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Map of the Roman Empire - Dyrrhachium
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Ancient Dyrrhachium The modern name is Durazzo. In ancient times Dyrrhachium was a seaport on the route between Rome and the East. The ancient name of the city was Epidamnus before the Romans changed the name to Dyrrhachium because of a bad omen.
Dyrrhachium (Δυρράχιον). The modern Durazzo, formerly called Epidamnus (Ἐπίδαμνος); a town in Greek Illyria, on a peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. It was founded by the Corcyreans and received the name of Epidamnus; but since the Romans regarded this name as one of bad omen, reminding them of damnum, they changed it into Dyrrhachium. It was the usual place of landing for persons who crossed over from Brundisium, and was to that town what Calais is to Dover. Here commenced the great Via Egnatia. The place was one of much commerce, so that Catullus (xxxvi. 15) calls it taberna Hadriae, “the shop of the Adriatic.” During the Civil Wars it was the headquarters of Pompey, who kept his military stores here. In A.D. 345 it was destroyed by an earthquake. - Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers.
Maps are essential for any serious study, they help students of Roman history understand the geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in historical sources.
It is doubtful under what circumstances the name was changed to that of
DYRRHACHIUM under which it usually appears in the Latin writers. Some have
affirmed that the Romans, considering the word Epidamnus to be of ill omen,
called it Dyrrhachium from the ruggedness of its situation. (Plin. Nat. 3.23;
Pomp. Mela, 2.3.12.) The latter word is, however, of Greek and not of Latin
origin, and is used by the poet Euphorion of Chalcis. (Steph. B. sub voce Strabo
(p. 316) applied the name to the high and craggy peninsula upon which the town
was built, as does also the poet Alexander. (Steph. B. sub voce And as
Dyrrhachium did not exactly occupy the site of ancient Epidamnus (Paus. 6.10.2),
it probably usurped the place of the earlier name from its natural features.
Epidamnus was founded on the isthmus of an outlying peninsula on the sea-coast of the Illyrian Taulantii, about 627 B.C., as is said (Euseb. Chron.), by the Corcyraeans, yet with some aid, and a portion of the settlers, from Corinth; the leader of the colony, Phaleus, belonging to the family of the Heraclidae, [1.796] according to the usual practice, was taken from the mother-city Corinth. (Thuc. 1.24-26.) Hence the Corinthians acquired a right to interfere, which afterwards led to important practical consequences. Owing to its favourable position upon the Adriatic, and fertile territory, it soon acquired considerable wealth, and was thickly peopled.
The government was a close oligarchy; a single magistrate, similar to the “Cosmopolis” at Opus, was at the head of the administration. The chiefs of the tribes formed a kind of council, while the artisans and tradesmen in the town were looked upon as slaves belonging to the public. In process of time, probably a little before the Peloponnesian War, in. testine dissensions broke up this oligarchy. The original “archon” remained, but the “phylarchs” were replaced by a senate chosen on democratical principles. (Arist. Pol. 2.4.13, 3.11.1, iv, 33.8, 5.1.6, 5.3.4; Müller, Dor. vol. ii. p. 160, trans.; Grote, Greece, vol. iii. p. 546.) The government was liberal in the admission of resident aliens; but all individual dealing with the: neighbouring Illyrians was forbidden, and the traffic was carried on by means of an authorised selling agent, or “Poletes.” (Plut. Quaest. Graec. 100.29, p. 297; Aelian, V.H. 13.16.) The trade was not however confined to the inland tribes, but extended across from sea to sea, even before the construction of the Egnatian Way, and an Inscription (Boeckh, Corp. Inscr. No. 2056) proclaims the gratitude of Odessus in the Euxine sea towards a citizen of Epidamnnus.
The dispute respecting this city between Corinth and Corcyra was occasioned by a contest between the oligarchical exiles, who had been driven out by an internal sedition, and the Epidamnian democracy, in which the Corinthians supported the former. The history of this struggle has been fully given by Thucydides (l.c.), in consequence of its intimate connection with the origin of the Peloponnesian War, but we are left in ignorance of its final issue. Nor is anything known of its further history till 312 B.C., when, by the assistance of the Corcyraeans, Glaucias, king of the Illyrians, made himself master of Epidamnus. (Diod. 19.70, 78.) Some years afterwards it was surprised by a party of Illyrian pirates; the inhabitants, on recovering from their first alarm, fell upon their assailants, and succeeded in driving them from the walls. (Plb. 2.9.) Not long after, the Illyrians returned with a powerful fleet, and laid siege to the town; but fortunately for the city, the arrival of the Roman consul compelled the enemy to make a hasty retreat. Epidamnus from this time placed itself under the protection of the Romans, to whose cause it appears to have constantly adhered, both in the Illyrian and Macedonian wars. (Plb. 2.11; Liv. 29.12, 44.30.)
At a later period, Dyrrhachium, as it was then called, and a free state (Cic. Fam. 14.1), became the scene of the contest between Caesar and Pompeius. The latter moved from Thessalonica, and threw himself before Dyrrhachium; the Pompeians entrenched themselves on the right bank of the Apsus, so effectually that Caesar was obliged to take up his position on the left, and resolved to pass the winter under canvass. This led to a series of remarkable operations, the result of which was that the great captain, in spite of the consummate ability he displayed in the face of considerable superiority in numbers and position, was compelled to leave Dyrrhachium to Pompeius, and try the fortune of war upon a second field. (Caesar, B.C. 3.42--76; Appian, App. BC 2.61; D. C. 41.49; Lucan 6.29-63.) Dyrrhachium sided with M. Antonius during the last civil wars of the Republic, and was afterwards presented by Augustus to his soldiers (D. C. 2.4), when the Illyrian peasants learned the. rudiments of municipal law from the veterans of the empire. The inhabitants, whose patron deity was Venus (Catull. Carm. 34.11), were, if we may believe Plautus (Menaechm. act ii. sc. 1.30--40), a vicious and debauched race. The city itself, under the Lower Roman Empire, became the capital of the new province, Epirus Nova (Marquardt, Handbuch der Rom. Alt. p. 115), and is mentioned by the Byzantine historians as being still a considerable place in their time (Cedren. p. 703; Niceph. Callist. 17.3). Gibbon (Decline and Fall, vol. v. pp. 345--349; comp. Le Beau, Bas Empire, vol. xv. pp. 133--145) has told the story of the memorable siege, battle, and capture of Dyrrhachium,when the Norman Robert Guiscard defeated the Greeks and their emperor Alexius, A.D. 1081--1082. The modern Durazzo represents this place; the surrounding country is described as being highly attractive, though unhealthy. (Albanien, Rumelien, und die Oesterreichisch Montenegrische Gränze, Jos. Müller, Prag. 1844, p. 62.) There are a great number of autonomous coins belonging to this city, none however under the name of Epidamnus, but always with the epigraph ΔΥΡ, or more rarely ΔΥΡΑ,--the type, as on the coins of Corcyra, a cow suckling a calf; on the reverse, the gardens of Alcinous. (Eckhel, vol. ii. p. 155.) - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, LLD, Ed.
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