What Was Albania in Ancient Times?

Albania, located in the western Balkan Peninsula, has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to ancient times. Let’s delve into the past and explore what Albania was like in ancient times.

The Illyrian Period

The earliest known inhabitants of Albania were the Illyrians, an ancient Indo-European people who lived in the western Balkans from around 2000 BC to 400 AD. The Illyrians were a tribal society that was divided into several kingdoms, including the Ardiaei, Taulantii, and Dardani.

Illyrian Culture

The Illyrians were known for their fierce warrior culture and were feared by neighboring tribes and kingdoms. They were also skilled craftsmen who produced intricate metalwork, pottery, and jewelry. The Illyrian language is considered to be an extinct branch of Indo-European languages.

The Roman Period

In 168 BC, the Roman Republic conquered Illyria and established the province of Illyricum. Under Roman rule, Albania prospered as an important center for trade and commerce.

Roman Architecture

The Romans left a lasting legacy in Albania with their impressive architecture. Some notable examples include the Amphitheater of Durrës, one of the largest amphitheaters in the Balkans that could seat up to 15,000 people; and Butrint, an ancient city that contains well-preserved ruins of a theater, aqueducts, temples, and public baths.

The Byzantine Period

Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, Albania came under Byzantine rule. The Byzantines introduced Christianity to Albania and built numerous churches throughout the region.

Byzantine Art

Albania is home to some stunning examples of Byzantine art, including the frescoes at the Church of St. Mary in Berat and the mosaics at the Church of the Holy Savior in Korce.

The Ottoman Period

In 1478, Albania was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and remained under Ottoman rule for over four centuries. During this time, Albania experienced significant cultural and religious changes.

Ottoman Architecture

Albania has many examples of Ottoman architecture, including mosques, bazaars, and hammams. Some notable examples include the Mosque of Ethem Bey in Tirana, which was built in 1793 and is considered to be one of the most beautiful mosques in Albania; and the Gjirokastra Castle, a massive fortress that dates back to the 12th century.


Albania has a rich and diverse history that has left its mark on the region’s culture, architecture, art, and language. From the Illyrians to the Ottomans, each period has contributed to Albania’s unique identity. Today, Albania is a fascinating destination for travelers who want to explore its ancient past and discover its modern-day charm.