Last updated
Paeonia, tribes and environs Map of the Paeonian Tribes (English).svg
Paeonia, tribes and environs

The Agrianes (Ancient Greek: Ἀγρίανες, Agrianes or Ἀγρίαι Agriai) or Agrianians, were a tribe whose country was centered at Upper Strymon, in present-day central Western Bulgaria as well as southeasternmost Serbia, at the time situated north of the Dentheletae. Per Strabo the source of the river Strymon was within Agrianes' territory. In the times of Philip II, the territory of the Agrianes was administered by Pella. They were crack javelin throwers and an elite unit of Alexander the Great's light infantry, who fought under the command of General Attalus.


Etymology and tribal belonging

Their name in Ancient Greek was Ἀγρίανες. [1] The ethnonym is of Indo-European origin, from *agro- "field" (cf. Lat. ager, Grc. ἀγρός agros, Eng. acre). [2] Irwin L. Merker considers it purely Hellenic, and lists certain Greek cognates such as the ethnonym of the Doric tribe Agraioi in Aetolia and the month Agrianos, [3] [4] which is found throughout the Dorian and Aeolian worlds. [5] An early name of the Rhodopes was Achrida, which may also be a cognate.

Pausanias described that Paeon, the eponymous ancestor of the Paionians (of whom Agrianes were members), was a brother of Epeius and Aetolus, the eponymous ancestors of the Epeians of Elis and the Aetolians respectively. [6] According to Irwin L. Merker, this genealogy shows that the Ancient Greeks considered the Paionians to be of Hellenic stock. Their place-name has several cognates in Greece such as Παιονίδαι (Paeonidai), a deme of the tribe Leontis in Attica. A place in the Argolid also has the same name. [3]

Herodotus described them as a tribe of Paeonia, [7] together with the Odomanti and Doberes in the vicinity of Pangaeum. The only writer who describes the Agrianes as Thracians is Theopompus. [8]


Their country was centered at Upper Strymon, in present-day westernmost Bulgaria, and also held areas of southeasternmost Serbia, [9] at the time situated north of the Dentheletae. In the times of Philip II, the territory of the Agrianes was administered by Pella. [10] According to some Bulgarian researchers they inhabited an ethnocultural region known today as "Graovo", whose name probably derives from that of the Agrianes. [11] [12] Its location is in the central and eastern areas of modern-day Pernik Province. [13]


Agrianian peltast. Agrianian3.jpg
Agrianian peltast.

The peltasts raised from the Agrianes were the elite light infantry of the Macedonian army. They were often used to cover the right flank of the army in battle, being posted to the right of the Companion cavalry, a position of considerable honour. They were almost invariably part of any force on detached duty, especially missions requiring speed of movement. [14]

Peltasts were armed with a number of javelins and a sword, carried a light shield but wore no armour, though they sometimes had helmets; they were adept at skirmishing and were often used to guard the flanks of more heavily equipped infantry. They usually adopted an open order when facing enemy heavy infantry. They could throw their javelins at will at the enemy and, unencumbered by armour or heavy shields, easily evade any counter-charges made by heavily equipped hoplites. They were, however, quite vulnerable to shock-capable cavalry and often operated to particular advantage on broken ground where cavalry was useless and heavy infantry found it difficult to maintain formation. [15] [16]


They are first mentioned regarding Megabazus' campaign in 511 BC. [2] In 429 BC they were subject to the Odrysian kingdom [17] and later, as early as 352 BC, they became allies of Philip of Macedonia. [18]

They fought under king Langarus with the Macedonians against the Triballians in 335 BC [19] [ better source needed ] and succeeded in protecting the lands of Alexander and were thus rewarded with the right to govern themselves, a move that led to a long-lasting and most reliable alliance. At the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BC), during Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia, their contingent of peltasts numbered 1,000 men. During the time of the Seleucid Empire, a crack unit of Antiochus' Agrianes was brigaded together with Persians at Raphia. Contingents from the Agrianes and the Penestae, numbering 800 and 2,000 men respectively, were a part of the garrison of Cassandreia at the time of the Third Macedonian War. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

Thracians Ancient Indo-European people that lived in eastern parts of Europe

The Thracians were an Indo-European speaking people, who inhabited large parts of Eastern and Southeastern Europe in ancient history. Thracians resided mainly in the Balkans, but were also located in Asia Minor and other locations in Eastern Europe.

Struma (river) River in Bulgaria and Greece

The Struma or Strymónas is a river in Bulgaria and Greece. Its ancient name was Strymṓn. Its drainage area is 17,330 km2 (6,690 sq mi), of which 8,670 km2 (3,350 sq mi) in Bulgaria, 6,295 km2 (2,431 sq mi) in Greece and the remaining 2,365 km2 (913 sq mi) in North Macedonia. It takes its source from the Vitosha Mountain in Bulgaria, runs first westward, then southward, forming a number of gorges, enters Greek territory at the Kula village. In Greece it is the main waterway feeding and exiting from Lake Kerkini, a significant centre for migratory wildfowl. The river flows into the Strymonian Gulf in Aegean Sea, near Amphipolis in the Serres regional unit. The river's length is 415 kilometres (of which 290 kilometres in Bulgaria, making it the country's fifth-longest and one of the longest rivers that run solely in the interior of the Balkans.

Paeonia (kingdom)

In antiquity, Paeonia or Paionia was the land and kingdom of the Paeonians or Paionians.

Peltast Type of ancient Greek light infantry

A peltast was a type of light infantryman, originating in Thrace and Paeonia, and named after the kind of shield he carried. Thucydides mentions the Thracian peltasts, while Xenophon in the Anabasis distinguishes the Thracian and Greek peltast troops. The peltast often served as a skirmisher in Hellenic and Hellenistic armies. In the Medieval period, the same term was used for a type of Byzantine infantryman.

Paeonian language Extinct Indo-European language of the Balkans

Paeonian, sometimes spelled Paionian, is a poorly attested, extinct language spoken by the ancient Paeonians until late antiquity.

Ancient Macedonian army Army of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia

The army of the Kingdom of Macedon was among the greatest military forces of the ancient world. It was created and made formidable by King Philip II of Macedon; previously the army of Macedon had been of little account in the politics of the Greek world, and Macedonia had been regarded as a second-rate power.

Ariston of Paionia

Ariston was a member of the Paionian royal house, possibly brother of King Patraus and father of the later king, Audoleon. His service with Alexander the Great, like that of the Thracian Sitalces II and others, helped to ensure the loyalty of his nation to Macedon in the King's absence. He was the commander of the unit of Paionian cavalry. Initially only one squadron strong, the Paionians received 500 reinforcements in Egypt and a further 600 at Susa.

Damastion was an ancient city in the area of central Balkans. Various sites in Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania have been considered as the location of this ancient town.


The Dentheletae, also Danthaletae (Δανθαλῆται) or Denseletae, were a Thracian tribe that in antiquity lived near the sources of the River Strymon, and are mentioned in texts by Polybius, Cassius Dio, Tacitus and by Livy. They lived in the neighbourhoods of the modern towns Kyustendil and Dupnitsa, stretching to as far as the mountains to the west towards the valleys of the Morava and the Vardar river, with territories situated next to the Thracian tribes Agrianes and the Maedi. Their main city, called Dentheletica, was presumably Pautalia as this was the capital of the Roman region Dentheletica. They possibly built fortifications around Stara Planina in the 1st century BC, lived around Sofia and Skaptopara was their town.

Bottiaeans or Bottiaei were an ancient people of uncertain origin, living in Central Macedonia. Sometime, during the Archaic period, they were expelled by Macedonians from Bottiaea to Bottike. During the Classical era, they played an active role in the military history of ancient Chalcidice, but after the Macedonian conquest under Philip II nothing remained except the names of these two regions and the adjective Bottiaean, which was limited to sole geographical meaning. Unlike other tribes of Macedonia ruled by kings or living in villages, Bottiaeans developed some polis form of self-government. Unfortunately, no Bottiaean individual is known to us and the limited historical or archaeological sources shed no further light.

Thracian warfare

The history of Thracian warfare spans from the 10th century BC up to the 1st century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Thrace. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Thracian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Thracians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Thracian tribes.

Odomanti Ancient tribe

Odomanti or Odomantes were an ancient tribe. Some regard it as Paeonian, while others claim, that the tribe was with certainty Thracian. The Odomanti are noted by Herodotus, Thucydides, Stephanus of Byzantium and Pliny the Elder.

Antigonid Macedonian army Army of the Kingdom of Macedonia during the Antigonid dynasty (276-168 BC)

The Antigonid Macedonian army was the army that evolved from the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia in the period when it was ruled by the Antigonid dynasty from 276 BC to 168 BC. It was seen as one of the principal Hellenistic fighting forces until its ultimate defeat at Roman hands at the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC. However, there was a brief resurgence in 150-148 during the revolt of Andriscus, a supposed heir to Perseus.

Achaemenid Macedonia

Achaemenid Macedonia refers to the period in which the Kingdom of Macedonia was under the sway of the Achaemenid Persians. In 512/511 BC, the Persian general Megabyzus forced the Macedonian king Amyntas I to make his kingdom a vassal of the Achaemenids. In 492 BC, following the Ionian Revolt, the Persian general Mardonius firmly re-tightened the Persian grip in the Balkans, making Macedon a fully subordinate kingdom within the Achaemenid domains and part of its administrative system. Macedonia served the Achaemenid Empire during the Greco-Persian Wars in their invasion of mainland Greece. They regained independence following the defeat and withdrawal of the Achaemenid Empire in 479 BC.

Government of Macedonia (ancient kingdom) Political history topic

The earliest government of Macedonia was established by the Argead dynasty of Macedonian kings some time during the period of Archaic Greece. Due to shortcomings in the historical record, very little is known about the origins of Macedonian governmental institutions before the reign of Philip II of Macedon, during the final phase of Classical Greece. These institutions continued to evolve under his successor Alexander the Great and the subsequent Antipatrid and Antigonid dynasties of Hellenistic Greece. Following the Roman victory in the Third Macedonian War and house arrest of Perseus of Macedon in 168 BC, the Macedonian monarchy was abolished and replaced by four client state republics. However, the monarchy was briefly revived by the pretender to the throne Andriscus in 150–148 BC, followed by the Roman victory in the Fourth Macedonian War and establishment of the Roman province of Macedonia.


Paeonians were an ancient Indo-European people that dwelt in Paeonia. Paeonia was an old country whose location was to the north of ancient Macedonia, to the south of Dardania, to the west of Thrace and to the east of Illyria, most of their land was in the Axios river basin, roughly in what is today North Macedonia.


  1. "Agrianes: Greece (Paeonia)". Trismegistos. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  2. 1 2 Shea, John (1997-01-01). Macedonia and Greece: The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation. p. 52. ISBN   9780786402281.
  3. 1 2 Merker, Irwin L. (1965). "THE ANCIENT KINGDOM OF PAIONIA". Institute for Balkan Studies (Greece) . 6 (1): 36–37.
  4. Strauch, Daniel (31 December 2020). "Agraii". BRILL .
  5. Cuche, Vincent (2017), "Dorian festivals", The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, pp. 1–2, doi:10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah30116, ISBN   978-1-4443-3838-6 , retrieved 2021-01-02, Agrianos month is found throughout the Dorian and Aeolian worlds. (Burkert 1983: 168–79).
  6. Pausanias, 5.1.5; Smith "Paeon" 3.
  7. Wheeler, James Talboys (1854). The Geography of Herodotus ...: Illustrated from Modern Researches and Discoveries. p. 130.
  8. The Cambridge Ancient History: pt. 1. The prehistory of the Balkans; and the Middle East and the Aegean world, tenth to eighth centuries B.C. Cambridge University Press, 1991. University of Minnesota/ The only writer who describes the Agrianes (under the form Agrii) as Thracians, is Theopom- pus (f 257(a)), but his evidence, isolated as it is, carries less weight.
  9. Yenne, Bill (2010-04-13). Alexander the Great: Lessons from History's Undefeated General. ISBN   9780230106406. The Agrianians were a Thracian people from the area that is now southern Serbia
  10. Hammond, Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière (1988). A History of Macedonia: 336-167 B.C. p. 39. ISBN   9780198148159.
  11. Александър Фол, (1983) Историческа география на тракийските племена до III в. пр.н.е., Изд-во на Българската академия на науките, стр. 23.
  12. Петър Делев, (2014) История на племената в Югозападна Тракия през I хил. пр. Хр. УИ „Св.-Климент-Охридски“, София, стр. 148, ISBN   9540736919.
  13. Vintilă-Ghiţulescu, Constanţa, ed. (2011). From Traditional Attire to Modern Dress: Modes of Identification, Modes of Recognition in the Balkans (XVIth-XXth Centuries). Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. xv. ISBN   9781443832632 . Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  14. Ashley, p. 45-46.
  15. Connolly, pp. 48-49.
  16. Sidnell, pp. 57-59
  17. Herodotus; Macan, Reginald Walter (1908). Herodotus, the Seventh, Eighth, & Ninth Books: Pt. I. Introduction. Book VII. (text and commentaries).
  18. Chatzopoulos, Miltiadēs V; Loukopoulou, Louïza D (1980). Philip of Macedon. ISBN   9780892413300.
  19. Darko Gavrovski, “TETOVO ANTIQUITIES - Polog valley from Prehistory to 7th century AD, with special emphasis on the Tetovo region”, Tetovo, 2009. English summary on: "Index". Archived from the original on 2009-08-04. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
  20. Livy (2007-11-08). Rome's Mediterranean Empire: Books 41-45 and the Periochae. ISBN   9780192833402.