Dyrrachium (Greek Δυρράχιον, Italian Durazzo, modern Durrës, Albania) was an important fortified city on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, the western terminus of the Via Egnatia, and the capital of the province of Nova Epirus. Despite earthquakes in 341 and 522 and an Ostrogothic sack in the 480s, it remained a major port and fortress in the area; Anastasius I, a native of Dyrrachium, provided the city with a triple wall and citadel, which was rebuilt by Justinian I. In the first half of the 9th century the fortress was in Byzantine hands, and a theme of Dyrrachion was established.
Even though it was a metropolitan see, it was a stronghold rather than an economic center as it had been in late antiquity. According to Anna Komnene, the city occupied only a part of ancient Epidamnos whose ramparts were ruined. The old city played an important role during Basil II's war against Bulgaria and during the revolt of Delyan. Nikephoros Bryennios and Nikephoros Basilakes, successively doukes of Dyrrachion, revolted in the 1070s. The Normans attacked it several times: Robert Guiscard took the city in 1081, Bohemund besieged it in 1107-08; in 1185 William II of Sicily pillaged it.
From the 12th century onward, Venetians (and later merchants from Dubrovnik) used Dyrrachion as a port for the export of local products (salt, wood, hides) and tried to establish their political power over the city, but were opposed by Michael I Komnenos Doukas of Epiros, Manfred of Sicily, Serbs, and Byzantines. In 1392 Venice occupied Durazzo and held it until 1501 when it fell to the Ottomans. The role of Dyrrachion in the Byzantine ecclesiastical hierarchy gradually diminished: the metropolitan had eight suffragans in the 9th century but none by the end of the 12th century - its territory was taken over first by Ohrid and then by the Latin archbishopric of Bar. By the 14th century Albanians became the dominant inhabitants.
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Mosaics of Amphitheater Church
Depiction of Durazzo by Pinargenti (1573)
Fortress of Durrës (1930)
Plan by Stephenson
Byzantium's Balkan Frontier: A Political Study of the Northern Balkans 900-1204 by Paul Stephenson
Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
View of Durazzo by Edward Lear (1851)