Durrës: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Durrës is located in Albania
Coordinates: 41°19′N 19°27′E / 41.317°N 19.45°E / 41.317; 19.45
Country  Albania
County Durrës County
District Durrës District
Founded 627 BC
 - Mayor Vangjush Dako (PS)[1]
Elevation 0 ft (0 m)
Population (2008[2])
 - Total 246,401
Time zone Central European Time (UTC+1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 2001-2010
Area code(s) 052
Car Plates DR
Website www.durres.gov.al

Durrës is the second largest city of Albania. It is the most ancient and one of the most economically important cities of Albania. It is located on the central Albanian coast, about 33 km (21 mi) west of the capital Tirana. It is situated at one of the narrower points of the Adriatic Sea, opposite the Italian ports of Bari (300 km/186 mi away) and Brindisi (200 km/124 mi away). It has a population of around 114,000 (as of 2003 estimate). The city of Durrës is home to Albania's newest public university, the Aleksander Moisiu University.



In the past few decades, the Albanian name of the city, Durrës (Durrësi), has gradually replaced the widespread use of the Italian name Durazzo.

The city has been known by many other names in different languages due to its varied colorful history, including the Greek names Epidamnos (Επίδαμνος) and Dyrrhachion (Δυρράχιον), the Latin Dyrr(h)achium, the Bulgarian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian Drach or Drač (Драч), the Ottoman Turkish Dıraç and the Italian Durazzo.

For other names by which Durrës is known, see other names of Durrës.




As one of the oldest cities in Europe, the city was founded as Epidamnos in the ancient region of Illyria in 627 BC by Greek[3] colonists from Corinth and Corcyra. Its geographical position was highly advantageous, being situated around a natural rocky harbour which was surrounded by inland swamps and high cliffs on the seaward side, making the city very difficult to attack from either land or sea. Epidamnos was noted for being a politically advanced society, prompting the ancient philosopher Aristotle[4] to praise its political system in handling the barbarians. However, Corinth and Corcyra quarrelled over the city, helping to precipitate the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC.Epidamnos was seized by Glaukias, a Illyrian king, in 312 BC with the help of the Greek oligarchy.[5] Later Queen Teuta attacked Epidamnus but withdrew when the Romans arrived the same year 229 BC and expelled the Illyrian garrison from the city including it thereafter in their protectorate. The Romans setup a Greek[6], Demetrius of Pharos to rule over Teuta's kingdom but as client of Rome.[7] He lost his kingdom in 219 BC at the Second Illyrian War including Epidamnus to the Romans.In the Third Illyrian War Epidamnus was attacked by Gentius but he was defeated by the Romans[8] at the same year. The general vicinity of Epidamus was called Epidamnia.[9]

Roman and Byzantine rule

Durrës Harbor

After the Illyrian Wars with the Roman Republic in 229 BC ended in a decisive defeat for the Illyrians the city passed to Roman rule, under which it was developed as a major military and naval base. The Romans renamed it Dyrrachium (Greek: Δυρράχιον / Dyrrhachion). They considered the name Epidamnos to be inauspicious because of its wholly coincidental similarities with the Latin word damnum, meaning "loss" or "harm". The meaning of Dyrrachium ("bad spine" or "difficult ridge" in Greek) is unclear but it has been suggested that it refers to the imposing cliffs near the city. Julius Caesar's rival Pompey made a stand there in 48 BC before fleeing south to Greece. Under Roman rule, Dyrrachium prospered; it became the western end of the Via Egnatia, the great Roman road that led to Thessalonica and on to Constantinople. Another lesser road led south to the city of Buthrotum, the modern Butrint. The Roman emperor Caesar Augustus made the city a colony for veterans of his legions following the Battle of Actium, proclaiming it a civitas libera (free town).

In the 4th century AD, Dyrrachium was made the capital of the Roman province of Epirus nova. It was the birthplace of the emperor Anastasius I in circa 430. Some time later that century, Dyrrachium was struck by a powerful earthquake which destroyed the city's defences. Anastasius I rebuilt and strengthened the city walls, thus creating the strongest fortifications in the western Balkans. The 12 m (36 ft)-high walls were so thick that, according to the Byzantine historian Anna Komnene, four horsemen could ride abreast on them. Significant portions of the ancient city defences still remain, although they have been much reduced over the centuries.

Like much of the rest of the Balkans, Dyrrachium and the surrounding Dyrraciensis provinciae suffered considerably from barbarian incursions during the Migrations Period. It was besieged in 481 by Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, and in subsequent centuries had to fend off frequent attacks by the Bulgarians. Unaffected by the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city continued under the Byzantine Empire as an important port and a major link between the Empire and western Europe.

