The Albanoi (Ancient Greek: Ἀλβανοί, Albanoi; Albanian: Albanët) or Albani were an Illyrian tribe whose first historical account appears in a work of Ptolemy in addition to a town called Albanopolis (Ἀλβανόπολις) located east of the Ionian sea, in modern-day Albania.
Ptolemy's mention in 150 AD places them in the Roman province of Macedon, specifically in Epirus Nova, almost 300 years after the Roman conquest of the region. Ptolemy himself makes no hint of their true ethnic identification, and he does not clarify whether the citizens of Albanopolis were Illyrians, Macedonians or Thracians, all of which are distinct possibilities. However from the names of places with which Albanopolis is connected, it appears clearly to have been in the southern part of the Illyrian territory, and in the center of modern Albania, an area inhabited by the Illyrians at the time.
It is believed that they are related to the modern nation of the Albanians. While it has been identified with the Zgërdhesh hill-fort near Kruja in northern Albania, scholars believe the Illyrian settlement here seems to have been founded in the 7th or 6th century BC and flourished in the 4th and 3rd centuries, before being abandoned in the 2nd century BC, when the inhabitants moved to Durrës and Lezha.
Albanoi (Αλβανοι) were later mentioned in the History of Michael Attaliates around AD 1080. The revolt of the Albanoi against Constantinople also dates the first written mention in Byzantine history, that refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense, around 1078, by the same Attaliates.[not in citation given]
The much later mentioned Arbanon is likely to be the name of a district – the plain of the Mat has been suggested – rather than a particular place. An indication of movement from higher altitudes in a much earlier period has been detected in the distribution of place names ending in -esh, that appears to derive from the Latin -ensis (Vulgar Latin -ēsis), between the Shkumbin and the Mat rivers, with a concentration between Elbasan and Kruja. It is not certain if the ancient city of Albanopolis corresponds with the Arbanon of the 11th cAD, mentioned by the Byzantines nine centuries later.
Ptolemy is the earliest writer in whose works the name of these Albanians has been distinctly recognised. He mentions (iii. 3.13.23) the name ALBANI (Ἀλβανοί) and a town ALBANOPOLIS (Ἀλβανόπολις), in the region lying to the E. of the Ionian sea; and from the names of places with which Albanopolis is connected, it appears clearly to have been in the S. part of the Illyrian territory, and in modern Albania. There is no means of forming a conjecture on how the name of this obscure tribe came to be extended to so considerable a nation.
Une stèle funéraire de Scupi porte, avec la première mention épigraphique d'Albanopolis.