The Iapydes (or Iapodes, Japodes) were an ancient people who dwelt north of and inland from the Liburnians, off the Adriatic coast and eastwards of the Istrian peninsula. They occupied the interior of the country between the "Colapis" (Kupa) and "Oeneus" (perhaps now the Una) rivers, and the Velebit mountain range ("Mons Baebius") which separated them from the coastal Liburnians. Their territory covered the central inlands of modern Croatia. Archeological documentation confirms their presence in this country at least from ninth century BC, and they persisted in their area longer than a millennium. The ancient written documentation on inland Iapydes is scarcer than on the adjacent coastal peoples (Liburni, Delmatae, etc.) that had more frequent maritime contacts with ancient Greeks and Romans.

Iapydes had their maximal development and territorial expansion from 8th-4th cent. BC. They settled mostly in inland mountain valleys between Pannonia and the coastal Adriatic basin, but in disputation with southern "Liburni" they periodically reached also the northern Adriatic coast at Vinodol valley (classical "Valdevinum").The Yapydes has a strong Venetic element. [Wilkes, J.J. "The Illyrians". Blackwell, 1992, ISBN 0631198075, p. 79. "...along with the evidence of name formulae, a Venetic element among the Japodes. A group of names identified by Alföldy as of Celtic origin: Ammida, Andes, Iaritus, Matera, Maxa,..."]

Origin and affinity

The exact origin of early Iapydes is uncertain; archeological documentation suggests their mixed affinities to early "Pannonii" and Illyrians. The first written mention of an Illyrian tribe Iapydes by "Hekataios" is due to early Greek navigators from sixth century BC. They are provisionally described by Strabo as a mixed race of Celts and Illyrians, who used Celtic weapons, tattooed themselves, and lived chiefly on spelt and millet; however, Strabo's suggestion of a mixed Celtic-Illyrian Iapydes culture is not confirmed by archaeology. Before all, Iapydes existed at least from 9th cent. BC, and Celtic influence reached their region later, since 4th century BC when Iapydes enter in their decline. Then also, typical Celtic culture in archeology was documented only in the marginal contact zone of Iapydes and Celtic "Taurisci" along the Kupa river valley (now the Slovenian border). Elsewhere, and especially in the main Iapydic area of the Lika highlands in Croatia, true Celtic traces are scarce (rare weapons) and explicable by merely by commercial exchanges.

Roman conquest

Romans said of the Iapyges that they were a warlike race addicted to plundering expeditions, but other archeological documentation confirms their main economical activity was the mining and metallurgy. That attracted the pragmatic Romans to conquer their country, whose river valleys were also a natural way for strategic communications between the Adriatic and Pannonia. Therefore induced conflicts started from 171 BC, when consul C. Cassius Longinus first attacked Iapydes. In 129 BC D. Iunius Brutus celebrated a triumph over them, then in 78-76 BC they were also attacked by Gaius Cosconius. They have had a "foedus" from 56 BC with Rome and paid a "tributum", but then from 52-47 BC rebelled. In 34 BC they were finally conquered by Octavius Augustus. Then they conserved a partial autonomy with a domestic "praepositus Iapodum".

Culture and society

Due to the rich and extensive forests of their mountainous country, their houses were mostly wooden huts, and they rarely used the stone constructions except in some major fortifications. Their settlements were mostly on hilltops, including between 400 - 3,000 dwellers, and the main Iapodic settlements in Roman times were "Metulum", "Terpon", "Arupium" and "Avendo".

They cultivated chiefly cereals and vine, and kept varied cattle. Their early metallurgy developed a half millennium before Celtic influence that induced here minor modifications. Their society was simple including warriors, villagers, herdsmen, miners, and metalworkers. In that early phase neither leaders nor elite were indicated, and these independent Iapydes had no detectable collective political organisation. Under the Romans a Romanicized elite emerged, lead by the "praepositus Iapodum" installed by Romans.

Their classical culture was a varied mixture of Pannonian, Illyrian, Greek and Roman influences, mostly without proper peculiarities. Their figural art included the frequent metal decorations in form of triangles and spirals, and large amber pearls and amber figurines. The Iapydic language before the Romans is mostly unknown: the unique indications available are their toponyms and necropolis inscriptions from Roman times. These scarce onomastic indications suggest the Iapydic tongue may be correlated with other Illyrian and Pannonian tribes. During their independence, the Iapydes appear to have been completely illiterate and left no inscriptions before Roman times.


The original religion of Iapydes is scarcely known, and it appears to be similar with other eastward Illyrians. They knew the divine pair of water-deities "Vidassus" (as Roman Sylvanus) and "Thana" (as Roman Diana), whose rocky reliefs persist today at some springs in their area. They worshipped the holy horse as their tribal totem, and also the holy snakes as the symbol of their ancestors. Their early tombs were usually in caves, and then in Roman times often in woody sarcophagi and also incinerated in ceramic urns.


ee also

* Illyrians
* Liburnians
* Celts
* Croatia
* Ancient Rome


*Mitja Gustin et al.: "Keltoi in Yugoslavia (Die Kelten und ihre Zeitgenossen auf dem Gebiet Jugoslawiens)." Narodni muzej, Ljubljana 1984.
*Radoslav Katicic: "Zur Frage der keltischen und pannonischen Namengebiete im römischen Dalmatien." Godisnjak (Annuaire) 3, 55 p., Centar za balkanoloske studije, Sarajevo 1965.

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