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Located on the fertile coast of Epirus in present-day Albania, Butrint (ancient name Buthrotum) was an important settlement in Hellenistic and Roman times due to its position on the route from Italy to mainland Greece down the Ionian Sea, its safe anchorage, inland access via Lake Butrint and its proximity to Corcyra (Corfu). Butrint is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Greek Butrint

Settled since the Bronze Age, the site was certainly in contact with the Greek civilization from the 7th century BCE as pottery finds from Corinth and Attica attest. Indeed, archaeological remains suggest that an archaic temple sanctuary was present on the site from the 5th century BCE, possibly in honour of Zeus Soter. Polygonal fortification walls also remain from this period. In all probability, Butrint was at one time a colony of Corcyra, just a few kilometres across the sea. From the 4th century BCE, it is likely that Butrint became subject to the Chaonians, who controlled the Epirus region and had their capital at Phoenice.

The Romans gave Butrint particular importance via the Aeneid of Virgil which had the hero Aeneas stay at the site.

Hellenistic Period

In Hellenistic times from the 4th to 3rd century BCE, fortification walls of large rectangular cut blocks were constructed with various monumental gates. A large sanctuary to Asclepius was also constructed on the southern slopes of the acropolis, probably around a sacred spring. In the 2nd century BCE, the site was extensively developed with funding from offerings made at the sanctuary and many buildings were constructed including a theatre and agora with stoas.

Roman Period

Butrint came under Roman control in 167 BCE but maintained a high degree of autonomy. The Romans gave Butrint particular importance via the Aeneid of Virgil which had the hero Aeneas stay at the site and attributed a Trojan ancestry to the town, claiming the settlement was founded by the seer Helenus, son of the Trojan King Priam. Julius Caesar visited Butrint in 44 BCE and in 48 BCE it formally became a Roman colony. Butrint was not only strategically important in controlling local sea routes but was also of commercial interest in terms of agriculture. Indeed, the millionaire Titus Pomponius Atticus had owned property in the area from c. 68 BCE.

The town once again received Roman investment in the Augustan period after Augustus' victory in 31 BCE over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, just 100 km to the south. Butrint officially adopted the Latin language, established a senate and was given the right to mint coins. Various building projects were instigated including Roman baths with underfloor heating, a road bridge, a nymphaeum (public decorative fountain), an aqueduct, three shrines - one dedicated to Minerva Augusta - and the paving of the agora and adaptation into a Roman forum. From the 1st century CE, the outer suburbs of the town were also further developed and its grid road system was typical of Roman town planning.

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In the 2nd century CE, the theatre was expanded with the stage area being monumentalised and the forum was further beautified with shrines and dedicatory statues. From the 2nd to the 3rd centuries BCE the outer suburbs of the town saw the construction of large private villas with large central peristyle courts, ornamental pools, and fine mosaic floors. Extensive architectural damage occurred to various buildings on the site sometime in the 4th century CE and may have been caused by the large earthquake of 365 CE which struck the whole Balkan area. Despite some evidence of reconstruction attempts, the site never recaptured its former prominence and, from the 5th century CE, Christian buildings were constructed including a large basilica and baptistery.

The Definitive Guide to Butrint National Park, Albania

Butrint National Park is a seriously special place and is an absolute must-see on any trip to Albania.

Now I know what you&rsquore thinking. You&rsquove probably never heard of Butrint National Park before. I hadn&rsquot either until I was actually in Albania travelling around the country.

I was in the coastal town of Sarandë when I was pictures of Butrint in all the local tourist agencies. As soon as I saw pictures of these crumbling ruins nestled in the forest with bright blue waters surrounding it, I knew I just had to visit and see it for myself.

Butrint National Park, Albania

What is Butrint National Park?

The ancient city of Butrint (otherwise known as Buthrotum in the time on antiquity), was once one of the finest and most beautiful cities in all of the Roman Empire. 2,400 years later, it is a place that still captivates people today.

Butrint was supposed to become a hospice for the veterans of Roman wars, but in the 3rd century AD an earthquake destroyed most of the city. A lot of the ruins you see today are from the same earthquake, and the city dropped off the map after that.

Today, Butrint national park is a UNSECO World Heritage Site, and a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance (two very important titles). It is a site that attracts visitors from all over the world, and with reason it is absolutely stunning.

With a picturesque lagoon and mountains surrounding Butrint national park, it is worth coming here for the views alone. Honestly, it is absolutely stunning.

