In the southwest of Albania lies the peninsula of Ksamil, and on the southern tip of this peninsula is situated Butrint, surrounded by Vivari channel through which the waters of the lake are carried to the sea. The city occupies a position well protected by the nature, with a natural harbor mentioned also in the maritime itineraries of the ancient world.
From the plain of Kestrina and the Surrounding hills, Butrint secured ample supplies of grain and livestock products. The lake rich in fish and shellfish also served as permanent reserve of food. Because of this natural conditions, a centre of habitation arose at Butrint in prehistoric times, that gradually grew, took shape, increased in strength and extended in area.
Butrint is mentioned for the first time in written sources by Hecataeus, the geographer of the 6th century BC. At this time the city extended over the whole area of the hill. However, we do not encounter its name again until 500 years later.
According to the legend, Butrint was founded by the Trojan exiles Helenus after the fall of Troy in the 13 century BC.
The legend and the beauties of Butrint have inspired poets and writers down through the ages. Virgil devoted whole pages to it in his masterpiece “Aeneid”, recounting the voyage of another Trojan hero. The events in Racines “Andromaque”, also take place in Butrint indicating that it became a significant city, one of the most important in the region of Epirus.
While there is archeological evidence from the 12th century BC, Butrint didn’t flourish as a settlement until the 8th century BC undergoing different civilizations. During Hellenistic period, 4th century, Butrint become an important religious site. The late 1st century AD, Roman Butrint, was a prosperous period. Public and private building of every kind were erected. During late Roman Butrint, 5th century, many prominent early Christian buildings were constructed. The bay was a scene of a great sea battle between the Norman and the Byzantine fleets during 10th century, giving way to a Byzantine period. Venetians purchased Butrint from the Angevins in late 13th century and for the next 4 centuries it wasn’t more than an outpost of Corfu. 19th century -Butrint had dwindled in the size of a fishing village, clustered around the Triangular Castle. The settlement belonged to Ali Pasha, who ruled Epirus from the castle at Ioannina.
From the 18th century foreign diplomats were regular visitors to Ali’s court. French painter, Louis Doupre, visited Butrint and wrote: “…one day, exploration of the ruins will bring forth a great wealth of discoveries that have been covered for all these centuries by the curtain of night”.
In 2003 the wetland complex, including a part of the lagoon and the coastal area of Butrint – Stillo Cape – was proclaimed a Ramsar Site and a National Park.
Due to its importance for the preservation of archaeological and historical heritage, Butrint was designated in 1992 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.