Butrint: Archaeological Site
May 15, 2015
A Fascinating Day
Butrint is surely the quintessential archeological site of Southeastern Europe.
Butrint became an urban center in the 4th Century BCE and was settled for several centuries before that. And even before that, this whole area was settled in prehistoric times.
The ancient Greek tribe Chaonians, the Romans, Byzantines, Ostrogoths, Bulgarians, Venetians, and Ottomans all occupied Butrint over the centuries. Even the French were here for a couple of years. Finally, Albania gained its independence in 1912 and rightfully took possession of this ancient city.
From the top of the fortress, I can view the waterways surrounding the site and can understand its strategic importance along the Strait of Corfu that connects the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea.
Now here’s a fascinating fact: 18,000 years ago sea levels were much lower and the Greek island of Corfu was connected to the mainland. The ocean waters rose 9000 years ago and the surrounding hills became small islands.
As I wander this diverse and peaceful site I can’t help but wonder, “If the seas continue to rise, what new islands will be formed and what civilizations will drown? Or be conquered? Or be replaced? Or just disappear?”
Just north of Butrint in the city of Saranda, I wander again, and this time in the ruins of a 5th Century Synagogue! Apparently the Jews of this area thrived and were able to build a large complex of buildings.
Located near to the City Hall in Saranda, these ruins show that there was a large wealthy Jewish community in Oncheasmos (ancient name for Saranda) during the 5th century CE. There was a community center and school in addition to religious activities. The floors have many different mosaics, including animals and also a menorah and other Jewish symbols, which prove that this was a synagogue. The buildings were destroyed either by an earthquake or by Slavic invasion. The synagogue had been converted into a basilica during the 6th century.
The synagogue buildings in Saranda may have collapsed, but what is clear is that this particular ancient civilization will continue to thrive and will never disappear.