The travels in the time may be common themes of science fiction novels, but walking in the ancient city of Butrint, from the hellenistic theater built in the 4th century BC, even the Roman basilica located only a few meters away, certainly comes close.
- Butrint Theater
Receding as far as to 10th century BC, Butrint was a Greek colony, a Roman city, and a Byzantine bishopric before being abandoned in the late Middle Ages, before its magnificent buildings sink under the swamps.
Located in a cliff overlooking the Vivari canal, which connects Lake Butrint to the Ionian Sea, near Albania's southern border with Greece, the city is a of the most significant of the classical archaeological sites in the Mediterranean.
“The fact that the city was uninhabited during modern times, from the 16th century to the time of the Venetians, means that what we have is an example of what happened in the Mediterranean over the course of 2,500 years.”Says David Hernández, an archaeologist at the University of Notre Dame who has been digging in Butrint for ten years.
“What we are seeing is not only the Roman forum even though it is the central complex, but rather the Mediterranean in that period of time”, He adds while found on the edge of a new excavation where the ruins of a new building emerge from the ground.
The excavations at Butrint began in the late 20s under the auspices of the Italian archaeologist Luigi Maria Ugolini. Although unknown to the outside world before the fall of the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha, Butrint was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. According to Rajmond Kola, director of the Butrint Archaeological Park, 82,000 touristsvisited Butrint in 2011.
- Byzantine Basilica of Butrint
Building 24 meters long which is currently being excavated, occupies the western end of the Roman forum, which in ancient times was the center of the Roman colony. Due to its size and location, Hernández believes that the building is like a basilica or temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. In all probability, it was the most important structure in the city during the Roman period, comparable today to the theater, which was built during the Hellenistic period.
If the building turns out to be a Capitoline temple, it is likely that it was built by the settlers to imitate or recreate the Capitoline temple in Rome in a similar way to Pompeii city. The basilica could have had multiple functions, but the most important was the judicial, where the city magistrates would have dispensed trials and courts.
“Given the dimensions of the building, which are fused with the ground, it is a very long building; seems to occupy one end of the forum all the way to the other and begins to look at me like a basilica”Says Hernández.
“Basilicas became the basis for church building in late antiquity, so this building could have been a central church as well as it could also be one of the first churches in Butrint”, Explain. “This could offer us a look at the conversion of a city from a pagan Roman center to one centered on the Christian religion.", Add.
Dhimiter Condi, an Albanian archaeologist who has worked in Butrint for four decades, says that even the famous inscriptions found in Butrint, that are found in the form of decrees, could come from the current excavation of the building.
“These inscriptions are a kind of Butrint library because they tell us things about the toponymy of the city, the man of the military commander, his prefect”Says Condi. "Most importantly, the distinction between Hellenistic and Epirus culture has been drawn.", Add.
- Baptistry of Butrint
According to Hernández, the excavation will offer important answers regarding the nature of the Roman colonization of Epirus. The settlers came from Rome to Butrint in 44 BC, they occupied it and dominated the city. However, over time, archaeologists have seen that they merged with the indigenous population in a unique community.
“It is interesting to witness this phenomenon because it was something that involved cultural integration where Roman ideals and the ideals that existed here merged”Says Hernández. "In terms of the development of the forum over time and the type of information we have, we want to know what happened to the Roman colony and what was the nature of the relationship between these two groups”, Add.
Butrint was an important port in ancient times and the archaeological materials found during the excavations come from all over the Mediterranean, in a kind of time capsule about the nature of the business interconnection.
According to Hernández, because Butrint is located in an area that was uninhabited for centuries, it is almost unique and very different from many of other archaeological sites.
“What we see is the death and destruction of the city that we are now trying to assemble and (at the same time) we are surrounded by intense vegetation, birds and trees.”, Notes Hernández. "It is a contrast between life and death that you don't really see in other archaeological sites, creating a magical environment for the visitor.”, concludes.
With a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was a child I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.