kos)


Agron, son of Pleuratus (a common Illyrian name), came from the royal house of the Ardiaei[9]. He re-conquered southern Illyria, which since Pyrrhus had belonged to Epirus, and also brought under his dominion Corcyra, Epidamnus, and Pharos. When much of the Adriatic was threatened by his navy, Issa turned to the Romans for help (Fig. 5). According to Appian, the Romans and Issaeans sent an embassy to Agron, which was attacked by Illyrian ships. The Illyrians killed the Roman ambassador Corruncanius and the Issaean Cleemporus, and this incident triggered off an attack by the Roman state on Agron’s kingdom in 229 BC. However, Agron had died in the meantime, leaving a small son, Pinnes, and his wife, Teuta, as regent, although she was not the child’s mother[10].

Agron, as other Illyrian kings before him, based his authority on the more or less reliable collaboration of several dynasts; two are known by name, Demetrius of Pharos and Scerdilaidas. When describing the background of the First Illyrian War, Polybius emphasized that Agron’s sea and land forces had been greater than those of any Illyrian king before him. His large-scale piratical attacks, as well as his alliance with the Macedonian king DemetriusII, became a threat for all who navigated the Adriatic. The siege of Acarnanian Medion by the Aetolians, and their defeat by the Illyrians in 231 BC echoed throughout Greece, since the Aetolian League was one of the strongest states in Greece11. However, after his victory Agron died as a consequence of feasting excesses. Teuta was his second wife and the stepmother and regent of his son and successor Pinnes. After Agron’s death just before the outbreak of the First Illyrian War (230 BC), the Illyrians under Teuta pillaged Elis and Messenia and captured Phoenice in Epirus with the help of Gaulish mercenaries. The Epirotes entered into an alliance with the Illyrians12. In subsequent chapters Polybius described the war; it broke out due to long-standing piracy, which imperilled the Italian traders, who were being robbed, killed, or imprisoned. In his account, which differs slightly from Appian’s, the Senate sent two envoys, Gaius and Lucius Coruncanii, to Teuta, who, after having put down an Illyrian revolt, was besieging Issa, the only town that had not yet submitted. After an interview between Teuta and the ambassadors, during which she told them that it was not in her power to prevent piratical attacks by her vassals, the younger envoy was assassinated on the return journey, allegedly by order of Teuta. Her light ships besieged Corcyra, attacked Epidamnus, and at the island of Paxi defeated the united Achaean and Aetolian navy with the help of the Acarnanians. Eventually Corcyra had to receive an Illyrian garrison under the command of Demetrius of Pharos.

Fig. 6. The regions conquered by the Romans after the First Illyrian War (after P. Cabanes, Épire, 1976, map 6)

The First Illyrian War was conducted by the consuls of 229 BC, Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus sailing with 200 ships, while Lucius Postumius Albinus brought land forces from Brundisium, consisting of about 20,000 foot and 2000 horse. Demetrius betrayed Teuta, delivering Corcyra to the Romans; the city was received under Roman protection, as well as Apollonia, Epidamnus, and eventually Issa. The Romans subdued the Ardiaei, while several embassies offered surrender, among others those of the Parthini and Atintanes (Fig. 6). The Romans conquered Illyrian cities along the coast, and only at Nutria (not identified) did they suffer defeat. Teuta escaped with a few followers to the fortified and strategically well-placed Rhizon (present-day Risan); the consuls entrusted much of Illyria to Demetrius.

Fulvius returned with most of both armies to Rome, while Postumius remained over the winter in Epidamnus with forty ships and a newly enrolled legion. In early spring of 228 BC, Teuta made a treaty, consenting to pay tribute, to withdraw from all of Illyria except a few places, and not to sail beyond Lissus with more than two unarmed ships. Appian, whose portrait of Teuta is more objective, mentioned that after the defeat she sent an embassy to Rome to deliver captives and deserters and to apologize for the events that had occurred during Agron’s reign, and not under her. According to Dio, she later abdicated13. The Romans concluded a treaty of amicitia with Pinnes, who reigned in part of the former kingdom of Agron.


