Byllis

Byllis is a vast archaeological site overlooking the River Vjosa in southern Albania in the Fier County. Founded by the Illyrians in the middle of the 4th century BC, Byllis was the largest city of Southern Illyria and the capital of the League (koinon) of the Bylliones. With its fascinating ruins amid stunning views over the Vjosa valley, the ancient city of Byllis, mentioned by Caesar and Cicero, is one of the numerous hidden treasures of Albania. The remains include an impressive theatre, several Byzantine basilicas paved with outstanding mosaics, Illyrian private houses and Roman public buildings.

Coordinates: 40° 32′ 25.08″ N, 19° 44′ 15″ E

byllis

The Illyrian settlement of Byllis occupied a dominant position on the summit of a hill 520 meters above sea level, over the road from Apollonia to Epirus and into Macedonia. It became the headquarters of the league of the Bylliones, a Hellenized Illyrian tribe first mentioned around 380 BC by the Greek geographer Pseudo-Scylax. The Bylliones had a sophisticated system of

ILLYRIA, Byllis. Circa 230-168 BC
Bronze coin minted circa 230-168 BC

government, minted their own bronze coins (from around 270 BC to 167 BC when the Romans dissolved the koinon) and controlled an area of about 20km². They fortified their capital with a circuit wall around 2 km long, 3.50m thick and 8m to 9m high. Byllis adopted a fully Hellenised regular street-plan and buildings including a theatre, stoas, stadium, gymnasium and temples.

The state of the Bylliones flourished until 229 BC when the Romans landed in Apollonia and their territory became a field of battle between the Roman and Macedonian armies for the control of Apollonia. In 49-48 BC, during the Caesar’s Civil War, Byllis surrendered to Julius Caesar and became a supply base for his army. The city was later turned into a Roman colony as is shown by several Latin inscriptions found there referring to the city as Colonia Iulia Augusta which became part of the province of Epirus Nova. The city walls were rebuilt, the theatre and stoas were reconstructed and other monuments were erected.

Byllis was attacked and sacked by the Visigoths towards the end of the 4th century AD but the city was reconstructed under Theodosius II (408-450 AD). The city suffered another attacked by the Sclaveni (a South Slavic tribe) and was again reconstructed under Emperor Justinian I (483-565). During Justinian’s reign, Byllis became an important religious centre and the seat of a bishopric. Several large Palaeo-Christian basilicas were built, all of them featuring lavishly decorated mosaics. Sadly for the visitors, all the mosaics are kept covered with protective layers of sand and are not visible. In 586 AD, Byllis was sacked by foreign invaders and was abandoned. The seat of the bisphoric was moved to Ballsh, preserving the name of the old city.

