Queen Teuta


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Queen Teuta was an Illyrian queen of the Ardiaei tribe who reigned approximately from 231 BC to 227 BC. However, she was not referred to as a “queen” by Appian since she was a regent to Pinnes.

Reign

After the death of her husband Agron, (250–230 BC) the former king of the Ardiaei, she inherited the Ardiaean kingdom, which included much of Illyria proper, though its exact extent remains unknown, and she acted as regent for her young stepson Pinnes with the royal seat in Rhizon (in the Gulf of Kotor, modern Montenegro). Teuta started to address the neighbouring states malevolently, supporting the piratical raids of her subjects.

Illyrians soon captured and later fortified Dyrrachium (modern-day Durrës, Albania) and Phoenice (which was soon liberated with a truce and a fee). While her Illyrian ships were off the coast of Onchesmos, they intercepted and plundered some merchant vessels of Rome. Teuta’s forces extended their operations further southward into the Ionian Sea, defeating the combined Achaean and Aetolian fleet in the battle of Paxos and capturing the island of Corcyra, which put them in position to breach the important trade routes between the mainland of Greece and the Greek cities in Italy. As a result the Illyrians were soon feared as the “terror of the Adriatic Sea”.

Because the Roman Republic felt threatened by the opposing side of the Adriatic in the very vicinity of its territories (where most of the raids occurred), the senate was compelled to dispatch two ambassadors to the city of Scodra to solicit reparations and demand an end to all pirate expeditions. Queen Teuta told the ambassadors that according to the law of the Illyrians, piracy was a lawful trade and that her government had no right to interfere with this as a private enterprise. She also implied that “it was never the custom of royalty to prevent the advantage of its subjects they could get from the sea”. One of the envoys reportedly replied that Rome would make it her business to introduce better law among the Illyrians as “we have an excellent custom of punishing private wrongs by public revenge”. At any rate, one of the two present ambassadors expressed himself to the queen so disrespectfully that her attendants were ordered to seize the ambassadors’ ship as it embarked back for Rome. One of the ambassadors was killed and the other was put in captivity.

War with Rome

In 229 BC, Rome declared war on Illyria and for the first time armies crossed the Adriatic to Illyria (the Balkan Peninsula in modern usage). An army consisting of approximately 20,000 troops, 200 cavalry units and an entire Roman fleet of 200 ships was sent to conquer Corcyra. Teuta’s governor, Demetrius had little alternative but to surrender, and the Romans awarded him a considerable part of Teuta’s holdings (228 BC). The Roman army then landed further north at Apollonia. The combined army and navy proceeded northward together, subduing one town after another and eventually besieging the capital Scodra. Teuta finally surrendered in 227 BC, having to accept an ignominious peace. The Romans allowed her to continue her reign but restricted her to a narrow region around Scodra, deprived her of all her other holdings, and forbade her to sail an armed ship south of Lissus. They also required her to pay an annual tribute and to acknowledge the final authority of Rome.

Her rule was finally ended by the politician Aulus Postumius, after she opted against Roman suppression. Very little is known of the rest of her life, but she was eventually succeeded by Gentius in 181 BC.

 

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