Demetrius most probably originated from a (half) Greek family, for generations settled on Pharos. He was a dynamic local ruler close to the Illyrian (Ardiaean) dynasty of Agron and Teuta. In Polybius’ narrative, Demetrius first appeared as the commander of a garrison of Illyrian soldiers at Corcyra; he betrayed Teuta and delivered the city to the Romans, for which he was rewarded with some strongholds14; later most of Illyria was placed under his authority 15. After the First Illyrian War (228 BC) he married Triteuta, the mother of Agron’s son Pinnes, becoming his regent and master of what remained of the Illyrian kingdom. In the next eight years, Demetrius collaborated with the Illyrian dynast Scerdilaidas (usually erroneously regarded as Agron’s brother), and allied himself with the Macedonian king Antigonus Doson. He was an ally of the Macedonian kingdom, and his policy was anti-Roman. He broke the treaty with the Romans by attacking Roman Illyria, sailing beyond Lissus with fifty boats, pillaging Greek coasts as far as the Cyclades, and threatening the Romans in the northern Adriatic, where he allied himself with the Histri (Fig. 7). Lucius Aemilius Paullus was sent to Illyria in 219 BC and captured his stronghold at Dimale in seven days. Pharos, where Demetrius had quartered 6000 of the bravest soldiers, fell by means of a stratagem. Demetrius fled to the Macedonian king Philip, and allegedly perished during an attack on Messene.

Fig. 7. Demetrius of Pharos allied himself with the Histri, attacking Roman and Syracusan ships in the Adriatic. The Romans were then fighting against the Celts in the Po Valley (computer graphics: M. Belak)


According to Appian, the center of the kingdom of the last ‘Illyrian’ king Genthius was different from that of Agron and Pinnes16; and indeed, as is known from Livy, Genthius reigned among the Labeates17 with a capital at Scodra near Labeatis Lacus (Fig. 8). Probably Genthius’ kingdom extended from the lower Naro River through southern Dalmatia and Montenegro to the Drinus River in northern Albania, including some of the islands as far as Black Corcyra. His father Pleuratus led a pro-Roman policy, and Genthius, too, was Roman ally. Lissus and Scodra, where Genthius minted his coins, were his most important residences. He had a strong fleet, and a ship is represented on the coins’ reverse (Fig. 9). Already in 172 BC, Issa, which felt threatened by Genthius’ piratical attacks, denounced the king to the Romans for having concluded an alliance with Perseus, which he did shortly before the Third Macedonian War. Perseus’ defeat was also the end of Genthius’ kingdom; he was conquered in twenty or thirty days by Lucius Anicius Gallus, praetor peregrinus in 168 BC. Livy mentioned that the Roman legate Perpenna “set off for Meteon, bringing back to the camp at Scodra the king’s wife Etleva with his two sons, Scerdilaedus and Pleuratus, as well as his brother Caravantius”18.

Fig. 8. View of Scodra (photo P. Kos)
Fig. 9. Bronze coins of Genthius, with a depiction of a ship on the reverse (from Albanien, 1988, 271 no. 137 a, b)

After having conquered the Illyrian kingdom, Anicius carried off considerable booty, which consisted of gold and silver, as well as 13,000 denarii and 120,000 Illyrian silver coins. Illyria was divided into three regions.


The Illyria known to Strabo (referring to the age of Augustus) was a country stretching from the upper reaches of the Adriatic down to the Rhyzonic Gulf and the Ardiaei, between the sea and the Pannonian peoples19; descriptions in Appian20 and Cassius Dio21 are not much different. Military campaigns were conducted by the Romans mainly from their bases on the Italian side of the Adriatic. Simultaneously the Roman army also operated from Cisalpine Gaul, extending its boundaries in the direction of Illyricum, notably over the Histrians, who had been conquered in 177 BC. From Aquileia, the Romans advanced across the Ocra Pass (Fig. 10) and founded Nauportus as an Aquileian outpost. Under Augustus the regions beyond Emona and the Arsia River in Histria belonged to Illyricum, while the Emona Basin and Histria belonged to Italy.

Fig. 10. The Ocra Pass below Mt. Ocra (present-day Nanos) (from Horvat, Bavdek, Ocra, 2009, 21)

Vatinius, appointed by Caesar, was probably the first to have governed only Illyricum (45–43BC), while Caesar had been proconsul of both Galliae and Illyricum (59–49BC). After the Pannonian-Dalmatian rebellion in AD 9, Illyricum may have been divided into superius and inferius, but was officially called Dalmatia and Pannonia probably not earlier than under Vespasian; after this division, no Roman province bore the name Illyricum. The degree of acculturation of the various peoples within these two provinces greatly varied; however, the unifying factors were mainly Romanization and urbanization that followed local trends, their intensity differing from region to region. Already by the Augustan age, Illyricum no longer had anything to do with the original Illyrian territory in southern Dalmatia and northern Albania, but denoted most of the northern and central Balkans.

