BYLLIS – ALBANIA
Byllis,the ancient city is located close to the village of Hekal in the region of Mallakastra (part of Fier district). Established in the 3rd century B.C once flourished as a political, economic and cultural center in the region. It has a Homeric origin, because according to the mythology it was created by the Noe Ptolemius (the son of Achilles).
Being governed by a body of civil servants, the introduction of a bronze currency system and a reputation for having skilled artisans were the hallmarks of this powerful society. The surrounding wall of Byllis is very well preserved, measuring 2,250 m long, 3.5 m wide and 8 – 9 m high. It surrounds an area of 30 hectares and has a triangular shape. The theater built in the middle of the 3rd century BC is located in the southeast corner of the agora.
Byllis is a large archaeological site which is widely spread over 30 ha of hilltop which over look the Vjosa river. The ancient walls which were built to surround the site were completed in the second quarter of the 4th century BC. Within these walls are the remains of the Illyrian private houses, Roman public buildings including a large impressive theater and Byzantine basilicas which were paved with brilliant, colorful mosaics.
It is easy to spend many hours in the haunting atmosphere of the remote hilltop, surrounded by the ruins of buildings which are two and a half millennia old. Good interpretive panels around the site, written in both Albanian and English, mean that the site can be understood by the non-specialists. A well surfaced and fairly level path leads the visitors over the most important parts of the remains.
It was the British traveler Henry Holland who, in the early 19th century, first identified this site as the ancient site Byllis, that was mentioned by Caesar and Cicero. Systematic excavation began in the winter of 1917/1918, under the direction of the Austrian archaeologist Camillo Praschniker.
Several eminent Albanian archaeologists have also excavated at Byllis, among them being Neritan Ceka and Skender Mucaj, who have also written a guide to the site. (Ceka, Neritan and Mucaj, Skender Byllis: History & Monuments Migjeni 2006. Scholarly guide to the history and buildings of Byllis, the book has photographs of the Byllis mosaics, usually kept covered. The book can be found in Tirana and in Albanian museum bookshops).
It is well worth buying a copy of this book, just for the photographs of the Byzantine mosaics, which are usually kept covered to protect them from the elements. Several interesting objects that were discovered at Byllis can be found today at the National Archaeological Museum in Tirana.
ACCOMMODATION IN BYLLIS
It is usually easy to find accommodation in most areas of Albania, what we have tried to do is to give you the many many options but to also give our own personal advise of the goods and the bads as well as the exact location and the facilities of each accommodation choice. We would appreciate it if you would reserve your accommodation via this website and we will be there either in person or with a representative of ours to personally assist you while you are on your holidays in Albania.
ACTIVITIES IN BYLLIS
SIGHTSEEING IN BYLLIS
The walls which enclosed the Illyrian city form a rough triangle more than 2 kilometers around. On the southern edge, there is a gap in the wall where the hillside drops away in a steep cliff for about 200 meters. The Hellenistic (Illyrian) walls were 8-9 meters high, built with large rectangular blocks of limestone. These were laid in two lines 3,5 meters apart, and the gap between the rows was then filled with small stones laid at right angles to the blocks. There were six entrance gates, each guarded by a tower, and additional towers were later built at the corners of the walls, to protect and strengthen them.
Between the years 230BC and 167BC. Byllis’s protection was enhanced with the addition of a fortified courtyard at the northern apex of the triangle of its walls. The courtyard was guarded in its turn by a round tower, nearly 9 meters in diameter and 9 meters high. The remains of this fortified courtyard are on the right of the modern road as you approach the site.
HISTORY OF BYLLIS
Byllis was the capital of the small republic (koinon) of the Byllines and it was the largest city in Southern Illyria. The Byllines had a sophisticated system of government, minted bronze coins and was controlled as an area of about 20km2. Their state flourished until the year 229BC, when the Romans occupied Appollonia and Byllis became a battleground between Rome and Macedonia, thanks to its strategic position, overlooking the river Vjosa, and the route from Appollonia to Epirus and Macedonia. The advantage of this location would later encourage Rome to make Byllis one of its colonies. The colonial period saw the city flourish again, as Roman veterans built luxurious houses and sponsored public works such as bridges and bathhouses.
Byllis was sacked by the Visigoths towards the end of the 4th century AD, and its enclosing wall was repaired using the original blocks. The sections which were repaired can be identified by the cement which was used to stick the blocks together. Between the years AD547 and AD551, Byllis was attacked again. It was rebuilt and it was decided that a new wall should be constructed, enclosing a much smaller area than the old Illyrian city. The order to construct the new fortification was given by the Emperor Justinian (AD527-65), but it was implemented by a general who was called Victorinus, and so it is known as the Vicorinus’s wall. It follows the line of the Hellenistic wall on the western and on the southern sides of the city, where the hillside is steeper. For the new defenses to the north and the east, Victorinus reused some of the old limestone blocks and built a new wall which is 2.2 meters thick, interspersed with 12 meter high towers. A touching inscription on one of the blocks of his wall, now located in the Archaeological Museum in Tirana, reads: I am no longer worried or frightened about Barbarians, because I was destined to be built by the hands of the great Victorinus.”
USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT BYLLIS IN ALBANIA
Byllis is a large archaeological site which is widely spread over 30 ha of hilltop which over look the Vjosa river. The ancient walls which were built to surround the site were completed in the second quarter of the 4th century BC. Within these walls are the remains of the Illyrian private houses, Roman public buildings including a large impressive theater and Byzantine basilicas which were paved with brilliant, colorful mosaics. It is easy to spend many hours in the haunting atmosphere of the remote hilltop, surrounded by the ruins of buildings which are two and a half millennia old. Good interpretive panels around the site, written in both Albanian and English, mean that the site can be understood by the non-specialists. A well surfaced and fairly level path leads the visitors over the most important parts of the remains.
UNIQUE CULTURE OF ALBANIA
The Albanian culture is an exotic blend of traditions that have evolved over thousands of years. From the ancient Illyrians and Greeks to the Romans and the Ottomans, the language, music, arts, and cuisine of the Albanian people are a rich and vibrant mix of many civilizations. Once you discover our culture, you are bound to fall in love with this new destination on the Mediterranean.
Hospitality is in our nature. Welcoming guests and ensuring their comfort is a hallmark of Albanian heritage and is epitomized by our very own Nobel Peace Prize recipient: Mother Teresa. The spirit of cooperation and friendship thrives in Albania, and it is not uncommon for guests to be invited to eat and drink with curious locals wishing to learn more about you.
Besa is a concept related to the Albanian code of honor and is an idea that is very important to the Albanian people. In the Kanun (a set of traditional Albanian laws), Besa is described as the highest authority, so essential to personal and familial standing as to be virtually a cult. Besa has been the subject of some stories and novels by Albania’s foremost modern novelist, Ismail Kadare, a Nobel Prize Candidate for Literature and winner of several international prizes. Kadare’s work has been published in over forty countries and translated into more than thirty languages, making Kadare the best ambassador of Albanian literature worldwide.
If we are speaking about the food and drinks of Albania, then we must mention the country’s deliciously-unique cuisine. It has many similarities to Turkish and Greek dishes, but offers a healthier, Mediterranean twist. Come try our wide variety of phyllo dough delicacies, including a melt-in-your-mouth sensation called byrek, or the original sweet treat known regionally as baklava.
Albania also has a long tradition of wine craftsmanship, which is lately being revived to its former glory. While you’re here, taste a sampling of our wine, produced from a rich soil that has been under cultivation since the ancient Greeks and Romans. Regardless of your culinary inclinations, we guarantee that our rich history and culinary traditions have created a menu of mouth-watering specialties for you to try.
Each region of Albania likes to specialize in its own brand of music, thus giving the music aficionado an incentive to explore the entire country in search of each community’s sense of style. For example, UNESCO has classified a type of music from southern Albania, known as Iso Polyphony, to have tremendous cultural value to humankind. Our music has even given rise to a few prominent artists of global acclaim, including opera lyric soprano, Inva Mula, and the distinguished violinist, Tedi Papavrami.
In regards to style, when you arrive in Albania, you will notice that the men take great pride in their appearance and will often don a suit and tie when in public. Even if their errands only involve a short trip to the grocery store, the men will dress to impress.
Depending upon the type of festival or time of year, you might even catch a glimpse of Albanian men in traditional folk attire. The National Folk Festival held in Gjirokastra is a prime example. This special autumn event is held once every four years and attracts artists from around the world.
The women of Albania also share a flair for style, especially at traditional Albanian weddings. At these events, the families of both the bride and groom will gather together in their finest dress and celebrate with great fervor. Weddings are often the ideal opportunity to witness the best of Albanian culture all in one event, and if you’re invited to one, the experience will undoubtedly be extraordinary.
Albanian culture is unique in many ways and we hope you’ll visit us to see it firsthand. We say ‘yes’ by shaking our head from side to side, both men and women greet each other with a kiss on either cheek, and our conversations are loud and passionate in an effort to entice others to join in. Visit Albania and discover why our culture is a new Mediterranean love.
MAP OF ALBANIA
PHOTO GALLERY OF BYLLIS
MAP OF BYLLIS