Amphitheatre of Durrës - History and Facts | History Hit

Amphitheatre of Durrës

The Amphitheatre of Durrës is a Roman amphitheatre that was built in the 2nd century AD by emperor Trajan, and is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Balkans.

Kyle Hoekstra

19 Aug 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Amphitheatre of Durrës

The Amphitheatre of Durrës is a Roman amphitheatre that was built in the 2nd century AD by emperor Trajan, and is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Balkans. It was destroyed by earthquakes in the 6th and 10th centuries.

History of the Amphitheatre of Durrës

The Amphitheatre of Durrës was built in the city of Durrës in the early 2nd century AD. It was likely used for performances for at least the next two centuries. Durrës itself was founded around 627 BC and today is the main port of Albania.

The Roman amphitheatre is built into the slope of a hill and there are staircases and galleries at different levels inside the amphitheatre. Its main function was hosting gladiator combat and it could have hosted between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators.

The earthquake of 345/346 AD had probably left the amphitheatre in poor condition and in the second half of the 4th century an early Christian chapel was built on the site of the amphitheatre. The chapel was ornamented with frescoes and mosaics were added in the 6th century.

A medieval chapel was constructed in the 13th century. Then in the 16th century, the amphitheatre was covered over in conjunction with the construction of a nearby wall.

In the 1960s, Vangjel Toci excavated approximately one third of the site. Lida Miraj excavated much that remained in the 1980s. Limited conservation efforts to protect the excavated site meant that the amphitheatre steadily deteriorated.

While restoration work to save the monument began in 2004, undertaken by the University of Parma, it was shortlisted by Europa Nostra in 2013 as one of the most endangered cultural heritage sites in Europe.

Amphitheatre of Durrës today

The Amphitheatre of Durrës is a unique monument in Albania. It is located in the centre of Durrës and is close to other archaeological sites. It is also situated near the Archaeological Museum. The amphitheatre is surrounded by the modern city and modern housing has actually been built upon part of the arena.

Getting to the Amphitheatre of Durrës

The amphitheatre of Durrës is in the centre of the city, a five minute walk along Rruga Anastas Durrsaku from the Venetian Tower of Durrës. Entry is inexpensive and there are English speaking guides at the monument.

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