Fig. 11. View of Delminium (photo P. Kos)


The province of Dalmatia, formerly Illyricum, was named after the Delmatae, who occupied the hinterland of Salonae between the Titius (Krka) and Nestos/Hippius (Cetina) Rivers on the fringes of the Illyrian kingdom, with their center at Delminium on the Duvanjsko polje plain (Fig. 11). Their northern neighbours, the Liburni, controlled the region from the Titius to the Arsia River (Raša) in Istria, including the nearby islands. The mountain ranges of Učka, Gorski Kotar, and Velebit divided the Liburni from the Iapodes. Dalmatia is a Dinaric Karst region, sharply divided between a coastal strip with over a thousand islands22 and a mountainous hinterland, connected to the coast only along a few narrow river valleys. The northeastern regions of Dalmatia were geographically and ethnically related to Pannonia, with the border between the provinces extending south of the Savus (Sava) River. Most of the interconnecting provincial roads were constructed during the reign of Tiberius (Fig. 12).

Fig. 12. The most important ‘Illyrian’ peoples, including the Delmatae, the main Roman enemies after the fall of Genthius (computer graphics: M. Belak)

The Delmatae, who threatened Issa (a Roman ally), and the Daorsi (who enjoyed Roman protection), became the main enemies of the Roman state after the fall of Genthius (Fig. 13). Their capital Delminium was destroyed by Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica in 155 BC23; a year before they were decisively defeated by Gaius Marcius Figulus, as is vividly described by Appian24: “As he could not take the fortified town by storm, and because of its high position he could not use the siege equipment he had with him, he attacked and conquered the other towns, which had been partially deserted on account of the concentration of forces in Delminium. Figulus then had two-cubit long staffs covered with flax and smeared with pitch and sulphur, which were shot by catapults into Delminium. They caught fire because of friction and flew through the air like torches, causing fires wherever they fell, until most of the town had burnt”. They suffered further defeats during the second and first centuries BC. In 135 BC, Servius Fulvius Flaccus defeated the Ardiaei and drove them from the coastal regions into the hinterland, where they gradually declined.

Fig. 13. The Delmatae threatened Tragurium and Epetium, founded by Issa, and also the Daorsi and others under Roman protection (computer graphics: M. Belak)

During his proconsulship in Galliae and Illyricum (59–49BC), Caesar quelled an insurrection of the Pirustae in 54 BC, but was defeated by the Delmatae. Centers of Romanization at that time were Greek Issa, as well as Caesar’s praesidium Epidaurum, and communities of Roman citizens at Salonae, Narona, and Lissus. All except Issa sided with Caesar in the conflict with Pompey; the Delmatae joined the latter. In general, the Caesarian party fared worse in Dalmatia than the Pompeians (Fig. 14).

Fig. 14. Illyricum at the time of Caesar’s proconsulate (computer graphics: M. Belak)


The northeastern hinterland of Cisalpine Gaul was in the process of being gradually conquered ever since the founding of Aquileia in 181 BC. An important step in establishing contacts with the Transalpine Celts mentioned by Livy were diplomatic dealings of the Roman Senate at the time of the founding of Aquileia with the “Elders” of one of the Transalpine Celtic peoples, whose identity is not clear. They have usually been identified as the Norici, although this is far from certain. Ten years afterwards, in 171 BC, the consul Gaius Cassius Longinus decided to march with two legions, without the knowledge of the Senate, from Aquileia to Macedonia, to gain glory and booty in the third Macedonian war; he was probably recalled before he reached Segestica/Siscia. On the way back, his army plundered the regions of the Iapodes, Alpini populi (perhaps the Taurisci), Histri, and Carni, who all complained in the Senate about these depredations25. The next known action was the military expedition of Gaius Sempronius Tuditanus in 129 BC against the Iapodes, Histri, and Taurisci, and perhaps also the Carni (Fig. 15); the latter were attacked and defeated by Marcus Aemilius Scaurus in 115 BC. Four years earlier, however, the first known military campaign against the Segestani took place, under “Lucius Cotta and Metellus”, which is mentioned by Appian26. Lucius Aurelius Cotta was the consul of 119BC, while Metellus was a member of the Caecilii Metelli family, who cannot be identified with certainty. The conquest of Segestica/Siscia meant the first step in subduing the Pannonian part of Illyricum. Octavian’s military campaigns in Illyricum in 35–33 BC were decisive for a systematic conquest of Illyricum and for organizing it as a stable province that was no longer merely a military province.


The best source for this war is Appian27, who based his narrative on Augustus’ “Memoirs”; it is supplemented by the account in the “Roman History” of Cassius Dio. Octavian subdued several peoples and tribes, most of whom are known by name, but only some were dangerous enemies whose conquest demanded greater efforts. Summing up the war at the beginning of the 17th chapter of his “Illyrian History ”, Appian stated that “the greatest difficulties were caused to Octavian’s army by the Salassi, the Iapodes on the other side of the Alps, and the Segestani, and further the Dalmatae, the Daesii and the Paeones (i.e. Pannonians), who live far away from the Salassi”. The military campaign against the Salassi, who controlled the Little and Great St Bernard passes, and thus the routes to Helvetia and the Upper Rhine, was conducted far outside Illyricum, but was obviously planned at the same time as the Illyrian War.

Fig. 15. Sempronius Tuditanus attacked the Histri, Taurisci, and Iapodes, and reached the river Titius (= Krka), the boundary river of the Liburni (computer graphics: M. Belak)
Fig. 16. Octavian’s Illyrian War (computer graphics: M. Belak)

This war was divided into two phases, both in terms of space and time (Fig. 16). After having defeated the Carni and Taurisci — obviously from the military base at Aquileia — Octavian’s army proceeded towards the Segestani and their centre at Segest(ic)a/Siscia. At the same time some of the Roman troops were probably transported by ships to Senia and marched from there against the Iapodes. This is not explicitly mentioned in the sources, but could be inferred from Appian, who wrote that Octavian fought against the pirates from the islands of Melita and Black Corcyra in the southern Adriatic, as well as against the Liburnian pirates in the north. While Octavian exterminated the former, he only confiscated ships from the Liburni28, which indicates, on the one hand, that the Liburni were more cooperative than hostile, and on the other, that he needed the boats for his war, no doubt both for the transfer of troops and logistics. His army then marched against the Iapodes in the Alps, the Moentini and the Avendeatae, who surrendered immediately, as well as against the most numerous and most bellicose among them, the Arupini. However, the greatest resistance was offered by the transalpine Iapodes; Octavian took Terponus, but most of the Iapodes gathered in their fortified capital of Metulum. In several fierce battles the Metulans even “fired from the wall upon the soldiers with military devices, seized in the war which had been fought there by Decimus Brutus against Antony and Augustus”29. Octavian was seriously wounded during the siege, but eventually Metulum fell. The next episode described by Appian was the capture of Segesta/Siscia in the region of the Segestani, the well-known emporium at the confluence of the Sava and Kolpa/Kupa Rivers (Fig. 17). In his parallel description of the fall of Segest(ic)a/Siscia, Cassius Dio, preferring the contemporary denomination, always calls the town Siscia, an ancient name of the settlement, which eventually prevailed over the Celtic Segest(ic)a and gave name to the later Flavian colony. Appian mentioned that Octavian advanced against the Segestani “through the country of the Paeones (meaning the Pannonians), which was also not under Roman authority at that time”. The historian added that the region was wooded, extending from the Iapodes to the Dardanians, and that the Pannonians did not live in cities, but in villages. There were 100,000 men capable of fighting, but because of the absence of a common government and a military leader, they also had no common army 30. The Pannonian region that was traversed by Octavian’s soldiers on their way to Segesta was most probably that of the Colapiani (formerly perhaps under Iapodian dominion) and the Oseriates, as well as other tribes not known by name. In any case, these must have been some of the socially least developed peoples of the future province of Pannonia, but nonetheless — as Appian claimed at the beginning of his account — they had fought fiercely before they were overcome.

Fig. 17. Segest(ic)a/Siscia at the confluence of two navigable rivers (after Šašel, Opera selecta,1992, 611)

Octavian wanted to occupy Segest(ic)a/Siscia to use it as a supply base for his planned war against the Dacians and the Bastarnae; Segesta’s strategic position was indeed excellent. Appian reported that Octavian ordered ships to be built on the Sava River to transport provisions to the Danube and the regions of the Dacians. It is strange, however, that he did not make any mention of the river battle at Segesta (as he calls the town), which is briefly described by Dio31. In one of the two rivers running by the settlement, that is, either the Colapis or the Savus, Octavian’s naval general Menodorus, a freedman of Pompey the Great and the former navy commander of Sextus Pompeius, lost his life.

Fig. 18. The site of Promona (photo P. Kos)

After the fall of Segesta, Octavian led a garrison of twenty-five cohorts in the town under the command of Fufius Geminus; Geminus quelled a revolt of the Segestani, which broke out after Octavian’s departure. Interestingly, Fufius Geminus is not mentioned in Appian’s detailed narrative, but only in Dio’s rather short description of the Illyrian War. In the spring of 34 BC, the Roman army was directed against the most formidable enemy in the future province of Dalmatia, the Delmatae, as well as against some less important peoples living along the coast or in the immediate hinterland. The Dalmatian phase of the Illyrian War is described by Appian in the four subsequent chapters of his“Illyrian History ”(25–28), while Dio devoted only two sentences to it32. He mentioned that the Delmatae were first fought by Agrippa and then by Caesar (= Octavian); Octavian was again wounded, some soldiers were punished by receiving oats instead of grain, while deserters were decimated.

Appian’s description is more exhaustive, and he described the capture ofPromona in considerable detail. 󰀀is was the first stronghold that could havebeen successfully defended to protect the Delmataean territories and was there-fore vitally important for the Delmatae (Fig. 18). The fortress had been disputed between them and the Liburni (Appian twice called it Liburnian), and was recaptured from the latter by the Delmataean general Verso, who commanded 12,000 warriors 33. Appian then recounted the capture of Sinotium, where Gabinius’ army had been ambushed and defeated during the time of Caesar, and the Delmatae seized legionary standards. Octavian recaptured them, skillfully using his exploit in terms of political propaganda against Antony; at the symbolic level, this was no doubt one of the greatest achievements of his Illyrian War. The siege of Setovia followed, which was successfully ended in 33BC by one of Octavian’s best generals, Titus Statilius Taurus. The surrender of the Derbani is the last action reported by Appian to have taken place in the course of the Illyrian War; Octavian celebrated three triumphs on 13, 14, and 15 Augustin 29 BC, commemorating his victories in Illyricum, at Actium, and in Egypt. It is known from Cassius Dio that the province was organized as senatorial in 27 BC, and Gnaeus Baebius Tamphilus Vála Numonianus, whose inscription was found at the fountain in the forum at Iader, and who may have been the builder of the Iader forum and perhaps the patron of the town, was one of the first proconsuls in Illyricum34.


Tiberius’ Pannonian war of 11–9 BC was important for the further conquest of Illyricum; it extended also into the Dalmatian part of the province, while final pacification occurred after the great Pannonian-Dalmatian rebellion of AD 6–9. Bato, the leader of the rebel Daesitiates (Fig. 19), reproached the Romans for having sent wolves instead of shepherd dogs to the province, thus well illustrating some of the negative aspects of Roman provincial policy under Augustus.

Fig. 19. The great Pannonian-Dalmatian revolt conducted by two Batos, the leaders of the Breuci and Daesitiates (after Šašel Kos, Historical Outline, 1986, 191)

Illyricum, then the name of the undivided province, extended as far as theDanube. This was emphasized by Augustus in the inscription commemorating his deeds (“Res gestae”): “I subjected to Roman rule, through Tiberius Nero who was then my stepson and legate, certain Pannonian tribes that had not been reached by a Roman army before my reign, thereby extending the frontier of Illyricum as far as the Danube”35. However, not all of the later Pannonia was subdued during the Pannonian War, and it is not quite clear how these famous words, “protulique fines Illyrici ad ripam fluminis Danuvii”, should be correctly interpreted. Under Augustus, the Pannonian peoples were administratively divided between Upper and Lower Illyricum, the future provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia. 

Fig. 20. The tropaeum erected at Tilurium, one of the two legionary fortresses in Dalmatia (from Cambi, Urbanisierung, [in:] Sanader (ed.), Kroatien in der Antike, 2007, 99)

Two triumphal arches were erected in Pannonia36 (i.e. Lower Illyricum atthe time), tropaeum was set up at Tilurium (Fig. 20), and no doubt many precious objects commemorated the Roman victory, of which the Gemma Augustea has been preserved to date. The missing togatus may be interpreted as Tiberius, of the two captives one has been identified as Bato and the other as Pinnes, while the two captive women would have represented the conquered Dalmatia and Pannonia.


Emona, some 100 km distant from Tergeste, has often been wrongly linked to Pannonia, although it never actually belonged to it administratively; even in terms of geography it would perhaps be more natural for Emona to be included within Noricum as had also been Carnuntum (later the capital of Pannonia), which is mentioned by Velleius Paterculus as “a place in the Norican kingdom”37. The Romans probably conquered the regions of Nauportus and Emona during Caesar’s proconsulate and annexed them to Cisalpine Gaul; contrary to the current opinion, they had never belonged to Illyricum (Fig. 21). But according to Theodor Mommsen, too, Emona would have always been in Italy 38.

Fig. 21. The area of Emona and Nauportus belonged to Italy, but was near the borders of Noricum and Pannonia (computer graphics: M. Belak)

Pliny is the first to mention Emona as a Roman colony, but he placed it in Pannonia39. The passage is short and begins by stating that the regions of Pannonia are rich in acorns, that the Alpine chain gradually becomes less steep, gently sloping to the right and left as it traverses Illyricum from north to south, and that the part of Illyricum oriented towards the Adriatic is called Dalmatia, the part towards the north, Pannonia. The colonies of Emona and Siscia are located in it; clearly, Pliny’s data about Emona as a Roman colony in Pannonia should be understood in terms of geography, which is corroborated by the fact that the Alps had always been regarded as a natural boundary of Italy. That the passage in which Emona is mentioned is taken from a geographical description of Pannonia is also confirmed by a recent structural analysis of that part of Pliny’s 3rd book in which the eastern Adriatic is described. Pliny used at least four different sources for his encyclopaedic narrative: a periplous, as reflected in passages concerning navigation, descriptions of coasts, and islands; various lists, mainly taken from formulae provinciarum, as well as a historical source, and a geographical description of these regions. In ea (s.c. Pannonia) coloniae Emona, Siscia… would have originated from a geographical source, especially because in the Julio-Claudian period the province seems to have officially still been called Illyricum, and the names Pannonia and Dalmatia were only used unofficially. Emona’s ambiguous geographical position in the area of the triple border between Italy, Noricum, and Pannonia is well reflected in Ptolemy’s “Geography ” , where Emona is mentioned in two passages. Of these two, the first is particularly relevant. In the 2nd book, in which he described the geographical position of Upper Pannonia and listed the Upper Pannonian peoples and towns, Emona is located “between Italy and Pannonia, below Noricum”40. Interestingly, Ptolemy always used the preposition in terms of geography and not administrative settlement. Geographers of the time were obviously puzzled by the inconsistency of the geographical and administrative borders of this area.With his description of Emona’s position, Ptolemy perhaps wished to express the discrepancy between the geography and administrative reality, in a similar way in which he described the position of Iulium Carnicum as being located between Italy and Noricum41. In-as-much as Iulium Carnicum always belonged to Italy, the same may be claimed for Emona. It can also be emphasized that both towns bore the same title Iulia and their inhabitants were inscribed in the same voting tribe of Claudia, which may indicate that both attained the status of an autonomous town at more or less the same time. That Emona indeed always belonged administratively to Italy can also be confirmed by the lack of the beneficiarii consularis in the city and by an important inscription, in which Lucius Caesernius Primitivus, one of the board of five and the head of the decuria of the collegium fabrum, and his wife Ollia Primillale in their wills 200 denarii to the four decuriae of the collegium in order that they would bring roses to their grave on the day of the festival of an old Italian goddess Carna42. Such inscriptions rarely occur outside Italy, in a few cases they are known from Roman colonies in the East, but they had not been found in Noricum and Pannonia, nor in other western provinces. An undisputed proof for Emona having belonged to Italy has been furnished by the boundary stone between the territories of Aquileia and Emona (Fig. 22),discovered near Bevke, which is most probably dated to the period of Augustus or perhaps Tiberius43. There are two arguments in favour of this early dating; one is paleographic, since the letter-forms resemble those of the earliest inscriptions of the Emona Basin, such as e.g. the inscription of the magistri vici from Nauportus. The other argument, however, is even more important; the boundary stone was made of Aurisina limestone, from which only the earliest stone monuments on the territory of Nauportus–Emona were produced, all of them dated to the last half of the first century BC and the first half of the first century AD. The region of Nauportus and the Emona Basin were transit areas, situated along the Amber Route and the so-called route of the Argonauts. This was a key area for any military actions that were intended to secure or prevent passage through the so-called Italo-Illyrian Gates at Postojna. Only geo-strategic reasons dictated that the region of Emona should administratively be united with Italy, but they were decisive. As long as the Roman state could control this area trans Alpes, this area remained within Italy.

