DÜRRES AND APOLLONIA, ALBANIA - OCTOBER 2004
While preparing the materials for this post I found an interesting site on Albania. It deals with almost every aspect that might be relevant for the preparation of your visit to the country...
Albania is full of testimonials about the Illyrian cities that were created in the fifth century BC, and this is the subject of this post. The main excavations have been made in Korce, Durres, Apollonia, Butrint and Ardenitza. I'll deal with Durres and Apollonia.
"ESCORT - It's nice to have some help to drive through the busy roads. It spares time and allows seeing a little more even if you are in a hurry. But sometimes it looked like a nightmare running on the wrong side of the road and at an incredible speed..."
"DÜRRES, 35 km far from Tirana, westwards, is the second largest city in Albania and the main seaport of the country. It is situated at one of the narrower points of the Adriatic Sea, opposite the Italian ports of Bari (300 km away) and Brindisi (200 km away). The city is also the oldest town in Albania and was founded as Epidamnos in 627 BC by Greek colonists from Corinth and Corfu. No wonder you find ruins there..."
"THE AMPHITHEATRE, built in the 2nd century A.D., has a holding capacity of 15,000 spectators and its diameter must have been more than 120 metres. It is one of the biggest and most exquisite monuments that have survived from the ancient city"
"MONUMENT BY THE SEA - Durres was for centuries the largest port on the Adriatic, and the start of the Via Egnatia to Constantinople. Like many other Albanian cities, it still has its share of impressive sculptures"
"BUNKER - When Enver Hoxha started dissociating from Moscow, he decided to put up more than 600,000 bunkers to repel attack from whatever quarter it might come. The concrete bunkers created a surreal atmosphere of permanent insecurity amongst the population, but its destruction costs a lot and so they still punctuate the landscape everywhere in the country..."
"FIER, a city that is located twelve kilometres far from Apollonia, was founded by the Vrioni family, beys of Berat, as a market town in the 18th century and its history is linked to oil, gas and bitumen deposits existing nearby"
Aristotle, being unable to find any element of democracy whatsoever in Apollonia's political organisation, considered the city an important example of an oligarchic system, as the descendants of the original Greek colonists controlled the city and prevailed over a large serf population of majority Illyrian origin.
"APOLLONIA, whose name was changed to honour the god Apollo, is located on the right bank of the Aous and has it all: ruins of an ancient city founded by Greeks in 6th century BC, defensive walls, theatre, obelisk, temples, remains of medieval monastery, museum and Byzantine church! However, as much of the site remains unexcavated, it seems that most of the ruins are still to be discovered..."
"SECURITY - The image of the security guard with a machine-gun, a cigarette and an alcoholised visage was far from being reassuring..."
"SHEN MERI - The Monastery and Church of Saint Mary was built in the thirteenth century. It seems however that Apollonia was an already early centre of Christianity in the region and had a bishop attending the Council of Ephesus in 431"
"ARCHES of Saint Mary"
"BELL TOWER as seen from the upper floor of the monastery"
"MUSEUM - Inside the monastery there are lots of statues from the Greek and Roman periods"
"SAINT MARY as seen from the top of the Bell Tower"
"APOLLONIA was noted by Cicero in his Philippics as «magna urbs et gravis». Its economic prosperity grew on the basis of trade in slaves and local agriculture"
"BUNKERS - Some more..."
"THE BOULEUTERION is an elegant building, thought to date from the second quarter of the 2C AD, whose facade with six marble Corinthian columns was restored in the 1960s, though most of the marble architrave is original. The building measures 15m by 20m and the columns stand 9m high. It was used as the office of the imperial administration in the city"