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Description of Apollonia


Location: District Fir
Ardenitsa Monastery is located just a few meters from the ancient ruins of the city


Apollonia is an ancient city located in present-day Albania, was one of the largest Greek ports on the Adriatic coast in ancient times. It is located at a distance of about 14 km from the town of Fier, on the way to the sea.

Apollonia was founded at the beginning of the 4th century BC, its ruins were discovered at the beginning of the 19th century. The earliest archaeological excavations have unearthed some metal objects characteristic of the Illyrian culture, as well as fragments of an archaic temple dedicated to Artemis.

Apollonia, after Durrsit, was the most important city in the Adriatic basin and was located on the banks of the Viose River, which flows into the sea. The total area of ​​the city was about 140 hectares, and the fortress wall surrounding the city was about 4 km long.

Apollonia was a major center for trade and industry. The region in the floodplain was one of the most fertile regions, and the favorable geographical position in the west of the Egnatius trade route made this city very rich. It was a separate state with a population of about 60 thousand people and its own currency, with an oligarchic system of government. At the dawn of Christianity, Apollonia was the center of the diocese. But the city was abandoned due to the flooding of the area with swamps.

To date, archaeologists have excavated the remains of the city hall, the baths and a well, which still has water, a small obelisk of Apollo, the church of St. Mary. Back in the 40s of the 20th century, 4 statues, a library (from which the walls around the perimeter remained), Roman-style villas with mosaics on the floors and a water storage were found.

Some of the artifacts and statues were expropriated by other countries. The rest are placed in a museum located in a monastery at the Byzantine Church of St. Mary of the XIV century. Today, work on the search for artifacts is ongoing, but weak forces due to lack of funding.

The entrance to the historical complex is paid; there are two restaurants for visitors.



Apollonia, an ancient city in Illyria, was founded in 588 BC. Greek colonists from the city of Corinth and Corfu. It was originally known as Girakia in honor of the colonist leader Giraks. The name was later changed to honor the memory of the god Apollo. Apollonia lay on the territory of Tavlantia, a group of Illyrian tribes, which for a long time were closely associated with the settlement and lived in peace with the Greek colonists. Today, only ruins of the city remain, but in ancient times it was a large city in the delta of the Aous River, the modern name of Vrose.

The Greeks were able to find a common language with the local Illyrian tribes Tavlantia. Even the great Greek philosopher Aristotle cited Apollonia as an example of peaceful coexistence. The descendants of the colonists were able to form an oligarchy, which peacefully ruled mostly Illyrian population. He is mentioned by Strabo in his book on Geography as an “extremely well-managed city.” Aristotle considered Apollonia to be an important example of the oligarchic system, since the descendants of the Greek colonists controlled the city and controlled a large serf population of predominantly Illyrian origin. Apollonia got rich on the slave trade and local agriculture, as well as at the expense of a large harbor, which was allegedly able to receive several hundred ships. Apollonia also used a local stockpile of asphalt, which was a valuable commodity in ancient times, for example, for the construction of ships. The remains of the temple of the late sixth century, located near the city, were registered in 2006; it is only the fifth famous stone temple found in modern Albania. During Roman rule, Apollonia continued to grow. The future Roman emperor Octavian Augustus spent several years and studied with Afenodora from Tarsus. It was he who received the news of the murder of Julius Caesar in Rome.


During the early Byzantine period, Apollonia remained an important trading center of the empire. His bishops participated in the First Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 431 and in the Cathedral of Kalkedon in 451. However, a series of earthquakes in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. changed the course of the river Aous. The port has become shallow and overgrown. The swamp that formed was a great breeding ground for the anopheles mosquito. Soon the city froze. Those who did not know how to leave the infection left and Apollonia was abandoned. The first archaeological excavations were carried out during the First World War. However, they were not carried out to the end. Since then, many black archaeologists have visited the ruins and stole everything they could. However, large ruins remained. Fortunately, this was not crazy enough, so there is something to see.



Apollonia was founded on a hill about one kilometer north of the Vjosa river, which flows into the Adriatic Sea after a few kilometers and was navigable up to the city in ancient times. The city's acropolis dominated the Myzeqe plain, which was very fertile in ancient times. Like Dyrrhachium, Apollonia was an important port city on the coast of Illyria in Roman times and one of the western starting points of the Via Egnatia to Thessalonica and Byzantium. In the 4th century AD, the urban area covered 81 hectares and was surrounded by a four-kilometer wall.

