Apollonia

Apollonia was an ancient city in Illyria, located on the right bank of the Aous River (the modern-day Vjosë River). Its ruins are situated in the Fier region, near the village of Pojani. Apollonia was founded in 588 BCE by Greek colonists from Corfu and Corinth, on a site initially occupied by Illyrian tribes. Apollonia flourished during the period of Roman rule in the area and was home to a renowned school of philosophy. The city began to decline in the 3rd century AD when its harbor began silting up as a result of an earthquake.

Cicero, the famed Roman Orator, was captivated by the beauty of Apollonia and in his Philippics, referred to it as “magna urbs et gravis,” or “great and important city.” Archaeological excavations have shown that Apollonia achieved its zenith around the 4th – 3rd centuries BC. Sources depict a flourishing culture, with a busy harbor along this active trading route.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 has a 4 km long wall encircling an area of 137 hectares. It has been estimated that during the peak of civilization in Apollonia as many as 70,000 inhabitants lived inside the city gates. Among the most interesting sights are the city council building with its surviving facade, the library, the triumphal arch, and the temple of Artemis. Also noteworthy are the Odeon, which dates from the 2nd century BC and once accommodated approximately 10,000 spectators, and the two-story, 77 meter long covered walkway, or “stoa.”

An earthquake in the 3rd century AD altered the path of the Vjosë River and caused severe infrastructure damage. The harbor eventually filled with silt, effectively ending trade. The once proud city declined until it was nearly uninhabited. It was “rediscovered” in the 1700’s, and archaeological efforts have continued intermittently throughout the 20th century.