Theatre of Byllis, Albania

Theatre of Byllis, Albania


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Byllis was in the central Illyrian area. The spread of iron took place here in the period from the 11th century to the 5th century BC. From this time onwards, the Illyrians began to establish fortified settlements on hilltops in a dominant position. The urban foundation of Byllis was preceded by the construction of Nikaia, two kilometers southeast of the Vjosa, and of Amantia , a few kilometers south of the river. Nikaia was from the second half of the 5th century BC. A fortified city. Their remains can be found on a hill above the present-day village of Klos .

The Greek author Pseudo-Skylax referred to the inhabitants in this area as Illyrians from the tribe of the Byllionen. From the 5th century onwards there were significant social changes. State communities now had a hereditary king at their head. At first there were aristocrats and craftsmen living in the cities. There were also soldiers and traders. The cities grew in size as the peasants who settled in the surrounding area were also taken in as tribal conflicts increased.

When there was a need for a larger urban area in Nikaia, the middle of the 4th century BC. Byllis was founded in sight on a hill plateau as the new capital of the Byllionen. The new location also made it possible to control the road in the Vjosatal from Apollonia to Antigoneia and further into the Epirus , as well as a view of the land of the Amantier south of the river.

Greek colonists from Corinth, who penetrated inland from Apollonia, were probably also involved in the settlement of the cities of Nikaia and Byllis. There are also known marriages between the Greek aristocracy and members of local clans . With Neoptolemus, Byllis had a mythical city founder from Greek legend .

Agriculture formed the basis of the economic boom. With the coastal cities of Apollonia and Epidamnos , wheat was traded for Greek ceramics. From the end of the 3rd century BC There was rapid population growth in Byllis and Nikaia. After the defeat of the Illyrians in the war against Rome in 229, Byllis was able to remain as an autonomous client state within the Roman protectorate. The monarchy was established in Byllis and other southern Illyrian cities from the end of the 3rd century BC. Replaced as a form of government by an organized ancestral state ( Koinon ) that was dependent on the Romans . Byllis became a flourishing city with its own coinage. Many of the surviving buildings date from this time.

148 BC Byllis became part of the Roman province of Macedonia under the name Colonia Byllidensium and became an important Roman base. Little changed in Byllis during the time of the Roman colony. According to Latin inscriptions, there were legal instructions directly from Rome, for example regarding the renovation of the city wall. At the time of the Roman Civil Wars , 48 BC had BC Caesar set up a military camp in the city.

In late antiquity , Byllis was a bishopric. The first bishop, Felix, traveled as a participant to the (third) council of Ephesus in 431. It is not entirely clear whether the bishop of Byllis, Philocharis, was also present at the (fourth) council of Chalcedon in 451. The city must have been an important Christian center, because the remains of around a dozen early Christian basilicas have been excavated within a radius of five to ten kilometers, one of them in Ballsh, five kilometers to the north. The last time there was brisk construction activity in the 6th century during the time of Emperor Justinian (527-565).

From the year 578, Slavs began to invade the area. Byllis was destroyed in a devastating Slav invasion in 586 and was never rebuilt. The residents moved to Ballsh. The bishopric was also moved there.


History and Architecture of Byllis Archaeological Park

Near the Fier and Ballsh stands the Byllis Archaeological Park, the largest antique Illyrian city in the south of Albania. Several majestic structures were constructed in Byllis during the IV and V centenaries B.C. During your visit, you can appreciate the majestic ruins of the theater, stadium, water depots, gymnasium, promenades, remains of former dwelling spaces, and some of the most important Palaeo-Christian ruins in Albania.

The antique city of Byllis was divided into three separate spaces and built according to the architectural design of the famous ancient Greek architect Hippodamus of Miletus, differently known as the father of European urban plan. This architect’s expertise and excellent work are evident here!