I was drawn for the history and the ruins though. Let me say this, history buffs will just love this place, especially as a lot of tourists still don&rsquot visit here.

Hopefully this Butrint guide will tell you all about the national park of Butrint.

Getting to the national park of Butrint

Located in the southwest of Albania, it is approximately 30 minutes drive from the city of Sarandë.

There are a number of ways of getting to Butrint. Firstly, you can hire a car and drive, which is very quick and easy. There are a couple of places where you can hire a car from in Sarandë or from the airport.

There is also a local bus to Butrint but this takes a lot longer. The bus follows the SH81 to Ksamil which is where you&rsquoll find the ruins.

One other option which is what I did was hitchhiking. This is very common in Albania and it&rsquos a really great way of meeting the locals too.

Also, it&rsquos worth noting Butrint is very close to the Greek border. For all you Top Gear fans out there, it&rsquos actually the place where Jeremy Clarkson caught the little man-made wooden ferry transporting their cars over to Greece in the Albanian Top Gear episode.

If you&rsquove got your own car, it is well worth catching this ferry as it&rsquos so unique. The Greek border crossing point at Qafe Bote is just a short drive away from where you get off the ferry, so it&rsquos very easy getting to Greece from Butrint. It is a border crossing point not many people know about and makes a great story to tell friends!

The border crossing between Albania and Greece

Butrint Albania map

How much does Butrint National Park cost?

Butrint National Park tickets costs 700 lek for foreigners (approximately &euro5).

When it comes to timings, I would factor in a good 2 to 3 hours wandering around this UNESCO World Heritage site. That should give you plenty of time walking around the site.

Butrint is a microcosm of Mediterranean history. It has seen the rise and fall of a number of great empires who have dominated the region, each one developing the city in their own way and adding their own imprint.

There are so many layers to Butrint, and the more you walk around the more you peel back a new layer, delving deeper and deeper into the history of the area.

What you see today is an amalgam of monuments representing a span of over two thousand years of history from the 4 th century Hellenistic period to the Ottoman defences created in the early 19 th century.

There is so much history at Butrint

The history of Butrint national park

With the rise of the Roman Empire, Butrint expanded to become a flourishing Mediterranean city.

Monuments like the theatre give it a Roman aspect, and after Julius Caesar and Augustus founded a colony here the city was extended via a bridge and aqueduct across the channel and onto the plain, causing commerce to boom.

Over the centuries that followed the fortunes of Butrint rise and fell much like the empires surrounding it, but during the 13 th century Butrint thrived again. A castle was built on the acropolis and its fortification walls were repaired again.

By the 19 th century, Butrint had become a small fishing village clustered around the castle, though today it probably sees more people walk through its walls than 100 years ago.

The surrounding views of the countryside are stunning too

When you are walking in beauty such as Butrint, I suggest you take a packed lunch with you, sit in the ancient theatre or by the church, and take it all in. Trust me, it&rsquoll be worth it. Also, there aren&rsquot many places you can buy lunch, so taking one with you is a win-win situation.

After seeing a fair few ancient Roman cities around the world, I can honestly say Butrint is one the best I&rsquove ever come across, and it is just another amazing reason to visit Albania.

Butrint opening hours

Butrint National Park is open from 9am till 4pm.

Be warned, during midday and around lunchtime it can be extremely busy at the site. Also, if you&rsquore visiting during summer, it can be very hot too.

If you can, I&rsquod really recommend visiting either early in the morning or later in the afternoon when things have quietened down.

Top tips for visiting Butrint

  • Drink lots of water &ndash As I&rsquove already mentioned, it can be pretty toasty during summer so make sure you drink lots of water.
  • Wear comfortable shoes &ndash It is very rocky at Butrint so I&rsquod recommend wearing comfortable shoes. Trainers or hiking shoes are best I&rsquod say.
  • Don&rsquot forget your camera &ndash I can&rsquot tell you how many photos I took at Butrint but it was easily into the hundreds. Make sure you don&rsquot forget your camera here!
  • Leave a little tip &ndash If you&rsquore on a tour of Butrint in Albania then it&rsquos always a good idea to leave a tip with your tour guide as a sign of appreciation. I&rsquod usually say &euro3-5 is about right.
  • Don&rsquot leave any rubbish &ndash You&rsquod be surprised at how much rubbish I saw while in Albania and at this site. Don&rsquot be a part of the problem and take all rubbish with you.

