Butrint (alb. Butrinti) is one of Albania's major archaeological centers and is protected under UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The ancient town has been built on Ksamil Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Butrint, south of Saranda (15km) and close to the Greek border. Cross the sea (Straits of Corfu), less then 10km is Greeks Corfu Island.
Linked to the Mediterranean Sea, Butrint was settled in a prime location for the establishment of a commercial center. The settlement quickly became an important stop along the merchant trade routes, and by the fourth century B.C. became one of the major maritime and commercial centers of the Ancient World. Throughout its history, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Venetians have inhabited this location. The present archeological site, therefore, contains structures and remnants that represent each period of the city's development. It was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that systematic excavations were carried out. Today, the rediscovered city of Butrint stands within Albania's cultural landscape as a unique treasure - the city is a microcosm of almost 3,000 years of Mediterranean history.
The site was first occupied during the Bronze Age, about 800 BC. A large triangular fort was built in the 6th century BC, and by the 4th century BC, Butrint had become a substantial settlement. Its acropolis perched 42 meters above its lower city holding two temples, one a sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius, legendary Greek physician and son of the god Apollo and Coronis. A Greek ampitheatre seating 5000 was added in the 3rd century BC.
Butrint in Roman period
In 228 BC Butrint (Latin: Bouthroton) became a Roman protectorate alongside Corfu and Romans increasingly dominated Bouthroton after 167 BC. In 44 BC, at the end of the conflict between Pompey and Caesar, Caesar declared Butrint a colony, and it remained a Roman port through the 6th century AD. A large edifice known as the Triconch Palace was first built during the 4th century AD. During the 5th century AD, the emperor Justinian built a large cathedral and a baptistry with exquisite mosaic flooring at the site.
The remainder of Butrint's history mirrors that of other Mediterranean ports; a succession of owners and occupants, including Normans, Venetians, Angevins, Byzantines, and finally the Ottomans, who continued to build and rebuild the city's architecture.
Architectural pieces of Butrint that exist today include the Greek theatre, monumental fountains, three public baths, a gymnasium decorated with mosaics, an aqueduct built by Augustus, the exquisite mosaic floors of the Triconch Palace, a Byzantine structure which has most recently been excavated by archaeological teams from the Albanian Institute of Archaeology, the Butrint Foundation, and university students from the Tirana University.
You should allow approx. three hours to visit the Park. An English language leaflet on Butrint is available at the Park ticket office to assist your tour. Of great interest are: The Temple of Aesclepios , the Baptistery, Nymph, The Theatre, Lions Gate, the Acropolis, etc.
What to see
Defences - the earliest defensive circuit encloses only the acropolis and belongs to the 7th/6th centuries BC. The establishment of a city was accompanied by the construction of a new city wall in Hellenistic ashlar masonry. The post-antique defences formed additions to the Hellenistic circuit and belong to three successive phases: 2nd half of 9th century; 11th/12th centuries and the Venetian period (15th century).
Theatre - is one of the best-preserved ancient theatres in Albania, with 19 tiers of seating and a capacity of 5,000 spectators. It was first built in the 2nd half of the 3rd century BC; the stage building belongs to the Roman period.
Baptistery - with its total-immersion baptismal font set in a circular building decorated with columns and mosaics, is one of the finest of its kind. It is ascribed to the middle of the 6th century AD.
Basilica - stands next to an entrance through the defences guarded by two towers. It has three aisles and measures 20.15 18.33 m. It was built at the beginning of the 6th century AD, underwent subsequent rebuilding and was still functioning as a church until the 18th century.
Archaeological Museum - is housed within the Venetian castle on the acropolis. The finds displayed here illustrate the history of occupation at Butrint and its surroundings from the earliest times until the Middle Ages. The museum is arranged chronologically and thematically and is extremely well laid out and labelled (in English and Albanian). Open daily, 08:00-16:00.
Butrint Area in Photos