Roman villa with indoor pool found in Albania

An excavation in Durrës, Albania, has uncovered the remains of a Roman villa with an indoor plunge pool. It is the first of its kind discovered in Albania. The villa was built and modified in the imperial era, so between the 1st and 4th centuries A.D. The peak of activity at the site appears to have occurred in the 1st-2nd century A.D.

Located on the Adriatic coast 25 miles west of Tirana, Durrës was founded in the 7th century B.C. by Greek colonists from Corinth and Corfu. The Greeks knew it as both Epidamnos and Dyrrhachion, but after the Romans conquered the region in the Illyrian Wars of 229 B.C., they dropped Epidamnos and Latinized the city’s name to Dyrrhachium. The second-to-last battle between Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey took place there in 48 B.C. Pompey won, but his great victory was short-lived, and Caesar obliterated Pompey’s forces a couple of weeks later at Pharsalus.

In the imperial era, Dyrrhachium grew and prospered as the western end-point of the Via Egnatia, the Roman road that ran east through Thessalonica all the way to Constantinople. It became the capital of the Roman province of Epirus Nova in the 4th century. It was struck by an earthquake in the 5th century, but bounced back strongly thanks to Byzantine investment in repairing its defensive walls.

The villa was built in a part of the city that archaeologists believe was a wealthy residential neighborhood. It has high-end amenities and decorations. The indoor pool was richly decorated on all its surfaces with frescoes on the walls and mosaic flooring in several styles with tiles and inlays of marble, stone, glass and ceramic. Near the pool are a pair of shallow square basins made of brick coated in waterproof mortar, one layered above the other, that are believed to have been a water feature.

In the northern part of the excavation site, a large-sized brick floor was discovered which could be the floor of a thermae [bathhouse], taking into account comparisons to similar buildings of the Mediterranean period. Also, several wall lines connected with the architectural complex discovered in the sector have been identified. The considerable height of their preservation suggests that this monument may have been built on two floors.

Of great interest are the discoveries in the western part, where we separated fragments of the decoration of the walls and ceilings of the villa, made with stucco with various motifs, anthropomorphic and floral. There are also traces of the fresco here. From the excavation also the rainwater drainage channel constructed with ceramic tiles has been identified.

The villa was destroyed in the 5th century earthquake and was not rebuilt.

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