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The Chaonians (Greek: Χάονες, Chaones) were an ancient Greek tribe that inhabited the region of Epirus located in the north-west of modern Greece and southern Albania. On their southern frontier lay another Epirote kingdom, that of the Molossians, to their southwest stood the kingdom of the Thesprotians, and to their north lived the Illyrian tribes. According to Virgil, Chaon was the eponymous ancestor of the Chaonians. By the 5th century BC, they had conquered and combined to a large degree with the neighboring Thesprotians and Molossians. The Chaonians were part of the Epirote League until 170 BC when their territory was annexed by the Roman Republic.

According to Strabo, the Chaonians (along with the Molossians) were the most famous among the fourteen tribes of Epirus, because they once ruled over the whole of Epirus. The Illyrians occupied the coastal and hinterland regions further north; however, the Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax makes a clear distinction between the Chaonians and the Illyrian tribes. The Illyrians and Chaonians appear to have had — at least at times — a confrontational relationship; Polybius recounts a devastating raid mounted in 230 BC by the Illyrians against Phoenice, the chief city of the Chaonians. The incident had major political ramifications. Many Italian traders who were in the town at the time of the sacking were killed or enslaved by the Illyrians, prompting the Roman Republic to launch the first of the two Illyrian Wars the following year.

The Chaonians were settled Kata Komas (Greek: Κατά Κώμας) meaning in a collection of villages and not in an organized polis (despite the fact that they called their community a polis) and were a tribal state in the 5th century BC.Aristophanes had used the name of the tribe as a pun to illustrate the of Athenian foreign policy. According to Thucydides, their leaders were chosen on an annual basis; he names two such leaders, Photius and Nikanor "from the ruling lineage". In the 4th century BC, the Chaonians adopted the term prostates (Greek: Προστάτης, "ruler") to describe their leaders, like most Greek tribal states at the time. Other terms for office were grammateus (Greek: Γραμματεύς, "secretary"), demiourgoi (Greek: Δημιουργοί, "creators"), hieromnemones (Greek: Ἱερομνήμονες, "of the sacred memory") and synarchontes (Greek: Συνάρχοντες, "co-rulers"). They joined the Epirote League, founded in 325/320 BC, uniting their territories with those of the Thesprotians and Molossians in a loosely federated state that became a major power in the region until it was conquered by Rome in 170 BC. During the 2nd century, the Prasaebi replaced the Chaones in their control of Buthrotum, as attested in inscriptions from that period.

  • Photius and Nicanor, leaders of the Chaonians in the Peloponnesian War (circa 431–421 BC).
  • Doropsos Δόροψος, theorodokos in Epidauros (circa 365 BC).
  • Antanor (son of Euthymides), proxenos in Delphi (325–275 BC).
  • Peukestos, proxenos in Thyrrheion, Acarnania (3rd century BC) -πητοῦ Χάονα Πευκεστόν, Σωτι-.
  • Myrtilos, officer who gave proxeny decree to Boeotian Kallimelos (late 3rd century BC).
  • Boiskos (son of Messaneos), prostates (late 3rd century BC).
  • Lykidas (son of Hellinos), prostates (circa 232–168 BC).
  • -tos (son of Lysias), winner in Pale (wrestling) Panathenaics (194/193 BC).
  • Charops, father of Machatas, father of Charops the younger - philoroman politicians (2nd century BC).


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