The Illyrians: Autochthonous Balkan People having Nothing Common with Modern Albanians

It is true that every story about the Balkan Peninsula begins with the ancient Illyrians.[1] Historians believe that these Indo-European people were one of the largest European populations to inhabit the western portion of the Balkans from the coasts of the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea to the Alps about 1000 B.C. Their eastern neighbours were also Indo-European peoples – the Thracians. The demarcation line between their settlements and their cultural and political influence was the Morava river in present-day Serbia (in Latin Margus, located in the Roman province of Moesia Superior) and the Vardar river in present-day FYR of Macedonia. On the north, on the shores of the Sava and the Danube rivers, their neighbours were the Celts, while on the south the Mt Pindus separated the Illyrians from the ancient Macedonians (who had nothing to do with today “Macedonians”) and the Greeks.[2] The Illyrians lived on the eastern littoral of the Adriatic Sea around 500 B.C. according to the Greek geographer Hecatei (Hecateus) from the city of Miletus in Asia Minor. According to the early Byzantine historian Pseudo-Scilac, who lived 150 years later, the Illyrian settlements in the Balkans in the south extended to the southern Albanian port of Valona (Vlorë).[3] Among the ancient and early medieval historians and geographers, the most reliable information on the geographic dispersion of the Illyrians and the demography of the Illyrian territory appears in the writings of Herodotus, Livy, Pliny, Ptolemy, Appianus, Strabo, Procopius of Caesarea, Synecdemos of Hierocles, Isidorus Hispaniensis, and Euagrius.

When the Celts came to the Balkans in the 3rd century B.C. some of the Illyrian tribes mixed with them. In the same century, the Illyrian King Agron from the Ardaei tribe organised the first Illyrian state. At the time of greatest expansion, its borders extended to the Neretva river in Dalmatia, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Vjosë river in the Southern Albania and Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. Some of the 20th-century Albanian historians and national workers claimed with a pure ethnopolitical purpose that a proclamation of an independent state of Albania on November 28th, 1912 was based on the Albanian political-state inheritance which dated back to King Agron’s the Illyrian Kingdom. Nevertheless, the Romans succeeded in defeating the Illyrians and abolishing their state organisation during the three Illyrian-Roman Wars between 229 and 168 B.C.

Second Illyrian War Map
Second Illyrian War Map, 218 BC

The administratively-political concept of “Illyria”, or “Illyricum”, was used in subsequent centuries by the Romans who after the new conquests in the Balkans established first the Province of Illyricum, and in the 4th century the Praefectura of Illyricum.[4] It stretched from the Istrian Peninsula in the north-west to Northern Albania on the south-east, and from the Adriatic littoral in the south to the Drava river in the north. However, the main portion of present-day Albania was not included in this “Illyrian” province and became part of the Roman Province of Macedonia. This was the result of the Roman conclusion that only the territory of Northern Albania had been settled by the Illyrian tribes, but not the Central and Southern Albania. The proponents of the Illyrian theory of the origins of the Albanians did not provide an answer to the question of why all of Albania was not absorbed into the Roman Province of Illyricum if it was entirely settled by the ancient Illyrians (who are wrongly but purposely claimed by the Albanians to be the Albanian progenitors)? The Romans finally brought under control all of the Illyrian tribes during a new war of 6−9 A.D.[5]

From that time the overwhelming and very successful process of Romanization of the whole Balkan Peninsula began.[6] Some protagonists of the Illyrian theory of the Albanian ethnic origin developed the hypothesis that the Roman Emperors Aurelian, Diocletian and Probus, who originated in the western part of the Balkans, which was settled by the Illyrian tribes, were the predecessors of the modern Albanian nation.[7] During the reign of Diocletian (284–305), who was of the Illyrian origin, the whole Balkan Peninsula, except its eastern part, was administratively organised as the Praefectura Illyricum. Mainly due to such Roman administrative organisation of the Balkans the names Illyria and the Illyrians were preserved for a very long period of time as common names for the peoples who lived in the western and central parts of the Balkans, i.e. for the South Slavs[8] and the Albanians.[9] However, according to the 19th−21st-century official sciences of history, ethnology and philology (but not according to many relevant sources), the Illyrians and Slavs were not synonymous as the later came to the Balkans 1.500 years after the Illyrians.[10]

