Lynkestis, Lyncestis, Lyngistis, Lynkos or Lyncus (Ancient Greek: Λυγκηστίς or Λύγκος Latin: Lyncestis or Lyncus) was a region and principality traditionally located in Upper Macedonia. It was the northernmost mountainous region of Upper Macedonia, located east of the Prespa Lakes.[1]

Lynkestis had been originally an autnomous kingdom in Upper Macedonia outside the original territory of the Kingdom of Macedon (blue area). After Philip II's expansion in the second half of the 4th century BC Lynkestis was incorporated into his kingdom (light blue area).

In its earlier history, Lynkestis was an independent polity ruled by a local dynasty which claimed descent from Bacchiadae, a Greek aristocratic family from ancient Corinth.[2][3] They were ruled by a basileus, as the rest of the tribes in Lower and Upper Macedonia.[4]

The few existing primary sources show that it maintained connections with the Illyrians and was frequently in hostilities with the Argeads.[3] The inhabitants of Lynkestis were known as Lyncestae or Lynkestai (Λυγκῆσται). Hecataeus (6th century BC) included them among the Molossians.[5] Thucydides (5th century BC) considered them Macedonians.[6][7] Later ancient sources considered them Illyrians.[6][8] Modern scholars regard them as Macedonians,[9] Illyrians,[10] or Epirotes (Molossians).[11]

In the second half of the 5th century BC Lynkestis was the strongest tribal state in Upper Macedonia under king Arrhabaeus, son of Bomerus.[12] During the Peloponnesian War the combined army of Lyncestians under king Arrhabaeus and Illyrians won against the joined forces of the Macedonian king Perdiccas II and the Spartan leader Brasidas at the Battle of Lyncestis in 423 BC.[13]

Lynkestis was annexed or retained by the Illyrian king Bardylis after his victory against Perdiccas III of Macedon in 360 BC.[14][15][16] At the Battle of Erigon Valley in 358 BC, the Illyrians under Bardylis were defeated by Phillip II and Lynkestis became part of Macedon. After his conquest, Philip founded Heraclea Lyncestis, which would become the main city of the area in antiquity. Although they became part of Macedon, Lynkestians retained their own basileus.[4]


The etymology of the geographical name Lynkos/Lynkestis and tribal name Lynkestai is uncertain. It seems possible that the Greek word for "lynx" (λύγξ, λύγκος) came from the geographical names that contain the root Λυγκ- Lynk-, which either may refer to the lynx or not, and they may well be of Pre-Greek origin.[17]


Lynkestis was the northernmost mountainous region of Upper Macedonia, located east of the Prespa Lakes. Lynkestis bordered with Pelagonia to the northeast, Emathia and Almopia to the southeast, and Orestia, Eordaia and the Haliacmon river at some distance to the south. To the west Lynkestis bordered with Illyria. Lynkestis was strategically very important because the major east–west route and one of the north–south routes passed through the core of this region.[18]

Lynkestis was a small region but strategically situated as it was the entry point for Illyrian movements into central Macedonia.[3] The constant threat of Illyrian invasions through the region of Lynkestis into the Argead realm made its subjugation amongst the principal aims of the Argeads.[19] The Tsangon Pass was a mountain pass in the south of Little Prespa that linked the region of Lynkestis to southern Illyria.[20] Another important east-west route between Illyria and Macedonia was controlled by Heraclea Lyncestis, which was founded by Philip to prevent Illyrian raids from the west into Macedon.[21]

Ruins at Heraclea Lyncestis, founded by Philip II.

Lynkestis and the rest of Upper Macedonia was characterized by cold winters with rainfalls that were very heavy, and hot summers. In this region life was hard and mainly a matter of survival. According to the season of the year the mostly nomadic pastoralist people of the area moved their flocks of cattle, goats and sheep to the various pasture lands.[22]

There were perhaps no towns of any size in Lynkestis prior to the foundation of Heraclea Lyncestis in the mid 4th century BC. The settlements were described only as "villages", which are typical of tribal peoples.[23] In Roman times, the Via Egnatia crossed the area and there were several Roman stations in it.[24]


Early periodEdit

The inhabitants of Lynkestis, like other peoples in Upper Macedonia, were mostly nomadic tribes, who were ruled by individual chieftains and who probably lived in basic settlements in the tribal areas instead of actual towns.[25] Their way of life was based on conditions which in general combined sedentary agriculture and transhumant pasturing.[26] Lynkestians, like other Upper Macedonians as well as Lower Macedonians, might well have believed they were descendants of the mythical figure of Makedon, claiming he was a son of Zeus, the chief god of their pantheon. However their chieftains had more in common with their Illyrian and Paeonian neighbors than their supposed countrymen, the Lower Macedonians.[25] As early as the 7th century BC Illyrian raids against Argead Macedonia inevitably also involved the Upper Macedonian regions of Lynkestis, Orestis, Eordaea, Elimea and Tymphaea, because they were located between Illyrian territory and the lands of the Argeads, who were based at Aegae.[27]

