The present city of Durrës in Albania is the second most populous in the country. It was founded by Greek settlers from Corcyra (modern Corfu), who called it Epidamnos, in 627 BC and renamed Dyrrhachium by the Romans. Located in the center of the Albanian Adriatic coast, about 33 kilometers west of the capital, Tirana.

In 1966, the largest Roman amphitheater of all found on the Balkan Peninsula was discovered in the city center, the only one in Albania.

Now, new excavations covering an area of 1200 square meters have provided, according to archaeologists, a special insight into the urban order of the area, where we surely find a part of the city inhabited by the social elites. This consists of constructions with advanced architecture, recently discovered, and the revelation of traces of a covered pool in a Roman villa, the first of its kind discovered by archaeological excavations in Albania, decorated across its surface with multicolored frescoes of high artistic level.

The amphitheatre in 2015 before the demolition of the remaining houses above it
The amphitheatre in 2015 before the demolition of the remaining houses above it. Credit: ADida / Wikimedia Commons

The uniqueness of this structure also lies in its basement, paved with a very well-preserved mosaic, with elaborate geometric motifs made of marble, stone, glass, and ceramics tiles. Near the pool, a hydraulic monument composed of two conical cups lined with waterproofing has been discovered.

In the northern part of the excavation site, a large brick floor was discovered, which could be the floor of a bath, considering comparisons with similar constructions of the time in the Mediterranean.

Several lines of walls related to the architectural complex discovered in this sector have also been identified. The considerable height of its preservation suggests that this monument could have had two floors.

Remains of the Roman villa discovered in ancient Dyrrhachium
Remains of the Roman villa discovered in ancient Dyrrhachium. Credit: Instituti Kombëtar i Trashëgimisë Kulturore

Of great interest are the finds in the western part, where we highlight fragments of decoration from the walls and ceilings of the villa, elaborated with stucco with various anthropomorphic and floral motifs.

Traces of frescoes are also present here. The excavation has also identified the rainwater gutter constructed with ceramic slabs.

The archaeological finds place us in the period from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD, with the peak of the monument’s development in the 1st-2nd centuries AD.

Remains of sculptural decoration found in ancient Dyrrhachium
Remains of sculptural decoration found in ancient Dyrrhachium. Credit: Instituti Kombëtar i Trashëgimisë Kulturore

Archaeologists believe that this villa was destroyed by the earthquake of the 4th century AD, mentioned in ancient sources.



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