Albanian Ties with Illyrian – Lidhjet shqiptare me Ilirët

Many lines of reasoning convince linguistic scholars that the Albanian people and language originated with the ancient lllyrians.
1. The national name Albania is the name Albanoi, an Illyrian tribe mentioned by the geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria about A.D 150.
2. The Albanoi territory then centered at Albanopoli, between Durrës and Kruja, the heartland of modem Albania.
3. Four peoples speaking their own languages lived in the Balkans in ancient times: the Greeks in the south, the Macedonians in the center, the Thracians in the east and the lllyrians in the west. Today Albanian is spoken in most of the same region where Illyrian was spoken in ancient times.
4. Those few language elements which are known as Illyrian can be explained through the Albanian language, and no other.
5. A linguistic comparison of Albanian with ancient Greek and Latin indicates that Albanian was formed as a language at an earlier period than those other ancient languages.
6. Archeological and historical data witness to the cultural continuity from the lllyrians to the Albanians. Continual contact with other peoples and languages has left its traces in the Albanian vocabulary. Foreign words have been borrowed from Greek, Latin, Slavic and Turkish, yet Albanian has been preserved as a separate language, its grammatical system remaining virtually unchanged.
7. Linguists point out many technical similarities between Illyrian and Albanian words.
8. Borrowings from northern Greek and from Latin incorporated in the Albanian language reflect the well-known political and cultural pressures on Illyrian territory. Linguistic studies indicate that Albanian developed from Illyrian as a distinct language between the fourth and sixth centuries A.D. Thus ancient borrowings of Greek and Latin vocabulary could not have moved directly into Albanian, but into Illyrian, through which these words entered into Albanian. Historical linguists point out that these borrowings from ancient Greek were in the Dorian dialect and penetrated into Illyrian through Corinthian commercial colonies in Corfu, along the Adriatic coast, and through border towns. Latin borrowings came later during the lengthy Roman occupation (NAlb 1986, 3:32). These ancient Greek and Roman contacts occurred precisely in the territory of old Illyria, leaving their traces in the Illyrian language from which they later passed into the Albanian language.
9. Illyrian toponyms, ancient Illyrian place names for cities, rivers and mountains, are preserved today in the Albanian language, and only in Albanian. The names of Balkan villages usually lasted only a few centuries,
for villages were often destroyed altogether during wartime. Cities lasted longer, so their names were usually older. But rivers, lakes and mountains endured through the centuries, and their ancient names usually continued in use. Even new inhabitants usually adopted the old names, just as American colonists adopted many old Indian place names in the United States. Accordingly, Albanian linguists have found more than 300 names of ancient cities like Shkodra, rivers like the Drin and mountains like Tomor which were mentioned by ancient Greek and Roman geographers or historians and which are still in use in Albania. Scholars show how the rules of historical phonetics explain any changes of spelling over the centuries from Illyrian to Albanian, as Scupi to Shkup, Scodra to Shkodra, Lissus to Lezha, Durrachium to Durrës, Drinus to Drin, Mathis to Mat. Certainly the Albanian language is derived from the Illyrian (Cabej 1985, 42-62).
10. Illyrian proper names continue in use among present-day Albanians. Many of the individual Illyrian names of persons were preserved on epitaphs and inscriptions on coins. Then the names of other people like the Illyrian rulers Agron and Teuta were mentioned by Greek or Roman historians. The Albanian scholar Mahri Domi claims to have identified 800 of these (Liria 15 October 1982; 1 November 1983).
11. The numerous marine terms for sea plants and animals in the Albanian language show that these people lived along the coast on what would correspond with Illyrian territory (AT 1983, 1:44-45).
12. Then there are other words in Albanian which Greek or Roman writers long ago explicitly identified as Illyrian in origin.

Down through the centuries many once great peoples have been either destroyed or assimilated by others so as to disappear altogether. But the Illyrian people with their distinctive dress, music, customs and especially their language have persisted in their shrinking territory along the western shore of the Balkan Peninsula. With no record or tradition even hinting at their extermination or assimilation or migration, one can only assume their unbroken historical continuity. There seems to be no question but that the present-day Albanians are the historically uninterrupted descendants of the lllyrians who were known to have inhabited that same region in early Greek and Roman times.

Read more: The Albanians: an ethnic history from prehistoric times to the present, Edwin E. Jacques 1995, pg.37 – 38.

+ Byzantine references to “Albanians”:
In History written in 1079-1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. It is disputed, however, whether that refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense.


+ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography: Iabadius-Zymethus
By Greek geography

/ Besir Bajrami/

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