Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Roman Sites & Museums in Albania

Before and during the rise of ancient Rome and the development of the Roman Republic, what is present-day Albania was inhabited by various tribes collectively known as the Illyrians. Some parts of the area were also occupied by the Thracians and Greeks, the latter setting up colonies in Apollonia, Bouthroton (modern Butrint) and Epidamnus (modern Durrës). Following the Illyrian Wars, by 167 BCE much of the area of Illyricum was under Roman control. At the greatest extent of the Roman Empire, today’s Albanian lands were part of the provinces of Dalmatia, Macedonia and Moesia Superior. Roman and later Byzantine control lasted until the 7th century CE.

Roman Sites in Albania

Ancient Butrint - Buthrotum

Although the area around the archaeological site of Butrint has evidence of prehistoric occupation, it is better known as an ancient Greek city, a Roman colony and an early Medieval Bishopric. The ancient city is on a hill that overlooks the Vivari Channel and now in the Butrint National Park. Looters and poor conservation measures meant the site was in considerable danger, but the joint work of heritage and funding institutions turned the situation around for one of Albania’s important heritage sites.

Apollonia Archaeological Park

Apollonia was established by Greek colonists from Corfu and Corinth, and developed into one of the most important ancient Greek cities in Illyria. The city flourished during the Roman period, but was abandoned by late antiquity. An onsite museum has some of the finest artefacts from the site on display, including a spectacular mosaic floor, various frescoes and artefacts from prehistory to the Roman period. Guided tours of the Apollonia Archaeological Park are available, but visits without a guide are also possible.

Berat Castle

The earliest dates for building on the hill above Berat are from the 4th century BC. The hilltop has been successively occupied by the Illyrians, Greeks and Romans up to the Ottomans and the present. With a perimeter of 1400 m, the castle encloses 10 hectares with 300 inhabitants still living here today. Besides some of the finest preserved 17th century Ottoman houses, there are 12 churches, the ruins of two mosques and the 18th century Dormition of St Mary, don’t miss the Onufri National Iconographic Museum

Durrës Roman Amphitheatre

At 136 m by 113 m and seating an estimated 20,000 spectators, the Roman amphitheatre in Durrës is the largest on the Balkans peninsular. It was built in the second century BC during the reign of Emperor Trajan, and was still in use up until the 4th or 5th century AD. About a third of the structure was uncovered in the late 1960s, while the rest not until the 1980s. Preserved inside the ruins of the arena are the remains of a small chapel that is dedicated to the first bishop of Durrës Saint Astius.

Himara Castle

Overlooking Livadi Beach north of the popular seaside town of Himara is an ancient fortress known as Himara Castle. Strategically placed on a hill 240 metres above sea level is the historic settlement of Himara; the origins of which date back to the Illyrians some time in the 8th century BC. Greeks and Romans settled here, with substantial reconstructions taking place under Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD. Later in the 8th century AD the fortress became the Bishopric of Himara.

Phoenice Archaeological Park

The archaeological site of Phoenice is on a hill overlooking the southern Albanian town of Finiq. Phoenice was one of the wealthiest ancient Greek cities in the historic region of Epirus. The importance of the city continued into the Byzantine period when t became the site of a Bishopric, but was abandoned by the 6th century. There have been many excavations at the site over the last hundred or so years, beginning with Italians in the 1924. There are also a number of Col War bunkers around the site.

Museums With Roman Collections in Albania

National Historical Museum

Albania’s National Historical Museum was opened to the public in November 1981. Currently there are some 3,000 objects on display, from a collection of over 6,000. These artefacts range in date from antiquity to the 20th century, and are permanently exhibited in seven halls. Besides halls that focus on the ancient and medieval periods, Albanian Independence, the Communist era and the Anti Fascist Liberation War is also covered. One hall is dedicated to Albania’s national heroine, Mother Theresa.