Lynkestian kingdomEdit

Lynkestis was originally an autonomous kingdom in the region of Upper Macedonia.[25] It remained outside the region of power of the Macedonian Argead kings[28] until Philip's conquest in 358 BC.[29] About mid 5th century BC a royal dynasty claiming descent from aristocratic Bacchiad exiles from Corinth, who went to Lynkestis through Corcyra and Illyria, established itself ruling over Lynkestian Macedonians.[18] The kings of Lynkestis were Greek-speaking.[30] In the second half of the 5th century BC Lynkestis was the strongest tribal state in Upper Macedonia under Bomerus' son Arrhabeus,[31] who was the first attested Lynkestian ruler.[32]

During the Peloponnesian War a coalition of Lyncestians and Illyrians won against a coalition of Macedon and Sparta at the Battle of Lyncestis in 423 BC.

A nominal confederacy between Lynkestis and the Upper Macedonian regions of Elimeia, Orestis and Pelagonia as well as Lower Macedonia (Pieria and Bottiaea) was created during the reign of Alexander I of Macedon (c. 495-454 B.C.).[33] Arrhabaeus entered into conflict with Perdiccas II of Macedon.[34] During the Peloponnesian War, a coalition of Lynkestians under Arrhabaeus and Illyrians defeated the joined forces of the Macedonian king Perdiccas II, who had wanted to invade Lynkestis, and the Spartan leader Brasidas, at the Battle of Lyncestis in 423 BC.[35] Besides Brasidas' forces, Perdiccas' faction was supported by Chalcidians, however the campaign against Lynkestis was a disaster because of Macedonian incompetence, resulting in the end of Brasidas' alliance with Perdiccas.[36] A pacification between Arrhabaeus and Perdiccas was started by Athenians. Perdiccas was interested in peace with Lynkestis due to his recent defeat in the Lynkestian campaign, the Lynkestian-Illyrian collaboration, and his new enmity with Brasidas. On the other hand Arrhabaeus was interested in peace with the Argeads to avert future invasions of his realm by Macedon.[37]

In 413 Perdiccas's son Archelaus obtained the throne of Macedon, and he evidently continued his father's conflict against the Lynkestians, probably involving Illyrians. The Macedonian king undertook a war against the Lynkestian Arrhabaeus and his Illyrian or Lynkestian-Illyrian ally, Sirras. Seeking help from the king of Elimeia, the marriage of Archelaus' eldest daughter with the king of Elimeia ensured a solid Upper Macedonian ally for Archelaus' war against Arrhabaeus and Sirras.[38] Additionally, Archelaus made general ameliorations to the military and reinforced the borders of his kingdom,[39] which apparently held the Illyrians momentarily at bay.[40]

The Illyrians (or an Illyrian-Lynkestian coalition) under king Bardylis invaded Macedon in 393 BC,[41] reaching Lower Macedonia as far as the Thermaic Gulf.[42] They expelled the Macedonian king Amyntas III out of Macedonia, and a puppet king, Argaeus II, who may have been a Lynkestian ruler,[43] was appointed to the throne of Macedon.[44] After two years, with the aid of Thessalians, Amyntas retook the throne of Macedon. Another possible Illyrian invasion of Macedon occurred around mid 380s. Amyntas retained his throne, but had to pay tribute to Bardylis.[45] After Bardylis' victory against Perdiccas III of Macedon in 360 BC Lynkestis was annexed or retained by the Illyrian king.[46][15][16]

Macedonian ruleEdit

Map of the Kingdom of Macedon with Lynkestis (Lynkos) located in the western districts of the kingdom after Philip II's expansion in 358 BC.

