Illyrian's for the Armies of Pyrrhus of Epirus

  • Reading this forum and looking at the Hoplite STLs has reminded me of my old love, Europa Barbarorum, rekindling my love for Hellenistic warfare.

    One of my favorite factions to play was Epirus, specifically the light and flexible Illyrian auxiliaries to support their phalanx.

    The Illyrians themselves being highlanders bordering the Macedonians and Greeks. They where fairly adapt at fighting their neighbors, being proficient sea raiders, and popular mercenaries among the Greeks.

    They fought in ways similar to their neighbors, but often prioritizing lighter infantry, rapid assaults, and hit and run tactics. Using formations such as...

    The light phalanx,

    And Light Hoplites

    Skirmish troops

    Would draw out forces so then swordsmen and light cavalry could attack the flanks and rear. For a elite force made use of axe assault infantry armed with slings for ranged combat.

    I think basic Illyrians would make for cool edition to the First Empires range. I've only seen them in metal or resin. I think they would kit bash well with Greeks Celts and Thracians to make up the rest of their units and fill the armies or Pyrrhus or any general that hires these mercenaries.

  • Heavy Swordsman armed with javelin

    Elite Slinger / axe armed assult infantryman.

    Light Cavalry armed with javelins, and axe

    Illyrian where also some of the firts allies of Rome outside of the peninsula to fully adopt Roman custom, even birthing a few emperors.

  • @William Ings 

    Interesting.  Was there any weapons, headgear, or armor particularly associated with the Illyrians?

  • @JTam from my understanding, they are known for their use of the Sica, a curved sword

    their blend of gear was mainly Hellenistic and La Tène. But also a fair bit of Thracian and later, Roman. They popularized the so called "Illyrian Helmet" which was probably Corinthian.

    The pikes in their phalanx where shorter then the Macedonian version. And they themselves most likly saw service Alexander's campaign as mercenaries. And would probably be usable to bulk up any Hellenistic light infantry with some bits.

    They where notorious pirates in The Adriatic Sea, loathed by the Romans and Greeks. If there was ever going to be a navel based First Kingdoms game, these guys would be a good addition.

    I also think these guys would be welcome in any ancient world based fantasy setting.

    TLDR: they are cool Greco-Roman Barbarian pirate boys.

  • @William Ings 

    Oh yeah, that's a decent signature weapon:

    Semi related: Find it humorous that in England a people named after a type of knife are currently trying to ban/control knives.

  • I agree with William. His (your) analysis is a good starting point.

    The Balkans are, from Antiquity until today, an ethnic mosaic. Finding the archetype of the Illyrian warrior is absolutely impossible. Read, for example, "Geographia" from Strabo (liber VII, Illyria)... He distinguishes two main areas : the Adriatic coast, with Mediterranean influences and the northern mountains, with Celtic influences (the center of the Celtic civilization is in La Tène and Halstatt, now in Switzerland, Austria and Czechia).

    We are talking about an area that goes from the Alps and the Dolomites to Romania, and from the Adriatic to the Danube. There are several layers of settlement and influences, and still more autonomous and often antagonistic peoples, kingdoms, tribes, chiefdoms and clans.

    North (mountains - Slovenia, Croatia) : celtic influence ; East (mountains - Serbia) : Thracian-Dacian influences ; South (coast - Albania) : Greek and Hellenistic influence ; North (coast - Croatia) : Roman-Etruscan influence... Some peoples are more "Celtic", others more "Hellenistic", with all the possible configurations (contact or central zone : Bosnia).

    The "sica", which is a large cutlass more or less curved, is common to many peoples living in mountain areas (from Cantabrians to Jews and from Germans to Moors). For Roman and Greek authors, this weapon is an archetype of the "Barbaria" (ie. the mountain men - and women - are not civilized, wild and dangerous).

    It seems to me that we can represent credible Illyrians (and Dalmatians, Rhetes, Pannonians...) by mixing elements from Celtic, Germanic and Dacic collections... with, depending on the period, Hellenistic and Roman elements (according to the area of influence).

    Archaeological research is still struggling in the former Yugoslavia. There are still too many resentments and (national) ideologies to work seriously on Antiquity.

    A very interesting theme of research, for sure !

  • @Pierre Lerdou-Udoy 

    Well, and the landmines.

  • That's so true, Anaia ! Mines and... sometimes mass graves.

    I forgot to specify the original use of the "sica" in mountain populations : a magnificent sheperd's and hunter's tool for cutting up and preparing hides and meats (sheep, deer, boar, wolf, bear, etc.).

    Same thing for the : falcata (cuchillo afalcatado), saex (kurz-/langsaex), puukko, navaja, facòn (gauchos), bowie knife or kukri... sometimes tool, sometimes weapon.

  • I've been listening to while doing so.e chores today. I knew he had some connections, but it seems Pyrrhus was sheltered in Illyria as a child.

    I've been preparing some Hoplite STLs to print and plan to order this soon. 

    And maybe I'll pick up the Rome and enemies painting book @JTam has mentioned in another thread.

    Illyrians also have a army list in Hail Cesar: Biblical to Dark Age book. Probably for playing them rebelling from the Roman Empire. There was a Italian movie made about it, where some legionaries try to collect taxes from them, I'll have to try and find it some day.

  • There are two trading marks of the Illyrians; The sica and the lack of belts.

    Most Equipment was Greek/Hellenistic as the largest influence on the Illyrians. Mixing in Norricum and Pannonian Celts should work also. The Illyrians made milited use of Greek Mercenaries but never adoupted Hellenistic warfare. Like the Thracians they favorited Light Peltast Infantry mixed with fast Cavalry.

    There are also two Army Lists from my Database:

    Illyrians (500 BC – 168 BC)
    Roman Illyrians (168 BC – 10 AD)

    HC Army List Database

  • @William Ings Good find - this is another Ancients faction that could do with some attention. 

    I would have thought it would be possible to convert most Illyrian infantry types from kitbashing Warlord's Celt, Greek Hoplite and Macedonian Pikeman sprues, but it would require searching for some additional bitz like axes, more bearded heads, sica swords and slings, plus shortening the pikes on the Macedonian figures. 

    It would save a lot of work, I think, if WA just made a plastic infantry box that had enough weapons to model any of the troop types listed above - shortened pikes, Hoplite spears, axes, sica swords, slings and javelins, plus both Greek Hoplon and Celto-Roman oval shields.

    What's more, that's another faction I have to write an SPQR army list for. An Illyrian army would be particularly interesting to play as, I'd wager, with Macedonian-style pike phalanxes, Greek-style hoplites, Barbarian-style melee troops and skirmishers plus light cavalry. A true jack-of-all-trades faction.

  • I note that the Pyrrhus (I) period corrresponds with a very strong expansionist trust of Celtic tribes towards Eastern and Southern Europe.

    This is the great period of the "Gallic" raids towards East (Balkans, Macedonia, Greece, Anatolia). They offered good and skilled units of mercenaries (oblong shields, Celtic helmets, long swords with belts, chainmail, cavalry with saddles).

    Their equipment and their methods of combat have strongly inspired - and changed the tactics of - the Hellenistic kingdoms.


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