Posted by: History Of Macedonia | August 18, 2007

Tribes of Epirus


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. Cities of Chaonia are:

Cities of Chaones: Palaeste, Chimera, Maeandria (fortress), Panormus, Onchesmus, Antigonea, Phanote


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.

Thesprotians (Thesproti)

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.


1. Pandosia, not far removed from the Acheron and the Acherusian Lake, and answering now, according to Leake, to Kastri. It was a colony of Elis, and gave name to another Pandosia, in Italy, in the country of the Brutth. Alex­ander, king of Epirus, was warned by the oracle of Dodona to avoid Pandosia and the Acherusian water, and erroneously applied it to this his own Pandosia, instead of that of Italy, where he received his fatal wound.  2. Buckatium, Bucheta, or Bucenta, close to the Acherusian Lake, and the remains of which are now to be found at the harbor of St. John. 3. Nicopolis, situate on an isthmus, on the coast, and answering now to Prevesa Vccchia. This place was founded by Augustus in commemoration of the victory obtained by him at Actium, and may be said to have arisen out of the ruins of all the surrounding cities in Epi­rus and Acarnania, and even as far as /Ktolia, which were compelled to con­tribute to its prosperity. So anxious, indeed, was Augustus lo raise his new colony to the highest rank among the cities of Greece, that he caused it to be admitted among those states which sent deputies to the Amphictyonic assembly. He also ordered games to be celebrated with great pomp every five years. Having afterward fallen into decay, it was restored by the Emperor Julian.The Molossi must have possessed several towns in the interior, since we are told by Polybius that, out of the seventy Epirotic cities destroyed by Paulus Aemilius, the greater number belonged to,this people. Few of these, however, are named in history. The most celebrated was Passaron, which may be con­sidered as their capital, since Plutarch, in the life of Pyrrhus, reports that the kings of Epirus convened here the solemn assembly of the whole nation, when, after having performed the customary sacrifices, they took an oath that they would govern according to the established laws; and the people, in return, swore to maintain the constitution and defend the kingdom. Cramer seeks to identify it with some ruins near Joanina, in a south-southwest direction, and about four hours from that city.   Leake leaves trie site uncertain.Modern travellers have expressed some surprise that no mention is made in history of the Lake of Joanina, and have even been led to suppose that this considerable expanse of water could not have existed in ancient times. But the truth is, that the present Lake of Joanina is the ancient Pains Pambotis (Παμβώτις Λίμνην) mentioned by Eustathius. He describes it as a lake having an island in the middle, containing a remarkable hill, which was fortified by Jus­tinian, and to which he removed the inhabitants of the adjacent city of Euroea, which was in a defenceless state. The fortress of Joanina now occupies the site of Justinian’s castle, and the city of Joanina that of the ancient Euroea, in all probability.We must now close this description of Epirus with some account of the city and republic of Ambracia. This celebrated city was situated on the banks of the Arachthus or Arethon, a short distance from the waters of the Sinus Ambracius, to which it gave name. It is said to have been founded by some Corinthians headed by Tolgus or Torgus, who was either the brother or the son of Cypselus, chief of Corinth. It early acquired maritime celebrity by reason of its advan­tageous position, and was a powerful and independent city toward the com­mencement of the Peloponnesian war, in which it espoused the cause of Co­rinth and Sparta.   At a later period we find its independence threatened by Philip, who seems to have entertained the project of annexing it to the do­minions of his brother-in-law, Alexander, king of the Molossians. Whether it actually fell into the power of that monarch is uncertain, but there can be no doubt of its having been in the occupation of Philip, since the Ambraciots, ac­cording to Diodorus Siculus, on the accession of Alexander the Great to the throne, ejected the Macedonian garrison stationed in their city. Ambracia, how­ever, did not long enjoy the freedom which it thus regained, for, having fallen into the hands of Pyrrhus, we arc told that it was selected by that prince as his usaal place of residence. Many years after, being under the dominion of the iEtolians, who were at that time involved in hostilities with the Romans, it sus­tained a siege against the latter, almost unequalled in tho annals of ancient war­fare for the gallantry and perseverance displayed in the defence of the place. Ambracia at last opened its gates to the foe, and was stripped of all the statues and pictures with which it had been so richly adorned by Pyrrhus. From this time it sank into a state of insignificance, and Augustus, by transferring its inhabitants to Nicopolis, completed its desolation. It stood near the modern Arta, which town also gives its modern name to the Ambracian Gulf. 







A Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography, ed. by W. Smith By Greek geography

A Geographical and Historical Description of Ancient Greece: With a Map, and a Plan of Athens By John Anthony Cramer


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