Great Illyrian Revolt

Great Illyrian Revolt

The Great Illyrian Revolt (or Pannonian Revolt [Miller, Norma. "Tacitus: Annals I", 2002, ISBN-10: 1853993581. "It had originally been joined to Illyricum, but after the great Illyrian/Pannonian revolt of A.D. 6 it was made a separate province with its own governor."] ) was a major conflict [Wilkes, J. J. "The Illyrians", 1992, p. 183, ISBN 0631198075. "...Pannonian Illyrians between Italy and the East. That could only be done at a great cost and not before a rebellion of Illyricum brought the regime of Augustus to the brink of disaster."] between an alliance of Illyrian tribes and Roman forces that lasted for four years beginning in 6 AD and ending in 9 AD.

In 6 AD, several regiments of Daesitiates, a warlike Illyrian tribe led by Bato I, were gathered in one place to prepare to join Augustus's stepson and senior military commander Tiberius in a war against the Germans. Instead, the Daesitiates mutinied and defeated a Roman force sent against them. The Daesitiates were soon joined by the Breuci [Wilkes, J. J. "The Illyrians", 1992, p. 207, ISBN 0631198075. "The rising began among the Daesitiates of central Bosnia under their leader Bato but they were soon joined by the Breuci. The four-year war which lasted from AD 6 to 9 saw huge..."] led by Bato II, another Illyrian tribe that supplied several auxiliary regiments. They gave battle to a second Roman force from Moesia led by Caecina Severus (the governor of Moesia). Despite their defeat, they inflicted heavy casualties at the Battle of Sirmium. The rebels were now joined by a large number of other Illyrian tribes. At risk was the strategic province of Illyricum, recently expanded to include the territory of the Pannonii, an Illyrian tribe based on the west bank of the Danube who were subjugated by Rome in 12–9 BC. Illyricum was on Italy's eastern flank, exposing the Roman heartland to the fear of a rebel invasion.

Augustus ordered Tiberius to break off operations in Germany and move his main army to Illyricum. Tiberius sent Valerius Messallinus (the governor of Dalmatia and Pannonia) ahead with troops. When it became clear that even Tiberius's forces were insufficient, Augustus was obliged to raise a second task force under Tiberius's nephew Germanicus. He resorted to the compulsory purchase and emancipation of thousands of slaves in order to amass enough troops. This happened for the first time since the aftermath of the Battle of Cannae two centuries earlier. No less than 15 legions were now deployed and an equivalent number of auxilia (i.e. 150 regiments, including 50 recruited from Roman citizens both free-born and freed slaves). In addition, they were assisted by a large number of Thracian troops deployed by their King Rhoemetalces, a Roman "amicus" (ally) a grand total of 200,000 men. [Rhoemetalces's kingdom was later annexed by emperor Claudius.]

They faced further reverses on the battlefield and a bitter guerrilla war in the Bosnian [Wilkes, J. J. "The Illyrians", 1992, p. 216, ISBN 0631198075. "Further east the formidable Daesitiates of central Bosnia retained their name. The great rebellion of AD 6 had been led by their chief Bato, and their relatively low total of 103 decuriae likely reflects..."] mountains specifically Alma near Sirmium. It took them three years of hard fighting to quell the revolt, which was described by the Roman historian Suetonius as the most difficult conflict faced by Rome since the Punic Wars two centuries earlier. Tiberius finally quelled the revolt in 9 AD. This was just in time: that same year Arminius destroyed Varus's three legions in Germany. The Roman high command did not doubt that Arminius would have formed a grand alliance with the Illyrians. [Dio Cassius LV.29–34; Suetonius "Tiberius" 16, 17.]

The fighting of the Illyrian Revolt had lasting effects on Roman soldiers. Unhappy with their payment of swampy and mountainous Pannonian lands for such harsh military service, and with abuses relating to their pay and conditions, Roman soldiers staged a mutiny in AD 14 demanding recompense. Tiberius dispatched his son, Drusus, to pacify the mutineers.


Further reading

* [ Tacitus — The Annals]

See also

*Illyrian warfare

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