Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ancient Orikum

One of the many advantages of living overseas is the opportunity to explore new places.  Being affiliated with an Embassy is an added advantage since we are often provided with the opportunity to visit sites that are normally restricted or have limited access to the general public.  A recent trip to the ancient city of Orikum in the southern part of Albania was one such opportunity.

The majority of the ruins lay under the water
 Orikum is an ancient city at the south end of the Bay of Vlorë. The city, said to have been founded by Euboeans, was originally on an island, but already in ancient times it was connected to the mainland. It was well situated for communication with Corfu, Greece and was only 40 miles across the sea from Otranto, making it a convenient stopping point on the journey between Greece and Italy. Ancient sources described it as a  harbor, but eventually it achieved the status of a polis, and from around 230 to 168 BC it issued its own coins. More pictures of the ruins can be found here.
Remains of the amphitheater 
It had military importance under Roman rule, serving as a base during Rome's wars with the Illyrians and with Macedonia (which occupied it for a time); it was also the first city taken by Julius Caesar during his invasion of Epirus. Later the Ottomans renamed Orikum Pashaliman, “the Pasha's harbor”, and the lagoon still bears this name, as does the nearby Albanian navy base.

In the 1950 Pashaliman was the only Soviet base in the Mediterranean. It was the hot spot of conflict between the Russians and the Albanians in 1961 when Albania pulled out of the Warsaw Pact.  The base is still operating with a small fleet of ships.

As a group we were able to tour the ancient Orikum ruins (not as vast or well preserved as other sites but impressive just the same).  As an added bonus we were able to tour parts of the navy base and board an Albanian naval vessel.  Now given my navy background, I didn't find this particularly exciting but for just about everyone else in our group, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

The rich history of Albania never ceases to amaze me.  In a single day we were able to visit a site whose historical significance and current relevance spans thousands of years.  Now it is time for me to plan our next adventure.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    great article!

    Apparently, it is not sure that your picture of the amphitheater is actually an amphitheater.
    A crew of swiss and albanian archaeologists went to Orikum in 2013, and the digital magazine was able to follow them.
    Discover the first episode of the video series we just published:
    Andy - OCEAN71