Archaeological Park of AntigoneaAsim Zeneli, Albania
Antigonea was built in the year 295 BC by order of Pyrrhus, King of Molloses, in honor of his spouse Antigonea. The city survived less than 2 centuries, burned within a night by the order of the Roman general Aemilius Paulus, as revenge against Pyrrhys. The ancient city of Antigonea is situated between two peaks connected by a narrow pass. The peak in the northern part is 700 m high above sea level and has a small field on top, while the southern peak is 600 m high and is formed by a series of folded terraces.
What distinguishes Antigoneia from most other ancient cities is its quadrangular and quite modern urban plan. The ancient city was surrounded by solid walls about 4000 m in length, protecting the city on all sides. The highest hill is connected with the settlement by a 4 m wide corridor between two parallel walls. The latter are 3.50 m thick and up to 3 m high. The fortifying walls and those of majority of houses discovered until now are made of huge and medium size blocks of lime stones extracted from the mountain of Lunxhëria. The surface area of the city, within and outside fortified walls, is estimated to be about 60 ha, while the Archaeological Park has a total surface area of 90 ha.
The identification of the location of Antigoneia was disputed for decades. The main credit for its discovery goes to the Albanian archaeologist Dhimosten Budina who, during excavations made in the 70s, managed to find some silver voting cards with the emblem of Antigoneia. The city was further identified by a number of round bronze cards bearing the inscription “ANTIGONEIA”. The archaeological excavations organized by Dhimosten Budina revealed at least 10 private objects, roads paved with slabs, sewage water pipes and pavements, as well as a tunnel which comprised one of the buildings of the market. The main road, about 6 m wide, traversed the city in a distance of at least 1 km, from northern to southern entrances.
According to archaeologists and experts of antiquity, the Drinos valley in Gjirokastra district has an extremely high number of archaeological sites and ancient settlements. Thus far, about 20 sites have been identified, including ancient cities and fortifications, monumental tombs, ancient temples, and theaters. They stretch from the extreme south of the valley on the frontier with Greece, up to Lekël in the northern part of the valley. In this context Antigoneia is undoubtedly the main center of the area’s ancient civilization.
Antigoneia is situated at a dominant point on the hill of Jerma, southwest of the village Saraqinishtë, 14 km by road from the city of Gjirokastra.