The Phoenice Archaeological Park (Parku Arkeologjik Finiq) is an archaeological excavation of an ancient greek city located next to the village that is nowadays Finiq.
Phoenice (also called Phoenike or Φοινίκη in Greek) was the capital of the Greek tribe of the Chaonians and was once the wealthiest city in the Epirus. Due to its strategic location and economic development the city played an important strategic role from a political and administrative perspective.
The first structures date back to the 5th century BC, when the building of an acropolis started to house a number of public buildings. In the following century the fortifications were extended and blocks of up to 3.6 meters thick were used to defend the city. After several conflicts the Treaty of Phoenice was signed to end the First Macedonian War in 205 BC.
Under the Byzantine influence in the 5th and 6th centuries more religious buildings were erected, including a baptistery and a basilica and fortifications were built on the adjacent hill. After the 6th century the city got in decline when the urban city was moved to nearby Mesopotam.
How To Get There
The Phoenice site is only 12 kilometers from Saranda, but unfortunately there is no bus connection to the site directly. The only option by public transport is to take a minibus (furgon) to Finiq, but from there you will have to walk almost 2 km up the steep hill.
So instead, if you don’t have your own transportation, we recommend to either rent a car or take a taxi or guided tour. The road uphill to the archaeological park is small but asphalted and you can park your car at the entrance.
Prepare Your Visit
Expect to spend between 1 to 2 hours in order to see the entire site. There are no restaurants or other facilities on the site, so we advise to bring plenty of water. With the spectacular views it also makes for a great picnic spot if you bring your own food or snacks. Do however mind the sun and bring sunscreen as there is hardly any shade on the hill, so it will become very hot in summer.
What To See At The Phoenice Archaeological Park
Below is an overview of the most important sights you can expect to see in the archaeological park. At the entrance of the park you can also see a map of the site.
Ancient City Wall And Entrance
The urban area of Phoenice has been surrounded by higher walls that followed the slopes of the hill with obvious ups and downs, forming an ellipse-shaped layout. The earliest phase of this fortification dates back to the middle of the 4th century BC, when the urban area was limited on the east side of the hill.
The blocks used in this first period are enormous. The second period dates back to the middle of the 3rd century BC, when the urban area was extended in the center and west side of the hill, and was built with smaller blocks. Polybus wrote “Phoenice is the richest city, the most fortified, and the most powerful of the Epirus” which is proved very well by the existing ruins.
This incredibly powerful fortification system, in combination with the strategic position of the hill giving a 360 degrees view, gave Phoenice the character of a great political service center of Chaonia and the Epirus.
The Great Bastion
During Roman times renovations took place and new buildings were added to the town of Phoenice. A work of this period related to the water supply system of the town is Cistern A. Labeled as such by the first digger of Phoenice, the Italian archaeologist Luigi M. Ugolini, this cistern was built within the walls of the Hellenistic tarrace. Cistern A has a rectangular form and was severely damaged by the construction of a military facility within its structure during the communist times.
Cistern A measures 18.5 x 15.2 meters and had a high point of max. 3.4 meters. It is built in opus mixtum of incertum and testaceum with rows of bricks. It is dated back to the Roman imperial period, probably to the 2nd century AD.
The agora is another excavation of the remains of the Greek period.
The theater is the most identifying monument of the ancient city of Phoenice. It not only reflects two main stages of this city, the Hellenistic and the Roman period, it also stands out for its large dimensions, attesting to the importance of this great political capital.
The orchestra occupies a large artificial terrace in the western slope of the hill. The cavea is geared totally in the natural terrain that forms a semi-circular beam, ideal for building seats. The theater was used for performances and probably for political reunions of the Epirote federation (Koinon).
Based on architectural structures and archaeological material, consisting of black-glazed pottery and artwork that decorated the stage, the theatre dates back to the middle of the 3rd century BC. During the 3rd century AD Roman period the theatre was reconstructed.
According to the ancient author Procopius of Caesarea, Phoenice was rebuilt by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527-565 AD). This is proven by the architectural style of the basilica that was built next to the Hellenistic “Thesaurus”. Recent excavations have shown that this church was extremely large in size, consisting of three naves and transept, an apse, narthex and atrium.
The church dates back to the 5th or 6th century AD and collapsed in the 13th century after which the area was used as a cemetary until the 16th century. The structure was further damaged during the communist regime.
“Thesauros” Hellenistic Temple
Next to the basilica, you can find the remains of a Hellenistic “Thesauros” which was likely used as a baptistery.
House With Two Peristyles
In the central section of the hill you can see the remains of a luxurious residential complex, called the House with two Peristyles. The structure was based on a terrace system and followed the natural shape of the hill, resulting a spoon forms.
The layout was typical for the Hellenistic period (3rd century BC). In the 2nd century BC some shops were added in the lower floor, in front of the street. Its layout is almost rectangular, with a central shaft and two peristyle yards, on both the east and west side. Fragments of columns of the two courtyards and the upper floor have been found and they are of doric and ionic style with their octogonal and cylinder shapes. Apparently these facilities had an official character and perhaps served as andron room (reception room). During the Roman period until Late Antiquity, the accommodation has been in use, which changed gradually and modified its appearance.
Enjoy The Scenery
The archaeological park is located on a hill with amazing views over the valey and mountains. Take a moment to enjoy the amazing surroundings.
Cold War Bunkers
Due to its strategic location, the hill was used as a military base by the communist regime during the Cold War. Unfortunately this resulted in more damage to the archaeological remains. The communists built several bunkers that you can still find throughout the hill. At the southern end of the site, the are a couple of bunkers that are connected by tunnels.
The Museum of Archaeology in the center of Saranda is displaying some archaeological pieces and photos of objects that were found in Phoenice.
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