Sunday, September 5, 2010

Marine archaeologists target possible Roman remains off coast of Montenegro

Marine archaeologists have begun work on a site that may prove to be a submerged Greek or Roman temple off the coast of Montenegro.

An international archaeological team has launched a search of a Montenegrin bay after a 16-year-old British schoolboy last year uncovered the submerged remains of what could be a lost, ancient temple while snorkelling in the Adriatic.

Archaeologist Charles le Quesne, conducting the first searches of the stones off Maljevik beach found last summer by his son says:

‘most likely that they are medieval, from a local quarry and possibly intended for use in the nearby Fransiscan Monastery at Ratac near Bar’. He added that the team would also look at nearby Bigovica Bay, an ancient harbour just south of Bar with a series of wrecks dating from the Second Century BC to late antiquity. - Balkan Insight

The first recorded settlers of present-day Montenegro were Illyrians, the Docleata.

Bronze plate depicting llyrian warriors in combat (280BC)
from southern Albania.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia user
Illyria appears in Greco-Roman historiography from the 4th century BC. The Illyrians formed several kingdoms in the central Balkans, and the first known Illyrian king was Bardyllis. Illyrian kingdoms were often at war with ancient Macedonia, and the Illyrian pirates were also a significant danger to neighbouring peoples.

In the Illyrian Wars of 229 BC, 219 BC and 168 BC Rome overran the Illyrian settlements and suppressed the piracy that had made the Adriatic unsafe for Italian commerce. There were three campaigns, the first against Queen Teuta the second against Demetrius of Pharos and the third against Gentius. The initial campaign in 229 BC marks the first time that the Roman Navy crossed the Adriatic Sea to launch an invasion.

The Roman Republic subdued the Illyrians during the 2nd century BC. An Illyrian revolt was crushed under Augustus, resulting in the division of Illyria in the provinces of Pannonia in the north and Dalmatia in the south.

The Roman province of Illyricum or Illyris Romana or Illyris Barbara or Illyria Barbara replaced most of the region of Illyria. It stretched from the Drilon river in modern Albania to Istria (Croatia) in the west and to the Sava river (between Bosnia and Herzegovina and northern Croatia) in the north. Salona (Solin near modern Split in Croatia) functioned as its capital. The regions which it included changed through the centuries though a great part of ancient Illyria remained part of Illyricum as a province while south Illyria became Epirus Nova.

According to the Romans, the Illyrians were tall and well-built. Herodianus writes that "Pannonians are tall and strong always ready for a fight and to face danger but slow witted"  Remains recovered from the period indicate Illyrians were of only average height, however.

The cult of the dead played an important role in the lives of the Illyrians, which is seen in their carefully made burials and burial ceremonies, as well as the richness of the burial sites. In the northern parts of the Balkans, there existed a long tradition of cremation and burial in shallow graves, while in the southern parts, the dead were buried in large stone, or earth tumuli (natively called gromile) that in Herzegovina reached monumental sizes, more than 50 meters wide and 5 meters high. The Japodian tribe (found from Istria in Croatia to Bihać in Bosnia) had an affinity for decoration wearing heavy, oversized necklaces made out of yellow, blue or white glass paste, and large bronze fibulas, as well as spiral bracelets, diadems and helmets out of bronze. Small sculptures out of jade in form of archaic Ionian plastic are also characteristically Japodian.

Human sacrifice also played a role in the lives of the Illyrians. Arrian records the chieftain Cleitus the Illyrian as sacrificing three boys, three girls and three rams just before his battle with Alexander the Great.

The Illyrians were influenced by the Celts in many cultural and material aspects and some of them were Celticized, especially the tribes in Dalmatia and the Pannonians. Illyrian chiefs wore bronze torques around their necks much like the Celts.  The Illyrian town of Rhizon (Risan, Montenegro) had its own protector called Medauras depicted as carrying a lance and riding on horseback.

Slavs colonized the area in the 5th and 6th centuries, forming a semi-independent principality called Duklja, that was involved in Balkan medieval politics with ties to Rascia and Byzantium and to a lesser extent Bulgaria.  Duklja gained its independence from the Byzantine Empire in 1042. In the next few decades Duklja expanded its territory to the neighbouring Rascia and Bosnia and also became recognized as a Kingdom. Its power started declining at the end of the 11th century and by 1186, it was conquered by the Serbian Empire. - Compendium of Wikipedia sources

Learn more about it:

Archaeology of Roman Pannonia
Pannonia and Upper Moesia: History of the Middle Danube Provinces of the Roman Empire (The Provinces of the Roman Empire)

Piracy in the Ancient World   Piracy: The Complete History (General Military)   The Underwater Dig: Introduction to Marine Archaeology

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