Feature tours in Albania

Photos of Butrint National Park

Have you ever been to Butrint national park? If so, what did you make of this ancient Roman city? Make sure you let me know in the comments below!


The Butrint National Park was established with ordinance number 82 on 2 March 2000 in order to preserve the natural ecosystems and landscapes along with their plant and animal communities and habitats and the cultural heritage as well. [6] The park's territory was expanded several times until it reached its current area, recently in 2005. [7] It is managed by a directorate subordinated to the Ministry of Environment of Albania based in Sarandë. The park became an important centre of cultural management and a great example how to manage this heritage. With the support of Albanian institutions, Butrint Foundation, World Bank and UNESCO, the situation was improved to the point, that UNESCO removed the site from the World Heritage Sites in Danger list in 2005. The park was founded by the Ministry of Culture in partnership with UNESCO, ICCROM and ICOMOS. The underlying intention was to create a sustainable cultural heritage resource involving local communities and national institutions to serve as a model for other parks around the country.

Nowadays, it is now a major centre for archaeology and conservation training schools organised by the Butrint Foundation in partnership with the Albanian Institutes of Archaeology and Monuments, foreign universities and international specialists and consultants. There is an active program of events in the theatre, concerts and performances, and outreach programmes for local schools and colleges. In 2010, national authorities demolished over 200 illegal structures in Ksamil that violated the town's master plan and the integrity of Butrint National Park. The remains of the demolished buildings have yet to be removed by authorities.

The Butrint National Park comprises 9,424.4 ha (94.244 km 2 ) in Vlorë County located in the southwestern corner of Albania alongside the Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Basin. It lies mostly between latitudes 39° and 44° N and longitudes 20° and 1° E. By road, the remains of Butrint are some 18 kilometres (11 mi) south of the city of Sarandë and few kilometres north of the terrestrial border between Albania and Greece. According to the Köppen climate classification, the park experiences Mediterranean climate (Csa and Csb) with rainy winters and dry, warm to hot summers. Located in the south of the Albanian Ionian Sea Coast, the park receives 1,500 millimetres (59 in) of precipitation annually.

Butrint is part of a diverse hydrographical network, composed by the courses of several rivers, lagoons and lakes. The rivers are short, steep and characterised by high water volume. [8] The park comprises Lake Butrint in the northwest, Lake Bufi in the southeast, Bistrica River in the north, Mile Mountain in the west and Pavllo River in the south. [9]

Lake Butrint is the largest lake and its water regime is typical of a coastal lagoon. It has a length of 7.1 km (4.4 mi) and a width of 3.3 km (2.1 mi), with a surface area of 16.3 km 2 (6.29 sq mi). [8] Having mesotrophic waters with eutrophic tendencies, the limnology of the lake is divided into two distinct layers. The Vivari Channel connects the lake with the Ionian Sea. [8] Lake Bufi lies about 2 m (0.0012 mi) above the Adriatic in the southeast of Lake Butrint, with a total surface area of 83 hectares (0.83 km 2 ). Its excessives waters are then discharged into the southern Lake Butrint through a former channel. [8]

Imeri was born on 3 July 1996 into an Albanian family in the city of Lörrach, Germany. [2] [3] He started dancing at the age of 8 shortly after he enrolled in dance classes in his hometown. [4] Imeri first rose to fame as he debuted with the singles, "Ki me lyp", "Merre zemrën tem" and "Eja Eja", with whom he received significant recognition in the Albanian-speaking Balkans. [5] [6] [7] He later released four additional singles, including "E jona" and "Delicious", the latter in collaboration with Greek singer of Albanian origin Eleni Foureira, which peaked at number five in Albania. [8] [9] Imeri's chart success followed into 2017 with "Bella" and his first number one single in Albania "Xhanem". [10] [11]

In 2019, Imeri collaborated with Majk on "Sa gjynah" and reached number one in Albania. [12] Another pair of top ten singles in his native country, "Hajt Hajt" and "M'ke rrejt", followed in the same year. [13] [14] "Dream Girl", a collaboration with German rapper Nimo released under 385idéal, was successful, including in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. [15] In 2020, Imeri collaborated with Albanian singer Ermal Fejzullahu on his follow-up single, "Për një Dashuri", which peaked at number two. [16] He further released ""Si përpara" and "Dy zemra", the latter in collaboration with Albanian singer Nora Istrefi. [17] [18] The follow-up release, "Phantom", went on to reach number one in Albania. [19]

