Apollonia (Illyria)

Apollonia was a Greek colony with a strong Illyrian component where the settlers coexisted over the centuries with the former local culture. Its ruins are situated in the Fier region, near the village of Pojani, in modern-day Albania. Apollonia -taking its name from the god Apollo- is one of the best known and most important classical cities in the country and is considered a unique combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Coordinates: 40° 43′ 0″ N, 19° 28′ 0″ E

Apollonia

Apollonia was founded at the beginning of the 7th century BC by Greek colonists coming from

Tombstone with an Illyrian name, 2nd century BC.
Tombstone with an Illyrian name, 2nd century BC.

Corinth and Corcyra (Corfu) with Gylax as their leader. The city was said to have originally been named Gylakeia after its founder but was later changed to honor the god Apollo. Apollonia stood on a hilly plateau overlooking the Aoös River (Αώος) just a few kilometres from the sea. This adventurous position commending the surrounding fertile plain enabled communication with the coastal part of the territory. The city grew rich on the slave trade and local agriculture and raised into one of the most important economic, political and cultural centres beside Epidamnos/Dyrrachium (modern-day Durrës).

At the turn of the 4th-3rd centuries BC, four kilometre long ramparts were built and the city covered an area of 81 hectares. In the two hilltops dominating the city stood the sacred ground surrounding the Temple of Apollo and the acropolis which served as a military fortress. Between the two hilltops stood the public buildings of the ancient city where Apollonia’s most important remains have been excavated. Archaeological excavations have shown that Apollonia achieved its zenith around the 4th-3rd centuries BC with about 60.000 inhabitants living inside the city gates.

Milestone from the Via Egnatia with dedication to Marcus Aurelius.

In 282 BC Apollonia was seized by the king of Epirus, Pyrrhus. After his death, the city strengthened its relationships with Rome which stationed its permanent garrison nearby. During this period the city became one of the most important gateways of the Via Egnatia leading east to Thessaloniki and Byzantium in Thrace.

During the course of the 1st century BC, Apollonia was visited by Cicero, the famed Roman Orator, who described it as “a great and important city” (magna urbs et gravis), and Caesar, on his campaign against Pompey (the city later became a free Roman city after it sided with Julius Caesar). Octavian and his friend Agrippa spent several months with Apollonian orators studying rhetoric. It was at Apollonia that the future emperor Augustus received news of Caesar’s murder.

At the beginning of the 3rd century AD, Apollonia was largely destroyed by a powerful earthquake and the city was slowly abandoned when its harbor began silting up. In the 4th and 5th centuries AD the city was largely depopulated, hosting only a small Christian community.

Systematic archaeological excavations at Apollonia began in 1924 by a French mission led by Leon Rey (1877-1954) which lasted until the Italian conquest of Albania in 1939. After the War, in 1947, the Albanian-French archaeological mission resumed systematic excavations. Today the site is an important destination for cultural tourism offering both unique views of the Adriatic coastline as well as an extensive collection of historical and archaeological items of interest.

