|Part of the remaining Byzantine Wall that once surrounded the city|
We were fortunate to have a dynamic English speaking guide whose knowledge of the history of Albania was both amazing and mind boggling. Not only could Lida rattle off facts, dates, and historical names as though they were second nature, she wasn't fazed by a single question that was thrown her way. (As an American history major I couldn't even begin to recite a fraction of the facts of my own country). And our group of Americans was full of questions pertaining to both Durres and Albania.
|The remains of the Roman Baths and the|
exterior of the Communist-era building
that was constructed on top of the ruins.
|Inside the Roman Baths and under the building;|
an interesting take on historic preservation
to say the least.
Lida lead us through the narrow cobblestone streets to the entrance to the ancient amphitheater. Some of the streets were remarkably well preserved while others were comprised of stamped concrete which I think was an attempt to replicate the original pavers. During the 2nd-century AD this amphitheater was the largest one in the Balkans with an arena that measured approximately 60 meters by 40 meters and had a seating capacity for 15,000 spectators. This is about one-third of the capacity of the Colosseum in Rome. Today the site is only partially excavated since modern houses and roads sit atop this once historic site. Again, this demonstrated the stark contrast between old and new and exemplified how Albania has not undertaken historic preservation in a serious manner. As Lida led us through the narrow passageways and out into the open arena, she casually pointed out sites that she had personally excavated. How often is it that one gets a personal tour of a site by the very person who had unearthed its treasures? We were escorted through the Byzantine chapel complete with a baptismal and home to the only wall mosaics ever found in Albania. The chapel was used for funeral services after gladiatorial combat had been banned in the 5th century. Evidence of burial chambers- one holding 40 bodies- was evident and it is speculated that the un-excavated portion of the arena floor contains even more graves waiting to be discovered.
|Inside the amphitheater|