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.[1] Amantia is considered to have been their main settlement.[2] The Amantes also inhabited in the area of an ancient sanctuary of the eternal fire called Nymphaion.[3]


The name is first attested in the Periplus of Pseudo-Skylax in the mid-4th century BC.[4][5] 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,[6][7] while the shift -b- to -m- can be found in Thracian and Illyrian,[7] and is characteristic of the north Aegean region.[8] Whether the name Amantes corresponded to the interchanging of -b- to -m- is disputed.[9]

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".[10] A homonymous Illyrian tribe lived in eastern Slavonia.[11]


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.[12][13]

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.[13][14] A site of their location has been identified with the archaeological settlement of Amantia, placed above the river Vjosë/Aoos.[1] 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.[2]

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.[13][14] 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.[15][16] The dissociation from the ethnic to the polis coincided with Philip V of Macedon's conquest of a number of cities in Illyria.[15] Thronium, a settlement located in Abantis was a Greek city located near Kanina.[17][18]

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.[14]


Pseudo-Skylax regarded the Amantes as Illyrioi (Illyrians).[4] Proxenus, Pyrrhus' court historian, listed the Abantes (a variant form of Amantes), among the Epeirotai (Epirotes).[19][20] Hesychios also regarded them as Epirotes,[21] Pliny regarded them as barbarians.[21]

Their ethnic origin has been the subject of debate.[22] Among older historians and archaeologists, Fanula Papazoglou considered them to be Illyrian,[23] Arnold J. Toynbee considered them to be Illyrian-speaking,[24] while N. G. L. Hammond considered them to be Greek.[25] 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.[26] A number of scholars regard them as Illyrians,[27] while others consider them Epirotes.[28]

Euboean hypothesis

View of the landscape surrounding Amantia.
View of the landscape surrounding Amantia.

See also: Abantes and Euboea

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.[29][22] 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.[12] 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.[30] 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.[31][32] 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.[33] Both cities (Apollonia and Thronium) were Greek establishments.[17]

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,[34] 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.[9] According to S.C. Bakhuizen (1976), all scholarly constructions about a relation between the Amantes and the Euboean Abantes are fictional.[35] 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.[36][37] According to him the Amantes that remained in Epirus came to be called Amantes, following a b/m shift typical of the North Aegean.[36] 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.[38]


God of fertility holding a cornucopia, 3rd-2nd century BC from Amantia, now in the Archaeological Museum of Tirana, Albania.
God of fertility holding a cornucopia, 3rd-2nd century BC from Amantia, now in the Archaeological Museum of Tirana, Albania.

The culture of the region had a language that is not well known, and it seems to have not had its own writing system.[39] The inscriptions in Amantia of the Hellenistic era were Greek as well as their onomastics.[21] The local culture readily borrowed iconography and technique from the Greeks.[39] Many cults of Amantia are typically Greek (Zeus, Aphrodite, Pandemos, Pan).[21] Other cults like that of the male fertility deity are common of southern Illyria.[40] 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.[41] Some label this deity as the Illyrian god of fertility. In reality, it is futile to approach ancient cults in ethnic or national terms.[39] 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.[42] The Illyrian-Greek cult of the nymphs was widespread in the region.[43][44] 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.[3][45]

Acropolis of Amantia
Acropolis of Amantia
Stadium of Amantia
Stadium of Amantia

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.[13] Inscriptions in Latin appear after 200 AD when the region became part of the Roman sphere of influence and later the Roman Empire.[46]


