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Reign 393 BC - 358 BC
Successor Cleitus the Illyrian
Greek Βάρδυλις
Born c. 448 BC
Died c. 358 BC (aged 90)
Erigon Valley

Bardylis (/bɑrˈdɪlɨs/; Greek: Βάρδυλις; c. 448 – 358 BC) was a king of the Dardanian Kingdom and probably its founder.[1]

Bardylis created one of the most powerful Illyrian states, that of the Dardanians. His state reigned over Upper Macedonia and the lakeland (Lyncestia). He also lead raids against Epirus but his troops were quickly expelled from the region. Bardylis lived over 90 years according to ancient sources, implying that he died around 358 BC. Although his name appears in sources from much later, in the events of 359 BC, it seems that he headed the Dardanian State long before the Illyrians. According to these sources, Bardylis lived a long time and was at an advanced age when he faced Philip II of Macedon.

His background was in coal mining.[2] He took land from the kingdom of Macedon, killing their king Perdiccas III. In 385 BC, the Illyrians attacked the Molossians. Dionysius of Syracuse aided the Illyrian attack in order to place Alcetas, a refugee in his court, on the throne. Dionysius planned to control all the Ionian Sea. Sparta intervened on behalf of the Molossians despite having been aided by 2000 Greek hoplites and five hundred suits of Greek armour. The Illyrians were defeated by the Spartans led by Agesilaus but not before ravaging the region and killing 15,000 Molossians.

Grabos became the most powerful Illyrian king after the death of Bardylis in 358 BC. Bardylis had a son named Cleitus, a daughter named Bircenna,[citation needed] and a grandson named Bardylis II.[3] The daughter of Bardylis II, princess Bircenna, married the Molossian king Pyrrhus of Epirus ca. 290 BC.

Bardylis was killed in battle against Phillip II of Macedon[4] after Philip rejected his offer of peace based on retaining conquered lands.[5]

Early life[edit]

Damastion coin 380-360 BCE

Bardylis was born around the year 448 BC. Bardylis became king despite his humble roots. An early charcoal-burner and coal miner, he gained power by force and enjoyed the sympathy of the Dardanian warriors because he divided the spoils of war fairly and impartially. Bardylis was not the heir of Sirras, but of the previous Illyrian king who had entered in a peace treaty with Amyntas II over the control of Lyncestia. Bardylis succeeded in bringing various tribes into a single organisation and soon made Dardania into a formidable power in the Balkans, resulting in a change of relations with Macedonia. Only acknowledgement of this fact can explain the change that occurred in relations with the Illyrians and Macedonians in 393 BC. Nothing stands on the record to locate the center of his power, save for the fact that Philip's victory in 358 BC gained control of Lyncestia. Therefore, Bardylis' capital may be located in this very region. However, a more reasonable seat of power might by located in the heart of the Dardanian State, corresponding to today's Kosovo.[citation needed]

Bardylis, unlike previous Illyrian kings, combined military and economic developments. His subjects, the Damastini, began to issue a fine silver coinage from c. 395 BC in the Illyrian city of Damastion. These coins adopted a version of the standard and some emblems of the then powerful Chalcidian League. They also exported silver in ingot form. Another coinage began c. 365 in Daparria, a mining city in Kosovo which used the same standard and types as the coinage of the Damastini. The distribution of the coinages shows that Bardylis built up a wide region of trade within the central Balkans and northwards to the Danube, which was far from the region dominated by Greek trade. Dionysius of Syracuse tried to tap Bardylis' region of trade when he planted colonies in the Adriatic. It is probable that Bardylis, unlike previous Illyrian kings, built a few fortified cities, for Lychnidus and Pelion in the lakeland were walled sites probably before the accession of Philip.[6]

Baraliris was an imagined Illyrian ruler, who (according to Tertullian) after seeing a sign in a dream, embarked on a series of military victories which allowed him to extend Illyrian rule over the Molossians and other tribes, as far as the frontiers of Macedon. This king was probably the same as Bardylis since the events of his life conform to this pattern as well.

Macedonian campaigns[edit]

It seems that Bardylis opposed the deal with Amyntas II and Sirras and invaded Macedonia in 393 BC. Bardylis used new warfare tactics never before used by any of the Illyrians. He won a decisive battle against Amyntas III, expelled him, and ruled Macedonia through a puppet king. In 392 BC, Amyntas III allied himself with the Thessalians and took Macedonia under his rule from the Dardanians. However, the Illyrians were constantly raiding and ruling over the northern frontiers of Macedonia. After continuous invasions, Bardylis forced the Macedon's to pay him an annual tribute in 372 BC.

