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The ancient Roman Elbasan - once Scampa at Via Egnatia

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The ancient Roman Elbasan - once Scampa at Via Egnatia

The first historically known settlers in the area of Elbasan belonged to the ethnic group of the Illyrians, which in the 2nd century erected first dwellings at the river Shkumbin, at that time called Genusus.

Later there was a Roman trading post, called Mansio Scampa. Scampa was the Illyrian word for "rock". In 2010, another two Illyrian tombs were found near the city walls, being excavated and studied. After the end of the Third Macedonian (Illyrian) - Roman War in 168 BC, Illyrian got under Roman administration and later became a Roman protectorate.

In 146 BC, the Romans finished works on the trade route Via Egnatia, which served as a sequel to the Italian Via Appia on the Balkans and represented a direct connection between Rome and Byzantium in the form of a mostly paved road. The Via Egnatia began with the two port cities Dyrrhachium and Apollonia at the Adriatic and united west of Elbasan at the riverfront of Genusus. From here the road followed the Shkumbin Valley to the Ohrid lake, passed the city Ohrid, then called Lynkestis, passed through Bitola and Edessa to Thessalonica and continued to Kavala and Alexandroupolis and then to Istanbul. For friends of several days hiking tours we would love to mention the first part of a hikers route explanation along Via Egnatia, just published by the Via Egnatia Foundation: "Via Egnatia on foot" from Marietta van Attekum and Holger de Bruin.

Later rest areas were periodically applied alongVia Egnatia, in Latin called Mutatio ad Quintum - stations for changing the animals every fifth mile. The station at the present village Bradashesh, about seven kilometers (five miles) west of Elbasan has been preserved next to today's road to Durres. Hidden at the foothills of the mountains, you will find the remains of a small sophisticated bathing facilities with reservoir of spring water from the middle of the 2nd century about 160 AD. In a Roman grave inscription, Scampa was mentioned as a settlement again: "This is a place of rich farmland, with riverside location at Genusus at a crossroad on the Via Egnatia.

Scampa was expanded as a fortress (Castrum) by the Romans beginning of the 4th century, the position of the wall rectangle of 348 meters to 308 meters even today forms the border of the old town. The Via Egnatia went through the center passing the city gates of the west and east. Another gate was established at the river in the south. The former city walls with eleven meters of height were reinforced by 26 regularly arranged and out of the wall protruding towers. From the city walls, only the southern part could be kept completely with the former towers, other parts are mostly gone.

In the 5th century Scampa was seat of a bishop. There is the report of a delegation of Pope Hormisdas, who was welcomed in the Byzantine province Scampa in 519. The location of the former Episcopal church is unknown, excavations of today's higher ground level in the old town have yielded finds of other Christian buildings. Outside these walls, the remains of a basilica were uncovered on a hill in the west (Tepe) whose phases are set with the 4th to 6th century. Also outside the city walls next to the southern gate, the mosaic floor of another basilica was discovered in 2007, probably it dates back to the 6th century.

From the 7th century, there have been repeatedly invasions by Slavs, severe damages were caused by fires in Scampa. The place was then probably left. It is not clear whether another settlement under the Byzantines had existed.

If any of our dear readers is not that much interested in Roman History, there is still lot more to see in Elbasan, if it is the historical background of the Ottoman period or the huge selection of different restaurant, bars and cafes offering delicious products of Albanian Cuisine.

Please read as well:

Skadar Lake - geologically considered a very young

Meeting in Lin - at Ohrid Lake

 

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