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Durrës on the Via Egnatia - city tour and Roman history

Durrës on the Via Egnatia - city tour and Roman history

As one of the two starting points of Via Egnatia on the Balkans and as a possible arrival point by ferry from Italy, the city of Durrës was always in the focus of our interest.

So it was clear that we wanted to use our presence in Tirana at the Camper Stop of Hotel Baron to visit the ancient harbor city, especially since the distance is only 35 kilometers. Once again, Florian was our tour guide, who gave us a lot of details about the city, a little Roman history was added by us, especially since in Durrës there is a wonderful historical museum of the ancient time. But now to some initial details:

The city of Durrës was founded in 627 BC as Epidamnos by Doric colonists from Corinth and Corfu, from today's Greece. The surrounding region was called Epidamnia by the Greeks. In the 4th century BC, the city of Epidamnos became part of the Kingdom of Kassandra and Pyrrhos' I of Macedonia. In the year 312 BC Illyrian Taulantiers from the hinterland conquered the city for a short time.

After the Illyrian wars, Epidamnos came under Roman protectorate in 229 BC. Henceforth the Romans called it Dyrrhachium, since the word part -damnos promised misfortune in Latin ears. The now Roman city became one of the starting points of Via Egnatia, which once combined the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium, the intersting Constantinople and present-day Istanbul. Another starting point was the Apollonia, which was then 65 kilometers to the south. We have followed the course of Via Egnatia several times, along the cities of Elbasan, Ohrid, Bitola, Edessa, Thessalonica, Kavala and Alexandroupolis to Istanbul.

According to the Roman poet Catullus, the city of Durrachium was Hadriae tabernam - "the Taberna of the Adriatic" - one of the resting places for Romans who sailed on the Adriatic Sea, as Catullus had done in 56 BC.

In 48 BC, little south of the city on the occasion of the Roman there was Civil War at the Battle of Dyrrhachium between the two opponents Gaius Iulius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey Magnus. Emperor Augustus made Dyrrhachium a veteran colony around the year 20 BC and settled legionaries, who had served him in the Civil War up to the battle of Actium. Although under provincial administration, the city had the status of a civitas libera in the imperial period. The Roman influence in the region was particularly marked by the presence of these veterans, more then elsewhere in Albania.

Durrës is one of the first cities on the Balkan peninsula and even in Europe, which had a Christian community. As early as AD 58, some Christian families were said to have lived in the port city. And a diocese is also mentioned this year. Some historians also assume that the Apostle Paul of Tarsus himself visited the city in the period from 53 to 58 AD. The Christian martyr and Saint Astios (1st century) was Bishop of Durrës. In his time, many Christians escaped from Italy to Albania to escape from the persecution of the rulers.

The Roman amphitheater (probably built the first half of the 2nd century AD) offered space for about 15,000 people. It measures 127 to 103 meters, the Arena 63 to 39 meters. It was discovered and excavated in 1966. Since the ancient settlement lies exactly under the present city, only a few ancient remains have been excavated. The amphitheater and the underground corridors can be visited, a large part of the artifacts are located in the really worth seeing museum of Durrës.

At the end of the 3rd century AD Dyrrhachium became capital of the newly-formed province of Epirus nova. Around 430 the city was birthplace of the later Emperor Anastasios I, who ruled Eastern Rome between 491 and 518. Anastasios I gave the order to expand the defense systems of the castle, which were in a very bad condition since the invasion of the Goths and the devastating earthquake of 345. After another earthquake in 518, they were improved by Emperor Justin I and completed by Emperor Justinian I. Also parts of this city walls are preserved, the marbled wall remains of the ancient port town wall are still scattered on the beach section in front of the theater and museum, they also fell victim to the earthquake.

Please read as well:

Hike to Pellumbas Cave - also called Sphella e Zeze

Back at Lake Ohrid - Morning impressions at the lake side

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