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Apolonia, the city of the sun

Apolonia, the city of the sun

on Tuesday, 28 February 2012. Posted in English

Ilirjan Gjika

Travelling in the city loved by archeologists

Once here used to start one of the most important roads wich connected East and West, Rome with Kostandinopolis. While now Apolonia marks the end of a rural road that leads straight into it.

Since 2005, Apolonia, this archaeological center of Albania performs as national archaeological park wich is opened to be visited by domestic and foreign tourists.  While every summer there are developed archaeological expeditions, which together with the medieval monastery museum and create all the conditions here to place an authentic cultural tourism and historic, where the relaxed character to whom adds beautiful nature surrounding landscape. And each of them coming here for the firsttime or again and again can’t imagine how used to be the Apolonia monuments of archeological when the archaeolost pickaxe hadn’t begun''''knocking on earth.


Situated only 10 km on the west of the city of Fier, Apolonia can be reached easily. Just 15 minutes of ride by car from the city, through Small Myzeqe appear some small hills in the top of which lies “The city of sun”, Apolonia.

Right there at the entrance of the Archaeological Park Admir is waiting for us, a young archaeologist, sport dressed as always stick to archaeologistsbut the optical glasses that he wears give him an appearance of an intellectual. After presenting ourselves we let him know the purpose of our visit, the preparation of a report for the newest tourism magazine “Travel Abania”.

I think we should starthe visit from the “Impluvium Vila” proposes Admir, the place where last summer the Albanian-French archaeological mission discovered the two busts that except the fuss and headlines made also the lap of the world. Here at the end of this channel, which separates the two insula as they are called the blocks of flats in archeology,''fell in their tracks” randomly during excavationssays without hiding the enthusiasm the young archaeologist.

After visiting the house, the mosaics of which are covered with sand in order to be protected, Admir leads us to the museum, which is the “heart “of the park. Opened in 1958 in the premises of the monastery of Saint Mary it contains 200 artifacts such as inscriptionsstatuesceramic objectssarcophagus, miliar  stones etc. The uniqueness of it is that the values here are added also from the Byzantine churches, a work of genuine architectural XII centurywhich  our great writer Noli calles a''masterpiece of Byzantine art”.

In the porch of the church, Admir presents us with churchman Socratesa lovely and debonair figure that is not lazy to explain us in the role of a guide, the romanik porch of the churchthe mosaic of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Paleologcolumns, inscriptions, drumso everything from the church, which is a museum within the museum.

-This is the room where once lived the famous writer Jakov XoxaHere he wrote his famous novel,''Dead River’’. Everyone  in ur village Pojan loved Jakov, everyone tried to be the first to respect and treat him, follows himleading us through the rooms of the monasterywhere after he opened a portmanteau, he layed out a bottle of brandy to treat us accorgind to the tradition of the area.

After we separate from churchman Socrates, we leave the monastery and step toward the ruins of ancient monumentsWalking on the green grass we hear a few steps behind nesh.-Do not fear, Admir says to us,  is Lulja(Flower)the dog of the park.

Lulja is really a peaceful dog that will follow us till the end of our visit. –It appeared here for case few years ago and now everyone is used to its presence, as archaeologistspark employees or tourists. To tease Lule is causes diplomatic incident, Admir adds laughing and shows us an episodewhen a famous ambassador shouted at television operatorwhich kicked Lule that came unintentionally in front of the camera.

We are in spring and after a few months will start the work 2 expeditions, continues his work Admir. The French one this year will dig the Hellenistic Agoratraces of which we have found a few years ago, while the German expedition is working in the theater for some yearsThe works here is leaded by Burhan Dauti, the oldiest archaeologist in Albania, which has the merits of discovering this object in 1971  along with his wifethe first female archaeologistAlexandra Manon.

