On the Mediterranean coast in the southern part of Albania there is an impressive complex of ruins. It’s an easy place to reach and most visitors come here on a boat trip from the Greek island of Corfu.
Butrint lies approximately 20 kilometres from the town of Saranda. The ruins have a strange atmosphere, a combination of archaeology, nature and ancient monuments. The complex is remarkable because at this one site you can experience almost the complete history of the region bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The oldest finds date from 50,000 BC and carry on through and into the 19th century AD.
The best preserved part is the period from 800 BC up to the arrival of the Romans. At that time Butrint was mainly under Greek influence. After 44 BC Butrint became a Roman colony and the town was enlarged. The swamps in the area were dried out. In the 5th century AD it became an important city, more or less a fortress with a lot of Christian architecture. After a period of decline it regained its importance in the Byzantine period in the 9th century. Thereafter it was reconquered and ruled over at various times by diverse peoples such as the Venetians in the 14th century. Then came the Ottomans who strengthened the fort in the 19th century.
All these different phases of conquest and recovery are clearly visible in Butrint. The best building is probably the Greek theatre, and there are also beautiful mosaics from the Roman period and a Christian church.
Because of its remarkable character and so many preserved buildings, Butrint is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Text Harrie Wolters
Translation Alun Harvey