Durres is one of the oldest cities in Albania since its origins date back to the 7th century BC. With a population of 200,000, Durres is the second largest city in Albania.
Durres was founded between the XIth and the XIIIth century BC by Proto-Illyrians, attracted by the favorable climate.Successively in the gulf in front the port was built thanks to which the inhabited center had a rapid development.The city was rebuilt by Greek colonists in 627 BC. During the Roman era it was known as the “Taverna dell’Adriatico”. Durres became the most important locality of the western coast of the Balkans and the capital of the province of the New Epirus, a region that included all the extended territories between the rivers Mat and Vjosa.
In the fifth century the city was hit by a violent earthquake that caused serious damage and collapses. The Byzantine emperor Anastasio I Dicoro, a native of Durres, ordered the construction of a racecourse and a powerful defensive system that made the city one of the most armed of the entire region. In 548 the Anti and the Slaves tried to conquer it but they failed in their intent. Durres was the only one among the ancient classical cities of the coast, like Apollonia and Butrint, not to disappear during the economic crisis that hit the Byzantine Empire in the 5th century.
In 1501 Durazzo fell permanently under Turkish domination and was renamed Dıraç.
A characteristic character of the fifteenth century was Pietro Bianco, who, after having been a pirate, went, repentant, to Italy where he founded, among other things, the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie near Forlì.
With the outbreak of the first Balkan war, despite the proclamation of Albanian independence in Vlore on 26 November, Durres was occupied by the Serbs. Immediately after the annexation, the Belgrade authorities established the county of Durres which also included the districts of Alessio, Elbasan, Scutari and Tirana. With the recognition of the Albanian national sovereignty by the great powers in 1913 the Serbs were forced to leave the city.
On 7 March 1914 Prince William of Wied arrived in Durres, the first ruler of the Principality of Albania who made the city the capital of the new state. After the escape of the sovereign, Durres was occupied by the Italians in 1915 who recovered here the remains of the retreating Serb army. On December 29 of the same year, in the waters in front of the city a naval battle took place between the Entente fleet and the Austrian navy units. Between 1916 and 1918 Durres was occupied by the Austro-Hungarians who made it a naval base. On October 2, 1918 the area of the port and the center were bombed by the Entente ships. The Italian troops took control of the city on October 16th of the same year.
In 1920 the congress of Lushnjë, declared the pro-Italian government of Durazzo decayed and moved the capital to Tirana. Between 1928 and 1934 the port was enlarged thanks to the influx of Italian capitals, while in 1937 the villa of King Zog I. was completed on the dominating height of the city. On September 7, 1939, the beginning day of the Italian invasion of Albania, Durazzo was occupied, after a brief battle, by a column of the Royal Army led by General Giovanni Messe. During the Italian fascist occupation, Durazzo was one of the main logistic centers during the failed invasion of Greece. After the fall of the fascist government, on 8 September 1943 the German occupation began. The Germans left the city in 1944.
Since the post-war period Durazzo is the center of the Albanian shipbuilding industry and now, after the fall of the regime, it boasts a notable urban and social development. Following the collapse of the communist regime, the port of Durazzo became one of the main ways out of the country for the Albanians towards the West.
What to visit in Durres?
Located right in the center of the city, a few steps from the Town Hall, it was brought to light by the archaeologist Vangjel Toçi who free any parts. To date only half has been brought to the surface. The amphitheater has an elliptical shape with a perimeter of 136m, and the height of 20m.Unique of this type in Albania and among the largest in the ancient world can be compared to those of Pula and Pompeii.Reference to the I -2rd century BC could hold fifteen thousand spectators and it is believed that the arena could host fights engaging up to twelve pairs of gladiators. In the seventh century, after the disused fall of the complex, the arena was transformed into a cemetery and one of the galleries was converted into a chapel , this decorated with frescoes and mosaics, still visible. During the earthquake of 1273 the amphitheater underwent heavy damages.
The Byzantine walls
An author of the 6th century AD, attributed to the Byzantine emperor Anastasio I the construction of three circles of fortifications, but today the third circle does not remain track.They are built in bricks and mortar with a perimeter calculated in 4400m and a height that in some sections reaches 12 m. Some of these are decorated with crosses and arches in relief. Some of the bricks of the building have stamps with the monogram of Anastasio or Giustiniano, or Christian symbols. After the dams caused by the earthquake of 1273, Angoini and Veneziani carried out repair work.
The Roman Forum
The for and placed close to the current Piazza del Muncipio, and in the center of the ancient Durres. Datable from the materials found between the 4th and 6th centuries, it has a circular colonnade with a radius of 18m that borders a central paved area. in marble slabs, in the middle of which there is a stepped octagonal basement and a well. In its part of public representation, the building is entirely made of Greek marble from the island of Proconneso in the Sea of Marmara, here imported from Anastas I or Justinian.
On the Town Hall Square stands the new mosque built in 1938 and renovated between 1992 and 2006. Alongside the building are the Islamic cultural center and the Koranic school.
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