Excavations of an ancient site in Albania, first discovered by archaeologists in 2018, have revealed further details about a lost ancient city that ancient Greeks could have built.
Archaeologists, led by Piotr Dyczek and Saimir Shpuza, have uncovered at least three more buildings on a site located near the modern-day village of Bushat in Albania.
The ancient city was built in an area primarily inhabited by the Illyrians. However, Illyria was also home to several ancient Greek colonies. Findings from the site bear Greek and Illyrian influences.
An ancient Greek city?
Certain features of the ancient city suggest a Greek connection. The settlement’s defenses are typically Hellenistic. Archaeologists found a gate flanked by two large bastions, and the city walls would have been more than three meters wide.
Some buildings were found to have been covered by specially shaped tiles in a particular ancient Greek style. The researchers are unsure what function these buildings served.
Everyday items in the Greek style were also discovered. Drinking vessels called skyphoi (singular: skyphos) were used by the city’s inhabitants. Ancient Greeks often drank wine with a skyphos. It was a cup with two handles, typically decorated with scenes from mythology or everyday life.
Another ancient city believed to have been founded by the Greeks is close to the site at Bushat. According to the ancient Greek historian Diodorus, nearby Lissos was founded by Dionysius of Syracuse in 385 BC.
Syracuse was an ancient Greek city in Sicily. Dionysus is said to have founded the city as part of a strategy to secure Syracusan trade across the Adriatic Sea.
If the archaeological site at Bushrat was once a Greek polis (city), it is not certain where in the Greek world its founders originally came from. A connection to Lissos is possible.
Researchers working on the site think that it might have been the ancient city of Bassania, an Illyrian settlement.
Bassania is mostly known to modern historians through the writings of the Roman historian Livy. Livy describes how, in 168 BC, the Illyrian King Gentius besieged Bassania during the Third Illyrian War. The Bassanians, despite also being Illyrian, had allied themselves with Rome.
The coins and fragments of pottery found by researchers are said to be from between the fourth and first centuries BC. The time period at which the findings cease coincides with the dissolution of the Illyrian Kingdom in the aftermath of the Illyrian Wars. This correlation is one compelling reason why researchers think the ancient city could be Bassania.
Ancient Greek and Greek-style finds would not be out of place in an Illyrian city. The ancient Greeks had a wide cultural influence across the Mediterranean. Greek products like wine and pottery were sought after by a range of ancient peoples.
Greek architecture and art routinely inspired neighboring cultures—most famously Rome but also Petra and ancient India.
Contact between Greeks and Illyrians was frequent. This included war, trade, and cultural exchanges. Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedon, married an Illyrian princess called Audata. Pyrrhus of Epirus also married an Illyrian princess in 292 BC.
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