History > Origins
The earliest settlers of Albania
The question of the origin of the Albanians is still a matter of controversy among the ethnologists. A great many theories have been propounded in solution of the problem relative to the place from which the original settlers of Albania proceeded to their present home. The existence of another Albania in the Caucasus, the mystery in which the derivation of the name "Albania" is enshrouded, and which name, on the other hand, is unknown to her people, and the fact that history and legend afford no record of the arrival of the Albanians in the Balkan Peninsula, have rendered the question of their origin a particularly difficult one.
But, however that may be, it is generally recognized today that the Albanians are the most ancient race in southesatern Europe. All indications point to the fact that they are descendants of the earliest Aryan immigrants who were represented in historical times by the kindred Illyrians, Macedonians and Epirots. According to the opinion of most ethnologists and linguists, the Illyrians formed the core of pre-Hellenic, Tyrrhenopelasgian population, which inhabited the southern portion of the Peninsula and extended its limits to Thrace and Italy. The Illyrians were also Pelasgians, but in a wider sense. Moreover it is believed that of these cognate races, which are described by the ancient Greek writers as "barbarous" and "non-Hellenic," the Illyrians were the progenitors of the Ghegs, or Northern Albanians, and the Epirots the progenitors of the Tosks, or Southern Albanians. This general opinion is borne out the statement of Strabo that the Via Egnatia or ®gitana, which he describes as forming the boundary between the Illyrians and the Epirots, practically corresponds with the course of river Shkumbini, which now seperates the Ghegs from the Tosks. The same geographer states that Epirots were also called Pelasgians. The Pelasgian Zeus, whose memory survives even today in the appellation of God as "Zot" by the modern Albanians, was worshiped at Dodona, where the most famous oracle of ancient times was situated. According to Herodotus the neighborhood of the sanctuary was called Pelasgia.
These findings of the ethnologists are, moreover, strenghthened by the unbroken traditions of the natives, who regard themselves, and with pride as the descendants of the aboriginal settlers of the Balkan Peninsula. They, therefore, they think have the best claims on it. It is also on the strength of these traditions that the Albanian looks upon the other Balkan nationalities as mere intruders who have expropriated him of much that was properly his own. Hence the constsant border warfare which has gone on for centuries between the Albanian and his neighbors.