In 370 BC, the worthy Amyntas died full of years, having restored the fortunes of his kingdom after the Illyrian disasters. His marriage to Eurydice of the Illyrian Sirras produced three sons and a daughter. His eldest son was Alexander II. In 369 BC, Bardylis prevented Alexander II from eliminating the Dardanians from Macedonia. After the battle, Bardylis was said to have briefly held Philip II, the youngest brother of Alexander II, as a hostage. In 365 BC, Alexander II was succeeded by his brother Perdiccas III.

The Paeonians began a series of raids against the Macedonians in support of a Dardanian invasion from the north. Perdiccas III, king of Macedonia, humiliated by the indignity of having to pay tribute to the Dardanians, marched north in the spring of 358 BC at the Macedonian army to resolve the issue by battle.[7] This was not the first occasion in which he had fought against Bardylis, but the Macedonians lost the battle. The king himself was among the 4,000 Macedonian dead. The remainder, panic-stricken after having become exceedingly afraid of the Illyrian army, lost heart for continuing the war. This was the worst loss suffered by the Macedonians in the range of their efforts to free themselves from the Illyrians. The Dardanians followed up their victory by expanding their control southward to Lake Lychnitis (Lake Ohrid) and westward into upper Macedonia. By the actions of Bardylis, the Dardanians had brought Macedonia close to collapse.

When Philip II, the youngest of the three brothers assumed the throne, he was determined to subdue the Illyians under Bardylis once and for all, destroying the Illyrian menace.

Raid on Epirus[edit]

Bardyllis's military expedition into Epirus (red)

In 385 BC, the Illyrians formed an alliance with the powerful tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse. The purpose of the agreement was the restoration of the throne to the Molossian Alcetas who had remained as a refugee on his throne. Both sides were interested, this alliance would secure Illyrian power and weaken the impact of the Spartans and Macedonians consequently in Epirus. This would also give Dionysius an opportunity to strengthen trade positions on the shores of the Adriatic and Ionian.

Dionysius sent a military aid of 2,000 men and 5,000 weapons to the Illyrians who were prepared to go to war. With these new supplies, Bardylis and his army burst into Epirus and slaughtered 15,000 Molossians. However, this military aid was soon wasted after the Spartans under Agesilaus intervened[8] and expelled[9] the Illyrians from the region.[10]

In 360 BC, another Illyrian attack forced the Molossian king Arymbas to evacuate his non-combatant population to Aetolia and let the Illyrians loot the region again. The stratagem worked and the Molossians fell upon the Illyrians who were encumbered with booty and defeated them.[11] In the same year Arymbas of the Molossians defeated the Illyrians after they raided and looted Epirus.

Battle of Erigon Valley[edit]

In 359 BC, Macedonia could come back to the field of battle against the Illyrians, after it had overcome the internal state of political chaos and removed the risk of attack from other opponents. When Philip II assumed the Macedonian throne, substantial areas of upper Macedonia remained in control of Bardylis. In order to concentrate on the internal struggle necessary to secure his crown, Philip reaffirmed the treaty the Dardanians had imposed on Macedonia by force of arms and sealed the alliance by his marriage of Audata, probably a niece or daughter of Bardylis. This action undoubtedly deterred a full-scale Dardanian invasion of Macedonia at a time when the country was most vulnerable.[12]

By the spring of 358 BC, Philip had at last secured his throne and was now able to address the occupation of northwest Macedonia by Bardylis. When word of the mobilization of the Macedonian army came to Bardylis' attention, he proposed to Philip that they sign a treaty to maintain the status quo, provided that both parties maintain the cities that were already in their possession at the time. This was, of course, unacceptable to Philip because he was not prepared to accept any terms other than a full Dardanian withdrawal from northwest Macedonia. Bardylis, however, was not inclined to give up his winnings without a fight. Philip mobilized every able-bodied soldier in Macedonia for the battle. Bardylis, as before, was not likely to take any prisoners, so any Macedonian defeat would result in crippling casualties.

Although the two armies were almost equal in numbers - Bardylis' 500 cavalry and 10,000 infantry against Philp's force of 600 cavalry and 10,000 infantry, the Macedonians were far better trained and equipped. The armies met in battle on a plain in the Erigon Valley near Bitola, just south of the Drdanian State. Bardylis initially deployed in a linear formation with his strongest troops in the center, similar to the phalanx formation. Philip concentrated his best troops, the hypaspists, on his right flank. As Philip advanced to engage Bardylis, his cavalry turned one or two of Bardylis' flanks, forcing him to redeploy into a defensive square formation. The Illyrians for quite some time withstood the assaults of the enemy. At first victory was not swayed by either one or the other party, and so the battle continued for a long time. Eventually Philip's hypaspists succeeded in penetrating the right corner of the Dradanian, which the companions were able to widen. This threw Bardylis' entire formation into disorder, after which it was quickly broken by the phalanx and routed from the battlefield.[7]