Imeri's musical work is often defined as R&B and Pop. [2] [3] [4] He has cited Justin Timberlake as his major musical influence and stated that he is a fan of Elvana Gjata [20] [21]

Butrint (Albania) Historical Facts and Pictures

Buthrotum, an ancient city located in the Epirus region in the Sarandë District in Albania, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Butrint National Park. The ruins of the great Greek, later Roman city, was earlier known as Bouthrōton or Bouthrōtios in ancient Greek and Buthrotum in ancient Roman. The place boasts of amazing landscapes and natural beauty, providing an excellent view of the Vivari Channel. Buthrotum has been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times with the Greek Chaonian tribe inhabiting the city before it became a bishopric and a Roman colony.

The city was a major center for the Greek tribe Chaonians, and had close contacts with the ancient city of Korkyra, the Corinth colony (preset day Corfu). As accounted by the Roman writer Virgil, Helenus, the great seer and son of Priam, the king of Troy, was the founder of the legendary city of Bouthrōton. Despite the claims of evidence of the city’s being inhabited as early as the 12th century BC, archeological proof of human settlements dates back to between the 10th century and 8th century.

In 228 BC, the city started going under Roman control along with Corfu, becoming a Roman dominated region after 167 BC. Over the next century, the city was included in the Macedonian province.

The History of Butrint National Park: War and Trade

The first settlement at Butrint was by an Illyrian tribe and by at least the 8th century BC, Greeks had founded a city at the location. According to legend it was established by a Trojan refugee, although this claim is highly unlikely.

The Greeks build an acropolis on an eminence and their new city became a significant trading hub because of its strategic location in what is now southern Albania. The city was prosperous thanks to trading with Balkan tribes .

By the 5th century BC, the city was conquered by the Greeks of Corfu , who expanded the city. In the 3rd century BC, along with Corfu, it became a protectorate of Rome and greatly benefitted from trade with the Republic. The city was later annexed and became part of the Roman Empire after the Macedonian Wars.

Statue of Asklepios found on the island of Kos, Greece ( Alterfalter / Adobe Stock)

Under Roman rule, the city continued to prosper and became a major center of the Cult of Asklepios . It was part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire and its economy went from strength to strength.

During the 7th century, the history of Butrint becomes unclear and it is not known if it was controlled by the Byzantines or the Slavs. By the 9th century the Byzantines once again definitely controlled the city and they rebuilt much of it. The Byzantines contested control of Butrint with first the Normans from southern Italy and later the Angevins.

The once prosperous city began to decline in importance and became little more than a small town. When marshes formed in the area, Butrint was eventually abandoned. The site was never re-occupied because of the persistent conflict between the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks.

Butrint was first excavated in the 1920s but was later neglected by the Albanian Communist regime. In the 1990s, the site was deemed to be at risk from looters. Since 2002 the former city has been a designated national park.

Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.

Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.

Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.

The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.

During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.

The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.

From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.

The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.

Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.


Saranda is from the name of the Byzantine monastery of the Agioi Saranda (Greek: Άγιοι Σαράντα ), meaning the "Forty Saints", in honor of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. Under Ottoman rule, the town in the Turkish language became known as Aya Sarandi and then Sarandoz. Owing to Venetian influence in the region, it often appeared under its Italian name Santi Quaranta on Western maps. [6] This usage continued even after the establishment of the Principality of Albania, owing to the first Italian occupation of the region. During the Italian occupation of Albania in World War II, Benito Mussolini changed the name to Porto Edda, in honor of his eldest daughter. [7] [8] Following the restoration of Albanian independence, the city employed its Albanian name Saranda. [9]