Basilica B

The Cathedral or Basilica B (the church was called basilica B before the discovery of the baptistery and the episcopal palace) is built inside the fortification of Viktorinos. It includes the basilica itself, the baptistery and the episcopal palace. The Basilica, in its final state, is in plan and volume more complex than the other churches in Byllis. It consists of three naves, with a semi circular apse, transept, a narthex, an exonarthex, a triportique atrium. This basilica is built at the end of the 4th century, beginning of the 5th century. It has a length of 67 m.

In the junction of the southern and western portals a pear-shaped tank has been found. Like other tanks in Byllis, it was carved into the rock. The depth of the tank is 7,50 m and its circular base has a diameter of 2,45 m. Between the tank and the South Gate portico, a treasure of mints was discovered scattered over an area of 1,50 m2. Aside the coins were collected musical instruments (cymbals, gongs, bells. On the floor of the annexes were collected fragments of pottery dated to the sixth century.

The soils of the nave of the sanctuary of the north wing of the narthex and exonarthex were covered with mosaics, while other floors were paved with stones.

The baptistery occupies the central part of the complex located south of the southern nave. The episcopal palace is located at the South-East of the Cathedral.


Archaeological Park of Butrint

Not far from the coastal town of Saranda, considered as the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera, there is Butrint, one of the largest archaeological parks of the Balkan Peninsula. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Butrint has been a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric too. After a period of prosperity, under the Byzantine administration, and a brief occupation by the Venetians, Butrint was then abandoned in the late Middle Ages and marshes formed in the area. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Albania, thanks to its combination of archaeology, nature and Mediterranean panoramas.


The inscription of Mark Lolian

The largest Latin inscription from Albania , cut in the rock near Byllis, describes a road construction. Known since the nineteenth century, the inscription features a detailed list of works commanded by the benefactor by whom it was dedicated and has provoked frequent discussion. Benefactors rarely cared for expensive but unprestigious road construction. They only did so at highly frequented places that were difficult to traverse. The place of installation, layout, configuration of the text, and diction of the inscription were selected for maximum effect.


Key Highlights of this Itinerary

1

Relatively unexplored

For those of you who want to be ahead of the curve and go to a wonderful destination.

2

Art and architecture

Learn about the art and architecture of Albania, through the expert eyes of Carolyn Perry.

3

Diverse landscapes

Travel through the Albanian Alps and alongside spectacular turquoise seas.

4

The Albanian people

Cliched though it may be to say it, it is the friendliness and humour of the Albanian people that will remain with you.


Vandals attack Ancient Greek site in Albania

The destruction of ancient Nymphaeum (monumental fountain) of ancient Apollonia (Ἀπολλωνία) near Fieri (Φίερι) has caused outrage in the Greek community of Northern Epirus, in southern Albania.

Vandals have caused irreparable damage to one of the most important cities in the history of the region, which is a World Heritage Site included in the UNESCO list, Himara.gr reported.

The director of the archaeological park commented about the incident, while the whole issue was reported to the prosecutor’s office.

Referring to the vandalism, the director said the damage was irreparable and involved breaking of columns to the point that the monument was completely destroyed.

As for when the incident occurred, he noted that everything was done during the imposed mass lockdown because of the COVID-19 virus.

Approval has been made by the Albanian Ministry of Culture to try and restore the Ancient Greek monument.

Albanian archaeologist Neritan Cheka has publicly condemned the act, blaming the vandalism on Albania’s Minister of Culture, Elva Margariti.

The city of Apollonia in in Northern Epirus was founded by Corinthian and Corfiot colonisers about 2,600 years ago and was dedicated to the god Apollo.

For thousands of years Greeks have lived in the Epirus region and built many ancient cities, some which are inhabited to this day, and some which have become ancient ruins, such as Apollonia.

However, historical revisionism is strong in Albania as Albanians attempt to link themselves to the ancient Illyrians with quasi-theories that are mostly rejected by the academic and historical world.

As part of this historical revisionism, Albanian historians attempt to claim that many of the Ancient Greek settlements in Northern Epirus, were in fact Illyrian, and therefore Albanian. This is despite the fact that it is well known many of these settlements were Greek and no strong evidence that today’s Albanians are linked to the ancient Illyrians.