In addition to the descendants of the Greek colonists, numerous autochthonous Illyrians lived in the city, as Apollonia was in the tribal area of ​​the Taulantier. For Aristotle, Apollonia was an important example in which he analyzed the political system of the oligarchy, because the descendants of the Greek colonists controlled the city and ruled over the majority of the population of Illyrian origin. Colonists from Italy also settled in Roman times, but they assimilated to the dominant Greeks. Even in the imperial era, Latin inscriptions remained the exception.


Research history

The Italian traveler and humanist Cyriacus von Ancona is considered to be the rediscoverer of Apollonia. He visited the ruins in the first half of the 15th century and identified it as the city where Emperor Augustus had studied. In the 19th century the French consul in Ioannina, F. Pouqeville, and the Orthodox bishop of Berat, Anthimos, were interested in Apollonia. Both published a number of finds and inscriptions. They were followed as the first archaeologist in 1861 by the French Léon Heuzey. He made the first plan of Apollonia and excavated some statues that he brought to the Louvre in Paris.

The Austrian scientists Carl Patsch and Camillo Praschniker carried out the first major excavations in 1904 and 1916 to 1918. Most of their finds are now in Vienna.

A French team of archaeologists led by Léon Rey uncovered the city's great stoa, buleuterion, odeon and library in 1924 and in the following years. Under the Italian occupation, digging was carried out again in Apollonia, and a gymnasium south of the Marienkloster was discovered. Now you got a first idea of ​​the enormous area over which the city stretched in antiquity. The Albanian archaeologist Hasan Ceka, the father of Neritan Ceka, continued the work from 1947.

A major Albanian-Soviet excavation campaign followed between 1958 and 1960, during which the Diana Temple, several residential buildings, one of the main streets and 136 graves were uncovered. Most of the finds from this campaign were exhibited on site in the Marienkloster. Archaeological exploration of the city by Albanian archaeologists continued almost uninterrupted until 1982.

In 1992 a Franco-Albanian excavation campaign followed, led by Pierre Cabanes and Neritan Ceka. And since 1998 American and Albanian scientists have been working together in Apollonia. In addition to many other finds from antiquity, artefacts were also discovered that prove that people visited the castle hill as early as the Paleolithic. In the meantime, an excavation house has been built right next to the Marienkloster, which offers the archaeologists good working conditions. Despite decades of intensive exploration, only five percent of the area of ​​Apollonia has been excavated.



Apollonia is the largest and most important of the 30 cities throughout the ancient world named in honor of the god Apollon. It was one of the largest urban centers in Illyria and housed a multitude of secular and sacred buildings, large residential areas, mighty fortifications and many paved roads. The fortification walls enclose an area of ​​137 hectares over a length of four kilometers. It is estimated that around 60,000 people lived within the city walls. The most important monuments of Apollonia include the Buleuterion, the library, the Odeon, the Temple of Diana, the Prytaneion, the theater, the Nymphaeum, the Gymnasium, the great Stoa, the Doric temple and villas or town houses.

In the city-states of ancient Greece there was a meeting room for the city council (βουλή boulḗ), the Buleuterion. In Apollonia this stood in the city center near the agora and comprised an agonothet monument, which became a symbol of the archeology of Albania. This building was built in the last quarter of the 2nd century AD, i.e. during the Roman period. It was faithfully restored in 1976 by the Albanian specialist Koco Zhegu. The monument was named by the archaeologists after two referees (Agonothetes in Greek) who are mentioned in an inscription on the building.

According to the French archaeologist Léon Rey, the building at the east end of the agora was a library, but the exact function of the building has not yet been clearly clarified. The building, which is square in plan, was built using the same technology as the Buleuterion.

The Odeon, located on the north side of the agora, was used for musical and cultural events as well as political meetings. The interior resembles a theater: there are 16 rows of seats and thus offers space for 300 people. The combination of Greek style and Roman technology make the Odeon, built in the middle of the 2nd century AD, one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in Apollonia. A small sanctuary is attached to the western wall of the Odeon, the floor plan of which measures five by five meters. Two Ionic columns adorn the facade, and by the altar are the bases of three statues. It is possible that the sanctuary served the occasions in the Odeon.


