Butrint, or the ancient name Buthrotum, lies southwest of Albania, 20km south of the modern port of Saranda.
How was Butrint created and survived for centuries?
Butrint is thought to have its beginnings in the 8th century BC, with the Corfu merchants settling there. This is the city most closely associated with the legend of Aeneas. In the 4th century, Butrint was a Chaoan port, probably at the center of one of the Hellenic tribes of Epirus. The Romans used the port as a base for their military campaign in the Balkans in the 2nd century. In the following century, he became a colony of Julius Caesar’s old soldiers. Later again in Roman rule, the city had its own church in a prominent place.
Butrint, in 551, was attacked by barbarians. The story that followed until the 10th century, as happened with many Mediterranean ports, remains a mystery. Later it became an important port for the connection of Venice with Byzantium. For a long time even in the Middle Ages, it was in the hands of the Venetians, who protected the eastern border of the Corfu Canal. They abandon Butrint, only in the 18th century, after losing with the Turks.
Archaeological excavations in Butrint
Butrint was ignored until 1920, when the Italian mission headed by Luigi Ugolin arrived in Albania. In 1924 Ugolini chose the summit of the Illyrian hill, Foinik, 20 miles north of Butrint, for his first campaign. In 1928, in the hope of archaeological excavations of the time of Aeneas, he began the works on Butrint. Butrint was at that time a hill in a desert landscape. Within three months, Ugolini had discovered large expansions of Greek polygon walls around the city as well as large and extremely fine gates.
The biggest dig, however, was on the east side of the hill, where he discovered the theater. The 4th-century theater, with its well-preserved spectator seats and stage, was a sensation especially when followed by the discovery of statues, the gods of Butrint, and an Apollo head.
Working at a rapid way, Ugolini dug and unveiled the Temple of Asclepulus behind the theater, a Roman bath block opposite it, part of an early Byzantine palace; next to the Vivari canal a well preserved baptismal site of the early Byzantine, which had a 5th century mosaic floor and many other monuments. Ugolin worked passionately until he died of malaria in 1936.
Excavations in the Post-War Years
New campaigns and excavations supported by the Albanian Institute of Archeology. In 1993 Lord Rothschild and Lord Sainsbury founded the Butrinit Foundation. The Butrinti Foundation works, aims to help protect this area and the surrounding region.
These new studies showed through history that the port of Butrint was dominated by its environmental conditions. Apparently, late in the Bronze Age and early Greek period, when the top of the hill, the acropolis, was the center of settlement, Butrint was a seaside town. The sea would expand to include even the terrestrial zone in the shape of Lake Butrint. At that time, seemed as though the trading port of Butrint lay in the bay on the north side of the hill. Coming by land, visitors would arrive in Butrinit from a narrow strip of peninsula. But since the time of the Romans, much of the lowland that now separates Butrint from the Corfu Canal, has been removed from use.
Butrint, an open exhibition of historical and cultural values
The area can be accessed via a gate. Taking the right and following the narrow alleys you arrive at the ruins belonging to the Roman bath, a Venetian tower. Then another section of walls dating back to the 4th century, the year of Christ. After almost another 400 meters, the ruins of a Christian cult center appear and a cross-shaped pool, that may have been part of the medieval church.
To the right of the entrance you see a very nice view of the canal extension which leads to the lake. There’s another section, too long of the outer walls, which belong to later antiquity. To the left as you approach the end of this alley, you can see the walls of a medieval basilica near the point where the connecting walls of the external fortifications join.
The base of the acropolis is set among the trees and shrub, with its old fortification walls dating back to the 6th century BC. This end opened of the Acropolis has a Christian church in the center surrounded by trees. This is the oldest Christian building in Butrint. It dates to the first half of the 4th century. In the Middle Ages it was rebuilt, except for the small dome in the south. The farthest end of the acropolis, lies outside the walls, in the gardens around the central fort. This was ate the time when the Venetians and the Turks placed the cannons on the wall’s position. From the alleys, heading west, are the ruins of a large Roman house dating to the 2nd century AD. Its center was open stone-paved, with 12 stone pillars rising above a plinth. Nearby there is also a novel theater, which rises on the rocky part of the acropolis. The 22 rows of seats have accommodated 2000 people.
High stairs forced builders to support the sides of transverse walls, even those supported by intermediate walls, giving the theater a quadratic shape unusual for that period. At the beginning of the 2nd century the orchestra and stage podium were rebuilt.
Statues in Butrint
A number of statues were found in Butrint during excavations. Some of the statues are two portraits of animals, a head of Agrippa, Augusto’s general, and most important of all is the classic statue called the Gods of Butrin, which is now on display at the National History Museum. Above the theater was a 2nd century temple which was built simultaneously with the theater and is integrated into its foundations. Inside the foundation stood an altar and the floor was covered in black and white mosaic with geometric shapes.
Opposite the canal, in the cape above the sea, is the small fort set up by Ali Pasha in 1807 to protect ships from the French fleet. In Roman times it is thought to have been a small bridge connecting this cape with the rest of the land.
The virgin beaches are close by Thus, after a long journey through legends and legends, into the imaginations of ancestors who lived, entertained, and rested in these beauties, one might look for some rest among the trees nearby, or on the hot sand a few meters away. Various hotels and bars, set up in the recent years, offer numerous vacation opportunities and make the days in this place still unexplored, enjoyable and un