RITUAL: Consumption or Destruction

Our view of the sacrificial rituals of hero-cults has in the last decade undergone substantial changes. The traditional notion of hero-sacrifices consisting of holocausts on low hearth-altars, libations of blood in pits, and the offering of prepared meals, but never including ritual dining, needs to be fundamentally revised.

This view of hero-cult ritual has been based on an uncritical use of literary sources of different date and character, and on the assumption that information derived from Roman or even Byzantine writers is valid also for conditions during earlier periods. If a broader range of evidence is considered (literary and epigraphical sources, iconography and archaeology) and a focus is maintained primarily upon contemporary sources, the sacrificial rituals of hero-cults in the archaic to hellenistic periods turn out to be very similar to those of the gods.

The main ritual in hero-cult was an animal sacrifice at which the worshipers ate the meat. The terminology used for these sacrifices was thyein and thysia, standard terms in the cult of the gods. There is literary, epigraphical, and archaeological evidence for the handling and division of the meat and dining facilities in the sanctuaries of heroes, and direct references to eating. For example, a mid-fifth-century Athenian decree of the cult association of the Hero Echelos and his Heroines states how the meat of the victims sacrificed, a piglet and two fully grown animals, probably sheep, was to be distributed. Present members of the association were to receive a full portion, while their sons, wives, and daughters seem to have been given at least half a portion of meat each.

Also, the terminology relating to and the appearance of the altars or sacrificial installations used in hero-cults show few differences from those used in the cult of the gods. The altar is called bōmos, while the term eschara, commonly taken to mean a particular hero-altar, was applied to the upper part of the bōmos where the fire was kept, often manufactured in a different material. In hero-cults, eschara could also refer to a simple ash altar located directly on the ground, a feature known from the Archegesion on Delos, but the sacrifices were of the alimentary kind.

Apart from regular animal sacrifices, the heroes also received theoxenia, offerings of food of the kind eaten by humans. This ritual could simply consist of a table with offerings, trapeza, and would then be a less expensive, vegetarian alternative to animal sacrifice, especially in private contexts. In official cult, this ritual often functioned as a means of substantiating a thysia, either by giving the same recipient both an animal victim and a table or, in the case of a hero and a heroine, giving the former the animal, while the less important heroine received the table.

A large number of reliefs (so-called Totenmahl reliefs) show a hero reclining at a table with offerings, while worshipers approach, sometimes bringing an animal as well. Heracles and the Dioscuri were commonly depicted as banqueters, a scheme certainly reflecting the particular importance of theoxenia in their cults. The aim of the theoxenia seems to have been to bring the recipient closer to the worshipers, and the ritual could also include the preparation of a couch and an invitation to the hero to come and participate as an honored guest. That a closer bond was desired at private sacrifices is understandable, but the presence of a Hēroxeinia festival on Thasos shows that state cults of heroes focused on such rituals as well.

On the whole, the rituals traditionally considered as typical for heroes, and as distinguishing them from the gods in general, must be considered as marginal features in hero-cults. Blood was of relatively minor importance, and at standard animal sacrifices to heroes the blood was kept and eaten, just as the meat was. At a small number of sacrifices the ritual was modified, with the blood being completely discarded, an action designated by a particular terminology denoting the technical aspects of this procedure.

The sacrifices to Pelops at Olympia, as outlined by Pindar (Olympian 1.90-3), consisted of a thysia sacrifice embellished with a laden table and couch, but the ritual was initiated by a pouring out of blood, haimakouria, presumably over the hero’s tomb or into a pit, bothros. The blood seems here to have functioned as a means of contacting and inviting the hero and ensuring his presence at the sacrifice.

Most heroes for whom such libations of blood are attested have a particular connection with war, and the ritual may have served both to underline this association and as a reminder of the bloodshed of battle and the battle-line sphagia sacrifices, at which the victim’s throat was slit and the blood flowed freely.

