Queen Teuta and sexist historians

Here’s an account of gender equality, small government, and international law at their “finest.”

That Queen Teuta had one of the ambassadors killed may be an invention of ancient historians who wrote from a sexist and pro-Greek point of view. A contradicting version by a Roman author suggests that Teuta had not yet come to power when the Senate sent its two envoys to Illyria.

Equally important is the question of trade. At the time, Roman ships were relatively new to the Adriatic, while Illyrians and Greeks had controlled the sea for some time. Were the “pirates” then merely protecting their unfair monopoly over commerce?

Did the Romans invade to secure their trade routes? Were they lured by Greek complaints against Illyrian hegemony? Or was Rome simply set on pursuing its imperial destiny?

We might have well answered these questions, had we had any records other than the pro-Roman histories. But we don’t.

One thing is clear, nevertheless: The intervention against Teuta in 231 BC marked the beginning of the Roman conquest of the Illyrian (now Balkan) peninsula.

After initial resistance and numerous rebellions, Illyrians and Greeks alike gradually integrated in the empire. Eventually, 19 Illyrians served as Roman emperors. While the Eastern Roman Empire ended in the 1400s, the imperial standard survived as the flag of the Illyrian nation of Albania.

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Facsimile: John Wilkes, The Illyrians (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992), 159–60. See also Arthur Eckstein, Moral Vision in the Histories of Polybius (Univ. Cali., 1995), preview at: https://tr.im/LI4xZ. See facsimile in high quality (4.3 MB).

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