Middle Ages

Durrës in 1573

The First Bulgarian Empire under Simeon the Great captured the city, together with most of what is today Albania, in the early 10th century, but the Byzantines reconquered it around the middle of the century, when Bulgaria was under Peter I. The very end of the century saw another period of Bulgarian control, when under Samuel the empire conquered the city and held it until 1018. Dyrrachium (then known as Драч, Drach in Bulgarian) remained as one of the last Bulgarian fortresses as the Byzantine Empire subjugated Bulgaria.

Dyrrachium was lost in February 1082 by the emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who was defeated at the hands of the Normans (Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund (see Battle of Dyrrhachium (1081)). Byzantine control was restored the following century following the defeat of Bohemund in 1107 but the city was lost again in 1185, this time to the Norman King William II of Sicily. In 1202, during the Fourth Crusade, the city was transferred to the rule of the Republic of Venice. It passed into the hands of Manfred of Sicily and then Charles I of Sicily (Charles of Anjou) in 1268.

Five years later, in ca. 1273, it was wrecked by a devastating earthquake (according to George Pachymeres; R. Elsie, Early Albania (2003), p. 12), but soon recovered and became an independent duchy under the rule of Charles' grandson John of Anjou. It later came under the rule of Philip I of Taranto. In 1333 it was annexed to the Frankish Principality of Achaea before falling to the Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan in 1336. When Dušan died in 1355, the city passed into the hands of the Albanian family of Thopias.

The Republic of Venice regained control in 1392 and retained the city, known as Durazzo in those years, as part of the Albania Veneta. It fended off a siege by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1466 but fell to Ottoman forces in 1501.

Durrës became a Christian city quite early on; its bishopric was created around AD 58 and was raised to the status of an archbishopric in 449. It is also the seat of a Greek Orthodox metropolitan bishop. Under Turkish rule, many of its inhabitants converted to Islam and many mosques were erected. This city was renamed as Dıraç, the city did not prosper under the Ottomans and its importance declined greatly. By the mid-19th century, its population was said to have been only about 1,000 people living in some 200 households. Its decrepitude was noted by foreign observers in the early 20th century: "The walls are dilapidated; plane-trees grow on the gigantic ruins of its old Byzantine citadel; and its harbour, once equally commodious and safe, is gradually becoming silted up."[10] It was a sanjak centre in İşkodra Vilayet before 1912.

20th century

Ahmet Zogu's Villa of Durrës

Durrës was an active city in the Albanian national liberation movement in the periods 1878-1881 and 1910-1912. Ismail Qemali raised the Albanian flag on November 26, 1912 but the city was captured by the Serbs three days later during the First Balkan War. The city became Albania's first national capital on March 7, 1913 under the brief rule of Prince William of Wied.

During the First World War, the city was occupied by Italy in 1915 and by Austria-Hungary in 1916-1918. It was captured by the Allies in October 1918. Restored to Albanian sovereignty, Durrës became the country's temporary capital between 1918 and March 1920. It experienced an economic boom due to Italian investments and developed into a major seaport under the rule of King Zog, with a modern harbour being constructed in 1927.

An earthquake in 1926 damaged some of the city and the rebuilding that followed gave the city its more modern appearance. During the 1930s, the Bank of Athens had a branch in the city.

The Second World War saw Durrës (called Durazzo again in Italian) and the rest of Albania being annexed to the Kingdom of Italy between 1939–1943, then occupied by Nazi Germany until 1944. Durrës's strategic value as a seaport made it a high-profile military target for both sides. It was the site of the initial Italian landings on 7 April 1939 as well as the launch point for the ill-fated Italian invasion of Greece. The city was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during the war and the port installations were blown up by the retreating Germans in 1944.

The Communist regime of Enver Hoxha rapidly rebuilt the city following the war, establishing a variety of heavy industries in the area and expanding the port. It became the terminus of Albania's first railway, begun in 1947. In the late 1980s the city was briefly renamed Durrës-Enver Hoxha.

Following the collapse of communist rule in 1990, Durrës became the focus of mass emigrations from Albania with ships being hijacked in the harbour and sailed at gunpoint to Italy. In one month alone, August 1991, over 20,000 people migrated to Italy in this fashion. Italy intervened militarily, putting the port area under its control, and the city became the centre of the European Community's "Operation Pelican", a food-aid programme.

In 1997, Albania slid into anarchy following the collapse of a massive pyramid scheme which devastated the national economy. An Italian-led peacekeeping force was controversially deployed to Durrës and other Albanian cities to restore order, although there were widespread suggestions that the real purpose of "Operation Alba" was to prevent economic refugees continuing to use Albania's ports as a route to migrate to Italy.

