1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Durazzo

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DURAZZO (anc. Epidamnus and Dyrrachium; Albanian, Durresi; Turkish and Slavonic, Drach), a seaport and capital of the sanjak of Durazzo, in the vilayet of Iannina, Albania, Turkey. Pop. (1900) about 5000. Durazzo is about 50 m. S. of Scutari, on the Bay of Durazzo, an inlet of the Adriatic Sea. It is the seat of a Roman Catholic archbishop and a Greek metropolitan, but in every respect has greatly declined from its former prosperity. 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. The only features worthy of notice are the quay, with its rows of cannon, and the bridge, 750 ft. long, which leads across the marshes stretching along the coast. The chief exports are olive oil—largely manufactured in the district—wheat, oats, barley, pottery and skins.

Epidamnus was founded by a joint colony of Corcyreans and Corinthians towards the close of the 7th century B.C., and from its admirable position and the fertility of the surrounding country soon rose into very considerable importance. The dissolution of its original oligarchical government by the democratic opposition, the consequent quarrel between Corcyra and the oligarchical city of Corinth, and the intervention of Athens on behalf of Corcyra, are usually included among the contributory causes of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.). In 312 B.C., Epidamnus was seized by the Illyrian king Glaucias, and shortly afterwards it passed into the power of the Romans. As the name Epidamnus sounded to Roman ears like an evil omen, as though it were derived from the Latin damnum, “loss” or “harm,” the alternative name of Dyrrachium, which the city possibly received from the rugged nature of the adjoining sea-coast, came into general use. Thenceforward Epidamnus rose rapidly in importance. It was a favourite point of debarcation for the Roman armies; the great military road known as the Via Egnatia led from Dyrrachium to Thessalonica (Salonica); and another highway passed southwards to Buthrotum and Ambracia. Broad swamps rendered the city almost impregnable, and in 48 B.C. it became famous as the place where Pompey made his last successful resistance to Caesar. After the battle of Actium in 31 B.C., Augustus made over Dyrrachium to a colony of his veterans; it became a civitas libera and a great commercial emporium (for coins see Maier, Numis. Zeitschr., 1908). The summit of its prosperity was reached about the end of the 4th century, when it was made the capital of Epirus Nova. Its bishopric, created about A.D. 58, was raised to an archbishopric in 449. In 481 the city was besieged by Theodoric, the king of the East Goths; and in the 10th and 11th centuries it frequently had to defend itself against the Bulgarians. In 1082 it was stormed by the Norman Robert Guiscard, who in the previous year had defeated the Greeks under their emperor Alexius; and in 1185 it fell into the hands of King William of Sicily. Surrendered to Venice in 1202, it afterwards broke loose from the republic and in 1268 passed into the possession of Charles of Anjou. In 1273 it was laid in ruins by an earthquake, but it soon recovered from the disaster, and became an independent duchy under John, the grandson of Charles (1294–1304), and afterwards under Philip of Otranto. In 1333 it was annexed to Achaea, in 1336 to Servia, and in 1394 to Venice. The Turks obtained possession in 1501.