Tribes of Epirus

The name Epirus comes from Greek: Ἤπειρος, Ēpeiros (in Doric Greek and the native Northwestern Greek Ἅπειρος, Apeiros), meaning "mainland". Epirus has been occupied since at least Neolithic times by seafarers along the coast and by hunters and shepherds in the interior who brought with them the Greek language. These people buried their leaders in large tumuli containing shaft graves, similar to the Mycenaean tombs, indicating an ancestral link between Epirus and the Mycenean civilization. A number of Mycenaean remains have been found in Epirus, especially at the most important ancient religious sites in the region, the Necromanteion (Oracle of the Dead) on the Acheron river, and the Oracle of Zeus at Dodona.

The Molossians Greek , Μολοσσοί were an ancient Greek tribe that inhabited the region of Epirus since the Mycenaean era. The Molossians were part of the League of Epirus until they sided against Rome in the Third Macedonian War 171 BC-168 BC . The result was disastrous with the vengeful Romans enslaving 150,000 of its inhabitants and annexing the region into the Roman Empire.

According to Greek mythology, the Molossians were the descendants of Molossus, one of the three sons of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles and Deidamia. Following the sack of Troy, Neoptolemus and his armies settled in Epirus where they joined with the local population. Molossus inherited the kingdom of Epirus after the death of Helenus, son of Priam and Hecuba of Troy, who had married his erstwhile sister-in-law Andromache after Neoptolemus' death. Plutarch tells us that according to some historians their first king was Phaethon, one of those who came into Epirus with Pelasgus. Plutarch also says, that Deucalion and Pyrrha, having set up the worship of Zeus at Dodona, settled there among the Molossians.

Strabo tells us that the Molossians, along with the Chaonians and Thesprotians, were the most famous among the fourteen tribes of Epirus, who once ruled over the whole region. The Chaonians ruled Epirus at an earlier time and afterwards the Thesprotians and Molossians controlled the region. Plutarch 3 tells us that the Thesprotians, the Chaonians and the Molossians were the three principal clusters of Greek-speaking tribes that had emerged from Epirus and were the most powerful among all other tribes.

The Molossians were also renowned for their vicious hounds, which were used by shepherds to guard their flocks. This is where the canine breed Molossoid, native to Greece, got its name. Virgil tells us that in ancient Greece the heavier Molossian dogs were often used by the Greeks and Romans for hunting canis venaticus and to watch over the house and livestock canis pastoralis . "Never, with them on guard," says Virgil, "need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back."

Strabo records that the Thesprotians, Molossians, and Macedonians referred to old men as pelioi and old women as peliai lt PIE pel-, 'grey' . Cf. Ancient Greek peleia, "pigeon", so-called because of its dusky grey color. Ancient Greek pelos meant "grey". Their senators were called Peligones.

The Chaones according to Strabo were once the most powerful and warlike people of Epirus until the Molossians, in their turn, acquired a preponderating ascendancy over the other clans of that country. In the time of the Peloponnesia war the Chaones differed from their neihbours, in being subject to an aristocratical and not a monarchical government, their annual magistrates being always chosen from a particular family (Thuc. II, 80). Tradition ascribed the origin of their names to Chaonas, the brother of Helenus, who married Andromache after the death of Pyrrhus.

Dexari was a tribe of Chaones. They lived ‘next to the Encheleae’ as Hecataeus wrote (FGrH1f103) and held the area which was later called Dassaretis, namely the southern part of the lakeland and the hilly country to the south west of it. Chaones were a group of Greek-speaking tribes and the Dexari or as they were called later the Dassaretae were the most northernly member of this group.

Suliones were another Chaonian tribe, named by the poet Rhyanus who is quoted by Steph. Byzantinus (v. Συλίονες). Their name recall to mind the famous Suliotes during the wars for Greek independence.

Thesprotia extended along the coast from the Thyamis beyond the Acheron to the confines of the Cassopaei and in the interior to the boundaries of the territory of Dodona which in ancient times was regarded as a part of Thesprotia.
They were considerd the most ancient from all Epirotic tribes since they are the only one mentioned by Homer (Odys. Ξ.315). Herodotus also affirms that they were the parent stock from whence descended the Thessalians who expelled the Aeolians from the country afterwards know by the name of Thessaly. (VII.176) Thesprotians were governed at first by monarchical system but later according to Thucydides (II.80) neither they nor Chaones were subject to kings.

Cassopaei were a Thesprotian tribe. Cassopaei reached along the coast as far as the Ambracian gulf. According to Strabo (7.7.5) the Kassopaians were Thesprotians and between 330 – 325 BCE they became members of the Epeirote Federation . The region Kassopeia (Κασσωπία) (Dem. 7.32; Theopom frr 206-7; Ps. Slylax 31-32) or Kassiopaia (Plut. More. 297B) or Kassiopi (Ptol. Geog. 3.14.) was part of Thesprotia.

Athamanians or Athamanes were an ancient tribe that inhabited south-eastern Epirus and west Thessaly. Although regarded as "barbarians" by Strabo and Hecataeus of Miletus, the Athamanians self-identified as Greeks. The existence of myths about Athamas and Ino in Achaean Phthiotis suggests that the Athamanians were settled there before 1600 BC. They were an independent semi-barbarian tribe (in 395 and 355 BC according to Diodorus Siculus) occasionally allies of the Aetolians. Amynander and Theodorus of Athamania are reported kings of the Athamanians.

Amphilochians, Orestae, Pelagones, Elimiotae


Ariadne Artemis said...

I descend from Ipiros. I'm a Molossian living in Australia.

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