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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia


Dardania / Dardanians / Dardanoi (Bronze Age)

FeatureThe ancient region of Dardania in the form which was known to the Greeks appears to have been a creation of Indo-European arrivals into Anatolia during the mid-third millennium BC. These were the Luwians, part of the South Indo-European migratory group. It was probably West- Luwian-speakers from Arzawa who migrated outwards from that early state to infiltrate the western coastal regions of Anatolia (see feature link for an examination of the origins of the Luwians).

A conflicting theory for the origin of the people of this region suggests that they were Thracians who had crossed the Dardanelles (that name is linked to this region). This may well be the case, and neither theory is disqualified by this. The Dardanians could very well have been a mixture of both peoples.

However, the apparent conflict may be a result of confusion between this area of western Anatolia and the Thraco-Illyrian tribal state of the Dardani to the north of Macedonia (in the Balkans). Dardania was located in the north-western corner of Anatolia, to the immediate north of Troy, and facing modern Gallipoli across the Dardanelles. It can often be included as part of the Troad, the peninsula region at the far north-western corner of Anatolia.

The Dardanians (otherwise known as Dardanoi or Dardans) were probably of the same stock as the Trojans, a mixture of aboriginal Anatolians and incoming, culturally and linguistically-dominant Luwians, with later influxes of Hittites and Mycenaeans thrown into the mix.

Indigenous Anatolians who were subjected to this influx and domination would have been the descendants of the earliest farmers of the Near East's Neolithic period. Perhaps eight millennia beforehand, these people were part of a massive migration into Greece and Eastern Europe where they formed the Sesklo culture of 'Old Europe'. Later expansion saw these farmers expand northwards into the Balkans and beyond, but their day had since passed (by about 2500 BC).

Archaeology has shown that certain ceramic objects later found their way back into Anatolia from the Balkans, Carpathians, and Danube regions, all areas of 'Old Europe' (Marija Gimbutas' twentieth century umbrella term for this Neolithic farmer expansion), and specifically from the Cucuteni culture (effectively the ancestors of the later Thracians once they had received an Indo-European admixture in the late second millennium BC).

According to the Greeks and Romans, Dardania was a client state of Troy's, but information relating to its leaders comes from traditional Greek sources, with no external confirmation. Any dates are entirely traditional, usually according to Herodotus, and here those have been adjusted downwards by eighty-seven years in order to bring them into line with the generally-accepted timeframe for the Trojan War.

As for the Dardanoi themselves, according to Greek mythology Batea, daughter of Teucer, was married to Dardanus. He inherited the kingdom and the land of the Teucri thereafter became Dardania. The origins of the Dardanians are unknown but Luwians were widely distributed across southern and western Anatolia by the middle of the second millennium BC and the Dardanians are generally linked with them.

The western Anatolian coast was rather international in its influences during this period, especially after the fall of Troy. The Romans considered the Dardanians to be wholly Greek, but that was over a millennium later, by which time whatever earlier population may have existed had been thoroughly dominated by Greek culture for that entire period.

Dardanus was supposedly the son of Zeus and Electra, one of the Pleiades, which means his real parentage had been forgotten or was unknown, even if generations of oral history had remembered his name. His Dardanians and Teucri later collaborated in building Troy as a state, although Homer clearly distinguishes between Dardanians and Trojans as two clearly-identifiable people, not branches of a single group.

However, the Trojan royal house was itself formed of two branches, one being the Dardanoi, so there was clearly intermarriage being recorded between the two.

Central Anatolian mountains

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from The Iliad, Homer (Translated by E V Rieu, Penguin Books, 1963), from The Horse The Wheel and Language: How Bronze Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The Kingdom of the Hittites, Trevor Bryce (1998), from The Hittites, O R Gurney (1991), from The Illyrians, J J Wilkes (Blackwell, 1992), from Proto-Indo-European Language and Society: Late Neolithic in the Pontic-Caspian Region, Rolf Noyer, from Review: Some Recent Works on Ancient Syria and the Sea People, Michael C Astour (Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol 92, No 3, Jul-Sep 1972), from Trojans and Their Neighbours: An Introduction (Ancient Peoples), Trevor Bryce (2005), and from External Links: Indo-European Chronology - Countries and Peoples, and DNA clue to origins of early Greek civilisation (BBC News), and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it).)

c.2300 BC

Some time after this point Luwians settle in Anatolia, just to the south of the (probably indigenous) Hatti. The Luwians are Indo-Europeans of the South Indo-European group - generally agreed to be the earliest group to migrate out of the original Indo-European homeland to the north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

The route they have taken in their migration is open to interpretation (and guesswork!), but a route through the Caucasus seems most likely, followed by a more easterly route around the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea.

Map of proto-Anatolian migration 3000-2000 BC
This map attempts to illustrate in basic terms the separate paths taken by the Luwians, Hittites, and Pala during their westwards migration and their progress from proto-Anatolians to kingdom-builders (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Once in the region of north-eastern Anatolia they will have settled into a semi-nomadic existence for a couple of millennia, before migrating westwards during an intense dry spell into Anatolia itself and settling permanently from about 2300 BC onwards.

Once there, Luwians form two major regional states, Arzawa and Kizzuwatna (possibly a single state or region initially, which only later divides into two states). Western Luwians also quickly expand into the western Anatolian coastal regions, infiltrating and dominating native Anatolian populations in regions such as Dardania.

c.1481 - 1450 BC


Inherited the Teucri territory. Founder of the Dardanians.

c.1450 - 1375 BC

Ilus / Ilos

Son. Died childless.

c.1450 - 1375 BC

Erechthonius / Erictanus


c.1375 - 1315 BC


Son. Also ruler of Troy. Origin of the name, Troad.

c.1315 BC

Tros leaves Troy to one of his sons, Ilos, while the other, Assaracus, rules Dardania. Ilos is credited with founding the royal line of Ilium (or Ilios, which equates to the Hittite ([W]ilios / Wilusa). Assaracus and his descendants continue to maintain close links with their cousins in Troy.

Map of Anatolia at the time of the Trojan War
This map of Anatolia is set at the time of the Trojan War, covering the general area of Dardania and the Troad (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.1315 - ? BC

Assaracus / Ascaoracus


Capys / Capis

Son. m Themiste, dau of Ilos of Troy.

Anchises / Ancheses

Son. Crippled and therefore ineligible to rule. Abdicated.

Anchises is the father of Aeneas by Aphrodite. He is crippled by a thunderbolt, so Aeneas rules in his father's place. A member of the Dardanoi branch of the Trojan royal family (seemingly thanks to the links forged by his great-grandfather, Tros), he fights on behalf of Troy during the war against Mycenae.

fl c.1180s BC

Aeneas 'White Shield'

Son. Allowed to leave for Latium by friendly Mycenaean Greeks.

c.1193 - 1183 BC

Aeneas leads the two sons of Antenor, Archelochus and Acamas, and the Dardanians as allies of Troy during the Trojan War against Mycenae. According to legend, following the sack of Troy Aeneas and his followers are allowed to leave.

Luwian bronze seal
Shown here is a bronze seal written in the almost universal Anatolian language of Luwian which was discovered at Troy in 1995

Aeneas leads the two sons of Antenor, Archelochus and Acamas, and the Dardanians as allies of Troy during the Trojan War against Mycenae. According to legend, following the sack of Troy Aeneas and his followers are allowed to leave.

They travel towards the west, settling in Latium after a seven year search. Initially opposed by Latinus, ruler of the Latins, Aeneas bests him in battle and is subsequently accepted, marrying his daughter, Lavinia.

Antenor, meanwhile, sails into the farthest part of the Adriatic (the northern reaches), accompanied by a number of Enetians who have been driven from Paphlagonia by revolution following the death of their king, Pylaemenes, before the gates of Troy. They defeat the north Italian Euganei and occupy their lands near the coast, later to be known as the Veneti.

The entirety of the Troad, Mysia, and Dardania are taken over by the newly-formed Phrygian kingdom during this period of chaos across the entire eastern Mediterranean which is driven by climate-induced drought.

Artist's impression of Troy
This illustration is another artist's impression of an unspecified version of Troy, although it is believed to be based on the city which existed around the time of the Trojan War, shortly before its defeat and destruction

In Anatolia, Arzawa's old territory is destroyed, as is Hattusa, capital of the Hittite empire, while Ishuwa, Kizzuwatna, and Tarhuntassa also fall. The Sea Peoples flourish during this period, seeking new land to settle and better conditions, but they are recorded in the form of brigands or raiders.

As suggested by Roman writers, there may be a relationship between the Dardanians and the later Thraco-Illyrian Dardanii tribe which occupies the region to the north of Macedonia, although this cannot be proven.

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