After his ascension to the throne of Macedon Philip II wanted the total end of Illyrian influence in Upper Macedonia.[47] In 359 BC, negotiations took place between Bardylis and Philip II of Macedon, following the latter's ascension to the throne that year. In the negotiations, Bardylis demanded, and Philip refused, the continuing occupation of "Macedonian poleis" (i.e., Lynkestian strongholds). In 358 BC Philip mounted a major invasion of Illyrian-held territory, and decisively defeated the Illyrians under Bardylis in the Battle of Erigon Valley in 358 BC.[48] Philip's victories against the Illyrians in 358 BC overturned decades of Illyrian domination upon Macedonia,[49] and he was able to unite Upper and Lower Macedonia for the first time in the history of those regions.[47][50] After his victory, Philip II is said to have subdued all the area as far as Lake Ohrid, northwest of the Prespa Lakes region in Deuriopus. Soon after his victory in 358 BC Lynkestis, Pelagonia, Orestis and Tymphaea, were incorporated into Philip's greater Macedonia.[51] In the same year, Philip founded Heraclea Lyncestis, which would go on to become the chief city of the region until Late Antiquity.

Lynkestian dynastyEdit

Lynkestian king Arrhabaeus who ruled in the second half of the 5th century BC was the son of Bomerus.[52] According to Strabo, Irra was the daughter of Arrhabaeus, and his granddaughter was Eurydice, the mother of Philip II.[53] Amyntas, one of the commanders sent by Philip II to defeat some of the Greek cities in Asia Minor, was a son of the Lynkestian king Arrhabaeus.[54]

