High on a hilltop near the village of Ploçe, Albania, lie the ruins of the ancient polis of Amantia. The city was founded in the 5th century BC and is first mentioned in ancient sources around the middle of the 4th century. It experienced an economic and cultural boom during the Hellenistic period, and from 230 BC started to mint its own coins.
The 3rd century also saw the construction of a Doric-style temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the remains of which are seen in this photo. Around this time, the people of Amantia, along with other important centres of southern Illyria and Epirus, were invited to take part in the Delphic games (from 220 to 189 BC) by the Theorodokoi (hosts) of Delphi in Greece. The stadium – a vestige of Amantia’s sporting past – is one of the best-preserved structures at the site.
Less is known about Amantia during late antiquity, but it was the seat of a bishop and it also appears in the list of refortified centres from the reign of the the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (r. AD 527-565). The city may have been abandoned by the end of the 6th century AD, but before this, sometime in the 5th or 6th century, it is thought that the temple to Aphrodite was destroyed and replaced by a Christian basilica. The ruins of both former places of worship (shown above) can still be seen today, along with the city’s fortified wall and arched gateway (right).
Images: Michel Gybel