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Roman Recruitment In Illyria

The Northern Area of Modern Albania Might Have Been the Balkan Homeland for our E-V13 Legionnaires

Prior to its encounter with the might of Rome, Illyria was an ancient, warlike kingdom across the Adriatic Sea from the boot-heel of Italy. The northern two-thirds of modern Albania was at the center of this kingdom while modern Kosovo was part of the Kingdom of Dardania immediately to its northeast. After struggling to subjugate the area, Rome began to recruit there. “Known to be aggressive people in their early relations to Rome, they were eager and readily recruited into the Roman Legions. Illyricum eventually grew into one of the leading recruiting grounds for the Roman armies.”

By early in the first century, Illyria was part of a Roman province by the same name and increasingly became integrated with the empire, with citizenship and thus military service available to the inhabitants. Many of the later Roman emperors ascended through successful military careers from this more broadly defined Roman Province of Illyria, which had been expanded well beyond the borders of the old kingdom.

The map below focuses on the old Kingdoms of Illyria and Dardania as they existed in the 3rd century BCE. Dardania included the territory of modern Kosovo and Illyria parts of southern Croatia, Montenegro and northern and central Albania.

We cite elsewhere that Haplogroup E-V13 is currently at it’s highest concentration in Kosovo (45%) and among Kosovar Albanians (44%). This is well illustrated at Eupedia’s review of E-V13 distribution where we see modern Kosovo and Northern Albania each as having 40% to 50% E-V13 prevalence.

Dardania (now essentially Kosovo) and the area extending from there to the Adriatic through central Illyria (now northern Albania) is the area where E-V13 is at it’s highest, roughly 40% to 50% of the total male population of these areas.

As already mentioned, by the first century CE the Roman Province of Illyria was considerably more extensive than the old kingdom. During that time and in later centuries it incorporated all of Dalmatia, including modern Bosnia and Herzegovina, and at times areas even further north and west. While the Romans recruited from the entirety of this province and beyond, there are several reasons why our interest centers on this area:

  • Existence of a Y-DNA test subject with an E-BY4793 subclade variant claiming Albanian roots
  • Exceptionally high prevalence of E-V13 in northern Albania
  • Location of the Albanian coast across from Southern Italy

These considerations suggest that perhaps this area of northern coastal Albania might have been where men with the E-BY4793 variant were recruited. Given that this variant appears to have originated less than a millennium previous to such recruitment, we can speculate the mutation occurred among Illyrian tribes, perhaps further inland but still in modern northern Albania or nearby Kosovo.

Of course all this remains nothing more than informed conjecture. If E-BY4793 men were recruited into the Roman Military and disbursed further west as hypothesized in our Legions article, the recruits might all have come in large part from a relatively limited geographic area, but we don’t know how broad or limited the disbursement of men with E-BY4793 might have been by the early first millennium. Moreover the existence of a single Albanian ancestor among E-BY4793 test subjects is far from conclusive evidence that all or most of the recruits came out of modern Albania, let alone the rather restricted area highlighted above. Nonetheless, if the overall hypothesis holds and we wish to further speculate about the likely area for such recruitment, our speculation might reasonably center on the identified area as highlighted on this map.


Sources are primarily those linked above with the map coming from Wikipedia

Return to “Sons of the Legion?” article

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