On Thasos, the war dead, called Agathoi, ‘‘the good men,” were honored with a public funeral, sacrifices, and an official listing of their names. The inscription gives the term entemnein for the ritual action, which in context is best understood to refer to the animal being killed and bled, the blood perhaps being poured on the tomb of the Agathoi, while the meat was eaten at a banquet in which the relatives of the fallen occupied a prominent position. A similar procedure can be reconstructed from Thucydides’ account of the rituals for the Spartan general Brasidas, who fell while defending Amphipolis against the Athenians (Thucydides 5.11). He was buried in the city, proclaimed its new founder, and venerated as a hero with games and sacrifices, which included libations of blood and public consumption of the meat.

Destruction sacrifices, at which no dining took place, were rare in hero-cults. Some of these rituals are covered by the terminology used in the cult of the dead (enagizein), and the use of this terminology seems to imply not only the burning of the offerings, but also an emphasis of the dead and therefore impure character of these particular heroes.

Heracles received thysia sacrifices, at which the meat was eaten, and enagizein sacrifices, a combination meant to bring out his dual character as both an immortal god and a mortal hero (Herodotus 2.44). In all, however, the complete or partial destruction of the animal victim was no more common in hero-cults than in the cults of the gods, most instances, in fact, being found in the cult of Zeus. Many destruction sacrifices, no matter who the recipient, were performed in a crisis context, in which this extraordinary ritual was aimed at solving the problems.

A particular heroic trait was to destroy a ninth part of the victim (or rather of its meat). The sacred law from Selinous mentions a sacrifice to the impure Tritopatores ‘‘as to the heroes” and prescribes that a ninth of the meat was to be burnt. A sacrificial calendar from Mykonos from around 200 BC also stipulates such a sacrifice (enateuein) to Semele, and the ritual was also known, but perhaps not executed, on Thasos in the cult of Heracles.

That the heroes were important recipients of worship is obvious from the actual number of sacrifices they received and the amount of money spent on these occasions. It comes as no surprise that alimentary sacrifice was the main ritual of hero-cults, considering the fact that heroes fulfilled the same role as gods within the Greek religious system. The four best-preserved sacrificial calendars from classical Attica illustrate this point clearly. Of the 170 or so sacrifices listed in these texts, 40 percent were performed to heroes, while the amounts of money spent on the victims for these sacrifices was around 38 percent of the budget. If the meat from all the animals sacrificed to heroes had been considered unfit for consumption, more than a third of animals slaughtered would not have been eaten. Such a waste of meat seems highly implausible, considering the vital role sacrifices and distribution of meat fulfilled in ancient Greek society, both as a means of strengthening the social ties between citizens and as an indicator of who belonged and who did not, and considering also the fact that virtually all meat eaten seems to have come from animals killed in a ritual context.

This post is the part III of Heroes and Hero cults series (I, II)

Book of interest

Advertisements

How to become a HERO (Heroes & Hero cults II)

Attempts have been made to make sense of the plethora of Greek heroes by dividing them into categories or by focusing on one particular category. Such groupings seem to have been of little importance in antiquity and most regions housed a variety of heroes cutting across these groups. Many heroes (and heroines) are found in myth, epic, and other narratives (including iconography), but there are also a large number solely known from cultic contexts and for whom we have no biographical details. Similarly, there is an intricate relationship between stories told about heroes and heroines and actual hero-cults. Myth may reflect cult practices but also be about the same rituals or about cult-places, or aim to place them in a heroic context. Though the bulk of all heroes who have come down to us in any kind of media have no attested cults, this is in many cases probably just due to lack of evidence. Every hero seems to have been a potential candidate for worship in some form.

The heroes of myth and epic were a mixed bunch, who performed extraordinary deeds and were claimed as founders of cities and sanctuaries, inventors and ancestors of families. Most of these heroes are male warriors or kings, giving rise to our modern use of ‘‘hero” and ‘‘heroic.” But myth and epic also contain a number of female figures. These heroines often occur in a familial context, as the less influential part of a heroic couple, or as virgins who give their lives to save their city, family, or husband. A perhaps more surprising group of heroes is those who are children or even babies, as in the case of the infant Opheltes/Archemorus, who was killed (or even partly eaten) by a snake when he was put down on the grass near a spring at Nemea.

