Illyrian God of War temple found above picturesque Bay in Montenegro

Archaeologists’ theory that the town of Rhizon hypothesised that Rhizon had once contained a shrine to Medaurus, a protective god worshipped by the Illyrians has been confirmed. M. Lemke /UW

Polish archaeologists have discovered a temple dedicated to the Illyrian God of War in what is now Montenegro.

It was found by a team from the University of Warsaw’s Centre for Research on the Antiquity of South-eastern Europe, which has excavation sites in several locations along the Adriatic Coast and near the Black Sea, including on the Danube Delta.

From its base in the town of Risan in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, the team became interested in the nearby settlement of Rhizon, which was first mentioned in the 4th Century BC. 

From its base in the town of Risan in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, the team became interested in the nearby settlement of Rhizon overlooking the Bay, which was first mentioned in the 4th Century BC.M. Lemke/UW

Rhizon was originally Illyrian, a reference to the tribes who occupied the western part of the Balkan Peninsula in classical antiquity. Later, it became a Roman city.

The archaeologists found an inscription mentioning a man named Aristokles (pictured) who was described as the treasurer of the temple of Medaurus. Public domain

Working there last summer, the archaeologists hypothesised that Rhizon had once contained a shrine – perhaps to Medaurus, a protective god worshipped by the Illyrians.

Mosaic depicting the god Hypnos coming from a Roman villa located in Risan in Montenegro.Janusz Recław

Their theory was confirmed this year, when they dug up the first completely preserved Greek inscription in Risan.

“It mentions a man named Aristokles who was described as the treasurer of the temple of Medaurus,” said Professor Piotr Dyczek of the Centre for Research on the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe. The man was also the head of the local police, he added.

Professor Piotr Dyczek of the Centre for Research on the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe said: 'Since other temples devoted to Illyrian deities have not yet been discovered, the discovery has a unique character.'ncn.gov.pl

Interestingly, the names on the inscription were all Greek, rather than Illyrian. Dyczek notes that the Greek terms used to describe their roles suggest that at some point Rhizon had the status of a polis, the Greek word for city. 

“This type of local police was always associated with this form of organising settlements,” he explained.

Interestingly, the names on the inscription were all Greek, rather than Illyrian.P. Dyczek/UW

According to the archaeologists, the temple operated from the start of the 3rd Century BC, perhaps until the 4th Century AD.

“Since other temples devoted to Illyrian deities have not yet been discovered, the discovery has a unique character and proves that at least some of them were built according to classical designs,” Dyczek highlighted.