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Eth. TRIBALLI (Eth. Τριβαλλοί), a Thracian people which appears to have been in early times a very widely diffused and powerful race, about the Danube; but which, being pressed upon from the N. and W. by various nations, became gradually more and more confined, and at length entirely disappeared from history. Herodotus speaks of the Triballic plain, through which flowed the river Angrus, which fell into the Brongus, a tributary of the Ister (4.49). This is probably the plain of Kossovo in the modern Servia.

Thucydides states (2.96) that on the side of the Triballi, who were independent at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, the territories of Sitalces were bounded by the Treres and Tilataei, whose W. limit was the river Oscius (Oescus), which must therefore, at that time, have been the E. frontier of the Triballi. (Cf. Plin. Nat. 3.29, 4.17; Strab. vii. pp. 317, 318.) Strabo (vii. p.305) informs us that the Triballi were much exposed to the inroads of migrating hordes driven out of their own countries by more powerful neighbours, some expelled by the Scythians, Bastarnae, and Sauromatae, from the N. side of the Danube, who either settled in the islands of that river, or crossed over into Thrace; others from the W., set in motion by the Illyrians.

The earliest event recorded of them is the defeat which they gave to Sitalces, king of the Odrysae, who made an expedition against them, B.C. 424, in which he lost his life (Thuc. 4.101). In B.C. 376 the Triballi crossed the Haemus, and with 30,000 men advanced as far S. as the territory of Abdera, which they ravaged without opposition. On their return, however, loaded with booty, the people of Abdera took advantage of their careless and disorderly march, to attack them, killing upwards of 2000 men. The Triballi thereupon marched back to take revenge for this loss; and the Abderites, having been joined by some of the neighbouring Thracians, gave them battle; in the midst of which they were deserted by their treacherous allies and, being surrounded, were slain almost to a man. The Triballi then prepared to lay siege to Abdera which would now have been quite unable to resist them for more than a very short time; but at this critical moment, Chabrias appeared before the town with the Athenian fleet, which had recently defeated the Lacedaemonian fleet at Naxos. Chabrias compelled the Triballi to retire from Abdera, and garrisoned the city when he departed. (Diod. 15.36). In B.C. 339, Philip II., after raising the siege of Byzantium, marched to the Danube, where he defeated the Getae, and took much booty. On his return through the country of the Triballi, the latter posted themselves in a defile, and refused to allow the Macedonian army to pass, unless Philip gave to them a part of the plunder. A fierce battle ensued, in which Philip was severely wounded, and would have been slain, but for his son Alexander, who threw himself before his father, and thus saved his life. The Triballi were at length defeated, and probably professed submission to Philip, so long, at least, as he was in their country.

On Alexander's accession to the throne, he thought it necessary to make his power felt by the barbarians on the frontiers of his kingdom, before he quitted Europe for his great enterprise against the Persian empire. Accordingly, in the spring of B.C. 335, he marched from Amphipolis in a northeasterly direction, at the head of a large force. In ten days he reached the pass by which he intended to cross the Haemus, where a body of Thracians had assembled to oppose his progress. They were defeated, and Alexander advanced against the Triballi, whose prince, Syrmus, having had timely information of Alexander's movements, had already withdrawn, with the old men, women, and children into an island of the Danube, called Peuce, where many other Thracians also had sought refuge. The main force of the Triballi posted themselves in woody ground on the banks of the river Lyginus, about 3 days' march from the Danube. Having ventured out into the open plain, however, they were completely defeated by the Macedonians, with a loss of 3000 men. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 1.2.)

Alexander then marched to the Danube, opposite to Peuce; but he was unable to make himself master of that island, because he had few boats, and the enemy were strongly posted at the top of the steep sides of the island. Alexander therefore abandoned the attempt to take. it, and crossed the Danube to make war on the Getae. It would appear, however, that he had made sufficient impression on the Triballi to induce them to apply to him for peace, which he granted before his return to Macedonia. It was probably some time after these events that the Triballi were attacked by the Autariatae, a powerful Illyrian tribe, who seem to have completely subdued them, great numbers being killed, and the survivors driven farther towards the east. (Strab. vii. pp. 317, 318.) Hence, in B.C. 295, the Gauls, with only 15,000 foot and 3000 horse, defeated the combined forces of the Triballi and Getae (Just. xxv. l.) When the Romans began to extend their dominion in the direction of the Danube, the Triballi were a small and weak people, dwelling about the confluence of the Oescus with the Danube, near the town Oescus (cf. Ptol. 3.10.10, 8.11.6).

Pliny (7.2) states that, according to Isigonus, there were people among the Triballi who fascinated by their look, and destroyed those whom they gazed upon too long, especially with angry eyes: adults were more liable to be injured by them than children. This is probably the same superstition as the modern one respecting the “evil eye,” which is peculiarly prevalent among the Slavonian races. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 1.1.4, 2.4, seqq., 3.3, seq., 4.6, 5.26.6, 7.9.2; Steph. B. sub voce Mannert, vii. p. 25, seqq.] [J. B. J

hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.36
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.29
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.17
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 7.2
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.101
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 1.1.4
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 1.2
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 1.2.4
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.10
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