Due to the current epidemiological situation, access to many cultural centers, including museums, is limited. However, I am in one of the most mysterious countries in Europe, Albania. The history of this country, like almost everyone in Central and Eastern Europe, dates back to ancient times.
One of the most amazing places I have seen is Butrint National Park, located about 20 km from the tourist town of Saranda, in the south of Albania.
Among the unusual flora, in the middle of the forest, there is the Butrint archaeological site, entered in 1992 on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Here we can admire the freshwater lakes, wetlands, salt marshes, rushes, and islands. The Romans and the Greeks brought green trees and shrubs with them, trying to create their own gardens with flora they knew. Almost every tree and bush has a sign on which it is: history of origin and name. Walking through the park, you can admire the well-preserved ruins of the former settlement.
Butrint could be easily called Albania's archaeological pearl. The preserved remains of the town's former glory tell the story of attempts to colonize and settle these areas by foreign nations like Roman and Greeks. This is the story of emigrants. who tried to adapt to the new reality is the only way they knew. They brought "a piece of their home" to a new land.
" In antiquity, there was an Illyrian settlement here (according to myth, founded by refugees from Troy), transformed in the 7th century BC. into a Greek colony and port city. In the following centuries, Butrint became an important center of the cult of the god Asclepius. In the 2nd century BC, the city came under Roman rule and functioned as an important port center until the 6th century AD, when it was ravaged several times during the period of the great migration of peoples. Later the Catholic bishopric of Buthrotum. The medieval history of the city is closely related to the battles of the Byzantine Empire with the Normans and Venetians, and then with Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Remains of defensive walls, an ancient Greek theater from the 3rd century B.C., house ruins, a 7th-century baptistery, the ruins of a Roman bath, and a 5th-century chapel have been discovered in Butrint. There are also remains of a 14th-century Venetian castle here." - Summary according to Wikipedia.
One of the things that interested me was the ruins of a Roman villa. A huge building, created in an extremely thoughtful way, with splendor and Romanesque panache. In the 6th century AD, it was rebuilt into a palace. The villa proves that Butrint, inhabited since prehistoric times, was the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city, and later also a bishopric. After a period of its heyday under the rule of Byzantium, and a short occupation by the Venetians, the city was abandoned in the Late Middle Ages due to the formation of swamps in the area. The archaeological site shows the different purposes of this place depending on the invader. In the 90s, during social unrest, the site was plundered and recognized by UNESCO as threatened. A few years later, in 2002, the Butrint National Park was established. In 2005, UNESCO removed the site from the list of endangered sites.
The Amphitheater turned out to be an even more unusual place. The complex exemplifies the urban genius of the ancient builders. Everything was there… we can find a shopping and entertainment center, thermal baths from II century AD (identical to the ones I have seen before on Malta), the forum that was a place of gathering and trade, an ancient theater that is whole and you can admire the acoustics live, the temple of Asclepius, next to which there is a wall, all inscribed with some ancient language, and a gymnasium, later rebuilt into a church.
Following the path, along the walls surrounding the old Illyrian village, which, according to local legends, was founded and built by refugees from Troy, I came across a beautiful, ancient port gate with a bas-relief of a lion that symbolizes power, majesty, and victory. I could admire the mastery of masonry and the development of the settlement to the rank of a port city. Behind the gate, there were offices, fish and seafood collection and processing points, warehouses, and a path leading to the courtyard of the Venetian fortress.
Relating the history of the development of ancient civilizations to the problems of today allows for reflection and, consequently, a dialogue on the crisis of urbanized spaces observed today, such as cities. Having the knowledge of our ancestors, we are able to better manage our future.
Analyzing the history of this place, we admire the power and remarkable ideas of the great nations that conquered this region. We forget, however, about the natives, the people who created the history here long before the arrival of any invaders.
We often analyze history in terms of the life of only a selected social group, forgetting about other people coexisting in this place. Sometimes it is worth asking about them because this can radically change our perception of contemporary reality.