Durrës [key], 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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Albanian Political Geography