Butrint is a UNESCO world heritage site in Albania, 20 KM from Saranda.
Butrint was originally a sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. People would visit the sanctuary to be healed. The area was built into a complex by the Greeks with a Temple, a Theatre and a hostel for the pilgrims that were coming to be healed. Everything that was built was funded by the pilgrims leaving money and gifts for the gods.
The Romans arrived at Butrint in 44BC when Caesar designated it a Roman colonial city. Augustus (Caesars adopted son) expanded the city after defeating Antony and Cleopatra at nearby Actiumin in 31BC.
The Romans built a new aqueduct and a bridge across the Vivari channel.
In the 2nd Century AD Butrint was rebuilt and enlarged in the Roman style. A Baptistry and a great Basilica were built in the 6th Century, these were discovered in 1928 by Italian archaeologist Luigi Maria Ugolini. It was the second largest Baptistery in the Eastern Roman Empire behind Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.
The collapse of the Roman economy left the city abandoned and the Slavs arrived around 580AD. They were followed by the Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard in 1081. The Byzantines soon followed who continued to struggle for control of the area along with the Venetians. The Venetians bought Corfu and Butrint where they built a fort to protect the area from the Ottomans. The Venetains ruled there until the end of the 18th Century.
Albania gained independence at the London conference of Ambassadors on the 17th December 1912.
Lies in the south of Albania between Sarande and Butrint Archaeological site,it is in fact a Lagoon.It overlooks the Ionian sea and is quite large in size.The locals catch many muscels here and they are sent to Sarande and other nearby towns for the restuarants,they are a dark yellow colour and very tasty.
Increasingly becoming a popular tourist destination attracting day trippers from Corfu,the ferry takes about 90 minutes.There is a regular bus service between Sarande and Butrint.
Butrint is a UNESCO world heritage site,this ancient Greek city lies 14 km south of Sarande close to the Greek border.It was known in antiquity as Bouthrotios in Ancient Greek and Buthrotum in Latin.First achaeological evidence of settled occupation dates between 10th and 8th centuries B.C..Original settlement sold food to Corfu and had a fort and a sanctuary,it was in a strategically important position due to its access to the straits of Corfu.By the 4th century B.C. it had grown in importance and included a theatre.
In 31 B.C. Emperor Augustus fresh from his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium drew a plan to make Butrint a veterans colony.The new residents expanded the city and contructed an aqueduct,Roman baths,a forum complex and a nymphaeum.In the 3rd century A.D. an earthquake destroyed much of the city,excavations revealed that the city was already in decline,however the settlement survived until the late antique era,becoming a major port in the province of Old Epirus.By the 7th century Butrint had shrunk to a much smaller fortified post and with the collapse of Roman power was briefly controlled by the first Bulgarian power before being regained by the Byzantine Empire in the 9th century.
In the following centuries the area was the site of conflict between the Byzantines and the Venetians and the city changed hands many times.In 1797 Butrint came under French control when Vencice ceded it to Napoleon,later the Ottoman Empire conquered it until it became part of Albania in 1912.By that time the site of the original city had been unoccupied for several centuries and was surrounded by malarial marshes.
Entry to Butrint Achaeological site is 700 Leke(about 6 Euros)for non-Albanians,though most trips from Corfu booked with a tour operator to Albania include the entry fee.
On this photo, taken from Corfu, the Vrine plain is on the right. On the left, the entrance into the mouth of the Vivari canal. In the background (second level), the hill should be the hill of Butrint.
The second photo is a close up on Butrint’s hill.
I have decribed under Konispol the first part of our travel from Greece (Igoumenitsa and Sagiada) to Butrint via Konispol. When we arrived close to Butrint, the triangular Venetian fort is the first part of Butrint that can be seen. Together with the old settlement of Butrint, the Venetian fort locks the Vivary channel, an important waterway connecting the Straits of Corfu and the Ionian Sea with the inland saltwater Lake Butrint . In 1453, the Venetians built a triangular fortress to strengthen the port's defenses against attacks by the Ottoman forces. It is given as dating from the Angevin and Venetian period.
The first photo shows the round tower at its southern end, along the road.