Ancient Edit

Due to the archaic features found in the ancient Greek name of the city: Onchesmus (Ancient Greek: Ὄγχεσμος ) and the toponyms of the surrounding region it appears that the site was part of the proto-Greek area of late 3rd-early 2nd millennium BC [10] [11] Bronze Age tools typical of Mycenaean Greece have been unearthed in Sarandë which date c. 1400-1100 BC. [12] In antiquity the city was known by the name of Onchesmus or Onchesmos and was a port-town of Chaonia in ancient Epirus, opposite the northwestern point of Corcyra, and the next port upon the coast to the south of Panormus. [13] [14] It was inhabited by the Greek-speaking tribe of the Chaonians. [15] Onchesmos flourished as the port of the Chaonian capital Phoenice [16] [17] (modern-day Finiq). It seems to have been a place of importance in the time of Cicero, and one of the ordinary points of departure from Epirus to Italy, as Cicero calls the wind favourable for making that passage an Onchesmites. [18] According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus the real name of the place was the Port of Anchises (Ἀγχίσου λιμήν), named after Anchises, the father of Aeneas [19] and it was probably owing to this tradition that the name Onchesmus assumed the form of Anchiasmus or Anchiasmos (Greek: Αγχιασμός ) under the Byzantine Empire. [20] [21]

Saranda, then under the name of Onchesmos, is held to be the site of Albania's first synagogue, which was built in the 4th [22] or 5th century. It is thought that it was built by the descendants of Jews who arrived on the southern shores of Albania around 70 CE. [23] Onchesmos' synagogue was supplanted by a church in the 6th century. [22]

The city was probably raided by the Ostrogoths in 551 AD, [24] while during this period it became also the target of piratic raids by Gothic ships. [25] In a medieval chronicle of 1191 the settlement appears to be abandoned, while its former name (Anchiasmos) isn't mentioned any more. From that year, the toponym borrows the name of the nearby Orthodox basilica church of Agioi Saranta, erected in the 6th century, ca. 1 km (0.6 mi) southeast of the modern town. [24]

Modern Edit

In the early 19th century during the rule of Ali Pasha, British diplomat William Martin Leake reported that there existed a small settlement under the name Skala or Skaloma next to the harbor. [26] Following the Ottoman administrative reform of 1867, a müdürluk (independent unit) of Sarandë consisting of no other villages was created within the kaza (district) of Delvinë. [27] Sarandë in the late Ottoman period until the Balkan Wars (1912–1913) consisted of only a harbour being a simple commercial station without permanent residents or any institutional community organisation. [27] The creation of the Saranda müdürluk was related to the desires of Ottoman authorities to upgrade the port and reduce the economic dependence of the area on Ioannina and Preveza. [27] In 1878, a Greek rebellion broke out, with revolutionaries taking control of Sarandë and Delvinë. This was suppressed by Ottoman troops, who burned twenty villages in the region. [28] One of the earliest photographs of Saranda dates from 3 March 1913 and shows Greek soldiers in the main street during the course of the Second Balkan War. [29] Saranda was a major centre of the short-lived Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus. [29]

Greek troops occupied it during the Balkan Wars. Later, the town was included in the newly formed Albanian state in 17 December 1913 under the terms of the Protocol of Florence. [30] The decision was rejected by the local Greek population, and as the Greek army withdrew to the new border, the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was established. In May 1914, negotiations were started in Sarandë between representative of the provisional government of Northern Epirus and that of Albania which continued in nearby Corfu and ended up with the recognition of the Northern Epirote autonomy inside the newly established Albanian state. [31]

It was then occupied by Italy between 1916 and 1920 as part of the Italian Protectorate on southern Albania. [32] Throughout 1926–1939 of the interwar period, Italy financed extensive improvements to the harbour at Sarandë. [33] A small Romanian Institute was established in 1938. Sarandë was again occupied by Italian forces in 1939 and was a strategic port during the Italian invasion of Greece. During this occupation, it was called "Porto Edda" in honor of the eldest daughter of Benito Mussolini.

During the Greco-Italian War, the city came under the control of the advancing Greek forces, on 6 December 1940. The capture of this strategic port further accelerated the Greek penetration to the north. [34] As a result of the German invasion in Greece in April 1941, the town returned to Italian control. On 9 October 1944 the town was captured by a group of British commandos under Brigadier Tom Churchill and local partisans of LANÇ under Islam Radovicka. The actions of the British troops was viewed with suspicion by LANÇ as they suspected that the British would occupy the town to use as a base and provide aid to their allies in the Greek resistance in the area as British documents indicated that EDES forces also joined the operation. However, the British troops soon withdrew from the region, leaving the region to the Albanian communist forces. [35]

As part of the People's Republic of Albania (1945-1991) policies a number of Muslim Albanians were settled from northern Albania in the area and local Christians are no longer the only community in Saranda. [36] During this period as a result of the atheistic campaign launched by the state the church of Saint Spyridon in the harbor of the city was demolished. After the restoration of democracy in Albania (1991) a small shrine was erected at the place of the church. [36]

