The Enchelii (also Enchelei or Encheleans), the inhabitants of Enchele (Greek?/, Enchelioi/Encheleis; Latin: Enchelii/Encheleae; name of the country: , Enchele; demonym: Enchelean), were an Illyrian tribe that lived around the region of Lake Ohrid and Lynkestis, in modern-day Albania, the Republic of Macedonia and Greece.
Their name in ancient Greek meant "eel-people". They were often at war for domination of the region with the ancient Macedonians who settled in the east. Their neighbors in the north-west were the Illyrian Taulantii, to the north, the Dardani and to the south the Dassaretae, an ancient Greek tribe.
Greek mythology attributes a progenitor to the Enchele, a son of Illyrius called Encheleus.Illyrius, the eponymous ancestor of the whole Illyrian people, had multiple sons (Encheleus, Autarieus, Dardanus, Maedus, Taulas and Perrhaebus) and daughters (Partho, Daortho, Dassaro) from which many Illyrian tribes take their name.
It is referred in Greek mythology that Cadmus, a prince from Phoenicia with his wife Harmonia arrived among the Enchele and helped them build many towns on the shores of Lake Ohrid, among them Lychnidus (Ohrid) and Bouthoe (Budva). As the legend says it, at that time the Enchele were at war with other neighboring Illyrian tribes and Cadmus after orders from the Oracle became leader of the people and came to their aid. After the victory against the other Illyrians, the Enchele chose Cadmus as their king.
Based on many archeological excavations, the Enchele lived by fishing on Lake Ohrid, and also traded products with the Greek tribes located further south. The old name of the town of Struga is Enchalon, based on the ancient Greek word for eel that is abundant in Lake Ohrid. Ohrid is also founded by the Enchele and was referred to as Lychnidos, which is from the Greek for "city of light" based on dazzling light reflected on the clear lake. The Periplus of Pseudo-Skylax from the 4th century BC also mentions the Enchele as an Illyrian tribe in Budva on the Adriatic coast. This may be explained by some Encheleans migrating to the sea coast by following the Black Drin river.
In southern Illyria organized states were formed earlier than in other areas of Illyria. The oldest known state which can be discussed about from ancient sources is that of the Enchelii. The height of the Enchelean state was from the 8th-7th centuries BC, but the kingdom fell from dominant power around the 6th century BC.
The Enchele were often at war with the northern Greeks. From written sources from Greek writers such as Herodotus, the Enchele army is even recorded attacking the temple of Delphi and even ancient Thebes. After conquests of the Enchele by Philip of Macedon in 357 BC, some Dassaretae settled in the mountain area of Lynkestis.