  1. ^ a b Elsie 2015, p. 2.
  2. ^ a b Lippert & Matzinger 2021, p. 100.
  3. ^ a b Bejko et al. 2015, p. 4.
  4. ^ a b Shipley 2019, pp. 62, 115.
  5. ^ Funke, Moustakis & Hochschulz 2004, p. 342.
  6. ^ Christopoulos 1975, p. 373
  7. ^ a b Sakellariou 2018, p. 89: "Οι γλωσσολόγοι, δεχόμενοι τον συσχετισμό αυτόν, κρίνουν ότι πρόκειται για το ίδιο εθνικό όνομα, εφόσον στην ελληνική γλώσσα το β και το μ εναλλάσσονται προ φωνήεντος στο Ἀβυδὼν/Ἀμυδών, και η τροπή του β σε μ μαρτυρείται στην ιλλυρική και τη θρακική."
  8. ^ Smoot 2015, p. 267
  9. ^ a b Cabanes 2011, p. 77: (..) amantët e Epirit verior nuk mund të identifikohen me abantët e Eubesë të cilët rreth fundit të periudhës së bronzit bënin pjesë në botën greke të atëhershme, por mund të identifi kohen ndoshta me një pjesë të izoluar të proto-abantëve, të vendosur në afërsitë e lumit Abas në Kaukazi. Për më tepër ka arsye për të dyshuar për afërsinë e emrave etnikë Abante- dhe Amante- nga banorët antikë mbi bazën e hipotezës së një kalimi nga b në m
  10. ^ Çabej 1996, pp. 119 (117, 444): "1. guègue amë "lit de fleuve", "canal", "source, fontaine"; tosque e preva vijën e ujit më të ëmët, etc.; on peut grouper ici même le nom de la tribu illyrienne des Amantes comme "reverains", ainsi que le nom de la ville antique d'Amantia à Ploçë actuelle;".
  11. ^ Mesihović 2014, p. 116: "A uz to, i kod Ilira se nailazi na još jedan sličan slučaj odnosno istoimnosti dvije zajednice, pa tako imamo Amantine u istočnoj Slavoniji i prilično južno skoro na granicama ilirskog svijeta i Epira."
  12. ^ a b Dominguez-Monedero 2014, p. 197: "Que todo ese territorio que se situaba en torno al curso bajo del río Aoos, a espaldas del golfo de Valona (o Vlora) era llamado Amantia, interpretado por los griegos como Abantia, es algo bien conocido y no es extraño que esa homonimia fuese explicada como resultado del nostos de los abantes43 y que otros autores antiguos, menos proclives a los relatos míticos, lo racionalizasen hablando simplemente de los eubeos, establecidos en Orico, situada en ese mismo golfo de Vlora44. Lo sorprendente resulta, sin embargo, encontrar allí una ciudad llamada Tronio, homónima de la ciudad locria oriental, que es además una de las mencionadas en el Catálogo de la Naves homérico. Lo sorprendente resulta, sin embargo, encontrar allí una ciudadllamada Tronio, homónima de la ciudad locria oriental, que es además una de las mencionadas en el Catálogo de la Naves homérico ( Il. II, 533)".
  13. ^ a b c d Jaupaj 2019, p. 88.
  14. ^ a b c Cabanes 2011, p. 78.
  15. ^ a b Shpuza 2017, p. 43.
  16. ^ Cabanes 2011, p. 80.
  17. ^ a b Winnifrith, Tom (2002). Badlands, Borderlands: A History of Northern Epirus/Southern Albania. Duckworth. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-0-7156-3201-7. At some stage Apollonia seems to have taken over Thronium, another Greek city probably sited near Kanina.
  18. ^ Ioakimidou, Chrissula (1997). Die Statuenreihen griechischer Poleis und Bünde aus spätarchaischer und klassischer Zeit (in German). tuduv-Verlagsgesellschaft. p. 224. ISBN 978-3-88073-544-6. Stadt Thronion im Nachbarlant Abantis
  19. ^ Hammond 1989, p. 19.
  20. ^ Sakellariou 2018, p. 89: "Ο Στέφανος Βυζάντιος έχει αντιγράψει ένα κείμενο του Πρόξενου, ο οποίος αναφέρει τους Άβαντες μεταξύ άλλων λαών της Ηπείρου: «Χάονες, Θεσπρωτοί, Τυμφαίοι, Παραυαίοι, Αμύμονες, Άβαντες, Κασσωποί»."
  21. ^ a b c d Chatzopoulos 1997, p. 143: "Pausanias places the territory of Abantis in Thesprotia "by the Ceraunian mountains" and attributes its colonization to Lokrians from Thronium and Abantes from Euboia. Stephen Byzantium places it in Illyria, but he too attributes its foundation to the Euboian Abantes. Pliny calls the Abantes "barbarians", but the third century BC historican Proxenos regards them as Epirots, an opinion repeated by Hesychios. The language of the inscriptions is undoubtedly Greek and, in particurlar, all the known citizens have Greek names. The cults of Amantia are typically Greek (Zeus, Aphrodite, Pandemos, Pan and Nymphs).
  22. ^ a b Cabanes 2011, pp. 76–77
  23. ^ Toynbee 1969, p. 109.
  24. ^ Papazoglou 1986, p. 439.