Temple of Diana
To the west of the Buleuterion is the temple in honor of the Roman goddess Diana, which was built in the last quarter of the 2nd century AD. The marble statue of Diana found in the interior led archaeologists to believe that the goddess of the hunt, the moon and childbirth, as well as the protector of women and girls, was greatly venerated in Apollonia.

The Prytanen ran the affairs of state in many cities of ancient Greece and were the leading representatives of the city council. The seat of the Prytans of Apollonia was just behind the Buleuterion near the agora. The west-facing facade of the building is adorned with marble pillars adorned with Corinthian capitals. Excavations from 1960 unearthed a total of eleven statues from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, which archaeologists consider to be evidence of the existence of a Prytaneion at this site.

The theater is located about 300 meters north of the agora. A hill slope was excavated for the construction, while an artificial dam was built on the northwest side for support. In late antiquity the theater was abandoned and a church was built in its place. For the construction of the monastery church of Shën Meri, stone blocks of the rows of seats were used.

Around 400 meters north of the theater are the ruins of the Nymphaeum, which were discovered in 1962. The large and ornate drinking fountain was fed by an underground water source that still flows today. The building, built in the 3rd century BC. BC, is the best preserved in Apollonia. It was only used for around 100 years before a landslide buried the entire complex.

That in the 6th century BC The gymnasium, built in BC, stands south of the city center on the road that connected the south gate with the agora. It was used until the 3rd century AD and has been rebuilt repeatedly.

Great stoa
The large stoa (called Stoa B by archaeologists) is right in front of the Odeon and led directly to the agora. The portico offered a view of the surrounding area and the Adriatic Sea. It is the best preserved structure from the Greek Classical period and was used well into the 2nd century AD. 36 octagonal Doric columns divide the avenue into two parallel footpaths. Possibly there was a second storey decorated with Ionic columns. The wall facing the hill had 14 niches that served both as a support for the building and provided space for sculptures by ancient philosophers. Some of them date back to well into the 2nd century AD and were discovered during Léon Rey's excavations. Archaeologists claim that the Stoa was particularly important for Apollonia's urban life, as it was in the best location in the city, from where the whole area could be observed. In the walk, philosophical debates were held and heated discussions were held, which revolved around important issues that affected the city's residents.

Doric temple
Outside the city walls near the south gate are the remains of the Doric temple, which was built around 480 BC. Was built with stone blocks from nearby Karaburun. So far, the god worshiped in the temple could not be identified, but from a statue found on site it can be said with certainty that the god is in connection with the sea. Thus Poseidon, the god of the sea, Aphrodite, the protector of sailors, and Hermes, the patron god of merchants, come into consideration.

Other structures
The ruins of a triumphal arch adorned with marble are at the entrance to the agora. The 14 meter long and ten meter high monument consisted of four columns and was passable through three arched gates.


With around 3,500 square meters and two courtyards surrounded by peristyles, the House of Athena is one of the largest villas in the ancient city. It is the largest residential building of Apollonia to date and was named after a statue of Athena found in it. In the eastern part of the building the floors are decorated with many mosaic stones. Many figures from Greek mythology can be found as motifs. In the eastern room of the villa, an octagonal medallion shows a naked nereid riding a dolphin and being circled by seahorses. In another room, also in the eastern part of the building, the floor mosaic shows battle scenes between the hero Achilles and Penthesilea, the beautiful queen of the Amazons. The first scene shows two Amazons striking a kneeling Greek soldier who begs for mercy with his hands in the air. In the second scene, Achilles wearing an Attic helmet holds the queen of the Amazons, Penthesilea, who was fatally injured during the fight, in his arms. The house of Athena was built in the 2nd century AD, but was abandoned as early as the 3rd century.

Another large villa is the villa with impluvium, which is located near the high school. It houses a basin in the atrium that was filled with water when it rained (Latin impluvium). The house was built between the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Archaeologists found inside a portrait of a philosopher and a headless statue of Athena in the style of Promachos. Another sculpture shows the titan Atlas carrying the vault of heaven. It is now in the National History Museum in the capital Tirana. In 2010, archaeologists discovered the bust of a Roman aristocrat.


Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Interesting information and useful tips