Rhizon (Illyrian: Rhizon; Greek: Ῥίζων; Latin: Risinium) was an ancient settlement located near today's Risan in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. Originally an Illyrian settlement, it was later a Roman city.


Rhizon (marked 1) was one of three Illyrian fortresses on the hills overlooking Bay of Kotor

The earliest mention of Rhizon dates back to the 4th century BCE. Rhizon had been the main fortress in the Illyrian state where Queen Teuta took refuge during the Illyrian Wars. During the short reign of the Illyrian Queen Teuta, Rhizon became the capital of her empire.

During theses periods a mint was established that issued several coinages:

The chronology of these coinages is still not defined with precision, primarily because the historical background of their issuance remains little known. There is hardly any mention in the literary sources of the town of Rhizon, and none of the king Ballaios. However, several features of these coinages - such as the characteristics of style, elements of inscription and iconography (especially the presence of the title “basileus” on the coinage of Ballaios, and the presence of a Macedonian shield on the “Coinage from the Rhizonian Gulf”), metrology, choice of coined metals, etc. – point to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE as the general chronological framework for the activity of the Rhizonian mint and for the successive issuance of the coinages of different issuing authorities there.

Formerly the Bay of Kotor was known as Sinus Rhizonicus after the (Greek) name of Rhizon, the leading town in anticity of the bay. Rhizon had also its own protector, a deity called Medaurus, who was depicted as carrying a lance and riding on horseback.[1] The degree of Hellenization at Rhizon was very high.[2]

Roman roads in Montenegro, showing Rhizinium

In Roman times, Rhizinium is documented as an oppidum civium Romanorum. Two Roman routes led through the Bay of Kotor. The most prosperous time for Roman Rhizinium came during the 1st and 2nd centuries, when huge villas were made in the area and the city had 10,000 inhabitants.

Five mosaics are the most valuable remains of that period - not only for Risan but also for Montenegro.[3] The best preserved one shows Hypnos, the Greek deity of dreams. It is the only known image of this kind in the Balkans. The famous English archeologist Sir Arthur Evans led those initial excavations in 1885.

The invasions of the Avars and Slavs left the city deserted. The last reference of a bishop in Risan dates back to 595.


In modern-day Risan, on the sea, there are no elements that could connect it to the ancient and medieval town, but on the Gradina hill, above the archeological site of Carine, a fortification is situated containing remains of an Illyrian-Greek acropolis.


  1. Wilkes 1995, p. 247.
  2. Épire, Illyrie, Macédoine: mélanges offerts au professeur Pierre Cabanes by Danièle Berranger, Pierre Cabanes, Danièle Berranger-Auserve, page 130
  3. Video of beautiful Roman mosaics


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