Europe in IX century
Europe in IX century

Clearly, the name Illyrians disappeared in the 7th century at the time of the Slavic migrations to the Balkans. After the 6th century, however, Byzantine texts do not record any accounts of Illyrians abandoning Balkan territories from the Dalmatian Alps to the Danube. The new Illyrian political and cultural centre became the region of Arbanum (in Greek, Αρβανον or Αλβανον, in Serbian, Рабан) in South Albania. The name “Albani” appeared in historical sources not earlier than the 9th century. Byzantine historians employed the name “Albani” for the Slavic inhabitants living around the sea-port of Durazzo (ancient Dyrrhachium) in North Albania. However, from the second half of the 11th century, the name “Albani” (in Latin, Arbanensis, or Albanenses, in Greek, Αλβανοι or Αρβανιται) was associated with all Albanian tribes who inhabited the Balkans in the 1040s.[11]

In the Middle Ages, the “Albanoi” lived in the area between the cities of Skadar (Scodra), Prizren, Ohrid and Valona. According to the champions of the Illyrian theory of the Albanian ethnogenesis, the Slavic raids and migrations to the Balkans in the early Middle Ages did not affect the native inhabitants of the territory of present-day Albania. They continued to live there, preserving their own culture, habits and social organisation. The southern Illyrian provinces retained their earlier ethnic composition. And of course, this ethnic composition was identified, although without supporting evidence in the sources, as the Albanian regardless of historical evidence and facts that the original homeland of modern Balkan Albanians is ancient Caucasian Albania wherefrom, via Sicily, Albanians arrived to the Balkans only in 1043 according to several independent historical sources, among whom the most reliable is Byzantine chronographer Michael Ataliota.[12] This historical fact is recognized even by objective Albanian historians, who are not under the political pressure by the ruling regime in Tirana, like Stefano Pollo and Arben Puto[13] but, regretablly, not by Albanian nationalists who are falsifying the history of the Balkans.[14]


This text is a critical contribution to the next updated and revised edition of the infamous book of pro-Albanian propaganda:

Noel Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History, New York: New York University Press, 1999.


[1] Stipčević A. Every Story About the Balkans Begins with the Illyrians. Priština, 1985; Buda A. “The Southern Illyrians as a Problem of Historiography”. Historical Writings. vol. 1. 13–15. During the last decades, many scholars have claimed that the Balkan Illyrians (and Thracians) were nothing else but ethnolinguistic Serbs [Бајић Ј. Блажени Јероним, Солинска црква и Србо-Далмати. Шабац, 2003; Деретић И. Ј., Антић П. Д., Јарчевић М. С. Измишљено досељавање Срба. Београд: Сардонија, 2009; Милановић М. Историјско порекло Срба. Београд: Admiral Books, 2011; Земљанички Б. Срби староседеоци Балкана и Паноније у војним и цивилним догађајима са Римљанима и Хеленима од I до X века. Београд: Стручна књига, 1999]. In other words, they claim, that the Serbs, but not the Albanians, are the only autochthonous people (nation) on the Balkan Peninsula, according to the historical sources of the time.

[2] Islami S., Anamali S., Korkuti M, Prendi F. Les Illyriens. Tirana, 1985. 5; Anamali S. “The Illyrians and the Albanians”. Prifti K., Nasi L., Omari L., Xhufi P., Pulaha S., Pollo S., Shtylla Z. (eds.). The Truth on Kosova. Tirana. 1993. 5; Cabanes P. Les Illyriens de Bardylis à Genthios, IV–II siècles avant J.C. Paris, 1988. 17. The borders of geographical distribution of the Illyrian population in Antique Balkans are primarily reconstructed according to the writings of the Greek historians Herodotus who lived in the 5th century B.C. and wrote Historiae and Appianus who lived in the 2nd century A.D. and wrote Illyrica.

[3] The most outstanding Illyrian tribes were: Iapudes, Dalmatae, Autariatae, Docletae and Taulantii.

[4] The Praefectura of Illyricum was subdivided into the following Provinces: Dacia Ripensis, Dacia Mediterranea, Moesia Superior Margensis, Dardania, Praevalis, Macedonia Prima, Macedonia Secunda, Epirus Nova, Epirus Vetus, Thessalia, Achaia and Creta.

[5] Ростовцев М. Историја старога света: Грчка и Рим. Нови Сад: Матица српска, 1990. 383−384.

