Queen Teuta of Illyria
Around 230 B.C., a powerful Illyrian tribe — a group native to what is now known as the Balkan Penninsula — was under the rule of the heavy-drinking and fearsome King Agron. His revelrous and raucous life eventually brought on his early death. But it was during this period following his rule that the Illyrians reached the peak of their power under the rule of his wife, Queen Teuta.
Queen Teuta continued her husband’s agenda of conquering foreign lands. She conquered Dyrrachium and Phoenice and continued their tribe’s expansion up the Adriatic coast.
Teuta’s powerful navy and fleet of pirates ships were forces to be reckoned with on the ancient seas. She had given her pirates free reign in the Mediterranean to plunder and pillage.
The pirates constantly attacked Roman merchant ships and after several complaints, the Roman government was forced to act against the Illyrian pirates. They tried to settle things with Teuta diplomatically at first but she refused. She instead ordered that the Roman ambassador’s ships be seized. Queen Teuta held one of them captive and killed the other.
As retaliation for Teuta’s actions against their ambassadors, the Romans declared war on Illyria. They gained control of Illyria and Teuta had to surrender to the Romans.
Rome eventually declared peace and allowed Teuta to continue to rule a small region but she had to recognize their ultimate sovereignty. Queen Teuta refused to accept that level of humiliation and stepped down from the throne.
Some accounts say that she lived quietly for many years after her surrender but others claim that she was unable to deal with the grief of her defeat and committed suicide. It’s said that she jumped from the top of a cliff in the Bay of Kotor which is in modern-day Montenegro.
Queen Teuta’s military conquests and her refusal to bend the knee to the Romans make her one of history’s most headstrong women warriors.