Review of the ancient Durres topography in light of the new archaeological and historical data


  • Eduard Shehi


The purpose of this article is to present a combination of ancient sources, the resulst of the main researchers and the field data of the last years to explain the evolution of the Epidamnos / Dyrrachion settlement. As a result of the submitted analysis it was judged that the first settlement and the Greek colony should be sought in the lower part between the hills 59m and 50m. Epidamnos should be identified here. While the rocky coast has served as a base for microtoponym Dyrrachion. It would be exactly this microtoponym who will be used as the name for the port and then the city itself. The earliest historical source that mentions indirectly the presence of a fortification wall is that of the Thucydides about the civil wars of 436/435 BC. (Thuc. I 26). Perhaps with this fortification can be identified the circular structure, previously identified by other researchers as a lighthouse. We believe that one of the consequences of the civil war was the shift from the use of the Epidamnos toponym as the official term of the city in Dyrrachion. Perhaps in these years we must also seek the first roots of the legend of the city’s founding. The political burden that this legend carries can be a reflection of the civil war winers goals to legitimize a series of radical changes undertaken by them. The fortification date of the southeastern part of the peninsula is an indication of the strategic importance that this area had. The civil war must have made clear
to citizens that this territory needed protection through a fortification. The dating of the defensive structure at the 4th cent. BC can be seen associated with the wars that engoulfed the region along the attacks of the Macedonian king Cassander (Polyen IV 11, 4; Diod. XIX 78-89). It remains to be clarified whether this fortification was built before his invasion, during his occupation or when the city entered the Illyrian king Glaukias control. The building of a foundation structure with different techniques between the outer and inner face proves some sort of emergency in construction. The city has entered the Illyrian urban period with a fortification system based on at least two points, the city and the port. The closing wall over the earth’s belt connecting the peninsula with the hinterland should also be linked to another crisis situation. This construction should be sought from the 3rd cent. BC. Perhaps it
was another defensive measure, this time directed toward hinterland, where attacks could come from. The best hypothesis sees this construction in the context of the Illyrian-Roman wars. With the Pax Romana the fortifications of the city have been out of use
and the Roman city does not seem to have had functional protective walls. The territory of the Roman city has expanded beyond the previous boundaries in several directions. Only with the crisis of the Roman Empire will be restored the fortification walls in the city and their perimeter has included within themselves a much larger space, ranging from the Daute hill to the north to the southeastern coast.


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How to Cite

Shehi, E. (2023). Review of the ancient Durres topography in light of the new archaeological and historical data. Iliria, 41(41), 71–131. Retrieved from