Posts Tagged ‘Roman’

My friend took me to Durrës for the day, where he and his family have an apartment. One of his daughters went with us to see the old Roman amphitheatre and walk around the nearby town square that sits right on the water. The water and beach in Durrës aren’t very beautiful, but it is the second-largest city in Albania, and is practically a suburb of Tirana (based on its proximity), so it is crowded in summer nevertheless. However, it was definitely the history aspect that I found appealing about Durrës. Known as Dyrrachion or Epidamnus in Greek and Dyrrachium in Roman, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe and at various points was part of ancient Illyria, the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire.

The view of the amphitheatre from the entrance gate

The amphitheatre was unknown and rediscovered long after lots of construction had gone up over and around it, so the atmosphere is unique–ancient ruins surrounded by communist-era apartment buildings, buildings that are in such bad shape they are almost falling down, a mosque minaret, and streets. My friend told me there is probably much more really amazing structures left unexcavated under the surrounding structures.

These old walls unearthed to the side of the amphitheatre hint at what else might be hidden beneath the surrounding buildings.

A Communist-era relief sculpture we noticed on the side of an abandoned, Italian-style building near the amphitheatre.

In addition to the amphitheatre, ancient city walls can be found in this area of Durrës. They are remarkably thick and I think that is a reflection of the importance of this city in the ancient world.

This doorway in the city wall leads from the main street of this part of the city into the area where the amphitheatre is located.

Supposedly, this cavern-like tunnel is where the gladiators waited for their turn in the arena. I was also told that this tunnel used to lead into another part of the city, but was blocked off.

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Ephesus, an ancient Roman city near Kusadasi, and just outside Selcuk, was quite an experience. Because of its size and level of preservation, the city is a main tourist attraction in the area, with many cruise ship passengers taking a day trip to the site from the port at Kusadasi. Despite the hordes, it was enjoyable and impressive to see. There are two entrances to Ephesus, and for the most part the sights are laid out in a linear fashion, so the entrances are more or less at either end of the city. It’s built on a hill, so if you park at the top entrance, you can walk downhill through the city and then take a taxi back up to your car. I suppose you could walk back up the hill to your car, but it was hot and the taxi seemed like a better plan. Inside the city, you can also visit a covered section of terrace houses that are well-preserved and under continuing excavation. You have to pay an extra entrance fee to see this part of the city, but it’s worth the price because there are many interesting murals and floor mosaics. There is an extremely large theatre at the lower end of the city, but it is impressive mostly for its size. There is a lot of unsightly concrete and metal fences around this part of the site, making it not so photogenic—the much smaller, but ornate and tourist-free theatre at Priene was much better. Probably the most impressive single section of Ephesus is the library; the façade is more or less intact and it is really amazing to see. It does help to enter the site at the top because then you see the library near the end, so you build up to the best part of the city rather than starting out strong and getting less interesting as you go!

The hordes of tourists

Inside the Terrace Houses

One of the intricate floor mosaics in the Terrace Houses

In addition to Ephesus, the Selçuk area also is the site of the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left of the temple at all. One lone column stands in the middle of a marshy area, where you can see traces of stone foundation and some fallen bits of column—that’s it. As with the parts of ancient aqueduct which are strewn throughout Selçuk, the last column is topped by a stork nest. It’s both interesting and sad to see how the ancient architecture has just been incorporated into the fabric of the town—it is surprising to turn a corner and come across a bit of aqueduct, but they also seem to be completely unprotected and as such may not be around for long.

The library at Ephesus is shown here. Unfortunately, most of my photos turned out overexposed (the sun was blinding and my camera settings were off), but this is what we salvaged with a little editing.

Part of an aqueduct in Selcuk

The lone standing column at the Temple of Artemis

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