Some heroes and heroines may originally have been gods or goddesses who did not fit in and were eventually subordinated among the heroes or merged with a heroic figure. At Sparta, Alexandra-Cassandra, worshiped in a shrine together with Zeus-Agamemnon, and Helen, sharing her cult with Menelaus, were both originally local goddesses who later became identified with well-known epic characters. Similarly Erechtheus’ and Hippolytus’ close relationships with goddesses suggest that they also had been gods once.

The heroes known only from cultic contexts, as recipients of either sacrifices or dedications, demonstrate a great diversity. The Attic evidence is particularly rich, and many of the heroes mentioned in sacred laws or regulations dealing with state, deme, or private cultic matters are clearly local cultic figures who must have been incomprehensible outside their regional context. Some cultic heroes had a specialized function, evident from their name, such as, for example, the Hērōs Klaikophoros, presumably ‘‘The Holder of the Temple Keys,” attested in Epidaurus, Troezen, and Messene in the hellenistic period. Others demonstrate a strong topographical link, such as the ‘‘Heroes in the Field” or the ‘‘Hero at Antisara”. There are even anonymous heroes and heroines evidenced both in the Athenian sacrificial calendars and from dedications from all over Greece. These figures must have been known by the people worshiping them, though perhaps never named.

A number of Greek heroes and heroines were historical or quasi-historical figures: founders of cities, soldiers killed in battle, former enemies, athletes, poets, writers, and other famous and exceptional individuals. For the figures of myth and epic, the reason for them being considered as suitable recipients of cult is self-evident.

Historical figures being elevated to heroes is a different matter, since they had to distinguish themselves from the ordinary dead of the same period. Having been extreme in some sense, in life or death, was the primary reason for heroic status. Poets, such as Homer and Archilochus, and the tragedians, and athletes, such as Theogenes from Thasos, as well as Hippocrates, the father of medicine, all reached hero status owing to their extraordinary achievements and contributions when alive. The first inventor of an action or an item, prōtos heuretēs, was often heroized, though many of these heroes were not actual historical figures.

Interestingly, a great number of extreme characters that became heroes had been far from benevolent when alive. This is an important distinction between heroes and Christian saints, who were given their status as a result of their good deeds and with whom the Greek heroes are often compared. A good example of extreme behavior leading to hero status is the case of the athlete Cleomedes from Astypalaea, who killed his opponent in pankration at Olympia and was disqualified (Pausanias 6.9.8-9). Consumed with rage, he tore down the roof of a school building in his home town, killing sixty innocent children. He barely escaped being lynched and took refuge in a stone chest in a sanctuary and then miraculously disappeared. The Pythia declared him a hero, since he was no longer mortal.

Another figure, Tereus, raped his sister-in-law and cut out her tongue to prevent her from telling. After being served his own son Itys for dinner as a punishment, he eventually committed suicide and was buried in Megara, where he received annual sacrifices (Pausanias 1.41.9, 10.4.6).

An extreme death, to be killed in a violent manner and at a young age, was a strong contributory cause for heroization. Many mythic and epic heroes and heroines perished violently at a young age. Among historical figures becoming heroes, a prime example of the time and manner of death being crucial is the case of the war dead, the soldiers fallen in battle. This development is linked to the rise of the hoplite armies of the archaic period, referred to in the poetry of Tyrtaeus at Sparta but also in a sixth-century epigram from a burial at Ambracia (SEG 41.540).

In the classical period, the importance of these men, especially at Athens, is evidenced by the epitaphioi logoi, the official praise of the fallen, and by their burial place, the Dēmosion Sēma, but a polyandrion of the war dead has also been investigated at Thespiae. The soldiers killed at Marathon and buried on the battlefield were venerated as heroes more than 350 years after their deaths.