Fig. 22. The boundary stone between Aquileia and Emona (from Arheološki vestnik 53,2002, 375)

[1] The Polish translation of the article (rzymski podbój Illirikum (Dalmacji i Panonii) i problem północno-wschodniej granicy Italii), edited by K. Królczyk, was published in Xenia Posnaniensia, Book 1, series 3, M. Musielak, K. Balbuza, a. tatarkiewicz, K. Królczyk (eds.), Poznań 2013. 

[2] Pliny, NH 3.144. 

[3] Pompon. 2.3.56. 

[4] fGrhist I frs. 98–101. 

[5] Hdt. 1.196; 4.49. 

[6] GGM 1, p. 26 ff. 

[7] Ibid., 1, 211 ff. 

[8] Livy 45.26.15. 

[9] Cass. Dio 12 fr. 49.1–7. 

[10] App., Illyr. 7.17–19. 

[11] Polyb. 2.2.1–2.4.5.

[12] Ibid. 2.4.6–2.7.12.

[13] Cass. Dio. 12 fr. 49.7.

[14] App., Illyr. 8.22.


















Author: Marjeta Šašel Kos. Originally published in People and Places, Studia Europaea Gnesnensia 7/2013 ISSN 2082-5951, 2013.

Disclaimer: The article is published here with the consent of the author. Any copy, distribution, and reproduction of this article will be regarded as a violation of copyright laws unless it has the direct consent of the original author.


Cabanes P., Les Illyriens de Bardylis à Genthios (IVe–IIe siècles avant J.-C.) (Regards sur l’histoire), Paris 1988.

Cambi N., Čače S. , Kirigin B. (eds.), Grčki utjecaj na istočnoj obali Jadrana/ Greek Influence Along the East Adriatic Coast (Proceedings of the Intern. Conference held in Split from Sept. 24th to 26th 1998), Split 2002.

Cavallaro M.A., Da Teuta a Epulo. Interpretazione delle guerre illyrichee histriche tra 229 e 177 a. C., Bonn 2004.

Dzino D., Illyricum in Roman Politics — 229 BC–AD 68, Cambridge 2010.

Katičić R., Ancient Languages of the Balkans I (Trends in Linguistics State-of-the Art Reports 4). The Hague, Paris 1976.

Mócsy A., Pannonia and Upper Moesia, London, Boston 1974.

Pająkowski W., Die Illyrier — Illyrii proprie dicti. Geschichte und Siedlungs-gebiete. Versuch einer Rekonstruktion (ed. L. Mrozewicz), Poznań 2000.

Papazoglu F., The Central Balkan Tribes in Pre-Roman Times. Triballi, Autariatae, Dardanians, Scordisci and Moesians, Amsterdam 1978.

Rendić-Miočević D., Iliri i antički svijet / The Illyrians and the ClassicalWorld, Split 1989.

Sanader, M. (ed.), Kroatien in der Antike (Zaberns Bildbände zur Archäo-logie / Sonderbände der Antiken Welt), Mainz 2007.

Šašel Kos M., Appian and Illyricum (Situla 43), Ljubljana 2005.

Šašel Kos M., The Roman conquest of Dalmatia and Pannonia under Augustus — some of the latest research results, in: G. Moosbauer, R. Wiegels (eds.), Fines imperii — imperium sine fine? (Osnabrücker Forschungen zu Altertum u. Antike-Rezeption 14), Rahden/Westf. 2011, 107–116.

Wilkes J. J., Dalmatia, London 1969.

Wilkes J., The Illyrians, Oxford 1992

Tags :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *