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The Tara River canyon at Durdevica Tara in Montenegro. The name Tara is thought to be related to the Autariatae, whose territory included the river valley in classical antiquity. Taros kanjonas.jpg
The Tara River canyon at Đurđevića Tara in Montenegro. The name Tara is thought to be related to the Autariatae, whose territory included the river valley in classical antiquity.

The Autariatae or Autariatai (alternatively, Autariates; Ancient Greek : Αὐταριᾶται, Autariatai; Latin : Autariatae) were an Illyrian people that lived between the valleys of the Lim and the Tara, beyond the Accursed Mountains, and the valley of West Morava. Their territory was located inland from the Ardiaei and the Lake Skodra, extending east to the Dardani and north or northeast to the Triballi. [2]


Along with the Ardiaei and the Dardani, the Autariatae are mentioned by Strabo in his Geographica as one of the three strongest Illyrian peoples in the pre-Roman Balkans. [3] [4] Following defeat during the Celtic invasions of the Balkans in the 4th century, a part of the Autariatae who remained in Bosnia adopted Celtic culture later in their history. [5] Another part moved southwards and after an agreement with the Kingdom of Macedonia, 20,000 settled in the Parorbelian mountain range, in the borderlands between modern southeastern North Macedonia, northern Greece and southwestern Bulgaria. [6]


An Illyrian people named Αὐταριᾶται, Autariatai was firstly recorded in the Periplus of Pseudo-Skylax dating back to the middle of the 4th century BC. [7] According to a mythological tradition reported by Appian (2nd century AD), the Autariatae descended from a common progenitor called Autarieus, one of the sons of Illyrius, the eponymous ancestor of all the Illyrian peoples. [8] [9] The name Autariatae has been connected to the hydronym and oronym Tara. The Tara river and Tara mountain are both considered to have been located in Autariatan territory. [1] [10]


The Autariatan communities unified into a single political entity that can be called with the collective name Autariatae in the period 6th – 4th centuries BC. [11] They began to expand eastward into territories controlled by the Triballi. Moreover, they expanded southward where they defeated the Ardiaei, their old rivals, [12] in struggles for control over pastures and salty springs. [13] Activities of the Autariatae at the turn of the 6th and 5th centuries BC profoundly influenced the peoples who were directly affected by their expansion. The Ardiaei were moved toward the coasts and the Triballi to the east. The expansion of the Autariatae enabled them to achieve hegemonic control over one part of the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. The leading class of the Autariatae society reached the peak of its political and economic development indicated through many great luxurious royal tumuli and graves created during the 5th century BC. Strabo’s comment on the Autariatae as "the once greatest and most powerful Illyrian people" most likely refers to this period. Their peak of development was followed by the gradual decline of the Autariatae ending in 310 BC with their sudden disappearance [14] due to Celtic migrations. [15]

Appian (95 – 165) writes that the Ardiaei were destroyed by the Autariatae and that in contrast to the Autariatae had maritime power. [16] He also reports that the Autariatae were punished by Apollo for raiding the Pythian Oracle together with the Celtic Cimbri, after which moment they migrated to the lands of the Getae near the tribe of Bastarnae. [17] This could be an explanation why the Autariatae "disappear" after 310 B.C., according to Wilkes. The ancient geographer, Strabo, lists the Autariatae as one of the three strongest tribes - the other two being the Ardiaei and the Dardanii.

The Autariatae and the Celtic Scordisci are thought to have merged into one tribe in the Lower Morava valley, after 313 BC, since excavations show that the two groups made burials at the same exact grave field in Pecine, near Kostolac. [18] Nine graves of Autariatae dating to 4th century BC and scattered Autariatae and Celtic graves around these earlier graves show that the two groups mixed rather than made war [19] and this resulted in the lower Morava valley becoming a Celto-Thraco-Illyrian interaction zone. [20]


A standard practice of the Autariatae entailed killing their weak and wounded. This was meant to prevent meek individuals from falling into the hands of their enemies. [21] This practice perhaps was motivated by the superstitious belief that the enemy, by drinking the blood of prisoners and by eating parts of their bodies containing their virtues, would become even stronger and acquire a special power over the entire community of the Autariatae. [22]

The Autariatae left a legacy of material wealth. So far, more than 100[ citation needed ] castle ruins were identified to have been inhabited by the Autariatae, as well as thousands[ citation needed ] of tumuli in which they had been buried. Movable materials (mostly jewelry and weapons) reveal all specific features associated with the ethno-cultural originality of the Autariatae. The Autariatae established a continuous tradition of manufacturing metal and ceramic products. Artifacts consisting of metal sheets with luxurious golden and silver belts of Mramorac[ citation needed ] type indicate the complexity of this tradition.[ citation needed ]

The Autariatae are a classic example of a "highland" people who also show all the characteristics of a "highland" mentality (i.e. preservation of old beliefs).[ citation needed ] Case in point, the Autariatae have strongly maintained their burial customs of burning the dead in tumuli, which did not change until the end of the Glasinac culture. [ citation needed ] Archaeological remains indicate that the religious life of the Autariatae was influenced by both their ancestor cult and the cult of their solar god. [ citation needed ] One can find the numerous evidence of the solar cult throughout the territories once controlled by the Autariatae. [ citation needed ] The Autariatae economy was based on cattle breeding, metalwork, handicraft and trade. Because of its need for Greek and Italic goods, this Illyrian tribe was one of the biggest trade partners of the western and central Balkans to both Greek and Italic traders between the 7th and 6th centuries BC.[ citation needed ]

See also

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  1. 1 2 Papazoglu 1978 , pp. 106, 127
  2. Wilkes 1992 , pp. 99, 139
  3. Hammond 1966, pp. 239–241.
  4. Papazoglu 1978, p. 110: "According to Strabo, "the Autariatae were at one time the greatest and most powerful Illyrian people""
  5. Dalmatia Tome 2 of History of the provinces of the Roman Empire by J. J. Wilkes, 1969, page 400
  6. Yardley, Wheatley & Heckel 2011, p. 233.
  7. Šašel Kos 2013 , p. 247
  8. Wilkes 1992, p. 92.
  9. Mesihović & Šačić 2015, pp. 23–24.
  10. Mesihović 2014 , p. 28
  11. Mesihović 2014 , p. 7
  12. Wilkes 1992, p. 223: "The salt source that was a cause of conflict between the Illyrian Ardiaei and Autariatae may be that at Orahovica in the upper Neretva valley near Konjic."
  13. Wilkes 1992, p. 139:"...describes a long-running feud between the Autariatae and the Ardiaei over the possession of a salt-source near their common border."
  14. Wilkes 1992, p. 145: "While the once formidable Autariatae had vanished long before the Roman conquest, and the Triballi, Scordisci and Moesi all declined to insignificant remnants, the Dardani..."
  15. Wilkes 1992, p. 75: "Alföldy suggests that this Celtic component may derive from the impact of the migrating Celts on the Illyrian Autariatae, but it now seems that they dwelt not there but further south between the `real Illyrians' around the Lake of ..."
  16. App. Ill. 1,"In like manner the Ardiæi, who were distinguished for their maritime power, were finally destroyed by the Autarienses, whose land forces were stronger, but whom they had often defeated."
  17. App. Ill. 1.4,"The Autarienses were overtaken with destruction by the vengeance of Apollo. Having joined Molostimus and the Celtic people called Cimbri in an expedition against the temple of Delphi, the greater part of them were destroyed by storm, hurricane, and lightning just before the sacrilege was committed; … At last they fled from their homes, and as the plague still clung to them (and for fear of it nobody would receive them), they came, after a journey of twenty-three days, to a marshy and uninhabited district of the Getæ, where they settled near the Bastarnæ."
  18. Jovanović 1984, 1985, 1991; Theodossiev 2000: 120-121, cat. no. 113 with full bibliography
  19. Jovanović 1985, 1992
  20. "CAORC | Programs" (PDF).
  21. Wilkes 1992, p. 243: "...the skull of an enemy as a drinking tankard. The practice of mutilating prisoners may be the reason why the Autariatae killed their own weak and wounded, so that they did not fall into the hands of the enemy live and..."
  22. Papazoglu 1978, p. 515.