[6] Regardless of the fact that the Latin language did not replace the Illyrian one in the territory of Albania during Roman rule, Latin did not become the language of the common people. The Illyrian language was Romanised to a certain degree and the Latin alphabet was later chosen by the Albanian national leaders as the national script of the Albanians (one of the reasons for such a decision was purely political). For sure, the Roman culture and Latin language participated in the process of the ethnogenesis of the Albanians. However, the proponents of the Illyrian theory of Albanian ethnogenesis refute this opinion emphasising that the number of Latin inscriptions found in Albania is small when compared with the number found in the other provinces of the Roman Empire. Their total number is 293. Half of these inscriptions are found in and around the Roman colony located in the ancient city of Dyrrhachium. Theodore Mommsen thought that people used exclusively the Illyrian language in the interior of Albania during the Roman occupation [Mommsen T. The Provinces of the Roman Empire. vol. 1, Chicago, MCMLXXIV. 202–203]. Dardania was one of the least Romanized Balkan regions and its native population preserved its ethnic individuality and consciousness. Subsequently, the Dardanians, who escaped Romanization and survived the South Slavic migrations to the Balkans, emerged in the Middle Ages with the name of the Albanians. Nevertheless, Latin terminology in modern Albanian and the place-names in Albania are evidence of the Illyrian-Albanian Romanization/Latinization.

[7] However, the proponents of the theory of Serbian Balkan origin claim that all Balkan-born Roman emperors (around 20) were ethnic Serbs. Diocletian and Constantine the Great are the most important among them.

[8] Among the South Slavs, and in part among the Poles and Russians, the Illyrian theory of Slavic origin was widespread from the early 16th century to the early 19th century. According to this theory, the South Slavs were the autochthonous population in the Balkans originating from the ancient Illyrians. Furthermore, all Slavs formerly lived in the Balkans and were known by the ancient authors as the Illyrians. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, they split into three groups: one group migrated to Central Europe (the Western Slavs), another group went to Eastern Europe (the Eastern Slavs) while the last group remained in the Balkans (the South Slavs). According to several medieval chronicles, the South Slavic ascendants were the ancient Illyrians, Thracians and Macedonians. Thus, Alexander the Great, Constantine the Great, Diocletian and St. Hieronymus were of South Slavic origin. In the time of Humanism, Renaissance, Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, a number of Dubrovnik (Ragusian) writers became the most prominent champions of this theory. They included Vinko Pribojević (On Origin and History of the Slavs, published in Venice in 1532), Mavro Orbini (De Regno Sclavorum, published in Pesaro in 1601) and Bartol Kašić (Institutiones Linguae Illyricae, published in 1604). Pribojević claimed that all Slavs spoke one common language, which originated in the Balkans. For him, the Russians spoke a Dalmatian dialect of the common Slavic language. This common Slavic language was named by Dubrovnik writers as “Our”, “Illyrian” or “Slavic” one. Subsequently, all Slavs who spoke “Our” language belonged to “Our” people. The influence of the Illyrian theory of (the South) Slavic origin can be seen in: 1) the work of Serbian noblemen from Transylvania, Count Đorđe Branković (1645–1711) who in 1688 wrote the first political program of the South Slavic unification into a free and independent state which he called the “Illyrian Kingdom”; in 2) the fact that Orbini’s De Regno Sclavorum was translated into Russian in 1722; and in 3) that the Croatian movement of national renewal from the time of the first half of the 19th century was officially called as the “Illyrian Movement”.

[9] Miridita Z. Istorija Albanaca (“Iliri i etnogeneza Albanaca”). Beograd, 1969. 9−10; Qabej W. Hyrje në historinë e gjuhës shipe. Prishtinë, 1970. 29–32; Prifti K., Nasi L., Omari L., Xhufi P., Pulaha S., Pollo S., Shtylla Z. (eds.). The Truth on Kosova, Tirana, 1993. 5–73; Dobruna E. “On some ancient toponyms in Kosova”. Onomastika e Kosoves. Prishtina, 1979; Anamali S. “The problem of the formation of the Albanian people in the light of archaeological information”. The National Conference on the formation of the Albanian people, their language and culture. Tirana, 1988; Çabej E. “The problem of the autochthony of Albanians in the light of place-names”. Buletini i Universitetit Shteteror te Tiranes. № 2. 1958. 54–62.  

[10] For instance, see [Ћоровић В. Историја Срба. Београд: БИГЗ, 1993. 3−66; Ферјанчић Б. Византија и Јужни Словени. Београд: Завод за издавање уџбеника Социјалистичке Републике Србије, 1966. 20−26; Kont F. Sloveni. Nastanak i razvoj slovenskih civilizacija u Evropi (VI−XIII vek). Beograd: Zavod za izdavačku delatnost „Filip Višnjić“, 1989. 14−43; Пипер П. Увод у славистику. 1. Београд: Завод за уџбенике и наставна средства Београд, 1998. 81−96].

