Liburnians and Illyrian Lembs: Iron Age Ships of the Eastern Adriatic

Luka Boršić, Danijel Džino, Irena Radić Rossi

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Liburnians and Illyrian Lembs: Iron Age Ships of the Eastern Adriatic explores the origins of two types of ancient ship which appear in the written sources connected with the protohistoric eastern Adriatic area: the ‘Liburnian’ (liburna or liburnica) and the southern Adriatic (Illyrian) ‘lemb’. The relative abundance of written sources suggests that both ships played significant roles in ancient times, especially the Liburnian, which became the main type of light warship in early Roman imperial fleets and ultimately evolved into a generic name for warships in the Roman Imperial period and Late Antiquity. The book provides an extensive overview of written, iconographic and archaeological evidence on eastern Adriatic shipbuilding traditions before the Roman conquest in the late first century BC / early first century AD, questioning the existing scholarly assumption that the liburna and lemb were closely related, or even that they represent two sub-types of the same ship. The analysis shows that identification of the Liburnian liburna and Illyrian lemb as more or less the same ship originates from the stereotypical and essentially wrong assumption in older scholarship that the prehistoric indigenous population of the eastern Adriatic shared the same culture and, roughly, the same identities. The main point made in the book is that two different terms, liburna and lemb, were used in the sources depicting these as two different kinds of ship, rather than being interchangeable terms depicting the same ship type.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages226
ISBN (Electronic)9781789699166
ISBN (Print)9781789699159
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Dalmatia
  • Adriatic
  • shipwrecks
  • Naval warfare
  • ancient ships
  • Iron Age


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