Along with our charming companion we visited a group of monuments as BuleterionLibraryTemple of Diana, the Odeon,Temenos wallobelisk of Apollos and Stoanall objects discovered by the French Archaeological Mission, led by Leon ReyAfter the Reiwho worked for 14 years in discovering Apollonia''''Sun Citywill be all names known to the Albanian Archaeology have excavated here. Later we stopped on the top of the highest hill of the ancient cityhill with quote 104 m. There stood onse Artemisa’s templefrom which is preserved  only one of the foundation blocksIt was here in 1933 that Rey Leon lifted the house of the French Archaeological Missionwho was baptized by the locals as “french home''Used by archaeological expeditions later it was restored in 2001. The back today it has been converted in a bar-restaurant in the form of an ethnographic mini-museum it has welcomed dozens of archaeologists, researchers and tourists from all six continentsA special guest was her son Leon REIJean Gabrielwho along with Albanian archaeologistNeritan Ceka,''discovered''bust and memorial plaque dedicated to Leon REIT,''Shliman of Apolonia”.

In the premises, surrounded by olives and booth with pictures that reflect the Rei’s excavationscoffee can also enjoy walkingSo we acted,''where''pair of binoculars that gave us Petrit, manager of the "Rei", saw the beautiful surrounding landscapefrom which easily excelled AdriaticKaraburun, Sazaniand whole mount Tomorri and Myzeqe field.

-To visitors, Apolloniabegan to explain newly Admiri,''now''the archaeologist of our missionoffers not only ruinsmuseummedieval monastery, landmarks, but also relaxing landscape together with rich menu of local kitchen of Myzeqe.

Following the conversation suddenly we saw a bride wearing white dress and veil, which had come here along with her fiance to prepare a wedding video clip.
-It has become a common occurrence the presence of brides with white dress in Apolonia, rushing to intervene our friend archaeologist, that this season could call “the city of brides”

After taking some other photos feet lead us to the gate where we come across a group of Italian touristsTheir language tells us that our visit has already come to an endAnd while the mind gently break the soil under the feet we think that under our feets is  the largest archaeological “mine” of Albania, which itself maintains aone hudredth of what has been discovered until todayThis is Apollonia, which takes two to three hours to visit and where millions of broken pottery debris of the time and centuries  accompany you everywhere.


During the First World War, namely in the years 1916-1918, and Shober Prashniker Austrian archaeologists undertook the first archaeological excavations in Apolonia. Their mission was organized by the Vienna Academy of Sciences, which in cooperation with the military command of Austro-Hungary, was aimed at tracing the areas occupied archaeological objects and sending them to Vienna. At Apollonia, Prashnikeri dug at some point the city as the acropolis, flats, necropolis and the surrounding wall. He collected many items, most of which took in the monastery of Apolonia and surrounding churches. Prashnikeri  published the results of excavations and studies in his book: "Muzaka and Mallakastra" which was published in Vienna in 1920.

With the creation of the Albanian state in Apollonia started the "eraof proper archaeological excavationIn the years 1924-1939 worked here the French missionwhich is funded by the Academy of Fine Arts and French Society of ArchaeologyThe mission was led by archaeologist Leon Rey, who over the years developed 15 excavation campaignsrevealing dust from the oblivion of centuries for the ancient cityResults of the French mission were successfulThus in 1924 was discovered two Roman houseswhile in 1925-1929 came to light new porchIn 1930 it was determined the location of the old necropolis in KryegjateBut this year it was revealed the buleterionit buildingswhile in 1932 it was discovered the odeonlibraries, part of the city walls and many important items. Rei published the results of his work in the magazine:''Big''body French archaeological missionWith the objects detected in Apolonia opened on October 8, 1936 in Vlorathe archaeological museum"Zogu I "His building served as a part of the house that had been the seat of government of Ismail KamalThis museum was robbed by the Italian army in 1939, when Albania was invaded by themBut this year the Italian authorities allowed the French archaeological mission working at Apollonia and replaced with an archaeological italian expedition. In 1945 Leon Rei tried again Attempt to restore jobs that have left half the Apoloniabut the Communist authorities banned it.

Thus, in 1941 resumed excavations under the direction of archaeologist Claudio Sestieri. Their outcome was the discovery of a gymnasium, a part of the perimeter wall and a building near the monastery walls. Further developments led to war, Sestieri to escape from Albania and the archaeological excavations were interrupted for a short periodThey resumed after the war but in other conditionsFirst Albanian archaeologistwho was involved in excavations at Apollonia was Hasan CekaHe began work in 1930 as a representative of the Albanian Ministry of Education and Culturenear the French archaeological mission.

