The Amantes (alternatively attested in primary sources, as Amantieis or Amantini) (Ancient Greek: Άμαντες or Αμαντιείς; Latin: Amantinii) were an ancient tribe located in the inland area of the Bay of Vlora in either northern Epirus or southern Illyria, nowadays modern Albania. A site of their location has been identified with the archaeological settlement of Amantia, placed above the river Vjosë/Aoos. Amantia is considered to have been their main settlement. The Amantes also inhabited in the area of an ancient sanctuary of the eternal fire called Nymphaion.
The name is first attested in the Periplus of Pseudo-Skylax in the mid-4th century BC. It has been suggested that the ethnonym Amantes contains the Indo-European stem ab- "water, river", as the interchanging -m- to -b- can be found in Greek, while the shift -b- to -m- can be found in Thracian and Illyrian, and is characteristic of the north Aegean region. Whether the name Amantes corresponded to the interchanging of -b- to -m- is disputed.
It has been suggested that the names Amantes and Amantia are connected with the Albanian term amë/ãmë ("river-bed, fountain, spring"). The tribal name Amantes, in particular, has been translated as "riparians". A homonymous Illyrian tribe lived in eastern Slavonia.
The territory of the Amantes was located around the left shore of the lower Aoos valley and inland of the Bay of Vlorë, and it was known as Amantia, which was interpreted by ancient Greeks as Abantia.
Their territory extended to the east of the Shushicë valley, where the fortress of Matohasanaj marked the southernmost limit of their community, on the border with Chaonia. A site of their location has been identified with the archaeological settlement of Amantia, placed above the river Vjosë/Aoos. The city was built around 450 BC on the site of a proto-urban settlement. Already from the beginning it had a fortified acropolis that was surrounded by a 2.1 km long wall, with also a lower town. The original walls made of irregularly slammed limestone were renewed in the 4th century with isodomic ashlar layers.
With the strategic position of the Matohasanaj settlement, the Amantes were able to control the natural route from Amantia towards Epirus or Macedonia. Their territory stretched westward to the Bay of Vlorë and the Orikos area, while its northwestern limit seems to have been the town of Triport. Taking into account archaeological and historical considerations, the city of Olympe should have been founded in the ethnic context of the Amantes, but later it was organized as a proper polis turning away from its ethnic context. The dissociation from the ethnic to the polis coincided with Philip V of Macedon's conquest of a number of cities in Illyria. Thronium, a settlement located in Abantis was a Greek city located near Kanina.
The territorial extension of the state of the Amantes was better suited to the ethnos- or koinon- type organisation than to the polis organisation. Its territory combined agricultural lands and large mountain areas suitable for livestock breeding, summer pastures and winter pastures near the seashore.
Pseudo-Skylax regarded the Amantes as Illyrioi (Illyrians). Proxenus, Pyrrhus' court historian, listed the Abantes (a variant form of Amantes), among the Epeirotai (Epirotes). Hesychios also regarded them as Epirotes, Pliny regarded them as barbarians.
Their ethnic origin has been the subject of debate. Among older historians and archaeologists, Fanula Papazoglou considered them to be Illyrian, Arnold J. Toynbee considered them to be Illyrian-speaking, while N. G. L. Hammond considered them to be Greek. Chrisoula Ioakimidou (1997) states that they can't be labeled Greeks with certainty, and that Pliny at least calls them barbari, however according to her they seem to have not been Illyrians. A number of scholars regard them as Illyrians, while others consider them Epirotes.
A mythological story, attested in the work of Pausanias, produced an ancestral connection between them and the Abantes (Ancient Greek: Άβαντες) who were claimed to be colonists in Amantia after their return from the Trojan War. The interpretation of the toponym Amantia as Abantia besides mythological stories has been rationalized as a part of a colonization from Euboia. As part of this connection a local settlement under the name Thronium bears the same name of a Locrian settlement located in Euboia. Although there is some geographic inaccuracy in the description of Pausanias the tradition of the Euboian colonization is dated at least from the 5th century BC and those toponyms existed since the archaic era (800–480 BC). The Apollonnians the time they erected their monument in Olympia for their victory in Thronium were aware of these Locrian-Euboian identifications of the territory they had annexed. It has been suggested that the data from Pausanias is more in accordance with the settlement of the Euboean colony in Thronium in the coastal site of Triport located in front of the Acroceraunian Mountains northwest of Aulon (Vlorë), not in Amantia in the site of Ploç located south of the Aoos valley in the hinterland of Aulon. Pausanias' data have been compared with the information provided by the Apollonian commemorative monument, suggesting an "oppositional ethnicity" between the Greek colonial associations of the Bay of Aulon (i.e. the area called Abantis), and the barbarians of the hinterland. Both cities (Apollonia and Thronium) were Greek establishments.
