- Port-city in Dalmatia (q.v.) on the coast of the Adriatic (q.v.), important chiefly because it was the western end of the Via Egnatia (q.v.). Anyone seeking to attack Byzantium from Italy (qq.v.) had to conquer Dyrrachion in order to use the Via Egnatia to get to Thessalonike and Constantinople (qq.v.). Anastasios I (q.v.), who was born in Dyrrachion, fortified the city with three lines of concentric walls. In the ninth century its importance as a base of Byzantine sea power was recognized when the city and its hinterland were organized into a special theme (q.v.). Each attempt by the Normans (q.v.) to invade Byzantium began with an attack on Dyrrachion. Their first attempt in 1081 succeeded in capturing the city; they controlled it until the death of Robert Guiscard (q.v.) in 1085. Subsequent Norman assaults were less successful. Other invaders from Italy included William II of Sicily (qq.v.), who sacked the city in 1185, and Charles of Anjou (q.v.), who seized it briefly in 1274. Venice (q.v.), whose power in the Adriatic was overwhelming by the 14th century, had control of Dyrrachion from 1392-1501. Attacks from the interior of the Balkan Peninsula (q.v.) were fewer, but no less important. For example, the Serbs (q.v.) under Samuel of Bulgaria (q.v.) seized the city for several years until Basil II (q.v.) reconquered it in 1005, and in 1501 the city fell to the expanding military might of the Ottomans (q.v.).
Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . John H. Rosser .
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