PORTFOLIO

The north-western edge of the Agora of Apollonia with the Bouleterion, the Triumphal Arch and the Odeon.
The north-western edge of the Agora of Apollonia with the Bouleterion, the Triumphal Arch and the Odeon.
The Odeon located on the northern side of the Agora, built in the 2nd century AD. It would have hosted cultural and musical events and could accommodate an audience of 300.
The Odeon located on the northern side of the Agora, built in the 2nd century AD. It would have hosted cultural and musical events and could accommodate an audience of 300.
The four pillars of the Triumphal Arch in front of the Odeon. With its three arched openings the 14m long monument would have risen to a height of 10m. It was constructed of brick and formely faced with white marble slabs.
The four pillars of the Triumphal Arch in front of the Odeon. With its three arched openings the 14m long monument would have risen to a height of 10m. It was made of brick and faced with white marble slabs.
The Library dated to the 2nd century AD. It had a square plan and was built on the ruins of an earlier existing Doric portico.
The Library dated to the 2nd century AD. It had a square plan and was built on the ruins of an earlier existing Doric portico.
The Apollo Obelisk, a Greek monolithic limestone column dedicated to the god Apollo as Agyieus, protector of streets and houses, the cylinder would have been ornamented with Apollo's lyre as well as the bow and quiver of Artemis.
The Apollo Obelisk, a Greek monolithic limestone column dedicated to the god Apollo Agyieus, protector of streets and houses. The cylinder would have been ornamented with Apollo’s lyre as well as the bow and quiver of Artemis. The obelix appears on the city’s coins after the middle of the 3rd century BC.
The southern wall of the Temenos, an ornamental wall bordering the sacred temenos area of the Temple of Apollo dating to the 3rd century BC.
The southern wall of the Temenos, an ornamental wall bordering the sacred temenos area of the Temple of Apollo dating to the 3rd century BC.
Marble statue of Pythian Apollo leaning on the Delphic tripod encoiled with a serpent and holding Apollo's tortoise shell lyre.
Marble statue of Pythian Apollo leaning on the Delphic tripod with a serpent and holding Apollo’s tortoise shell lyre.
The Bouleuterion which served as an assembly place of the council of the cityl (also known as the Monument of the Agonothetes), it was built in the 2nd C AD during Lucius Verus' reign (161-169 AD) and could accomodate about 160 people.
The Bouleuterion, erected in the templum of antis pattern of Roman architecture. It served as an assembly place of the council of the city (also known as the Monument of the Agonothetes). It was built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Lucius Verus (161-169) and could accommodate about 160 people.
The capitals of the Bouleuterion
The Corinthian capitals adorning of the Bouleuterion. They supported an architrave bearing a Greek inscription dedicating the monument. It tells that Quintus Villius Crispinus Furius Proculus erected the bouleuterion to the memory and in honour of Villius Valentinus Furius Proculus, Prefect of the Cohort in Syria, Tribune of the Gemina Legion in Pannonia.
The Bouleuterion.
The Bouleuterion. The structure had the form of a semicircle and served as an assembly place of the council of the city – the boule.
The Temple of Diana located on the western side of the Bouleuterion. It was built in the last quarter of the 2nd century AD.
The Temple of Diana located on the western side of the Bouleuterion. It was built in the last quarter of the 2nd century AD.
The Small Shrine (sacellum), a small building occupying a niche in the supporting wall of the hill probably dedicated to the Imperial Cult.
The Small Shrine (sacellum), a small building occupying a niche in the supporting wall of the hill probably dedicated to the Imperial Cult.
The Theatre marking the westernmost point of the Agora, built in the first half of the 3rd century BC, it had a diametre of about 100m and could accommodate an audience of 10,000.
The Theatre marking the westernmost point of the Agora. It was built in the first half of the 3rd century BC with a diametre of about 100m. It could accommodate an audience of 10,000.
The large Stoa built in the 4th century BC, it is the best preserved monument of the Classical Greek era and was used up to the 2nd century AD.
The large Stoa built in the 4th century BC. It is the best preserved monument from the Classical period in the Agora and was used up to the 2nd century AD.
The large Stoa had a rectangular plan measuring 72.2m by 10.5m, divided lengthwise in two by an inner colonnade made up of 36 octagonal Doric columns.
The large Stoa had a rectangular plan measuring 72.2m by 10.5m, divided lengthwise in two by an inner colonnade made up of 36 octagonal Doric columns.
Foundations of a temple located along the sacred road built in the 2nd century BC and possibly renovated in the 2nd century AD.
The foundations of a temple located along the sacred road built in the 2nd century BC and possibly renovated in the 2nd century AD.
The Nymphaeum fed by the underground water sources, built in the middle of the 3rd century BC, it is the biggest and best preserved monument of Apollonia covering an area of 1,500 square metres.
The Nymphaeum fed by the underground water sources. It was built in the middle of the 3rd century BC and is the biggest and best preserved monument of Apollonia covering an area of 1,500 square metres.
The Nymphaeum
The rectangular basin of the Nymphaeum dressed by a Doric colonnade which held the pressure of the water against the retaining blocks (orthostates) placed behind it.
The main street in the western part of the city.
The main street in the western part of the city.
The eastern city walls of Apollonia built by the first colonists with view of the countryside beyond.
The eastern city walls of Apollonia with view of the countryside beyond.
The museum was opened in 1958 to display artefacts found at the nearby Greek Illyrian archaeological site of Apollonia.
The museum of Apollonia inside the Shen Meri Eastern Orthodox monastery near Apollonia. The museum was opened in 1958 to display artefacts found at the nearby Greek Illyrian archaeological site of Apollonia.
Balcony of the North wing of the museum with reliefs and statues taken from the nearby Greek Illyrian site of Apollonia, Ardenica Monastery, an Eastern Orthodox monastery near Apollonia.
Balcony of the North wing of the museum with reliefs and statues taken from the nearby Greek Illyrian site of Apollonia.
Funerary stele depicting a woman with Illyrian clothes, 2nd century BC.
Funerary stele depicting a woman with Illyrian clothes, 2nd century BC.
Roman statues exhibited inside the refectory of the 14th century Ardenica Orthodox Monastery.
Roman statues exhibited inside the refectory of the Shen Meri Eastern Orthodox monastery.
Portrait of Hadrian found in Apollonia, Archaeological Museum of Tirana.
Portrait of Hadrian (?) found in Apollonia, Archaeological Museum of Tirana.

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2 thoughts on “Apollonia (Illyria)

  1. Pingback: Amantia – following hadrian photography

  2. Pingback: Annum novum faustum felicem vobis! | FOLLOWING HADRIAN

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