M.V. Sakellariou states that although many scholars accept the historicity of the Euboian colonization dating some time after the colonisation of Corfu by the Eretrians, concludes that there was no direct connection between the Amantes and the Abantes but that they both came from an older Indo-European tribe which he termed Proto-Abantes, who settled in present-day Caucasus, Albania and Greece. According to S.C. Bakhuizen (1976), all scholarly constructions about a relation between the Amantes and the Euboean Abantes are fictional. Guy Smoot (2015) has proposed an opposite direction of a connection between the two tribes which he dates to the EIA (ca. 1100-850 BC). Instead of a colonization of the Abantes from the Argolid and Euboea to Epirus, he proposes that a part of the original Abantes moved south from their homeland in Epirus to central Greece, to Euboea and as far south as Argolid, as part of the Dorian migration. According to him the Amantes that remained in Epirus came to be called Amantes, following a b/m shift typical of the North Aegean. According to Sakellariou, the correlation of the ethnic names Ἄβαντες (Abantes) and Ἄμαντες (Amantes) from the ancients, based on the hypothetical shift β > μ is considered reasonably doubtful.
The culture of the region had a language that is not well known, and it seems to have not had its own writing system. The inscriptions in Amantia of the Hellenistic era were Greek as well as their onomastics. The local culture readily borrowed iconography and technique from the Greeks. Many cults of Amantia are typically Greek (Zeus, Aphrodite, Pandemos, Pan). Other cults like that of the male fertility deity are common of southern Illyria. It seems that the iconographies of this deity were derivations of Egyptian or Italic iconographies (Bes-Silenus), mainly from the Greek colony of Taras, which were widespread in the region from the 4th century BC, but enriched with very stylistic innovations. In the Roman period this deity has undergone transformations mainly of Eastern influence. Some label this deity as the Illyrian god of fertility. In reality, it is futile to approach ancient cults in ethnic or national terms. The South of the Adriatic is clearly a region of religious exchanges, in which facts must be shifted, before considering them to belong to just one culture. The Illyrian-Greek cult of the nymphs was widespread in the region. An ancient sanctuary of the eternal fire called Nymphaion was placed in an area inhabited by Amantes and Bylliones, which was also located near Apollonia.
The stadium of Amantia shows that the koinon of the Amantes was the one on which Greek influences were strongest, no doubt because of its maritime openness and its close proximity to Apollonia. Inscriptions in Latin appear after 200 AD when the region became part of the Roman sphere of influence and later the Roman Empire.
At some stage Apollonia seems to have taken over Thronium, another Greek city probably sited near Kanina.
Stadt Thronion im Nachbarlant Abantis
Abantes oder Amantes : Barbaren ? Thronion lag also in der Landschaft nördlich des akrokeraunischen Gebirges , in dem wahrscheinlich die sog . Amantes wohnten , deren Name vermutlich identisch mit dem der Abantes war. Ob diese Amantes tatsächlich Griechen waren oder nicht , läßt sich nicht mit Sicherheit ermitteln . Plinius ( nat . III 145 ) wenigstens bezeichnet sie als barbari. Illyrier scheinen sie allerdings nicht gewesen zu sein. Abantes or Amantes: Barbarians? Thronion was therefore in the landscape north of the Acroceraunian Mountains, where the so-called Amantes wer located, whose name was probably identical to that of the Abantes. Whether or not these Amantes were actually Greeks cannot be determined with certainty. Pliny (nat. III 145) at least calls them barbari. However, they do not seem to have been Illyrians