During the Albanian Civil War (1997) units comprised by the local Greek minority were able to achieve the first military success through capture of a military tank for the opposition forces. [37]

The district of Saranda lies in the most southern extremity of Albania. It is bordered with Vlora to the north, Delvina and Gjirokastër to the east and with Greece to the south of Ionian Sea. Saranda is a place in the most southern part of Albania. It lies between the hills that descend and reach the Ionian Sea. The district of Saranda has a plain relief which is composed of southern seashore mountains that lie from Borsh to the bay of Ftelia, Vrina Fields and the hills of Saranda, Lëkurësi, Ksamil, Butrint and Konispol. All these units make up the southern part of the Albanian Riviera where the eye catches the countless bays, beaches, the rocky coastline, hills with olives and citrus, mountains that surround the landscape. Saranda is traversed by Kalasa, Bistrica and Pavlla rivers which flow in the Ionian Sea. In Saranda's hydrograph belongs even Butrinti Lake which is one of the biggest sea lakes in Albania. The Butrint Lake is very rich in sea species and in their waters now are being growing mussels. Its relief, geographical location and subtropical climate create favorable conditions for planting citrus trees and olives. [38]

The present municipality was formed at the 2015 local government reform by the merger of the former municipalities Ksamil and Sarandë, that became municipal units. The seat of the municipality is the town Sarandë. [39]

Climate Edit

Sarandë has a typical Mediterranean climate and has over 300 sunny days a year. During the summer, temperatures may rise as high as 30 degrees Celsius. However, a refreshing sea breeze constantly blows. Winters are mild and subzero temperatures are uncommon. The wettest months of the year are November and December. Summers are very dry.

Climate data for Sarandë (1991–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 24
Average high °C (°F) 13.9
Average low °C (°F) 4.7
Record low °C (°F) −5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 125
Average precipitation days 14 12 9 7 5 2 1 1 5 9 12 15 92
Source: METEOALB Weather Station

During the late Ottoman period until the Balkan Wars (1912–1913) Sarandë consisted of only a harbour and was without permanent residents. [27] In 1912, right after the Albanian Declaration of Independence, the settlement had only 110 inhabitants. [40] At the 1927 census, it had 810 inhabitants, but was not yet a town. [40] In the 1930s, it had a good demographic development, and it is in this period that the first public buildings and the main roads were constructed. [40] In 1957, the city had 8,700 inhabitants and was made the center of a district. [40] The population of Sarandë was exclusively Christian. A Muslim community was settled in the city as part of the resettlement policies during the People's Republic of Albania (1945–1991). [36] The total population is 20,227 (2011 census), [41] in a total area of 70.13 km 2 . [42] The population of the former municipality at the 2011 census was 17,233 [41] however, the population according to the civil offices is 41,173 (2013 estimate). [43]

According to a survey by the Albanian Helsinki Committee, in 1990 Sarandë numbered 17,000 inhabitants, of whom 7,500 belonged to the Greek minority. [44] The members of the Greek minority of the city, prior to the collapse of the socialist regime (1991), were deprived from their minority rights, since Sarandë did not belong to the "minority areas". [45] In fieldwork undertaken by Greek scholar Leonidas Kallivretakis in the area during 1992 noted that Saranda's mixed ethno-linguistic composition (total population in 1992: 17,555) consisted of 8,055 Muslim Albanians, 6,500 Greeks and an Orthodox Albanian population of 3,000. [5] Statistics from the same study showed that, including the surround villages, Sarande commune had a population consisting of 43% Albanian Muslims, 14% Albanian Christians, 41% Greek Christians, and 2% Aromanian Christians. [46] In the early 1990s, the local Orthodox Albanian population mainly voted for political parties of the Greek minority based in the Saranda area. [5]

Sarandë is considered one of the two centers of the Greek minority in Albania, Gjirokastër being the other. [4] [47] According to the representatives of the Greek minority 42% of the town's population belong to the local Greek community. [45] Since the 1990s the population of Sarandë has nearly doubled. According to official estimation in 2013, the population of the city is 41,173. [43] According to a survey conducted by the Albanian Committee of Helsinki, in 2001 the Albanian population numbered about 26,500, while Greeks formed the rest with about 3,400 alongside a small number of Vlachs and Roma. [44] [48] The city, according to the Albanian Committee of Helsinki, has lost more than half of its ethnic Greeks from 1991 to 2001, because of heavy emigration to Greece. [44] According to official estimates of 2014 the number of the Greek community in the former municipality is 7,920, not to count those who live in the wider current municipality (including additionally 4,207 in Ksamil). [49] Seven schools/classes in Greek attended by a total of 359 students existed in the Saranda municipality as of 2014. [50] Other minorities include Aromanians, Roma and Ashkali.