After War World IIin 1948Hasan Ceka resumed in Apolonia the work  which once had left in half with the FrenchNow he began to work with another Albanian colleagueSkender AnamaliBoth together they worked on the walls surrounding neighborhoods of the city and western terracesshifted to soilsrediscovering landmarks, and to complete excavations conducted earlier.

In addition to this work in 1958 Hasan Ceka published the first book on the ancient city called "Apolonia", which contained a historic city, archaeological excavations and a detailed description of the monuments discovered by that time. In Apolonia Hasan Ceka worked for about 40 years, finishing off with Rein excavations and discoveries made several important monuments such as: porch, in 1952, surrounding wall, fountain, in the years 1963-1968 and the wall of the acropolis.

In 1957, to Apolonia’s expedition, which was permanent, were added and the archaeologists Islam SelimFrano Prendi and Aleksandra ManoTwo years (1958-1960) in ApolloniaAlbanian archeologists also worked alongside eight Soviet archaeologists, led by Vladimir Borisov Bllavatski and Irida BorisovaTheir major help  was in the establishment of the archaeological museum, which was opened in 1958. But during this time were discovered also a part of the eastern wall, the temple of Diana, prytaneoni, D and G apartments etc.. The special was that between archaeologists worked Aleksandra Mano, which was the first Albanian women in the profession.


The directions of her work in Apollonia were twonecropolis, which was excavated in 1962 and the theater which she discovered in the summer of 1971, along with her husbandarchaeologist Burhan DautajAleksandra Mano was among experts who possess mastery of reading and deciphering the ceramic diesAll her studies about Apolonia,were published in scientific journals "Illyria" and "monuments" was published in 2006 under the title”Apolonia of Illyria. " Together with A. Manon also worked for several years Dautaj Burhan, who discovered the theater and the western road out of the city center.


Another archaeologist who worked in Apolonia was Dhimosten BudinaHe along with colleague Frano Prendi developed his work in dwellings of the period of centuries of the second and thirdIn one of them, in D flatDhimosten Budina found "House of Achilles", which was called so for the mosaic it had on the floor,considered as one of the most beautiful detected in ApolloniaIn Apollos worked for a long period one of the most prominent representatives of today's Albanian ArchaeologyNeritan Cekawho since the young age was engaged in expeditionsorganized by his fatherarchaeologist Hasan CekaBesides separate studies published in the specialized press asmagazines Illyria and monuments, he published in 1982 book "Illyria Apolonia. " In it, Neritan Ceka summarizes all the data of studies conducted by history and archeology by that time on ApolloniaIn 2004 N. Ceka also published an edition of Apolonia guide who had more the character of a tourist guideBesides archaeologistsarchitectsethnographers and historiansin Apollonia worked for a long time even restorersKoco ZhekuGuri PaniSpiro Koci, Laser Papajanietc..

With their work was preserved and restored several monumentswhich became accessible as monumental Fontanatemenos wall and gateporch, the odeon etcIn 1975 was re-estabilished with an excetional job the facade of buleterionsymbol of the city of Apollonia, which really is a work of architectural mellowMeanwhileafter the fall of the communist regime for archeology other conditions were created for development.

After numerous attempts in 1992, was founded by archaeologists Pier Kaban and Neritan Ceka, the Albanian-French archaeological mission, funded by the French Foreign Ministry and the Archaeological Institute of TiranaHe had as an intended to undertake new excavations in Apollonia and the study of ancient monuments of the city, from the archaic period up to that medieval, and publishing their studies. From the operation of programs Albanian-French mission we can mention: calculating the area of the city, discovering the route that linked the porch with the acropolis, several buildings, which are: a flat, some magazines, tracts walls, a temple, and two  last year busts.
Meanwhile, one of the study programs of the Albanian-French mission would be the publication of the Archaeological Atlas of Apollonia, which was a summary of all results of excavations made
 since the nineteenth century to the present.

