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Taulantii or Taulantians[1] ("swallow-men"; Ancient Greek: Ταυλάντιοι, Taulantioi or Χελιδόνιοι, Chelidonioi; Latin: Taulantii) were an Illyrian people that lived on the Adriatic coast of southern Illyria (modern Albania). They dominated at various times much of the plain between the rivers Drin and Aous. Their central area was the hinterland of Epidamnos-Dyrrhachion, corresponding to present-day Tirana and the region between the valleys of Mat and Shkumbin.[2] The Taulantii are among the oldest attested Illyrian peoples, who established a powerful kingdom in southern Illyria.[3] They are among the peoples who most marked Illyrian history, and thus found their place in the numerous works of historians in classical antiquity.[4]


An Illyrian people named Taulantii was firstly recorded by ancient Greek writer Hecataeus of Miletus in the 6th century BC.[5][6] The Taulantii are often reported in the works of ancient writers describing the numerous wars they waged against the Macedonians, the Epirotes, and the ancient Greek colonies on the Illyrian coast.[7] They are mentioned, for instance, by Thucydides, Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Titus Livius, Pliny the Elder and Appian.[4]

The Illyrian taulánt- and its Ancient Greek translation chelidón- mean "swallow".

The term taulantii is connected with the Albanian word dallëndyshe, or tallandushe, meaning "swallow".[8][9][10] The ethnonym Chelidonioi also reported by Hecateus as the name of a tribe neighboring the Taulantii is the translation of the name Taulantii as khelīdṓn (χελιδών) means "swallow" in Ancient Greek.[9][11][12] The name suggests the practice of animal totemism, which was widespread among Illyrian peoples.[13]

Hecataeus reported that the tribe of Chelidonioi (Χελιδόνιοι) lived to the north of the Sesarethioi (Σεσαρήθιοι). Furthermore he reported that Sesarethos (Σεσάρηθος) was a Taulantian city, with Sesarethioi as its ethnicon.[5] It has been suggested either that the name Chelidonioi might have been an exonym, and that Hecataeus wrongly differentiated two tribes misjudging the meaning of the name, or that after the name of the local tribe was translated from Illyrian by Greek colonists in Epidamnos, the ethnonym Chelidones might have adhered to the Taulantian people located in Epidamnos, while the ethnonym Taulantii continued to be used as the name of the neighboring Taulantian people.[12]

According to a mythological tradition reported by Appian (2nd century AD), the Taulantii were among the South-Illyrian tribes that took their names from the first generation of the descendants of Illyrius, the eponymous ancestor of all the Illyrian peoples.[14][15][16]


The Taulantii lived on the southeastern Adriatic coast of southern Illyria (modern Albania), dominating at various times much of the plain between the rivers Drin and Aous.[17] In earlier times the Taulantii inhabited the northern part of the Drin river;[18] later they lived within and around the sites of Epidamnos-Dyrrhachion and Apollonia.[11][18] Their territory was centered in the area of present-day Tirana, and its hinterland between the valleys of the Mat and Shkumbin rivers.[2] In Roman times, their neighbours to the north were the Labeatae,[19] to the east the Parthini,[20] and to the south-east the Bylliones.[21] The Parthini probably have been part part of the Taulantian peoples before their first appearance as Roman allies in the late 3rd century BC,[11] neighboring to the east the Dassareti, and to the north-east the Penestae.[22][23] The Abri or Abroi, a tribe mentioned by Hecataeus (6th century BC) as neighbors of the Chelidonioi likely also have been part of the Taulantian peoples.[11]

The extension of the Taulantii to the limits of the Apollonian territory is not very clear in the data provided by Pseudo-Skylax. The southern border of the Taulantii was likely the Seman river, while the northern border was marked by the Mat river. Livy and Pliny located them in the same place, but according to Ptolemy, Aulon (Vlorë) was in Taulantian territory, which implies an extension of this people towards the south including the territory of Apollonia. Such a southward extension was not possible before the end of the Roman civil wars.[24]


Early Iron Age[edit]

The Taulantii are one of the most anciently known Illyrian group of tribes.[25][26] Taulantian settlement at the site of Epidamnos-Dyrrhachion is estimated to have happened not later than the 10th century BC. After their occupation of the site, Illyrian tribes most likely left the eastern coast of the Adriatic for Italy departing from the region of Epidamnos-Dyrrhachion for the best crossing to Bari, in Apulia.[27][28] When they settled in the area of Epidamnos-Dyrrhachion, it seems that the Taulantii replaced the previous inhabitants, the Bryges.[27][29] According to another ancient tradition the Taulantii replaced the Parthini, who were pushed more inland loosing their coastal holdings.[30]

