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Durrës (do͞orˈəs), Ital. Durazzo, city (1989 pop. 82,719), capital of Durrës dist., W Albania, on the Adriatic Sea. The chief seaport of Albania and the leading commercial and communications center, it has a dockyard, a shipyard, and industries that manufacture leather, plastic, and tobacco products. It is linked by rail with Tiranë and Elbasan. Durrës is the seat of a Greek Orthodox metropolitan and, since A.D. 449, of a Roman Catholic archbishopric. Founded (c.625 B.C.) as Epidamnus, a joint colony of Corinth and Corcyra, it became an important trade center. The quarrel between Corinth and Corcyra over Epidamnus helped to precipitate (431 B.C.) the Peloponnesian War. Durrës passed to Rome in 229 B.C. and became a military and naval base. Under Roman rule it was known as Dyrrhachium, from which the present name is derived. Pompey made (48 B.C.) a stand there against Caesar. The city passed to the Byzantine empire in the 8th cent., to the Normans of Sicily in 1185, to Naples in 1272, and to Serbia in 1336. Venice captured it in 1392 and held it until 1501 when it passed to the Turks. Under Turkish rule Durrës declined rapidly and almost disappeared. It was occupied (1912) by the Serbs in the First Balkan War, but was assigned to Albania in 1913. Italy (1915) and Austria (1916–18) also occupied the city. Durrës was the capital of Albania from 1913 to 1920 and revived thereafter as the country's chief seaport. It suffered heavy damage during World War II. The city, with its many mosques, has a Middle Eastern character. Three Byzantine towers and medieval fortifications erected by Venice have survived.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Durrësi), a city in Albania, on the coast of the Gulf of Durrësi in the Adriatic Sea. Population, 53,200(1967). A highway junction, Durrës is the principal port of the country and is connected by railroads with the capital, the city of Tirana, and the industrial centers of Elbasani and Laç. It has the shipbuilding, metalworking, food, tobacco, leather, and rubber industries. It is the center of the fishing and the fish-packing industry as well as being a tourist center and a seaside health resort. The winters are warm and humid, with average January temperatures of 5°C, and the summers are warm and dry, with average July temperatures of about 25°C. Annual precipitation is 1,100-1,800 mm. Durrës offers treatment for nontubercular illnesses of the respiratory organs, functional disorders of the nervous system, and secondary anemia.

Durrës was founded under the name of Epidamnus in about 627 B.C. by the Corcyreans and Corynthians. In 229 B.C. it was besieged by the Illyrians but was immediately captured by the Romans, who renamed it Dyrrhachium. Situated opposite Brundisium (a port in southern Italy), Durrës was a transportation junction between Italy and Greece during Roman times. Linked to Salonika by the important land route of Via Egnatia, it served as a Roman army base in the Balkans. In 48 B.C. Pompey defeated Caesar’s troops near Durrës. Destroyed by an earthquake in 314, it was rebuilt and flourished as the main center of the Roman province of Epirus Nova. In the first half of the ninth century, the city became the administrative center of a Byzantine theme. Conquered by the Bulgarian king Samuil circa 989, Durrës was conquered by Byzantine troops in 1005 and became part of Byzantium after the fall of the so-called First Bulgarian Kingdom. Held for a short period by the Normans from 1081 to 1185, it passed to the Venetians in 1205. In 1213 it came under the rule of the kingdom of Epirus. Durrës belonged to the kingdom of Naples from 1272 to 1336, to Serbia from 1336 to 1392, and to Venice from 1392. It was captured by the Turks in 1501.

From 1912 to 1920 the city was the capital of Albania, which had thrown off the Turkish yoke; subsequently it became the center of a prefecture. Occupied by Italian troops in 1915 and by Austro-Hungarian troops from 1916 to 1918, Durrës was captured by fascist Italy in 1939 and liberated by the people’s liberation army of Albania in 1944.


Casson, St. Macedonia, Thrace and Illyria. Oxford, 1926.
Historia e shqipërisë, vols. 1-2. Tirana, 1959-65.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.