home   :    index    :    ancient Rome    :    Appian of Alexandria's Roman History

Appian's History of Rome: The Illyrian Wars §§6-10


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us. The Illyrian wars, which were part of the book on the Macedonian wars, belong to these better preserved parts. They are a valuable source for the history of the western Balkan peninsula.

The translation was made by Horace White; additions in green by Jona Lendering.


Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
[§6] These peoples, and also the Pannonians, the Rhaetians, the Noricans, the Mysians of Europe, and the other neighboring tribes who inhabited the right bank of the Danube, the Romans distinguished from one another just as the various Greek peoples are distinguished from each other, and they call each by its own name, but they consider the whole of Illyria as embraced under a common designation.

Whence this idea took its start I have not been able to find out, but it continues to this day, for they farm the tax of all the nations from the source of the Danube to the Euxine Sea under one head, and call it the Illyrian tax. Why the Romans subjugated them, and what were the real causes or pretexts of the wars, I acknowledged, when writing of Crete, that I had not discovered, and I exhorted those who were able to tell more, to do so. I shall write down only what I know.
 

First Illyrian War

[§7] Agron was king of that part of Illyria which borders the Adriatic Sea, over which sea Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, and his successors held sway. Agron captured a part of Epirus and also Corcyra, Epidamnus, and Pharus in succession, where he established garrisons. When he threatened the rest of the Adriatic with his fleet, the isle of Issa implored the aid of the Romans.

[Autumn 230] The latter sent ambassadors to accompany the Issii and to ascertain what offenses Agron imputed to them. The Illyrian vessels attacked the ambassadors on their voyage and slew Cleemporus, the envoy of Issa, and the Roman Coruncanius; the remainder escaped by flight. [229] Thereupon the Romans invaded Illyria by land and sea.[1]

Agron, in the meantime, had died, leaving an infant son named Pinnes, having given the guardianship and regency to his wife [Teuta], although she was not the child's mother.

Demetrius, who was Agron's governor of Pharus and who held Corcyra also, surrendered both places to the invading Romans by treachery. The latter then entered into an alliance with Epidamnus and went to the assistance of the Issii and of the Epidamnians, who were besieged by the Illyrians. The latter raised the siege and fled, and one of their tribes, called the Atintani, went over to the Romans.

[Spring 228] After these events the widow of Agron sent ambassadors to Rome to surrender the prisoners and deserters into their hands. She begged pardon also for what had been done, not by herself, but by Agron. They received for answer that Corcyra, Pharus, Issa, Epidamnus, and the Illyrian Atintani were already Roman subjects, that Pinnes might have the remainder of Agron's kingdom and be a friend of the Roman people if he would keep hands off the aforesaid territory, and agree not to sail beyond Lissus nor to keep more than two Illyrian pinnaces, both to be unarmed. The woman accepted all these conditions.

[§8] This was the first conflict and treaty between the Romans and the Illyrians. Thereupon the Romans made Corcyra and Apollonia free. To Demetrius they gave certain castles as a reward for his treason to his own people, adding the express condition that they gave them only conditionally, for they suspected the man's bad faith; and before long he began to show it.

Second Illyrian War

[225-222] While the Romans were engaged in a three years' war with the Gauls on the river Po, Demetrius, thinking that they had their hands full, set forth on a piratical expedition, brought the Istrians, another Illyrian tribe, into the enterprise, and detached the Atintani from Rome. The Romans, when they had settled their business with the Gauls, immediately sent a naval force and overpowered the pirates.

[219] The following year they marched against Demetrius and his Illyrian fellow culprits.[2] Demetrius fled to Philip[V], king of Macedonia, but when he returned and resumed his piratical career in the Adriatic they slew him and utterly demolished his native town of Pharus, which was associated with him in crime. They spared the Illyrians on account of Pinnes, who again besought them to do so. And such was the second conflict and treaty between them and the Illyrians.

[§9] The following events I have written as I have found them, not in due order according to their times of occurrence, but rather taking each Illyrian nation separately.
 

Third Macedonian War

[169] When the Romans were at war with the Macedonians during the reign of [king] Perseus, the successor of Philip, Genthius, an Illyrian chief, made an alliance with Perseus for money and attacked Roman Illyria. When the Romans sent ambassadors to him on this subject he put them in chains, charging that they had not come as ambassadors, but as spies.

The Roman general, [praetor Lucius] Anicius, in a naval expedition, captured some of Genthius' pinnaces and then engaged him in battle on land, defeated him, and shut him up in a castle. When he begged a parley, Anicius ordered him to surrender himself to the Romans. He asked and obtained three days for consideration, at the end of which time, his subjects having meanwhile gone over to Anicius, he asked for an interview with the latter, and, falling on his knees, begged pardon in the most abject manner. 

Anicius encouraged the trembling wretch, lifted him up, and invited him to supper, but as he was going away from the feast he ordered the lictors to cast him into prison. Anicius afterward led both him and his sons in triumph at Rome. The whole war with Genthius was finished within twenty days.

[167] When [Lucius] Aemilius Paullus, the conqueror of Perseus, returned to Rome, he received secret orders from the Senate to go back on particular business relating to the seventy towns that had belonged to Genthius. They were much alarmed, but he promised to pardon them for what they had done if they would deliver to him all the gold and silver they had. When they agreed to do so he sent a detachment of his army into each town appointing the same day for all the commanding officers to act, and ordering them to make proclamation at daybreak in each that the inhabitants should bring their money into the market place within three hours, and when they had done so to plunder what remained. Thus Paullus despoiled seventy towns in one hour.
 

Later conflicts

[§10] [135] The Ardei and the Palarii, two other Illyrian tribes, made a raid on Roman Illyria, and the Romans, being otherwise occupied,[3] sent ambassadors to scare them. When they refused to be obedient, the Romans collected an army of 10,000 foot and 600 horse to be dispatched against them. When the Illyrians learned this, as they were not yet prepared for fighting, they sent ambassadors to crave pardon. The Senate ordered them to make reparation to those whom they had wronged. As they were slow in obeying, [consul Servius] Fulvius Flaccus marched against them. This war resulted in an excursion only, for I cannot find any definite end to it.

[129] [Consul Gaius] Sempronius Tuditanus and Tiberius Pandusa waged war with the Iapydes, who live among the Alps, and seem to have subjugated them, [119] as [consuls] Lucius [Aurelius] Cotta and [Lucius Caecilius] Metellus [Delmaticus] seem to have subjugated the Segestani; but both tribes revolted not long afterward.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Illyrian wars   :   part 3
Note 1:
The commander of the naval force was consul Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus; his colleague Lucius Postumius Albinus commanded the army.

Note 2:
The Romans were forced to strike against their former ally, because the relations with Carthage were very bad. War was bound to come, and Rome needed tranquillity in its backyard. The Roman commanders were Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Marcus Livius Salinator.

Note 3:
With the Numantine war and the Slave revolt of Eunus.

 home  :    index    :    ancient Rome