Decoding Butrint's Fortifications

The painter edward lear, visiting Butrint in 1857,was evidently fascinated by its powerful fortifications.

Unlike previous visitors, drawn here by the descriptionof the ancient city in Virgil's Aeneid, Lear's pictorial legacy shows that it was Butrint's defenses that made it visually arresting. Now, in the seventy years since the Italian Archaeological Mission unearthed Butrint's Hellenistic and Roman remains, the growth of a woodland canopy has altered the place in visual terms. The two concentric circles of towering defenses (around the acropolis and lower city) are today less obviously as imposing and powerful.

The Butrint Foundation, however, adjudged the fortifications to be a metaphor of the long history of Butrint as a city. But rather than interpreting the continuous rebuilding of the walls and accompanying towers as symbols of Butrint's inexorable struggle with invaders and conquerors, we viewed these remains as a coded history from theArchaic Greek age to the Ottoman era.

The walls, in effect, manifest the ups and downs of Butrint as an Adriatic Sea town.

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Authors: Richard Hodges and Nevila Molla

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Keywords: Butrint, Fortifications, Adriatic, Greek, Ottoman

Richard Hodges and Nevila Molla

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