[11] The name for the Albanians – “Арбанаси” is derived from the Latin name for the Albanians as the “Arbanenses”.

[12] Michael Ataliota. Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantine. Bonn: Weber, 1853. 18.

[13] Stefano Pollo, Arben Puto. The History of Albania. London, Boston, Hebley: Routledge & Kegan, 1981. 37.

[14] Кавкаски Албанци – Лажни Илири, Проширени текстови реферата изложених 21. јуна 2007. године на мултидисциплинарном столу САНУ „Методолошки проблем истраживања порекла Албанаца“, Београд: Пешић и синови, 2007.

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  1. Ilir Kastrioti

    Dear Slavic scums, tour theory of Caucasian Albanian is obsolete research more see wikiledia.

    Caucasian theory
    One of the earliest theories on the origins of the Albanians, now considered obsolete, incorrectly identified the proto-Albanians with an area of the eastern Caucasus, separately referred to by classical geographers as Caucasian Albania, located in what roughly corresponds to modern-day southern Dagestan, northern Azerbaijan and bordering Caucasian Iberia to its west. This theory conflated the two Albanias supposing that the ancestors of the Balkan Albanians (Shqiptarët) had migrated westward in the late classical or early medieval period. The Caucasian theory was first proposed by Renaissance humanists who were familiar with the works of classical geographers, and later developed by early 19th-century French consul and writer François Pouqueville. It was soon rendered obsolete in the 19th century when linguists proved Albanian as being an Indo-European, rather than Caucasian language.[161]

    Source :

  2. mm Vladislav B. SOTIROVIC

    Wikipedia is just for the idiots! Read Oriental Review and be properly informed on academic basis.

  3. BU Student

    Incredible! Albanian focal argument is Wikipedia!!! Even Albanian authors from diaspora rejected the Germanic 19-c. propaganda about Illyrian origin of Albanians

  4. mm Vladislav B. SOTIROVIC

    The only real (uncontrolled) Albanian historian is Ardian Klosi, who during his life claimed that Albanians are not descendants of ILIRIANS and that SKENDERBEG is a SERB.

    That is why he was characterized as a TRAITOR.

    So, in 2012, a decision was made to remove him at any cost. He was killed.

  5. Arben Oroni

    Your theory about Albanians coming from Caucasus thru Sicily and your “assurance” that the source of this story is Michael Attaleiates is pure garbage. Read the real story told by him.
    Michael Attaleiates was a Byzantine lawyer and historian who rose to high office under the emperors Romanus IV (r. 1067-1071) and Michael VII (r. 1071-1078). His ‘History’, covering the years 1034-1079, is a largely eyewitnessed account of political and military events in the Byzantine Empire. It was during this period that the Byzantine Greeks first took note of the Albanians as a people. When the Emperor Michael, who passed away in piety and whose home is known to have been the province of Paphlagonia, took up the sceptre of the Byzantine Empire, the Agarene people in Sicily in the West were defeated by Byzantine naval and land forces.And had not the well-known George Maniakes, who had been entrusted with the general command, been eliminated on the slanderous accusation that he was hungry for power, and had not the military command of the war been transferred to others, that large and renowned island, blessed with large cities knowing no lack of precious goods, would still be under Byzantine control. Now, however, jealousy has destroyed not only the man and his endeavours, but also that enormous undertaking (3). For when subsequent commanders made base and shameful plans and decisions, not only was the island lost to Byzantium, but also the greater part of the army. Unfortunately, the people who had once been our allies and who possessed the same rights as citizens and the same religion, i.e. the Albanians and the Latins, who live in the Italian regions of our Empire beyond Western Rome, quite suddenly became enemies when Michael Dokenianos insanely directed his command against their leaders… Constantine IX Monomachos (4) proved to be more benevolent on the imperial throne than his predecessor. He conveyed imperial honours and gifts to almost everyone with ambition, and delighted his subjects. Suddenly storm clouds gathered in the West and threatened him with nothing less than destruction and expulsion from the throne. The aforementioned George with the surname Maniakes, thirsting for blood, began an uprising in the Italian part of the Empire with Byzantine and Albanian soldiers there, being offended because the emperor had shown him a lack of respect and fearing the emperor in view of previous hostilities. He caused great turmoil in the rest of the army opposing him and took it over. After having set up his camp at a two days’ march from Thessalonika, he made his attack on the imperial camp in the evening… When this had taken place and the usurpers had gradually calmed down, another disaster began to take its course and to spread like a poisonous weed intent on destroying the crops. The danger came from the city of Epidamnus (Durrës). The Protoprohedros Duke Basiliakes, who had been sent there by the emperor, having succeeded in avoiding Bryennius and withdrawing from Adrianopole, took over Durrës and assembled an army there from all the surrounding regions. By soliciting support for his side by means of substantial gifts, he succeeded in having the Franks enter his territory from Italy and attempted to make use of them for his side. By various pretences and means, he collected money from everyone under his order and command, set up a list and used as a pretext for this arms buildup the fact that he intended to attack Bryennius as a renegade. Once he had ensured that he had indeed assembled a large army and forces fit for action, composed of Byzantine Greeks, Bulgarians and Albanians and of his own soldiers, he set off and hastened to Thessalonika..

