To this day, the Byzantine Forum remains the center of the modern city of Durrës, as it once was the Roman Byzantine center of the ancient city of Dyrrhachium or Dyrrah. It seems that things change only very slightly! This forum is recognized as one of the most beautiful monuments of the late Roman and the early Byzantine eras in Albania. Thanks to the concentric structures of this wide complex, the Forum bears a distinct resemblance to the Curved Forum of Constantine, which unfortunately, ceased to exist in 1204.
Fortunately, we have the Byzantine Forum which has been carefully conserved throughout centuries as a remnant of a glorious time. Though now clearly surrounded by the modern city of Durres, once you enter this magnificent space, you certainly feel the spirit of antiquity! Built at the end of the 6th century during the time of the Roman Emperor Anastasios (481-518), along with the city-harbor’s fortifications, this construction seems indestructible! After being built, the fortifications were thought to be the sturdiest in the entire Balkan area. According to historians, their walls had such thickness that several knights could stand alongside one another on their walls. This durability explains why this forum still proudly stands in the center of the city!
Otherwise referred to as the Byzantine Market (Tregu Bizantin), this monument was initially identified as a typical Roman open market complex. However, the architecture of the Forum, specifically its circular paved area (40m in diameter), revealed that this space was most probably used for more formal activities. This is no simple market! The rotunda inside the Forum, with a diameter of almost 6m, may have kept a monumental statue; thus, the market and commerce activities were possibly held around it. Once inside it, you will notice that, from the grand columns surrounding the rotunda, glimpses of the new city are stunningly framed!
As you may already know, the port city of Durrës has had a historically strategic position and, as such, it contains an astoundingly rich history! While passing through the city center, you must visit another majestic historical site, Albania’s own Coliseum: the Roman Amphitheater of the first century A.D., the second largest in the entire Balkans. Along the ancient roads, you will run into the ruins of the Castle of Durrës, the Venetian Tower and you most probably will visit the Archaeological and the Ethnographic Museums as well as many other places that speak to the profound history of this ancient city. In the end, you will find, as with Rome, all roads lead back to the Byzantine Forum!