Apollonia, Illyria

Apollonia, Illyria

Apollonia a city of the ancient world (located in modern day Albania), known as Apollonia ( _sq. Apolonia" or "Apollonia, _el. Aπολλωνία κατ' Επίδαμνον" or "Απολλωνία προς Επιδάμνω), was located on the right bank of the Aous; its ruins are situated in the Fier region, near the village of Pojan ("Pojani"). It was founded in 588 BCE by Greek [Wilkes, J. J. "The Illyrians", 1992,ISBN 0631198075,Page 96,"… whose land is the city Epidamnus. A river flows by the city, by name the Palamnus. Then from Epidamnus to Apollonia, a Greek city, the journey on foot takes two days. Apollonia lies fifty stades from the sea and the river …"] colonists from Kerkyra (Corfu) and Corinth, and was perhaps the most important of the several classical towns known as "Apollonia" (Απολλωνία). The site was already used by Corinthian traders and the Taulantii, an Illyrian tribe, who remained closely involved with the settlement for centuries and lived alongside [Wilkes, J. J. "The Illyrians", 1992,ISBN 0631198075,Page 98,"… of the plain between the Aous and the Drin. It was Illyrian Taulantii from Epidamnus who occupied the site of Apollonia before the arrival of the Greek colonists around 600 BC. …"] the Greek colonists. The city was said to have originally been named "Gylakeia" after Gylax, its founder [Mogens Herman, "An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis" (ISBN 0198140991) 2004:328: "led by one "Gylax" after who the city was named Gylakeia"] , but the name was later changed to honor the god Apollo.

Aristotle considered Apollonia an important [Mogens Herman, "An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis" (ISBN 0198140991) 2004:328: "Aristotle adduces Apollonia as an (undated) example of stasis caused by the arrival of new colonists"] example of an oligarchic system, as the descendants of the Greek colonists controlled the city and prevailed over a large serf population of mostly Illyrian origin. The city grew rich on the slave trade and local agriculture, as well as its large harbour, said to have been able to hold a hundred ships at a time. The remains of a late sixth-century temple, located just outside the city, were reported in 2006; it was only the fifth known Hellenic temple found in present-day Albania. [ [http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060106122516.htm (Science Daily) "Researchers Discover Greek Temple In Albania Dating Back To 6th Century B.C.", 6 January 2006] . Accessed 16 July 2008.] Apollonia, like Dyrrachium further north, was an important port on the Illyrian coast as the most convenient link between Brundusium and northern Greece, and as one of the western starting points of the Via Egnatia leading east to Thessaloniki and Byzantium in Thrace. It had its own mint, stamping coins that have been found as far away as the basin of the Danube.

The city was for a time included among the dominions of Pyrrhus of Epirus. In 229 BC it came under the control of the Roman Republic, to which it was firmly loyal; it was rewarded in 168 BC with booty seized from Gentius, the defeated king of Illyria. In 148 BC Apollonia became part of the Roman province of Macedonia, later being incorporated into the province of Epirus. In the civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar it supported the latter, but fell to Marcus Iunius Brutus in 48 BC. The later Roman emperor Augustus studied in Apollonia in 44 BC under the tutelage of Athenodorus of Tarsus; it was there that he received news of Caesar's murder.

Apollonia flourished under Roman rule and was noted by Cicero in his "Philippics" as "magna urbs et gravis", a great and important city. Its decline began in the 3rd century AD, when an earthquake changed the path of the Vjosa river, causing the harbour to silt up and the inland area to become a malaria-ridden swamp. Christianity was established in the city at an early stage, and bishops from Apollonia were present during the Council of Ephesus (431) and the Council of Chalcedon (451). However, the city became increasingly uninhabitable as the inland swamp expanded and the nearby settlement of Vlora became dominant. By the end of antiquity the city was largely depopulated, hosting a small Christian community which built on a hill which probably is part of the site of the old city the 13th century Monastery and Church of Panagia -Shën Mëri in Albanian- (the Saint Mary).

The city seems to have sunk with the rise of Vlora. It was "rediscovered" by European classicists in the 18th century, though it was not until the Austrian occupation of 1916–1918 that the site was investigated by archaologists. Their work was continued by a French team between 1924–1938. Parts of the site were damaged during the Second World War. After the war, an Albanian team undertook further work from 1948 onwards, although much of the site remains unexcavated to this day. Some of the team's archeological discoveries are on display within the monastery, and other artefacts from Apollonia are in the capital Tirana. Unfortunately, during the anarchy that followed the collapse of the communist regime in 1990, the archeological collection was plundered. The ruins were also frequently dug up by plunderers for relics to be sold to collectors abroad.



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