Vittorio Sgarbi, an Italian Member of the Chamber of Deputies (Parliament), cultural commentator and historian with over 70 publications, is the latest of many well-renowned personalities to confirm the Hellenism of some of these ancient ruins in Northern Epirus, as reported by Greek City Times.

“In the past when I have come to Albania, I have seen amazing places. But I have never been to Byllis (Βύλλις), a Greek city with a big theatre from which we can see Avlonas (Αυλώνας, Albanian: Vlorë),” he was filmed saying just last week.


The Roman Empire

The Romans ruled Illyria—which now became the province of Illyricum—for about six centuries. Under Roman rule Illyrian society underwent great change, especially in its outward, material aspect. Art and culture flourished, particularly in Apollonia, whose school of philosophy became celebrated in antiquity. To a great extent, though, the Illyrians resisted assimilation into Roman culture. Illyrian culture survived, along with the Illyrian tongue, though many Latin words entered the language and later became a part of the Albanian language.

Christianity manifested itself in Illyria during Roman rule, about the middle of the 1st century ce . At first the new religion had to compete with Middle Eastern religions—among them that of Mithra, Persian god of light—which had entered the land in the wake of Illyria’s growing interaction with eastern regions of the empire. For a long time it also had to compete with gods worshipped by Illyrian pagans. The steady growth of the Christian community in Dyrrhachium (the Roman name for Epidamnus) led to the creation there of a bishopric in 58 ce . Later, episcopal seats were established in Apollonia, Buthrotum (modern Butrint), and Scodra (modern Shkodër).

By the time the empire began to decline, the Illyrians, profiting from a long tradition of martial habits and skills, had acquired great influence in the Roman military hierarchy. Indeed, several of them went on from there to become emperors. From the mid-3rd to the mid-4th century ce , the reins of the empire were almost continuously in the hands of emperors of Illyrian origin: Gaius Decius, Claudius Gothicus, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian, and Constantine the Great.


Byllis, Albania: Ancient City in the Sky

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ilirdardani
Amicus

Post by ilirdardani on Dec 3, 2008 17:26:35 GMT -5

With its fascinating ruins amid breathtaking views, the ancient city of Byllis is one of the numerous hidden treasures of south-central Albania. Founded by the Illyrians, then conquered and eventually abandoned by the Romans in 586AD, now it remains an underdeveloped and little known archaeological site.

During his trip there, BalkanTravellers.com contributor Bruce Macphail braves the area’s almost non-existent infrastructure and even goes hitch-hiking, to be awarded by a third-century BC Illyrian theatre and multiple early Christian churches’ remains on the backdrop of stunning natural landscapes.

Set in the middle of the Mallakastra mountain range, the landscape around the ancient city of Byllis is as impressive as the archaeological remains. The city’s ruins stand out against the background of the surrounding, gently rolling hills and over the winding Vjosa River.

The city’s origins date back to the fourth century BC, when it was founded by the Illyrians. The original set of walls, whose foundations remain to this day, were built by them during the third century BC. They run around a vast area, in a triangular shape, for about two kilometres. Though they are in varying states around the site, with some parts having been renovated, the structure includes some of the original stones.

The third-century BC theatre, with its 7,500 spectator capacity, however, is the site’s most impressive structure remaining from the Illyrians’ times. It is not particularly well preserved but there are enough stones remaining to get an idea of what the structure looked like. As it was built by using the slope of the mountain, the theatre remains overlook the stunning landscape of the Vjosa River, embedded in a dramatic valley.

The theatre’s stage had two stories during Illyrian rule but the Romans remodelled it during their domination of the city.

They invaded the region in the third century during the Illyrian wars, carried out as retaliation against the Illyrian kingdom’s disruption of trade along the Adriatic. The years following the Illyrian wars of 229 BC and 219 BC marked the end of Illyrian self rule over the region, replaced by a millennium of Roman and Byzantine rule.

After the Roman conquest, Byllis turned into a Roman colony and is said to have been a supply base for the Roman legions of Julius Cesar. The city was mentioned in one of Cicero’s orations, in a fiery speech damning Marcus Brutus for occupying the city.

