Labeatae

The Labeatae, Labeatai or Labeates (Ancient Greek: Λαβεᾶται; Latin: Labeatae) were an Illyrianpeople that lived on the Adriatic coast of southern Illyria, between modern Albania and Montenegro, around Lake Scodra (the ancient Lacus Labeatis).[1] Their territory seems to have stretched from Lissus at the river Drin in the south, or probably even from the valley of Mat, up to Meteon in the north.[2] Their centre and main stronghold was Skodra, which during the last period of the Illyrian kingdom was the capital city.[3] The dynasty of the last Illyrian kings (Scerdilaidas, Pleuratus, Gentius) was Labeatan.[4] It is possible that the decline of the Ardiaean dynasty after Queen Teuta‘s defeat in the First Illyrian War against Rome caused the emergence of the Labeatan dynasty on the political scene.[5] In Roman times the Labeatae minted coins bearing the inscription of their ethnicon.[6]

Illyrian people
Labeatan lands around Lacus Labeatis.

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The name of the Labeatae is formed by the Lab- particle which is frequently found in the southern Illyrian onomastic area and the common Illyrian suffix -at(ae). The Lab- particle represents a metathesis from Alb- > Lab-, which itself could be related to the appearance of the ethnonym of the Albanians in the same area. It is present in hydronyms like the Lab river and toponyms like Llapashticë along the later Roman route from Lissus to Ulpiana and indicates the movement of Illyrian tribes from the interior of Illyria to the coastline or vice versa.[7]

View of Lake Scodra, known as Lacus Labeatis in classical antiquity.[8]

Unlike other Illyrian tribes, the extent of the territory of the Labeatae can be determined with relative precision through some important literary informations from ancient sources. In the accounts of the Roman-Illyrian war involving Gentius, Livy (c. 1st century BC – 1st century AD) described the location of Skodra reporting that the Illyrian king was ruler of the Labeatae and referring to the Lake Shkodra as Lacus Labeatium. The core of the Labeatan territory must therefore have been the area around this lake.[9][10]

In the description of the place where the envoy of Gentius and Perseus met in 168 BC, Polybius (c. 2nd century BC) reports that the site of Meteon was located in the territory of the Labeatae. It was there that the Illyrian and Macedonian kings established an alliance against the Romans.[9][11] Livy mentions Meteon as a “city of the Labeates”, where at the end of the war Gentius’ wife Etleuta, their two sons, and Gentius’ brother Caravantius took refuge, implying that this city belonged to Labeatan territory until it was conquered by the Romans. Meteon can be considered as the northern border of Labeatan territory, beyond which Docleatan territory began encompassing the area between the rivers Zeta and Morača. In the west the territory of Labeatae was bordered by the Adriatic sea, its eastern border was presumably marked by the Accursed Mountains. The southern border may be considered the site of Lissus at the mouth of the river Drin, or further south the mouth of the river Mat, beyond which stretched the region of the Taulantii.[9][12][13] In Roman times Lissus was located in the territory of the Labeatae,[9][14] however ancient sources never relate it with this tribe. Taking into account archaeological and historical considerations, the city of Lissus should have been founded in a Labeatan ethnos context, but perhaps by the time of queen Teuta‘s fall in the end of the 3rd century BC, it was organized as a proper polis separating from the context of the ethnos.[9]

The territory of the Labeatae comprised a number of relevant rivers, including Drin (Oriund), Buna (Barbana), Kiri (Klausali) and Morača, and the alluvial plains surrounding the Lake Shkodra (Lacus or PalusLabeatis).[8][15] However, the only navigable rivers in antiquity were Buna and Drin.[8]

After the Roman conquest of southern Illyria, the territory of the Illyrian realm of Gentius was separated into three parts. One of these areas coincided with the Labeatan region.[6]

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