The Autariatae (alternatively, Autariates, in Ancient Greek: Αὐταριᾶται, Autariatai) were an Illyrian people that lived between the valleys of the Lim and the Tara, beyond the northern Albanian mountains, and the valley of West Morava. Their territory was located inland from the Ardiaei and the Lake Skodra, extending east to the Dardani and north or northeast to the Triballi. Along with the Ardiaei and the Dardani, the Autariatae are mentioned by Strabo in his Geographica as one of the three strongest Illyrian peoples in the pre-Roman Balkans. Following defeat during the Celtic invasions of the Balkans in the 4th century, a part of the Autariatae who remained in Bosnia adopted Celtic culture later in their history. Another part moved southwards and after an agreement with the Kingdom of Macedonia, 20,000 settled in the Parorbelian mountain range, in the borderlands between modern southeastern North Macedonia, northern Greece and southwestern Bulgaria.
The Autariatae communities unified into a single political entity during the late 6th century BC. They began to expand eastward into territories controlled by the Triballi. Moreover, they expanded southward where they defeated the Ardiaei, their old rivals, in struggles for control over pastures and salty springs. Activities of the Autariatae at the turn of the 6th and 5th centuries BC profoundly influenced the peoples who were directly affected by their expansion. The Ardiaei were moved toward the coasts and the Triballi to the east. The expansion of the Autariatae enabled them to achieve hegemonic control over one part of the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. The leading class of the Autariatae society reached the peak of its political and economic development indicated through many great luxurious royal tumuli and graves created during the 5th century BC. Strabo’s comment on the Autariatae as "the once greatest and most powerful Illyrian people" most likely refers to this period. Their peak of development was followed by the gradual decline of the Autariatae ending in 310 BC with their sudden disappearance due to Celtic migrations.
Appian (95 – 165) writes that the Ardiaei were destroyed by the Autariatae and that in contrast to the Autariatae had maritime power. He also reports that the Autariatae were punished by Apollo for raiding the Pythian Oracle together with the Celtic Cimbri, after which moment they migrated to the lands of the Getae near the tribe of Bastarnae. This could be an explanation why the Autariatae "disappear" after 310 B.C., according to Wilkes. The ancient geographer, Strabo, lists the Autariatae as one of the three strongest tribes - the other two being the Ardiaei and the Dardanii.
The Autariatae and the Celtic Scordisci are thought to have merged into one tribe in the Lower Morava valley, after 313 BC, since excavations show that the two groups made burials at the same exact grave field in Pecine, near Kostolac. Nine graves of Autariatae dating to 4th century BC and scattered Autariatae and Celtic graves around these earlier graves show that the two groups mixed rather than made war and this resulted in the lower Morava valley becoming a Celto-Thraco-Illyrian interaction zone.
A standard practice of the Autariatae entailed killing their weak and wounded. This was meant to prevent meek individuals from falling into the hands of their enemies. This practice perhaps was motivated by the superstitious belief that the enemy, by drinking the blood of prisoners and by eating parts of their bodies containing their virtues, would become even stronger and acquire a special power over the entire community of the Autariatae.
The Autariatae left a legacy of material wealth. So far, more than 100 castle ruins were identified to have been inhabited by the Autariatae, as well as thousands of tumuli in which they had been buried. Movable materials (mostly jewelry and weapons) reveal all specific features associated with the ethno-cultural originality of the Autariatae. The Autariatae established a continuous tradition of manufacturing metal and ceramic products. Artifacts consisting of metal sheets with luxurious golden and silver belts of Mramorac type indicate the complexity of this tradition.
The Autariatae are a classic example of a "highland" people who also show all the characteristics of a "highland" mentality (i.e. preservation of old beliefs). Case in point, the Autariatae have strongly maintained their burial customs of burning the dead in tumuli, which did not change until the end of the Glasinac culture. Archaeological remains indicate that the religious life of the Autariatae was influenced by both their ancestor cult and the cult of their solar god. One can find the numerous evidence of the solar cult throughout the territories once controlled by the Autariatae. The Autariatae economy was based on cattle breeding, metalwork, handicraft and trade. Because of its need for Greek and Italic goods, this Illyrian tribe was one of the biggest trade partners of the western and central Balkans to both Greek and Italic traders between the 7th and 6th centuries BC.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Illyria & Illyrians.|