Cults and Beliefs in Pre-Christian Dardania


Naser Ferri


Since there are not any epigraphic sources from the times before the Roman invasion of the Dardanian Kingdom (Mbretëria dardane), stone monuments with Latin inscriptions from the period of Roman invasion represent a source of enormous importance for the study of beliefs and cults on Dardan soils, both before the invasion and during the Roman rule, for
gods and various cults, which were relicts of earlier times, are represented on epigraphic monuments of the first century A.D.
According to the results of studies on about 600 epigraphic monuments dating from the beginning of our era until the time of expansion of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, it was attested that cults of native gods, official as well as nonofficial Roman cults, were worshipped on Dardan soils. From the cults of native gods epigraphically was testified worshipping of the cult of Andin (Deus Andinus, protector of family, home and community), Dardania (Dea Dardania, a goddess who personified Dardanian soils). Zbeltiurdusor Zbeltiurdud (the main Thracian god worshipped as a native god
as well), Tatto (Illyrian god honoured by all Illyrian tribes particularly in Dalmatia), Silvan (Roman god, native gods were honoured by his name), Dracco andDraccena (divine couple connected with the cult of snake), Quadrivia (the goddess of crossroads), then certain local variants of the cult of Jupiter in forms of IOM Ulpianensis and IOM Paternus Aepilophius,
IOM Propulsator, IOM Cohortalis, cults of some Genii  (genii sttationis Municipi DD, Genii loci Illyrici, Genii
Illyrici), and also two unknown gods: Atta Sacra and Deus Mund(ritus?). From official cults of the Roman state worshipping
of the cult of Jupiter alone was testified, or the cult of Jupiter together with goddesses Junona and Minerva,
forming the divine trinity of Capitol, further worshipping
of the cult of Diana, Mars, Bellone, Mercury, Neptun,
Hercules, the Nymphs, Hercules, Liber and Libera,
Terra Mater, Fortuna, Genii, Lares, Dii Manes as well
as the cult of the current emperor was also attested.
Among nonofficial cults epigraphically were testified
cults of greek and of oriental Origin such as: the cult of Zeus Ezaios, Apollo, Dionysus, Sabazios, Asclepios or Aesculapus, Heracles, Jupiter Dolichenus, Jupiter Melcid, Jupiter Melano, as well as the cults of Greek goddesses Hera, Hygia, Nemesis and Hylara, the cult of Egyptian gods Serapis and Isis, syrian goddess Atargatis or Dea Syria, honoring of the cults of persons
who were made heroes after their death (Antinous and Alexander) and of mortals (Omphale, the queen of Lydia and one of the wives of Heracles). Honouring of all the above mentioned cults proves the presence of genuine liberalism of Dardanian soil
as far as religious belief is concerned, which spread until the time when Christianity, despite persecutions of Roman officials and the rivalry of Mithraism, prevailed and became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christian inscriptions on Dardanian soil began to appear by the end of the fourth century A.D. and became more frequent during the fifth and the sixth century, a time when earlier Social and Economic crises reached their culmination, when all strata ofpopullation turned to Church, seeking the meaning of life, hope and saviour.Thus church gained strength and became one of most important pillars of cultural and institutional continuity of the world of antiquity. Neverless, in the provinces where was centred the Roman Army, the christianism prevailed only until in the IVth and Vth century BC because the Roman Army was the last stronghold of the paganism. 


How to Cite
Ferri, N. (2022). Cults and Beliefs in Pre-Christian Dardania. Godišnjak Centra Za balkanološka Ispitivanja, (41), 135–158.