  25. ^ Hammond 1989, p. 11.
  26. ^ Ioakimidou, Chrissula (1997). Die Statuenreihen griechischer Poleis und Bünde aus spätarchaischer und klassischer Zeit (in German). Tuduv-Verlagsgesellschaft. p. 245. ISBN 3-88073-544-1. 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
  27. ^ Elsie 2015, p. 2; Counillon 2006, p. 27; Tzitzilis 2007, p. 745; Picard 2013, p. 79; Ceka 2012, p. 60; Mesihović 2014, p. 116; Jaupaj 2019, p. 449; Lippert & Matzinger 2021, pp. 13, 100.
  28. ^ Haensch 2012, p. 75; Warnecke 2014, pp. 307–308; Smoot 2015, p. 266.
  29. ^ Cabanes 2008, p. 171.
  30. ^ Dominguez-Monedero 2014, p. 197: "Aunque en el texto de Pausanias hay alguna inexactitud, como ubicar Amantia y Tronio en la Tesprotia, cuando está en los confines entre la Caonia epirota y la Iliria, y aunque se puedan haber ido añadiendo capas sucesivas al nostos, lo cierto es que la tradición es tan antigua como, al menos, el siglo V a.C. lo cual descarta que se trate de alguna de esas historias de época helenística o romana que tienden a ubicar antiguas tradiciones legendarias en entornos geográficos diversos. Esas homonimias han funcionado ya desde época arcaica pero, al menos, el pasaje de Pausanias y, sobre todo el monumento con epígrafe de Olimpia, le confieren a la información cierta antigüedad. No podemos dudar de que los apoloniatas, cuando erigen su monumento en Olimpia, son conscientes de la identificación locrio-eubea de ese territorio que acaban de anexionarse y de las resonancias épicas de su acción."
  31. ^ Cabanes 2011, p. 76: "Thronion mund të ndodhet në sitin e Triportit, në veriperëndim të Vlorës, dhe jo në dy sitet e tjera arkeologjike të kësaj zone: Mavrovë e cila është Olympe antike dhe Plloça që korrespondon me Amantian antike. Ky lokalizim i Thronionit i korrespondon më mirë të dhënave të Pausanias, i cili e vendos këtë ... domethënë “përballë Maleve Akrokeraune”: po aq sa ky pohim mund të aplikohet në sitin e Triportit, po aq ai nuk i përshtatet sitit të Amantias në fshatin Plloçë ose atij të Olympes në Mavrovë."
  32. ^ Cabanes 2008, p. 171: " the descendants of the Euboean colonists who had settled in Thronium (Pausanias 5. 22. 2–4), which should be located on the archaeological site of Treport on the coast, north-west of Aulon (Vlorë), and not in Amantia situated in Ploça village, south of the Aoos valley in the Vlorë hinterland."
  33. ^ Malkin 2001, pp. 192–193
  34. ^ Sakellariou 2018, pp. 88–89: "Όσον αφορά την ιστορικότητα μιας μετανάστευσης των Αβάντων (ή άλλων Ευβοέων) από την Εύβοια στην Ήπειρο, αυτή είναι δεκτή από πολλούς σύγχρονους μελετητές που την τοποθετούν λίγο μετά ή λίγο πριν από τον αποικισμό της Κέρκυρας από τους Ερετριείς... Λαμβάνοντας υπόψη τα στοιχεία αυτά, οι Άβαντες της βόρειας Ηπείρου δεν θα μπορούσαν να συνδεθούν με τους Άβαντες της Εύβοιας, που προς το τέλος της Εποχής του Χαλκού αποτελούσαν μέρος του τότε ελληνικού κόσμου, αλλά θα ανάγονταν ίσως σε ένα μεμονωμένο τμήμα Πρωτοαβάντων, εγκατεστημένο στην περιοχή γύρω από τον ποταμό Άβαντα στην Καυκασία. Εξάλλου είναι εύλογο να αμφιβάλλουμε για τον συσχετισμό από τους αρχαίους των εθνικών ονομάτων Ἄβαντες και Ἄμαντες με βάση την υπόθεση μιας τροπής β > μ."
  35. ^ Bakhuizen 1976, p. 25.
  36. ^ a b Smoot 2015, p. 266: "At the end of the Bronze Age or in the EIA (ca. 1100-850 BC), the Abantes had left their homeland in Epirus and moved south into central Greece (hence Abai in Phokis; the Abantes in Euboea) and even further south into the Argolid, as part of the Dorian migrations. Those that were left behind in Epirus came to be known as the Amantes, following a b/m regional shift, which is characteristic of the North Aegean.
  37. ^ Walker 2004, p. 151.
  38. ^ Sakellariou 2018, p. 88–89: "Εξάλλου είναι εύλογο να αμφιβάλλουμε για τον συσχετισμό από τους αρχαίους των εθνικών ονομάτων Ἄβαντες και Ἄμαντες με βάση την υπόθεση μιας τροπής β > μ."
  39. ^ a b c Quantin & Dimo 2011, p. 149.
  40. ^ Quantin & Dimo 2011, p. 150.
  41. ^ Quantin & Dimo 2011, p. 148.
  42. ^ Quantin & Dimo 2011, p. 135.
  43. ^ Anamali 1992, pp. 135–136.
  44. ^ Chatzopoulos 1997, p. 143.
  45. ^ Ceka & Ceka 2017, p. 493.
  46. ^ Cabanes 2011, p. 98.