A city which, according to Vergil, was founded by the Trojan seer Helenos. After marrying Andromache, the widow of Hector, Helenos migrated to the shores of Epeiros where he founded a new Troy. In reality, Buthrotum must have been founded, as were Apollonia and Durazzo, by colonists from Kerkyra (Corfu). It is situated on a hill commanding a view of the coastal lagoon of Corfu--;Lake Pelode in antiquity--;connected to the sea by a short, natural canal. The remains of the city, which belong to the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods, are scattered on the acropolis hill--;along its slopes and in the low-lying section along the bank of the canal--;and in the entire zone between there and the base of the hill.
The city became a colony under Julius Caesar. Pompeius Atticus constructed a magnificent villa there, the Amaltheion, in the vicinity of which was found a Parian marble relief representing a winged Nike of disputed date. The acropolis is protected by three circuit walls, set out in three rows of varying height. The highest and oldest was constructed of large, rough-hewn polygonal blocks. The central wall, halfway up the hill, is also built of polygonal blocks. The third wall, at the foot of the hill, is made of ashlar masonry; occasionally the stones are very large and the wall shows traces of the restorations of different periods. This last wall, constructed between the end of the 5th c. and the beginning of the 4th c. B.C., was provided with bastions and gates. The most important of the gates are the so-called Porta Scea and the Porta del Leone. The left side of the former juts out like a large tower in such a way as to force attackers to expose their right, unshielded sides. The flat arch of the gate is made of long, narrow rectangular blocks held in place by molded brackets. The present pavement, 5 m from the top of the gate, dates to the Byzantine period; the original paving is 1.5 m below that.
The Porta del Leone has the same structure as the Porta Scea and was so named because the top is decorated with a sculptured limestone relief of a lion tearing a bull to pieces. The work seems unfinished (but certainly archaic--;6th c. B.C.) and appears to have been added to the gate after its construction.
Only the foundations of the N and W gates remain, while the Porta a Mare in the third circuit wall is partially preserved and gains its name from its geographic location. It is formed of two towers, one square and the other semicircular. At the center on the inside, each of the two large towers has a pillar which must have served to support the roofing. All the gates date to the beginning of the Hellenistic period, around the middle of the 4th c. B.C.
Among other Greek and Roman buildings partially preserved and of prime importance is the theater, which stretches along the S slopes of the acropolis. The cavea and the orchestra belong to the end of the 4th c. B.C. Thirteen rows of seats have been preserved as have the remains of at least six others, separated from the first by a diazoma and parapet. Four stairways form five sections. The horseshoe-shaped orchestra was paved in the Roman period with slabs of white limestone. The stage dates to the first years of the Empire, with but few traces of the original. The scaena is composed of the scaenae frons and the pulpitum, the first of which is formed by a wall and three arcades with niches in the pilasters, and niches also adorn the frons pulpiti. The parodoi were transformed in the Roman period into versurae by means of a vaulted roof. Many Greek inscriptions can be read on the rows and on the walls of the parodoi. On the third row is a dedicatory inscription, probably to Asklepios since proximity of a small shrine dedicated to Asklepios is nearby. Numerous statues have been discovered in the theater, among which are a copy of the Great Hercules and the so-called Goddess of Buthrotum, the latter a Hellenistic head of Apollo fitted to a female torso of the 5th c. In addition, there are two statues of warriors, one of which is signed by Sosikles the Athenian.
In the vicinity of the theater are various monuments, the most important of which are:
A Greek temple, somewhat above the theater along the S slope of the hill of the acropolis, in antis with the cella raised in the center on three steps; two mosaic pavements--;one of them polychrome--;have been placed over the original floor; the temple dates to the Hellenistic period.
A portico of ashlar masonry on the same axis as the theater with arcades supported by pillars; only one arch is partially preserved and the pillars have been reinforced.
A Shrine of Aesculapius, a small Roman temple built over a previous temple of the Greek period, backs onto the W side of the theater. It comprises a vestibule and a cella in which was discovered a large headless statue which must be that of Aesculapius or of his priest; some 340 vases and vase stands were found in the votive pit and inscriptions to Aesculapius were found on some of those dating to the Hellenistic period.
There are numerous buildings at Buthrotum, partially preserved, dating primarily to the Roman period. Among them are various bath complexes, the Nymphaeum, and the Fountain of Junia Rufina. The fountain, near the Porta del Leone, is a well of sulphurous water used in the Greek period and on into the Roman period. Along the parapet are limestone slabs with a Greek inscription referring to Junia Rufina, the friend of the Nymphs. The arcaded aqueduct, near the Porta a Mare, is also noteworthy. The Baptistery was built from a circular room of the Roman period with a mosaic pavement dating to the end of the 4th c. A.D. On the pavement a baptismal font in the form of a Greek cross had been carved out of two superposed column drums. Two panels inserted in it depicted the Baptism and the Eucharist. The mosaic is polychrome and the decoration is of animal forms in bright colors. (P. C. SESTIERI)
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)