It was implemented in 2007in Romethe authorship of a group of researchersThe French team did a new statigraphical calculation by the issue of the ancient city area of 85 ha.  In 2001 in Aolonia started its operation also the Albanian-German archaeological missionwhich as focused on two sectors: the theater and on the roof of the old stoas. In the ancient theater were resumed the excavations where they were interrupted in 1981 by Alexandra Mano and Burhan Dautaj, this time without his collaborator and wife A. Manoarchaeologist Burhan Dautaj focused on northern kaveas and theater orchestra.
  Meanwhileanother group of this mission under the direction of archaeologist Lahi Unionfocused on the amphora wallexcavation of which had started since the Leon Rein in the 1930s.




Apolonia which lived for 11 centuries between 620 BC and 479 was a city-state that originated as a product of the process of “Great 'Greek colonization''VIII-VI centuries BC, on the shores of Illyria, which were populated by the community of Taulantia tribal. Stefan Bizantini, one of ancient authors say that:''it was the largest city and most important of the 30-to colonies that were established across the Mediterranean with the name of god Apollo''

According to Strabothe city rose 60 miles (kmof coastline and 10 miles (1.5 kmfrom the river bed Vjosaon the back of a series of hillsThe first colonists were to be conducted by 200 Corinthian leader GylakThen another group arrived from Corcyre comersand Dysponti Kikusi.

The city's original name was Gylakea in honor of its founderand later it was called ApolloniaAs time passed here were placed a substantial population of Illyrianwhich would play an important role in the life of this polis.

Apolonia was raised on the backs of two hills with height 101 and 104 mextending to the field. The city was built according to architectural plans of Hipodamprenowned architect of antiquityIt had straight roadsprimary and secondarywhich intersect with each other by creating small residential blocksRugged terrain was regulated by the terraces, while a vast network of underground channels served to collect water deficit, which deposited in the cistern and used as water reserves.

Need dictated that apolonians to protected from various attacks used to build a powerful network of defense wallswhich reached a length of 4.5 kmWithin these walls rose a whole complex of buildings public and private character such as: the Acropolistemples, theaters, agorasstoatbuleterionlibrariespublic buildings and private ones.

Over time Apolonia would turn into a major and important city, and was rightly called by Ciceroknown politician and Roman oratory in 43 BCIn its operated famous characters of history as Glauk of TaulantiaPirro of Epirusand Cassander  and Philip V of Macedonia, great PompeyCaesar or Octavianwho spent part of study time here.

From Apolonia started the southern branch of the ancient road Via Egnatia, which was the most important artery linking West with EastThe importance of the city retained until late antiquity when it converted into one of the main centers of spreadin ChristianityBishop of ApolloniaMarin, is one of the first 70 bishops appointed by St. Paul himself.
While other bishops as Eukariti and Eusebi partecipated at  the most important concils of the clergyEarthquakes of the years 234 and 345displacement and attacks from Vjosa bed of barbarian people, made Apolonia eventually to be abandoned the V th century.

Leon Rei

Leon Rei  was born in 1877 in Formantier near Paris and during the childhood and youth had the chance to study in the best schoolswhere he graduated at the end of archeology at the University Chartre'''', hee was known as one of the most famous at French archeology schools.

After an archaeological valuable experience in archaeological French military mission in the First World Warin 1924 he chose Apolloniawhose monuments''brought out''forgetting centuriesHere came the successes of Rei, which would convert the ancient city in his''second home''From what he would be separated only because the Italian occupation authorities has banned his entry in Albania.

Likewise, his attempts in 1945 to return to Apollonia faileddespite the energetic efforts he madeI left work distressed by halfLeon Reidied in France in 1954. While eight years later he was proclaimed honorary citizen and one of the main streets of Fier got its name.

French Archaeological Mission was founded in 1924 at the initiative of Senator Justin GotardDirected by Leon Rei he organized 15 excavation campaigns that launched in the spring and ended in the fall unveiling of monuments Apollonia 80Vicissitudes and obstacles of time in Albania the time between the two world wars did not stop the French archaeologist Albanian''heart''to carry out in this corner of coastal Myzeqe masterpiece of his life.

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