Archaic period[edit]

About the 9th century BC the Liburni expanded their dominion southwards, and took possession of the site of Epidamnos-Dyrrhachion expelling the Taulantii.[27][29] In that period the Taulantii expanded southwards and controlled the plain of Mallakastër reaching as far as the mouth of the Aous.[31]

When describing the Illyrian invasion of Macedonia ruled by Argaeus I, somewhere between 678–640 BC, the historian Polyaenus (fl. 2nd-century CE) recorded the supposed oldest known king in Illyria, Galaurus or Galabrus, a ruler of the Taulantii who reigned in the latter part of the 7th century BC.[32][note 1]

Friendly relationships were created between Corinthians and certain Illyrian tribes.[34] In the 7th century BC the Taulantii invoked the aid of Corinth and Corcyra in a war against the Liburni.[35][29][34] After the defeat and expulsion of the Liburni from the region, the Corcyreans founded in 627 BC on the Illyrian mainland a colony, mixing with the local population and establishing the Greek element to the port. The city was called Epidamnos-Dyrrhachion, thought to have been the names of two barbarian/Illyrian rulers of the region.[28][35][36] The double name was determined by the presence of a pre-existing Illyrian settlement presumably located on the hills (Epidamnos), while the plain, formerly occupied by a lagoon communicating with the sea, provided favorable conditions that crated a natural harbor (Dyrrachion). The Greek colony was therefore founded in a territory that corresponded to a narrow promontory surrounded by the sea that gave the city the appearance of an island.[37] A flourishing commercial centre emergend and the city grew rapidly.[38][35] Business relations with the Illyrians of the hinterland were conducted by the poletes (a magistrate).[35]

Classical period[edit]

The Taulantii continued to play an important role in Illyrian history between the 5th and 4th–3rd centuries BC. They significantly influenced the affairs of the city, especially in the internal conflicts between aristocrats and democrats. When the democrats seized power, their opponents (allies of the Corcyreans) sought help from the Illyrians. In 435 the Illyrians besieged the city in strength, and through the occupation of the surrounding region, they caused much damage to the economy of the city.[38]

Hellenistic period[edit]

In the well attested historical period, the Taulantian kingdom seems to have reached its apex during Glaucias' rule, in the years between 335 BC and 302 BC.[39][40] After Glaucias' rule, the Taulantian territory likely were absorbed partly by Pyrrhus in the Epirotan state and partly by other Illyrian realms established in southern Illyria.



The idiom spoken by the Taulanti is included in the southern Illyrian onomastic province in modern linguistics.[41][42] The territory they inhabited belongs to the area that is considered in current scholarship as the linguistic core of Illyrian.[43]


The Abri, a northern subgroup of the Taulantii, were known to the ancient Greek writers for their technique of preparing mead from honey.[11]

Taulantian dynasty[edit]

The following names are recorded in ancient sources as Taulantian chieftains and/or Illyrian kings:[44][45][46][24]

The Illyrian king Monounios, who mintend his own silver staters bearing the king's name and the symbol of Dyrrhachion from about 290 BC, is considered the successor of Glaucias,[48] and probably his son.[49] Their realm also included the southern part of the kingdom of Agron and Teuta.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Polyaenus' passage is disputed in modern scholarship.[33]



  1. ^ James R. Ashley, The Macedonian Empire, McFarland, 2004, p. 172.
  2. ^ a b Gavoille 2019, p. 7
  3. ^ Katičić 1976, p. 158; Eichner 2004, pp. 97, 99; Mesihović 2014, p. 219.
  4. ^ a b Mesihović & Šačić 2015, p. 44: "Taulanti se ubrajuju među narode koji su najviše obilježili ilirsku historiju, te su tako našli svoje mjesto u brojnim radovima klasičnih historičara poput Tukidida, Polibija, Diodora Sicilijanskog, Tita Livija, Plinija Starijeg, Apijana i drugih. Njihovo ime se veže za lastavice, tako da bi Taulanti u slobodnom prevodu bili „narod lastavica“."
  5. ^ a b Eichner 2004, p. 97.
  6. ^ Cabanes 2002b, p. 163.
  7. ^ Stipčević 1989, p. 35.
  8. ^ Wilkes 1992, p. 244: "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' [sic]."
  9. ^ a b Šašel Kos 1993, p. 119.
  10. ^ Matzinger 2018, p. 1790.
  11. ^ a b c d e Wilkes 1992, p. 98.
  12. ^ a b Eichner 2004, pp. 107–108.
  13. ^ Stipčević 1974, pp. 196-197.
  14. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 213: "The tribes which took their names from the first generation of Illyrius' descendants belong mostly to the group of the so-called South-Illyrian tribes: the Taulantii, the Parthini, the Enchelei, the Dassaretii".
  15. ^ Šašel Kos 2004, p. 502.
  16. ^ Mesihović & Šačić 2015, pp. 23–24.
  17. ^ Wilkes 1992, pp. 97–98.
  18. ^ a b Stipčević 1974, p. 31.
  19. ^ Shpuza 2017, p. 43; Jaupaj 2019, pp. 68–69, 81; Gavoille 2019, p. 7
  20. ^ Cabanes 2007, p. 579; Stocker 2009, p. 217
  21. ^ Stocker 2009, p. 219.
  22. ^ Cabanes 2007, p. 579.
  23. ^ Jaupaj 2019, p. 69.
  24. ^ a b Jaupaj 2019, p. 81.
  25. ^ Katičić 1976, p. 158.
  26. ^ Eichner 2004, pp. 97, 99.
  27. ^ a b c Hammond 1982, p. 628.
  28. ^ a b Wilkes 1992, pp. 110–111.
  29. ^ a b c Wilkes 1992, p. 111.
  30. ^ Stocker 2009, p. 217
  31. ^ Hammond, N. G. L. (1997). "Prehistory and Protohistory". Epirus: 4000 Years of Greek Cilization and Culture. Ekdotike Athenon: 42. ISBN 9789602133712. This enterprising and martial people expanded again after 800 B.C.... the Taulantioi seized the Malakastra plain and reached the mouth of the Aoous
  32. ^ Jaupaj 2019, p. 81; Hammond & Griffith 1972, p. 21; Cabanes 2002a, p. 51; Cabanes 2002b, p. 163.
  33. ^ a b Cabanes 2002a, p. 51.
  34. ^ a b Stallo 2007, p. 29.
  35. ^ a b c d Hammond 1982, p. 267.
  36. ^ Sassi 2018, pp. 942, 951, 952
  37. ^ Sassi 2018, pp. 942–943
  38. ^ a b Wilkes 1992, p. 112.
  39. ^ Dzino 2014, p. 49.
  40. ^ Wilkes 1992, pp. 112, 122–126.
  41. ^ Polomé 1983, p. 537: "The old kingdom of Illyria, south of Lissos, covered the territory of several tribes who shared a common language, apparently of Indo-European stock: the Taulantii, on the coast, south of Dyrrachium; the Parthini, north of this town; the Dassaretae, inland, near Lake Lychnidos and in the Drin valley; north of them were the Penestae; in the mountains, an older group, the Enchelei, lingered on." [footnote 84:] "In the oldest sources, the term 'Illyrian' appears to be restricted to the tribes of the Illyricum regnum (PAPAZOGLU, 1965). Linguistically, it can only legitimately be applied to the southeastern part of the expanded Roman Illyricum; the Delmatae and the Pannonii to the northwest mus have constituted an ethnically and linguistically distinct group (KATIČIĆ, 1968: 367-8)."
  42. ^ Šašel Kos 2002, p. 117: "The Illyrian peoples, mentioned in the sources in which the events concerning the Illyrian kingdom are narrated – to name the most outstanding – are the Taulantii, Atintani, Parthini, Enchelei, Penestae, Dassaretii, Ardiaei, Labeates, and the Daorsi. All of these peoples were conceivably more or less closely related in terms of culture, institutions and language. Many of them may have had their own kings, some of whom attained great power and actively took part in the struggle for power in the Hellenistic world. The name “Illyrian” must have carried enough prestige at the time of the rise of the Ardiaean dynasty within the Illyrian kingdom that it was imposed at a later date, when the Romans conquered Illyria and the rest of the Balkans, as the official name of the future provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia."
  43. ^ Haebler 2002, p. 475: "To be cautious, only that language, which was spread along the south-eastern Adriatic coast northward and southward from Dyrrhachium (today Durrës) and inland to Lake Lychnidos (today Ohrid) in the settlement area of the Illyrian tribes of the Parthini, Taulanti, Dassaretae and Penestae, must be considered as Illyrian at present."
  44. ^ Cabanes 2002a, p. 90.
  45. ^ Hammond & Griffith 1972, p. 21.
  46. ^ Wilkes 1992, pp. 122, 124, 336.
  47. ^ Cabanes 2002a, p. 51; Cabanes 2002b, p. 163.
  48. ^ a b Picard 2013, p. 82.
  49. ^ Šašel Kos 2003, p. 149