The second photo shows the western wall, with a topless round tower on its corner. In the background, the Venetian castle on top of Butrint settlement.
These four photos show different aspects of the Vrine plain and the mouth of the Vivari canal. They show well how marshy is this part of the land, with gullies that try to drain the land. In the far background, the island of Corfu with mount Pantokrator.
The second photo was taken in 1988 and the third in 2007, almost from the same place. Nothing seems to have much changed here.
The fourth photo is a close up on a small fort standing in the middle of the marshes, at the very far end of the canal and that was the first protection to lock it when needed.
These photos were taken in 1988 and show mussel nurseries. In 2007, there did not seem to be any mussel nor fish nurseries anywhere in the area.
The first photo shows in the middle an enclosure with half a dozen small rowing boats. They seem to be securely locked in the enclosure. Corfu is so close that people might have been tempted to go away if the boats had been freely available…
The first photo shows in the foreground, just underneath, the bathhouse and the theater (only the back stage can be seen)
In the background lies the Vrine plain, with in the middle the road that we used to arrive on the site. A little on the right, stands the triangular fort and in the far right, almost hidden, the ferry. The second photo is a close-up of this part of the first one.
The first photo is a bird’s eye view of the patio inside the museum, taken from the terrace of the Venetian castle. The show is mostly inside the building with many objects that were unearthed either in Butrint or in the neighborhood. Photos are not allowed inside the museum.
The second photo shows an amazing statue standing in the middle of the patio of the museum. It looks like an unfinished statue but it has no comment.
TheVenetian fortresss was built in the XIVth by the Venetians on top of the hill, on the western end of the wide flat space where stood in the past the acropolis. It was turned in the 1930 by the Italians into a home for the archeologists that worked on the site, with a little museum. In 1997, the museum was looted and remained close for some years. It seems to have reopened in 2006 and is now interesting to visit (free)
The first photo was taken from the acropolis and shows the entrance into the castle. The bench offers a superb view.
The second photo was taken inside the castle and shows the landscape towards west and north-west. In the background, the city of Saranda. On the left, the mouth of the Vivari canal, opening into the straights of Corfu.
The third photo shows the main tower, rebuilt in 1930.
The forth photo is a view of the castle seen from the Vrine plain, close to the triangular fort and the ferry. It shows, at the foot of the hill a Venetian tower, covered with tiles that completed the defense of the site and locked the Vivari canal.
There are several paths that lead to the Venetian fortress, on top of the site. This one is shade by various trees and lead to a closed entrance. It is a bit strange as you can hear the people inside but you cannot see them and you cannot come in. You have to turn left and follow the fortress’s wall until you find the actual entrance.
After the lion’s gate, the path goes to the top of the fortress, where was during the Roman period the acropolis. Right to the path, an amazing wall stands with a half circle shape. A bench stands at the foot of the wall. What was it? I have not found any information. May be a part of a Byzantine church. Anybody knows the answer?
Just as for the lichen’s gate, once you have passed the gate, you are not really inside the fortress. There is also a staircase, with three flights. If you a re not welcome, do not even think about walking in! You would be killed or at least made prisoner before you could do anything!
The path follows the wall for another 100 or 150 m and leads to the famous lion gate of Butrint that rivals Mycenae's. A finely carved stone lintel shows the scene. At first, it seems amazing to see a lion with horns! A closer look reveals that the head of the lion, in the foreground, is not very sharply drawn and is not clearly distinguished from the head of the bull he is devouring, in the background!
I put here both photos taken in 1988 and 2007 because, in 1988, I was lucky to have a better light.
After the Byzantine basilica, the shaded path leads after 100 meters to a part of the outer wall that was built with huge stones, tightly arranged, s can be seen on the first photo. The size and strength of the Illyrian masonry is comparable in the impression created at the great Mycenaean sites of Greece, such as Tiryns and Mycenae.
The second photo shows Porta e liqenit, lichen’s gate and given that the air is unpolluted (lichens are very sensitive to pollution and, when needed, are used to monitor pollution), the stones are indeed covered with lichens.
The third photo shows that the entrance was not that easy. Behind the narrow entrance, a narrow stone staircase with three flights finally leads to the inside of the city. Nobody with harmful goals could come in unseen!