In 358 BC, Phillip of Macedon defeated Bardylis, Diodorus Siculus[13] (1st century BC) writes this of the event:

And at first for a long while the battle was evenly poised because of the exceeding gallantry displayed on both sides, and as many were slain and still more wounded, the fortune of battle vacillated first one way then the other, being constantly swayed by the valorous deeds of the combatants; but later as the horsemen pressed on from the flank and rear and Philip with the flower of his troops fought with true heroism, the mass of the Illyrians was compelled to take hastily to flight.When the pursuit had been kept up for a considerable distance and many had been slain in their flight, Philip recalled the Macedonians with the trumpet and erecting a trophy of victory buried his own dead, while the Illyrians, having sent ambassadors and withdrawn from all the Macedonian cities, obtained peace. But more than seven thousand Illyrians were slain in this battle.

The battle had cost the Dardanians 7,000 casualties, almost three quarters of their initial army. Bardylis himself was probably killed in this battle as he rode on horseback at the advanced age of 90. Although the Macedonians finally won the battle, Philip II saw that he was not able to follow the enemy and chase them. The Illyrians later sent representatives and settled terms for peace, releasing all the cities they had conquered from Macedonia. In this battle, the troubling issue of Lynkestia was solved, changing the situation in the western borders in favor of Macedonia. Philip secured Macedonians northwest frontier by annexing Dardanian territory as far as Lake Lynkcesta (Lake Ohrid). This would form a defensive buffer against any future Illyrian raids attempted through the Drilon Valley. The borders between the Illyrian and the Macedonians remained around Lake Ohrid for a long time.[14]


Some of 20th-century linguists have connected the name Bardylis with Albanian i bardhë "white",[15][16] There is another opinion that connects the name Bardylis with both Alb. i bardhë "white" and Alb. yll "star", but according to Stuart Edward Mann, this last version is a folk etymology, which is based on the traditional equation.[17]


  1. ^ Stipčević 1977, p. 48
  2. ^ Wilkes 1996, p. 120
  3. ^ "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."
  4. ^ Woodward, B. B. Encyclopedia of Great Events, Places and Personalities, 1993, p. 175, ISBN 81-85066-57-4. "BARDYLIS, king of, defeated and killed by Philip of Macedonia, 359 — CLEITUS, his son, revolts from Alexander and is subdued.
  5. ^ Borza, Eugene N. In the Shadow of Olympus: The Emergence of Macedon, 1990, p. 202, ISBN 0-691-00880-9. The Illyrian king Bardylis offered peace based upon a status quo, but Philip insisted on an Illyrian withdrawal from the region.
  6. ^ The Cambridge ancient history: The fourth century B.C. Από τον/την D. M. Lewis, John Boardman
  7. ^ a b The Macedonian Empire: The Era of Warfare Under Philip II and Alexander the ... By James R. Ashley
  8. ^ Hammond, N. G. L. A History of Greece to 322 B.C., 1986, p. 470, ISBN 0-19-873095-0. Sparta had the alliance of Thessaly, Macedonia, and Molossia in Epirus, which she had helped to stave off an Illyrian invasion.
  9. ^ Diodorus Siculus. Library, Book 15.13.1.
  10. ^ Boardman, John. The Cambridge Ancient History, 1923, p. 428, ISBN 0-521-23348-8. Bardyllis who seize power and set himself up as king of the Dardani...Forming and alliance with Dionysius tyrant of Syracuse he killed 15,000 Molossians.
  11. ^ Diodorus Siculus. Library, Books 14.92, 15.2, 16.2.
  12. ^ The time of this marriage is somewhat disputed while some historians maintain that the marriage happened after the defeat of Bardyllis. Women and monarchy in Macedonia Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture Author Elizabeth Donnelly Carney Edition illustrated Publisher University of Oklahoma Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8061-3212-4, ISBN 978-0-8061-3212-9 [1]
  13. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library,16.4
  14. ^ The Genius of Alexander the Great Author N. G. L. Hammond Edition illustrated Publisher UNC Press, 1998 ISBN 0-8078-4744-5, ISBN 978-0-8078-4744-2 Length 248 pages. Page 11 link [2]
  15. ^ Pavle Ivić, 1985 Zbornik Šeste jugoslovenske onomastičke konferencije: Donji Milanovac, p. 59
  16. ^ Alexandru Rosetti, 1973 Brève histoire de la langue roumaine des origines à nos jours, p. 52
  17. ^ An Albanian historical grammar Author Stuart Edward Mann Publisher Buske, 1977 ISBN 3-87118-262-1, ISBN 978-3-87118-262-4 p.iii link


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