  6. mm Vladislav B. SOTIROVIC

    @Arben Oroni

    Whole official history of Albanians is garbage


  8. Eugens 14 calculator is telling that Balkan Albanians have origins in Canadian Escims

  9. Haha so funny to read such stupid article. All the names that you are mentioning above are in Albania language starting with Agron AND WE NEVER CALLED OURSELVES ALBANIA, WE ARE SHQIPËRI, SHQIPËTAR. Albania is a name that others put on us! You are a criminal by writing such bullshits because these kind of articles can create conflicts and kill people!

  10. Balkan historian


    Ha, ha, haaa, you Sqiptars even do not know that you came to Balkans in 1043 from Caucasus Albania as Albanians!!! Read Prof. Sotirovic and Byzantine/Arab sources to be informed. You changed the name in 19th century in order to hide this fact and falsly clame to be of Illyrian (Serb) origin. Your comments are provoking the wars among the people and calling for the genocide! Shame on you!

    • @balkan history. Your name is embarrasing. Dude. Every Serbian knows they are slavs! Wtf. Why even Lie about it? Please dont make a fool out of yourself. We came to Balkan centuries ago! We are not illyrians BUT SLAVS! Also im so ashamed that Serbia is supporting russia in their genocide of Ukraines. ? we Will never ever learn of our previous past.

  11. Balkan historian


    Obviously you are not Serb just pretending to be. Probably, you are Croat or Albanian. Btw, all professional Balkan historians and ethnologists know very well that ancient Balkan Illyrians have been ethnic Slavs or in other words, Serbs. Shame on you to support Ukrainian Nazifascist genocide over Russians in Donbass but it is understandable as you Croats/Albanians traditionally have been supporting Fascism and Nazism and committing genocide over the Serbs who all the time have been antifascists like we the Greeks..

    • @balkan historian. im half serbian and half danish. Grew up in denmark where we have freedom of speech. Serbia has always Been on the wrong side and it just saddens me. No that is not true at all haha. Thats only in serbia. Serbians are slavs that invaded Balkan centuries ago from the area where russia is today. THATS the reason why serbia and russia are tight friends “slavic brothers”. Everyone knows this except in serbia where you live in denial. Go to free countries where history and journalism is free and read books. In history books in danish this is what it says. This is the history in all books except in serbia. Also even in russia! In russian books serbians are also slavs from russia! And my god the fact that you support Putin says everything about you. Serbia will never learn from its past. Never.

  12. Balkan historian


    You are not Serb at all! You grew up in Nazi NATO Denmark and Fascist EU Denmark. Enough about you, your democracy and right side in history!!!!

  13. mm Vladislav B. SOTIROVIC

    @Balkan historian

    Maybe nick Elena is even Serb. Such people in Serbia are known as pro NATO and pro EU “Seconds Serbians” pretending to be Westernized and educated but in fact they are Western sponzored bots and trolls getting honorarium for each of their post. Nothing new

  14. Yaroslav


    I am half Ukrainian & half Pole from Lvyv (Lemberg). For me, it has to be very shame on you to support Ukrainian Nazifascists in their pogroms over innocent civilians in Ukraine. They introduced Nazi dictatorship in Ukraine since 2014. We Ukrainians, Poles & Russians are welcoming Putin’s antiNazi intervention in Ukraine to liberate us from NATO/EU Nazifascists!

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