Site History

The favourable position in which the city of Buthrotum was born and developed, in the ancient region of Chaonia, can explain the long occupation of the site (almost 200 ha): historical and archaeological evidence has highlighted indeed the frequentation of Butrint from the Bronze Age until the late 16th century.

The first occupation of the site is dated to the mid/late Bronze Age on the central and western plateau of the Acropolis: it consisted of a small settlement, strictly linked to the Epirote substrate. From the 8th to 6th centuries BC the Acropolis was still inhabited, however the Corinthian pottery found on the site underlines the strict connection with Corfu, founded by Corinth in 733 BC, that now seems to extend its influence over the mainland. It is likely that this first community developed around a modest sanctuary built on the Acropolis itself, however, apart from pottery, one ash altar and few roof tiles, there are not other certain finds taht can be linked to the temple. Generally speaking, few evidences can be dated back to the Archaic phase of Butrint. The most relevant and imposing is the Archaic terrace wall on the south side of the hill, along with the Lion Gate relief, which depicts a lion biting a bull's neck and which has become one the most famous landmarks of the city.

From the 6th to 4th centuries BC there is the first proper urban phase, with the expansion of the settlement and the construction of the mid-slope circuit wall with four gateways. This is the same period of time that witness the construction of the Sanctuary of Asclepius, which will be the main centre of the city in the Hellenistic and Roman times, and the stoa for his pilgrims. The independence from the Corfiots gave Butrint the opportunity to become the administrative centre of the Chaonian tribe. This led in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC to one of the most prolific moments of the city, thanks to the expansion of the lower settlement, along with the extension of the wall circuit in the form of the temenos wall and the construction of many of the monuments that still attract the scholars' attention and wonder today: the Asclepieion Gate, the Tower Gate, the Theatre, the prytaneion, the Sacred Way, the Agora and its stoa, and the upper temple dedicated to Asclepius.

The Roman conquest, right after the battle of Actium, represents for Butrint another important moment of growth, at least until the 3rd century AD. Its connection with the Roman heritage had always been significant, since the site was believed to have been founded by Trojan refugees and that Aeneas himself had visited Butrint during his journey to Rome. The city was officially deducted as Roman colony twice: under Caesar in 44 BC (Colonia Iulia Buthrotum) and then under Augustus, named Augusta Buthrotum. The increasing richness of the city allowed the construction of new public buildings: the Forum and its surroundings, the Baths, the monumentalization of the Sanctuary of Asclepius, and the expansion beyond the early wall circuit to the south edge of the Vivari Channel. A new civic centre was placed on the Vrina Plain, connected by a bridge and the water main to the old town. The centuriation of the plain can be easily traced back to this enlargement and the growing number of villas, provided with access to the lake, between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD gives a clear idea of the importance that sea traffic and fishing must have had for the rich landowner of the area. The most evident signs of the economic and demographic growth of the city lies in the big number of monumental tombs located along the Vivari Channel.

After a major earthquake in the 4th century, Butrint thrived again thank to its connection to both side of the Mediterranean Sea, in fact many houses were built on both side of the Vivari Channel. Late Antiquity and Middle Age brought Christianity to the city: the ecclesiastical administration is proved not only by ceramics and coins but also by many significant buildings. The Acropolis Basilica was built in the 4th century AD, followed by the Great Basilica, the Baptistery and the Triconch Palace in the 6th century. In the Medieval times these were joined by the Lake Gate church and the Baptistery church (9h century AD). However, after a moment of decline in the 7th century, the city was reoccupied since it had become an important military base for the Byzantine fleet. It developed then other kind of necessities, in particular related to its defence: a brand new wall circuit is built between the 10th and 11th centuries AD along the shore of the Vivari Channel, while in the 12th century was built the Acropolis wall-circuit. Land control brought to the construction of the Acropolis castle on the lower plateau of the hill and to the first phase of the Triangular Fortress. These would have been reinforced during the last phase of life of the city in the 13th and 14th centuries under the Venetian Republic who ruled over Corfu and Butrint. It seems that the city was abandoned between 1517 and 1571, after the battle of Lepanto, and all the efforts were put in defending the fishing industry (fortified structures and fish traps) centred on the Vivari Channel. In the 18th century the city was conquered by the Ottomans, who used it as base to attack the isle of Corfu and continued exploiting the territory until the collapse of their Empire.