During the 1999 Kosovo War the city hosted some 110,000 Deportees from Kosovo and became a base of operations for much of the refugee response by aid agencies in Albania.


Durrës is still an important link to Western Europe due to its port and its proximity to the Italian port cities, notably Bari, to which daily ferries run. As well as the dockyard, it also possess an important shipyard and manufacturing industries, notably producing leather, plastic and tobacco products. The neighbouring district also produces wine and a variety of foodstuffs.


A mosque in Durrës

Some important buildings in Durrës include the main library, the cultural center with the Aleksander Moisiu theater, the Estrada Theater, the puppet theater, and the philharmonic orchestra. There are also several museums such as the Archaeological Museum, Ahmet Zogu's Villa of Durrës and the Museum of History.

Orthodox church in Durrës

The city's beaches are also a popular destination for many foreign and local tourists, with an estimated 600,000 tourists visiting annually. Many Albanians from Tirana spend their summer vacations on the beaches of Durrës.

Due to the recent construction of a modern highway linking Tirana and Durrës, the travel time by motor vehicle is only approximately 30 minutes. The journey can also be made by train, albeit more slowly, for the token charge of 50 lekë (about US$ 0.40). There are roughly ten trains a day from Tirana.

As in other parts of Albania, numerous concrete bunkers built under the old dictatorship are situated in and around Durrës. They can be found every 100 to 150 metres (330 to 490 ft) along the city's beach. They were built to defend the country from a supposed foreign attack from either the West or the Warsaw Pact, which never happened; Albania now has an estimated 700,000 bunkers.

The largest amphitheatre in the Balkans is located in the city close to the harbour. This first-century construction is currently under consideration for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site.[11]

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Notable People

See also


  1. ^ http://www.durres.gov.al/content/view/24/2/lang,en/
  2. ^ Instituti i Statistikës, Tirana
  3. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, ISBN 0631198075, page 96,"From Bouthoe to Epidamnus, a Greek city, the ..."
  4. ^ Aristot. Pol. 2.1267b
  5. ^ A History of the Classical Greek World, 478 - 323 BC (Blackwell History of the Ancient World) by P. J. Rhodes, 2005, page 82: "... expelled the oligarchs, and the oligarchs joined with the neighbouring Taulantians in attacking Epidamnus, ..."
  6. ^ "The ruler of Pharos was a Greek, Demetrius",Lectures on Ancient History: From the Earliest Times to the Taking of ... - Page 353, by Barthold Georg Niebuhr
  7. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, p. 120, ISBN 0631198075, page 161, "... Gulf of Kotor. The Romans decided that enough had been achieved and hostilities ceased. The consuls handed over Illyria to Demetrius and withdrew the fleet and army to Epidamnus , ..."
  8. ^ Battles of the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Chronological Compendium of 667 Battles to 31Bc, from the Historians of the Ancient World (Greenhill Historic Series) by John Drogo Montagu, ISBN 1853673897, 2000, page 47
  9. ^ The History of the Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece: Volume 3 by James Augustus St. John, 2003, ISBN 1402154410, page 275
  10. ^ D/DU/DURAZZO.htm - LoveToKnow 1911
  11. ^ L'amphithéâtre de Durres - UNESCO World Heritage Centre

External links

Coordinates: 41°19′N 19°27′E / 41.317°N 19.45°E / 41.317; 19.45

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Balkans : Albania : Durrës

Durrës is an Albanian Adriatic port city. It serves ferries to Bari (Italy) [1]. Alternative spellings of the cities name are Durrazzo (Italian), Drač (Драч, Serbo-Croatian) or Dyrrhachion (Δυρράχιον, Greek).

Get in

By boat

By bus

  • From Skopje, Macedonia, buses run through Durres on their way to Tirana. A typical Skopje-Tirana ticket costs around 25 Euro return.
  • Hotel Lido Durres

Address: Lagja.2; Rruga: Aleksander Goga Durres Albania

E-mail: info@hotellido-durres.com Telephone: +355 52 227941 Fax: +355 52 227941 [2]

  • Hotel Nais, Lagia 1, Rruga Naim Frasheri nr.46 (From the Port: 100 Meters toward the town center. Left on Naim Frasheri street, behind the tower.), [3]. checkout: 11:00am. An easy to find three star hotel, just off the main street. Close to the action but quiet. Breakfast is included. 40 Euros (double).  edit
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Durres



Alternative forms

  • Durres

Proper noun


  1. An Adriatic port city in Albania, on the site of Ancient Epidamnus
  2. A Catholic archiepiscopal see since 1300, which lost its metropolitan status and was merged into one archbishopric with the Albanian capital Tirana (Tirane, Tiranë; where the cathedral now is)
  3. An Orthodox archbishorpic


  • Durazzo (Italian)



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