The entire Balkan region has always been considered as a link between east and west, as well as the bearer of many different civilizations throughout history. It is impossible not to find part of the Greek-Roman heritage in any part of the Balkans.
One of the most representative emblems is what is known as “Via Egnatia” in Latin or “Egnatia Odos” in Greek. It is a Roman ancient road that connects city of Rome with Byzantium (what is known as Istanbul today).
The Egnatia Road was mentioned for the first time by ancient authors Polibi and Straboni in the 2nd century BC. Today’s Albania was the starting point of the Egnatia road with two seperate beginning points, one at Durres (at that time Dyrrachium) and the other at Apolonia near the city of modern day Fier.
The most significant and ancient part of the road is still visible today, and many historical and archaeological features are still evident. Although mentioned in various publications the road is not very well known by Albanians and is mainly visited by tourists and adventurers. The main part of the ancient road is in the valley of Shkumbin river from Durres to Ohrid Lake, where it then continues to Macedonia, Greece and European Turkey.
At first, during the Roman republic period, the Egnatia road was used predominantly by the military. Later it became an important economic artery connecting the Apennines peninsula and a good part of Europe with the South Balkans, Asia Minor, Middle East, and even Mesopotamia.
The Egnatia road starts from today’s Durres before crossing the Kavaja rock in the south until it reached the Shkumbini valley. It then passes the nearby town of Rrogozhina and continues into the town of Peqin (then known as Claudia). The road continues along the river valley until it reaches the Ad Quintum station near Elbasan. The city of Elbasan, known as Scampinus at this time, was an important center of Via Egnatia. According to travel authors from the III-IV century it is mentioned that the road passed through the western gate of the Scampus Castle and emerged on the eastern side.
Today, within the old castle of the city of Elbasan, there is the continuity of the road Egnatia. From Elbasan to the east, the whole landscape begins to change, from fields to the high mountain ranges. In this part there are many Roman and Ottoman bridges, some of which are still visible to this day.
In recent years, Albania has turned into a destination that is very popular among tourists, especially European ones. Many parts are still completely undiscovered but “Via Egnatia” presents an opportunity be a unique destination and very differently from others. Visitors to this antique route will not see only historical sites but also places of outstanding natural beauty stretching between the Adriatic Sea to Lake Ohrid and beyond., But there is also the added ethnological value where the discovery of antiquity would lead to the exploration of today’s Albanian society through the towns and villages through which “Via Egnatia” passes.
-Guest post by Ledio Karaj
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