Byllis Archaeological Site

Byllis as a magical and quiet place of the Late Antiquity town, providing breathtaking view of the surrounding Mallakastra hills and the Vjosa river, but visited randomly by shepherds from the nearby village, or occasional visitors accompanied only by the wind and the grand panorama of river and mountains. For the Albanians, the city of Byllis, dating back to the 4th century B.C, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Albania. Byllis has been attested as the largest city of Southern Illyria at the time and the whole mountaintop was fortified, with Hellenic regular-street plan and buildings. Excavations of the Byllis site since 1980s have uncovered amazing organization of the settlement – walled city was taken up by two agorae, a large stadium, and a substantial theatre and peristyle houses. Julius Caesar made the Byllis city a colony, and a number of its citizens left their mark in the Roman period. The Byllis site comprises the theater which is, of course, the most important monument of the ancient city, and together with large stoa and stadium forms the agora – the main square dating back to the 3rd century BC.

Due to its dominating position over the Vjosa river, every movement through the valley and surrounding hills could be checked from the Byllis city. Bronze coins of the city, dating back to year 270 B.C., prove the prosperity of Bylis in antiquity. The Byllis site includes the remnants of a huge basilica built in the 5th century, which spread on more than 1 ha and makes the largest monument in the city. The floor of the Byllis Basilica is decorated with precious mosaics and depict everyday life scenes of shepherds and fishermen, and makes the largest mosaics ever discovered in Albania. The peaceful environment of the Byllis site is only disturbed by the sudden appearance of a man on a mule, coming from a narrow donkey path from the village downhill, who greets visitors cordially and disappears in the dark. The staggering view, with the river cascading away through the valleys and a glimpse of the blue of the Adriatic in the distance, make Byllis one of the most appealing ancient sites in the Balkans. Although the Byllis Archaeological site is of great cultural and archaeological significance, it is hardly mentioned in the tourist guides about Albania!