During Roman rule the city was sacked twice by foreign invaders. The first was an attack by the Visigoths at the end of the fourth century AD, who reached the region after their siege of Adrianople (modern day Edirne in Turkey).

The attack led the Romans to pursue serious renovation work on the city, from which date some of the city’s best preserved sites. It was following the sacking that another set of walls was constructed, which made the fortified area much smaller. The construction, called Vicotrinus’s wall, was named after the Roman general that carried out the project at the request of Emperor Justinian.

Byllis reached its heyday after the Visigoth invasion, as testified by the establishment of a bishopric during Justinian’s rule. Having its own Bishop shows the importance the city held in the region and explains why the site had a remarkably large number of churches in a small area, making it one of the most important archaeological sites for early Christian churches.

From them, the most impressive is the Cathedral, whose foundations were laid down in the fourth century. The original structure was expanded in the fifth century, when an atrium and galleries were added. An Episcopal complex was supplemented to the cathedral under the rule of Justinian, between 482 and 565, as Eastern Roman Emperor.

All in all, the best maintained ruins are within the city’s second set of walls. There is a café on the site located within Victorinus’s wall but it is closed, somewhat surprising at the peak of tourist season but reflects on the lack of visitors to the site.

In 586 AD, Byllis was sacked again, which led its inhabitants to leave the city which then remained uninhabited to this day. After the attack, the Bishopric was moved to nearby town of Ballsh, a transformation of the name Byllis, and unlike other fortified cities in Albania it did not remain inhabited.

Today it is preserved as an isolated archaeological site, with the odd horse grazing and a peasant woman herding turkeys.

There is a sign post announcing an entry fee to the sight but there were no guards to collect the fee when I visited. Security around the site is very sparse – there are fences around some of the best preserved excavations but their gates are left unlocked, leaving full access to walk across sensitive areas.

A number of scattered boards explain the history of the site and its various remains in Albanian and English. Strangely the location of the panels doesn’t always match the accompanying ruins, which can be somewhat confusing and made even more so by the fact that some of the ruins overlap each other in parts. Nonetheless, the boards offer valuable information on the ruins which include four other churches, the different gates of the Illyrian walls, a bath house, a single track stadium, the agora, and Victorinus’s wall.

The infrastructure around the site is almost non-existent, making access difficult but at the same time adding to the experience for more adventurous travellers. Byllis is not on the typical tourist trail for foreign visitors to Albania and even many Albanians seem to have never heard of it.

Given Albania’s rich history and the limited development of its archaeological sites, this is not unusual or unique to Byllis. In coming years, however, it will undoubtedly receive more attention as the country’s tourism industry develops.

How to get there: Getting to the actual site is somewhat of a challenge, but part of the fun for the adventure-minded. The nearest town is Ballsh which is located on the main mountain road, 150 kilometres south of Tirana, so it can be accessed from several buses from the capital heading to the southern mountain destinations. The trip from the capital to Ballsch takes about 3 hours. From Ballsh, it is another 7 kilometres uphill – it is possible to walk, through hitchhiking is a lot easier. Albania is probably one of the most hitchhiking-friendly countries. The practice is very common and the drivers very friendly to foreign visitors. It is often to best way to access the sites, as few of them are linked with public transport.

What to bring: While in Ballsh, which is not a town worth spending much time in, it is recommended to stock up on some supplies for the excursion as there are no shops in or near the site and its hilltop location makes it a rather dehydrating place. The views are on the surrounding mountains and valleys make it an ideal place for a picnic.

Where to stay: For accomodation, it is best to continue on to Gjirokastër or do a day trip from Tirana, as Ballsh is not a place worth spending the night in.


Watch the video: Albania Theater Musicians


Comments:

  1. Cahal

    There are other drawbacks

  2. Celsus

    What are you trying to say?

  3. Lotharing

    Very valuable idea

  4. Grimm

    IN! Hooligans are divorced, they've got a mess of spam here)))

  5. Shakat

    All this only the convention



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