Hodges R. Excavating away the ‘poison’: the topographic history of Butrint, ancient Buthrotum in Hansen, Hodges, Leppard, "Butrint 4: The archaeology and histories of an Ionian town" Oxbow Books, 2013, pp. 1-21.

Martin S., The topography of Butrint in Hodges, Bowden, Lako, "Byzantine Butrint : excavations and surveys 1994-99", Oxbow Books, 2004, pp. 76-103

City map from Giorgi, Lepore, Comparing Phoinike and Butrint. Some remarks on the walls of two cities in Northern Epirus in Caliò, Gerogiannis, Kopsacheili, "Fortificazioni e società nel Mediterraneo occidentale. Albania e Grecia settentrionale. Atti del Convegno di Archeologia, organizzato dall’Università di Catania, dal Politecnico di Bari e dalla University of Manchester Catania-Siracusa 14-16 febbraio 2019", Edizioni Quasar, 2020, pp.153-181

Butrint - History

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

The ruins at Butrint reflect an extraordinary history, from the rise of the Iron Age to the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Aerial views of Butrint show its strategic location on the Vivari Channel, with Corfu and the Ionian Sea seen in the distance. (Courtesy the Butrint Foundation)

Shut off from the world by the twentieth century's most xenophobic Communist regime, and plagued by a century of political upheaval and economic disaster, Albania is terra incognita for most of us. But this small country is a remarkable destination for archaeologists, particularly its impressive site of Butrint, a microcosm of Mediterranean civilization from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman periods. Butrint is also unique in that archaeology there mirrors the major political movements of the twentieth century, from monarchy and fascism to communism and democracy.

In Butrint, it's possible to walk from a Greek theater to a Roman forum. Visitors can witness the transition from paganism to Christianity in the Late Roman and then Byzantine periods in the construction of a Christian basilica atop a Roman one. A Venetian fort looks across marshland where nineteenth-century Ottomans and Englishmen on the Grand Tour hunted. There is a sense here that time travel is truly possible.

Butrint owes its importance throughout history to its excellent location on a bluff overlooking the Vivari Channel, an important waterway connecting the Straits of Corfu and Ionian Sea with the inland saltwater Lake Butrint. According to the Roman poet Virgil, Butrint was founded in the Bronze Age by the Trojan seer Helenus, who married Andromache, the warrior Hector's widow, and migrated west after the fall of Troy to found "a new Troy." Virgil, who wrote that Aeneas saw a "Troy in miniature" there, and the historian Dionysos of Halicarnassos, both writing in the first century B.C., tell that Aeneas visited Butrint after his escape from Troy.

A bronze Pan figurine of Roman imperial date from Butrint (Courtesy the Butrint Foundation)

However, the first solid archaeological evidence from the tenth to eighth centuries B.C. reveals only the existence a small settlement that probably grew food for the islanders of Corfu and had a fort and a sanctuary on its acropolis.The site continued to grow and flourish. By the Hellenistic period (late fourth century B.C.), it had fortifications, a busy harbor, an agora, an impressive theater, and an important sanctuary to Aesclepius, the god of healing.


Butrint's sixth-century baptistery has an exquisite mosaic floor featuring waterfowl, symbolizing the life-giving properties of water and a metaphor for baptism. (Courtesy the Butrint Foundation)

Despite its impressive history, however, it was not until the 1920s that Butrint first became the focus of serious archaeological exploration. From the Italian mission in 1928, through the Communist era, and continuing in the early 1990s with a Greek excavation and the ongoing research conducted by the Butrint Foundation Project in collaboration with the Albanian Institute of Archaeology, evidence from each period at Butrint has been uncovered, greatly enriching our knowledge of this unique site and its extraordinary story.

Jarrett A. Lobell is associate managing editor of ARCHAEOLOGY. Special thanks to the Butrint Foundation Project and especially Oliver Gilkes for his assistance.

Watch the video: Butrint Imeri - Prita Acoustic


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