PORTFOLIO

The Gate of the Agora looking towards the Vjosa valley, 1st half of the 4th century BC, reconstructed by the Roman colonists, Byllis, Albania
The Gate of the Agora looking towards the Vjosa valley. The city walls were built in the 1st half of the 4th century BC and were reconstructed by the Roman colonists.
The Gate of the Agora with an inscription dedicated to Augustus, Byllis, Albania
Latin inscription dedicated to the emperor Augustus. It was found in front of the entrance gate to the Agora.
“Augustus, son of the divine Caesar, permitted it (the rebuilding of the walls)”
General view of the Agora built in the middle of the 3rd century BC according to a single plan that harmonized the theatre, stoas, stadium and other public buildings.
General view of the Agora built in the middle of the 3rd century BC according to a single plan that harmonized the theatre, stoas, stadium and other public buildings. The agora of the city covered an area of 4 ha.
The Theatre dating from the middle of the 3rd century BC, it had a capacity of 7500 spectators.
The Theatre was built against a natural slope and dates from the middle of the 3rd century BC. With its 40 steps of seats it had a capacity of 7,500 spectators.
The cavea of the theatre with decorated seats.
The cavea of the theatre with decorated seats.
The remains of the stage building of the theatre (scaenae frons) with architectural parts in the Doric order.
The remains of the stage building of the theatre (scaenae frons) with architectural parts in the Doric order.
Latin inscription dedicated to Caius Julius, a liberated slave of Augustus, about 30 BC.
Latin inscription dedicated to Caius Julius, a liberated slave of Augustus, about 30 BC.
View towards the Vjosa valley.
View towards the Vjosa valley.
The 190m long Stadium with only one ring of nineteen steps, built in the 3rd century BC.
The 190m long stadium with only one ring of nineteen steps. It was built in the 3rd century BC and was accessible to the many citizens who gathered in the agora during political activities, festivals, theatrical shows and sporting events.
The ruins of the Prytaneion measuring 20,10 x 5,80 m. It was the seat of the Prytaneis (executive).
The ruins of the Prytaneion measuring 20,10 x 5,80 m. It was the seat of the Prytaneis (executive).
The Arsenal, a building for weapons standing 3m below the adjacent Prytaneion, it was built in the 3rd century BC and rebuilt using the opus reticulatum technique in the 1st century AD.
The Arsenal, a building for weapons standing 3m below the adjacent Prytaneion. It was built in the 3rd century BC and rebuilt using the opus reticulatum technique in the 1st century AD.
Inscription dedicated to Antoninus Pius in 140 AD.
Inscription dedicated to Antoninus Pius in 140 AD.
The underground cistern with a depth of 6m and a capacity of about 1200 m3, built in the 3rd century BC it collected water from the roof of the Great Stoa.
The underground cistern under the stadium with a depth of 6m and a capacity of about 1200 m3. Built in the 3rd century BC it collected water from the roof of the Great Stoa. It was in use until the Byzantine period.
Remains of an Altar located in the middle of the Agora, it is believed that it was the altar of the emperor Augustus when the city had the status of Roman Colonia, 1st century BC.
Remains of an Altar located in the middle of the Agora. It is believed that it was the altar of the emperor Augustus when the city had the status of Roman Colonia, 1st century BC.
The Baths of Justinian I, its structure included the apodyterium (dressing room), frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room), caldarium (hot room) and sudatio (sweat room).
The Baths of Justinian I. Its structure included the apodyterium (dressing room), the frigidarium (cold room), the tepidarium (warm room), the caldarium (hot room) and the sudatio (sweat room).
Basilica C, church of average dimensions built in 525-550 AD and paved with mosaics. It had three naves, a narthex covered by a gallery, preceded by a portico and several annexes.
Basilica C, a church of medium size built in 525-550 AD and paved with mosaics.
Basilica C. It had three naves, a narthex covered by a gallery, preceded by a portico and several annexes.
Basilica C. It had three naves, a narthex covered by a gallery, preceded by a portico and several annexes.
The Cathedral or Basilica B consisting of a church, a baptistery and an episcopal palace, built at the end of the 4th century, beginning of the 5th century.
The Cathedral or Basilica B consisting of a church, a baptistery and an episcopal palace. It built at the end of the 4th century, beginning of the 5th century AD.
The Cathedrale (Basilica B) was the largest monument of the city in the Late Antiquity. The floor of the exonarthex, the naves, the sanctuary and the northern wing were paved with mosaics, making this the largest surface covered with mosaics so far discovered in Albania.
The Cathedral (Basilica B) was the largest monument of the city in the Late Antiquity. The floor of the exonarthex, the naves, the sanctuary and the northern wing were paved with mosaics, making this the largest surface covered with mosaics so far discovered in Albania.
The Cathedral (Basilica B) was destroyed during the Slavic invasions around 547-551 AD.
The Cathedral (Basilica B) was destroyed during the Slavic invasions around 547-551 AD.
The Byzantine City Walls built in opus incertum by Victorinus after the destruction of the city by the Slavs in 547-551 AD.
The Byzantine City Walls built in opus incertum by Victorinus after the destruction of the city by the Slavs in 547-551 AD.
The Byzantine City Walls was equipped with towers at regular intervals. This wall reduced the fortified city from 30 to 11ha.
The Byzantine City Walls was equipped with towers at regular intervals. This wall reduced the fortified city from 30 to 11ha.
View towards the Vjosa valley.
View towards the Vjosa valley.

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