Thracian tribes

Eliznik home > Bulgaria > history > thracians > thracian tribes

The ancient Greek historian and geographer Strabo documented twenty-two Thracian tribes. Modern historians now list up to eighty. The list below includes the main Thracian tribes and the neighbouring tribes that were most likely Illyrian.

(There are plenty of other websites with deeper discussions on the the works of Strabo, Herodotus, and Ovid.)


The Apsinthioi lived in the region to the north of the Thracian Chersonese, on the peninsular with the town of Galipoli now in Turkey. They are know to have raided the Greek towns on the Chersonese.


The Bessi lived in the mountain regions on the upper course of the river Mesta. The Bessi are known to have continued to speak their own language until 570 AD.


By the 5th century BC the Bithyni were practically independent from Persia. The Bithynian chief, called Doedalsus, unified the Thracians in north west Asia Minor and founded the Bithynian kingdom. In the 4th century BC the region came under Alexander's general Antigonus followed by Lysimachus, followed by the Bithynians retaking the region. Nicea and Nicomedia (now Iznik and Izmit in Turkey) were the main towns, with Prusa (Bursa) being founded by king Prusias I. The Bithynians remained mostly independent until 75 BC when the kingdom was bequeathed to Rome by Prusias’ grandson. The names of the Thracian tribes continued through to the Roman provinces of Blythia and Mysia.


A district in southern Thrace opposite the island of Thasos. The Bistones or Bistonians were ruled by Diomedes I from the city of Abdera. Biston was the son of Ares in Greek mythology.


The Dantheletai lived in the mountains south of the Serdi.


An Illyrian people who lived in east Serbia.


Thucydides of Greece said that the Dii of the Rhodope mountains were the most warlike troops among the infantry.


Thracian people living about Mount Pangaeus. One part of these Thracians were known as the Panaioi by Greeks. Pan probably comes from the Thracian word  *pan(s)- meaning a swamp or bog.


The Getae lived between the Balkan mountains in the south, neighbouring the Scythians to the east, and the Moesi to the west, approximately the area of Dobruja and Romanian Muntenia. The Romanians place them as early Dacians, the Bulgarians claim them to be Thracian, but as all the Danubian tribes were probably related both views may be true. The Greek Herodotus mentions a royal marriage between the Getae and Scythians.


The Cicones lived in the region between the Biston lake and the lower course of the Maritsa river.


The name Panáioi (Thuk.), used for one part of the Thracian tribe of Edoni was originally a geographical name, from the Thracian word *pan(s)- or similar, meaning ‘a swamp, a bog’ and present in Thracian river names such as Panisas, Panax, etc.

Medi (Maedi)

The Medi lived in the mountainous region in Pirin Bulgaria along the Struma valley river. Their towns are now called Sandanski and Petrich.

Moesi (Mysia)

The Moesians (Mysians) ruled the lands between the Danube and Balkan mountains (Stara Planina), and possibly also north of the Danube. The Romans defeated them in the first century BC, and by 28 BC their name was given to the extensive Roman province which included all the lands south of the Danube from the Black Sea to the Sava.

There were also Mysians in Asia Minor who were Thracians living between the Lydians Phrygians and Trojans, and in Bithynia. These names of the Thracian tribes in Asia Minor continued through to the Roman provinces of Blythia and Mysia.


The Mygdones lived in the region of Mygdonia or Mygdn.


The Odrysae (Odrisi, Odrsai) were the most powerful Thracian tribe from the 5th century BC. They were based in the central Thracian plain with towns at, or near, the modern towns of Plovdiv, Asenovgrad, Kazanlak, and Stara Zagora, however their empire extended from the Black Sea coast along along the Agean coast to Abdera (now Avdera in Greece) and included the town of Uscudama (now Edrine in Turkey).


Paeonia is now in the Republic of Macedonia, north of ancient Macedonia where the Vardar river goes through through narrows, west of the Thracians of the Struma valley. The Paeonians are documented by Herodotus, then five centuries later by Strabo, then two centuries later Dio Cassius places the Paeonians in a larger area up to and along the Danube.

Other tribes linked within the Paeonians were the Agrianians to the north in southern Serbia, and the Laeaei in the area of Kyustendil.


Probably also known as the Brygi, Bryges Phryges and Brigians. They are thought to have moved in to west and central Anatolia from Thrace around 1200 BC. Their language is thought to be linked to modern Armenian. Herodotus records an account that the Phrygians once lived in Macedonia and were removed to Asia Minor.


The Satrai tribe lived in the region between Mesta and Struma rivers.


Serdica (now Sofia) was named after the Serdi Thracian tribe.


The Sintians live between the Paeonians and Maedi.


The Scordisci are thought to have been a Celtic tribe, possibly assimilated with Illyrians and Thracians, that lived where the river Sava meets the Danube, around Belgrad in modern Serbia.


The Triballi lived between the Morava and the Danube, their rule extending across the plains of north western Bulgaria. Their history ends after Alexander's death and the invasion of Celtic tribes. The memory of the Triballi as a once great and powerful tribe continued, even being applied to the later Serb peoples.


The Trausi lived in the south western part of the Rhodopes. The name probably comes from the Thracian river named Trausas.


The Thyni lived in south eastern Thrace and their terror reportedly prevented Greek settlement in this area.


The Treres lived near the Triballi.


© Eliznik2005, First issue 2002, Last updated Aug-05