Aeropus of Lynkestis, who was exiled by Philip II when he suspected him of treason, had three sons: Arrhabaeus, Heromenes, and Alexander.[55]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 318: Lynkestis (or Lynkos), was the northernmost of the mountainous Upper Makedonian regions; Luttenberger 2019, p. 21: " Upper Macedonia comprised the cantons of Tymphaea, Elimea (Elimiotis), Orestis, Eordaea, Lyncus (Lyncestis), and Derriopus. "; Hatzopoulos 2020, p. 224: "Lynkos (Lynkestai), region and pricipality in Upper Macedonia"; Worthington 2014, p. 14: "Upper Macedonia, on the other hand, had a far harsher climate and was the highlands of the country. Here, Elimiotis (in the south), Orestis (to the west), and Lyncestis (to the northwest, by Lake Lychnitis) had been originally autonomous kingdoms"; Bowden 2014, p. 42: "Two men from the leading family of Lyncestis in Upper Macedonia"; Lane Fox 2011, p. 342; Salmon 2012, p. 220; Cartledge 2011, p. 227.
  2. ^ Plant 2004, p. 43: "The kings of Lyncestae, however, were Greek-speaking, and claimed descent from the Bacchiadae, an important aristocratic Corinthian family."
  3. ^ a b c Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 138:Although it was rather small, L. controlled a route into Central Makedonia that made it a corridor of Illyrian invasions into the Argead realm. (..) While evidence for L. during the rule of the Argeads is scarce, the few existing snippets indicate that its rulers were well connected with the Illyrians and frequently hostile to the Argeads
  4. ^ a b Worthington, Ian (12 March 2012). Alexander the Great: A Reader. Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-136-64004-9.
  5. ^ Malkin, Irad (2001). Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity. Center for Hellenic Studies, Trustees for Harvard University. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-674-00662-1. "Hecataeur calls the Eliminiotae, Orestae, Lyncastae, and Pelagones of Uppers Macedonia "Molossian" and since Molossian inscriptions found at the sanctuary of Dodona are inscribed in a West Greek dialect, one would expect the Macedonians to have belonged to a West Greek linguistic Koinē that extended across much of northern and northwestern Greece
  6. ^ a b Eichner 2004, p. 99: "Thukydides nennt noch andere Stämme, die in späterer Quelle als illyrisch gelten, wie die Lynkester (II 99 Λύγκησται, als den Makedonen zugehörig, doch mit eigenen Königen) und die Atintaner (II 80, 6 Ἀτιντᾶνες, als Bundes-genosssen der Molosser, später südlich des Devoll ansässig), aber ohne sie zu als Illyrer bezeichnen."
  7. ^ Hatzopoulos 2020, p. 12: "This legend was hardly compatible with Thucydides’ (2.99) more sober narrative, however: “So Sitalces’ army was being mustered at Doberus and preparing to pass over the mountain crest and descend upon lower Macedonia, of which Perdiccas was ruler. For the Macedonian race includes also the Lyncestians, Elimiotes, and other tribes of the upper country, which, though in alliance with the nearer Macedonians and subject to them, have kings of their own; but the country by the sea which is now called Macedonia, was first acquired and made their kingdom by Alexander, the father of Perdiccas, and his forefathers, who were originally Temenidae from Argos."
  8. ^ De Angelis 2020: "This itinerary gave access to the prosperous mining districts of the hinterland, among these, the silver mine of Damastion, a still unidentified settlement in the Balkans, situated by Strabo (7-7.8) between the Illyrian tribes of Encheleii and Lyncestae. The cultural impact of the Corinthian colonies also reached the opposite"
  9. ^ Hatzopoulos 2020, p. 12: "It is possible that the Derriopes were an outshot of the Upper Macedonian ethne, the foothills of Mount Peristeri assuring the territorial continuity with the Macedonian Lynkestai."
  10. ^ Wheeler 2017, p. 434: "With his aid Perdiccas defeated in pitched battle his old enemy Arrhabaeus, king of Lyncestae, an Illyrian tribe inhabiting the mountainous region of the upper Erigon, near modern Bitola"; Pettifer & Vickers 2021, p. 221: "Lynk as a name is probably derived from the proto-Illyrian word for 'wolf'. See Mikulcic, I., Heraclea Ancient City in Macedonia (Skopje, 2007), p. 27. It was a centre of Illyrian tribal settlement. Archaeological work is currently in progress on hilltop forts in the area. The Lynkai tribe is mentioned by Thucydides (II 9.2) and Strabo (VII, 323).".
  11. ^ Hammond 2001, p. 158: "Pelagones in the region of Prilep, the Lyncestae in the region of Florina, the Orestae in the region of Kastoria, and the Elimeotae in the region of Kozani. These tribes were all Epirotic tribes and they talked the Greek language but with a different dialect, the Northwest Greek dialect, as we know now from the local questions which were put to the god of Dodona."
  12. ^ King 2017, p. 5
  13. ^ Dzino 2014, p. 49
  14. ^ Lane Fox 2011, pp. 342, 610
  15. ^ a b Worthington 2008, p. 23–24.
  16. ^ a b Worthington 2014, p. 29.
  17. ^ Beekes 2009, p. 875
  18. ^ a b King 2017, p. 5.
  19. ^ Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 138.
  20. ^ Papazoglu 1988, p. 280
  21. ^ Morton 2017, p. 91.
  22. ^ Worthington 2008, p. 6
  23. ^ King 2017, p. 5
  24. ^ Samsaris 1989, pp. 24, 182.
  25. ^ a b c Worthington 2014, p. 14.
  26. ^ Roisman 2011, p. 74.
  27. ^ Greenwalt 2011, pp. 281–282.
  28. ^ Errington 2002, p. 19
  29. ^ Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 318: "There is no evidence that any Argead was able to conquer L. before Philip II in 358."
  30. ^ Plant 2004, p. 43: "The kings of Lyncestae, however, were Greek-speaking and claimed descent from the Bacchiadae, an important Corinthian aristocratic family."
  31. ^ King 2017, p. 5
  32. ^ Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 318: "Recognizing L.'s autonomy in the time of → Perdikkas II, → Thucydides terms the regional dynast the "basileus of the Makedonian Lynkestians" (4.83.1): he was not a subject of the Argeads [...] The first ruler of L. to appear in our sources is Arrhabaios, son of Bomeros"
  33. ^ Roisman, Joseph; Worthington, Ian (7 July 2011). A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. John Wiley & Sons. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-4443-5163-7.
  34. ^ Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 318.
  35. ^ Dzino 2014, p. 49
  36. ^ Psoma 2011, p. 117
  37. ^ Roisman 2011, p. 152.
  38. ^ Roisman 2011, p. 156; Greenwalt 2011, p. 283; King 2017, p. 55, 64.
  39. ^ King 2017, p. 55; Roisman 2011, p. 156
  40. ^ King 2017, p. 55.
  41. ^ Carney 2019, pp. 27–28; Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, pp. 87, 273; King 2017, pp. 57, 64; Carney & Müller 2020, p. 391; Müller 2021, p. 36; Palairet 2016, p. 29.
  42. ^ Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 273; Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 273; King 2017, pp. 57, 64.
  43. ^ Palairet 2016, p. 29.
  44. ^ Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 273; Thomas 2008, pp. 70–71.
  45. ^ Heckel, Heinrichs & Müller 2020, p. 273; Thomas 2008, pp. 70–71.
  46. ^ Lane Fox 2011, pp. 342, 610
  47. ^ a b Worthington 2014, p. 39.
  48. ^ Lane Fox 2011, p. 343
  49. ^ King 2017, p. 73
  50. ^ King 2017, p. 73
  51. ^ King 2017, p. 73
  52. ^ King 2017, p. 5
  53. ^ Strabo. Geography, 7.7: "The Lyncestae were under Arrhabaeus, who was of the race of the Bacchiadae. Irra was his daughter, and his grand-daughter was Eurydice, the mother of Philip Amyntas."
  54. ^ Worthington 2014, p. 111.
  55. ^ Worthington 2014, p. 122.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit