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ILLYRICUM (ĭl-ĭr'ĭ-kŭm, Gr. Illyrikon). A province of the Roman Empire, bounded on the north by Pannonia, on the east by Moesia, on the south by Macedonia, and on the west by the Adriatic Sea. The Alps run through it. The inhabitants, wild mountaineers and pirates, were conquered by the Romans in the third century b.c. In Rom.15.19 Paul, emphasizing the extent of his missionary activities, says that “from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” In this verse Illyricum probably means the Roman province, not the much wider area the name sometimes included. “To Illyricum” must mean up to the borders of Illyricum, though the preposition “to” may be either inclusive or exclusive. Paul’s preaching tour to the Illyrian frontier must be assigned to his third missionary journey, as his movements on his first visit to Macedonia are too carefully recorded to allow for a trip to the borders of Illyricum.

ILLYRICUM ĭ lĭr’ ə kəm (̓Ιλλυρικόν, G2665). A Rom. province in the western portion of the Balkan peninsula N of Greece.

Now principally occupied by Yugoslavia and Albania, it was bounded in antiquity by the Adriatic, the Eastern Alps, the Danube, the Shar-Dagh and the Ceraunian mountains. According to Strabo (7:317), the seacoast boasted of good harbors and the coastal plains were sunny and fertile, but the interior was mountainous and cold. The Greeks were first attracted to the region because of the mines, but the ferocious and piratical nature of the people prevented extensive colonization.

In the second millennium b.c., it was occupied by Indo-European speaking people. The Greeks first colonized it in the 6th cent. b.c. The Macedonian kings warred against the tribes of Illyricum in the 4th cent., but it was not until the 3rd cent. that the kingdom of Scodra was established. Because of attacks on the Gr. colonies and acts of piracy against Gr. and Rom. shipping, the Romans fought two wars (229-228 and 219 b.c.) against the Illyrians led by Queen Teuta. After the defeat of Genthius in 167 it was divided into three parts and connected alternately with the administration of Italy, Macedonia, and Cisalpine Gaul. Caesar was proconsul there in 59. Octavian subdued a number of the tribes in 35-33. In 27 b.c., he made it a senatorial province. It became an imperial province in 11 b.c. because of outbreaks of violence among the Pannonii. At that time the province was extended to the Danube. The last revolt was put down in three years of fighting by Tiberius in a.d. 9 and it became a settled part of the empire.

Two references are made to Illyricum in the NT. In a somewhat obscure statement Paul remarked that “from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom 15:19). It is not clear whether Paul meant that Illyricum was the western boundary of the Eastern world and that he preached up to it, or that he actually preached and established churches there. The phrase “in these regions” (v. 23) referring to the extent of Paul’s preaching, would suggest an area larger than Macedonia and prob. referred also to Illyricum. Furthermore, the remark in his second letter to Timothy (4:10) intimates that the Gospel was being preached there. It is well within the realm of possibility for Paul to have gone there. The Via Egnatia, which ran from the Hellespont to Dyrrhachium, a seaport on the Adriatic, made the southern portion of Illyricum readily accessible to him on the third missionary journey.


S. Casson, Macedonia, Thrace and Illyria (1926), passim, Vulić in Pauly Wissowa s.v. “Illyricum”; Fluss in Pauly Wissowa suppl. V, s.v. “Illyrioi.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A province of the Roman Empire, lying East and Northeast of the Adriatic Sea. In his Epistle to the Romans Paul emphasizes the extent of his missionary activities in the assertion that "from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ" (15:19). An examination of this statement involves three questions: What is the force of the preposition "even unto" (mechri)? What meaning is borne by the word Illyricum? and, At what period of his missionary career did Paul reach the limit here spoken of?

1. Force of "even unto":

In Greek, as in English, the preposition "unto" may either be exclusive or inclusive. In other words, Paul may mean that he has preached throughout Macedonia as far as the Illyrian frontier, or his words may involve a journey within Illyricum itself, extending perhaps to Dyrrhachium (mod. Durazzo) on the Adriatic seaboard, which, though belonging politically to Macedonia, lay in "Greek, Illyria." But since no word is said in the Ac of any extension of Paul’s travels beyond the confines of Macedonia, and since the phrase, "I have fully preached," precludes a reference to a hurried or cursory tour in Illyricum, we should probably take the word "unto" in its exclusive sense, and understand that Paul claims to have evangelized Macedonia as far as the frontier of Illyricum.

2. Meaning of "Illyricum":

What, then, does the word "Illyricum" denote? It is sometimes used, like the Greek terms Illyris and Illyria, to signify a vast area lying between the Danube on the North and Macedonia and Thrace on the South, extending from the Adriatic and the Alps to the Black Sea, and inhabited by a number of warlike and semi-civilized tribes known to the Greeks under the general title of Illyrians (Appian, Illyr. 1; Suetonius, Tiberius, 16); it thus comprised the provinces of Illyricum (in the narrower sense), Pannonia and Moesia, which for certain financial and military purposes formed a single administrative area, together with a strip of coast land between Dalmatia and Epirus and, at a later date, Dacia. Appian (Illyr. 6) even extends the term to include Raetia and Noricum, but in this he appears to be in error. But Illyricum has also a narrower and more precise meaning, denoting a single Roman province, which varied in extent with the advance of the Roman conquest but was finally organized in 10 AD by the emperor Augustus. At first it bore the name superior provincia Illyricum or simply Illyricum; later it came to be known as Dalmatia (Tac. Annals, iv.5; Josephus, BJ, II, xvi; Dio Cassius, xlix.36, etc.). In accordance with Paul’s habitual usage of such terms, together with the fact that he employs a Greek form which is a transliteration of the Latin Illyricum but does not occur in any other extant Greek writer, and the fact that he is here writing to the church at Rome, we may conclude that in Ro 15:19 Illyricum bears its more restricted meaning.

3. Relation to Rome:

The Romans waged two Illyrian wars: in 229-228 BC and in 219 BC, but no province was formed until 167, when, after the fall of the Macedonian power, Illyria received its provincial constitution (Livy, xlv.26). At this time it extended from the Drilo (modern Drin) to Dalmatia, which was gradually subjugated by Roman arms. In 59 BC Julius Caesar received as his province Illyricum and Gaul, and later Octavian and his generals, Asinius Pollio and Statilius Taurus, waged war there with such success that in 27 BC, at the partition of the provinces between Augustus and the Senate, Illyricum was regarded as wholly pacified and was assigned to the latter. Renewed disturbances led, however, to its transference to the emperor in 11 BC. Two years later the province was extended to the Danube, but in 9 AD, at the close of the 2nd Pannonian War, it was divided into two separate provinces, Pannonia and Illyricum (Dalmatia). The latter remained an imperial province, administered by a consular legatus Augusti pro praetore residing at Salonae (modern Spalato), and two legions were stationed there, at Delminium and at Burnum. One of these was removed by Nero, the other by Vespasian, and thenceforward the province was garrisoned only by auxiliary troops. It fell into three judicial circuits (conventus), that of Scardona comprising Liburnia, the northern portion of the province, while those of Salonae and Narona made up the district of Dalmatia in the narrower sense. The land was rugged and mountainous, and civilization progressed but slowly; the Romans, however, organized 5 Roman colonies within the province and a considerable number of municipia.

4. Paul’s Relation to Illyricum:

The extension of Paul’s preaching to the Illyrian frontier must be assigned to his 3rd missionary journey, i.e. to his 2nd visit to Macedonia. His movements during the 1st visit (Ac 16:12-17:15) are too fully recorded to admit of our attributing it to that period, but the account in Ac 20:2 of his second tour is not only very brief, but the words, "when he had gone through those parts," suggest an extensive tour through the province, occupying, according to Ramsay, the summer and autumn of 56 AD.

See also DALMATIA.


A. M. Poinsignon, Quid praecipue apud Romanos adusque Diocletiani tempora Illyricum fuerit (Paris, 1846); Zippe, Die romische Herrschaft in Illyrien bis auf Augustus (Leipzig, 1877); H. Cons, La province romaine de Dalmatie (Paris, 1882); T. Mommsen, CIL, III, pp. 279 ff; T. Mommsen et J. Marquardt, Manuel des antiquites romaines (Fr. T), IX, 171 ff.