Heroes were perceived as being able to help, perhaps even to a greater extent than a god, considering that heroes were thought to have once walked the earth and led some kind of ‘‘human” existence, as well as to be more intimately connected with specific locations. In times of threat or crisis, heroes were approached as helpers or acted as such of their own accord, and there are numerous reports of heroes appearing, especially to participate in battle. At the battle of Marathon in 490 BC, Theseus, Heracles, and Marathon (the eponymous hero of the region) were reported to have fought for the Greeks, but so too was Echetlaeus, a figure dressed as a peasant and killing Persians with a plough (Pausanias 1.32.4). Such sightings often led to the institution of a cult.

The importance of heroes as helpers, particularly in war, is also evident from the stories stipulating that certain hero-cults or hero-tombs must remain secret and hidden from the enemy. A fragment of Euripides’ Erechtheus (fragment 370, lines 77-89 TrGF), provides a good case. Here, Athena instructs the widow Praxithea (and all of the Athenians for that matter) that the couple’s daughters, who gave their lives to save the city, are to receive sacrifices from the Athenians prior to battle, while their abaton must be guarded from the attempts by the enemy to sacrifice there to assure military success.

But not all heroes by any means were kindly disposed, and a cult could be instituted or sacrifices performed not only to procure their help but also to appease their anger. There is a strand of danger and threat discernible in certain hero-accounts already in the fifth century and a fragment of Aristophanes describes the heroes as guardians of both evil and well-being (Aristophanes, Heroes fr. 322 K-A). Some heroes are said to be directly harmful and dangerous, such as the hero Orestes, and they could even be viewed as senders of diseases (Hippocrates, Sacred Disease [vol. 6, 362 Littre´]).

The dangerous aspect of certain heroes and its consequent effects on the living can be explained with reference to the fact that they belong to the categories of the ahōroi and the biaiothanatoi, those that had died too early and in a violent way. These groups included persons who had been murdered, executed, died of plague, or committed suicide, but also young people, such as children and virgins. They were angered and vengeful and needed to be propitiated, but this condition was also the source of their power, making them stronger than the ordinary dead.

The institution of a hero-cult was often a means for solving some kind of crisis, usually related to someone having been wronged or even violently killed. The Children of Caphyae, mentioned above, pretended to hang a statue of Artemis and were stoned to death by the city’s enraged population (Pausanias 8.23.7). The local women then began having miscarriages until the Pythia ordered the children to be buried and to be given sacrifices, since they had died unjustly. This story contains elements which can be found in the creation of a number of hero-cults, especially those of athletes and enemies: first, violent death and deprivation of burial resulting in negative effects for society, and secondly, the seeking of help from an oracle, especially Delphi, which remedies the situation by ordering the institution of a cult. The wronged hero, once the bitter enemy or a hostile ghost, eventually becomes a defender and protector.

Heroes and HERO cults I

BOOK OF INTEREST

Heroes and HERO cults I

Name a hero and Achilles, Agamemnon, and Heracles immediately spring to mind. These characters are the household names, so to speak, among the heroes, and we are well informed about both their spectacular lives and their deaths from epic and myth, and of the sanctuaries and shrines where they received cult. But what about Egretes, the Children of Caphyae, and the ‘‘Heroes in the Field”? They were also heroes and, though less well known to us, certainly no less important to the people who worshiped them. And what do we make of the figure or figures who for more than a hundred years received offerings of pottery, figurines, and metal objects from the rural inhabitants of Berbati in the Argolid, when they feasted next to the monumental Mycenaean tomb in the midst of their valley? This may also be a hero-cult, though we can neither name its recipient nor define his (or her) character.

Heroes (hērōes, fem. hērōinai, hērōissai) are a category of divine beings of Greek mythology and religion which are difficult to define, since they varied over both time and place. To quote a now classic statement by Nicholas Coldstream: ‘‘Greek hero worship has always been a rather untidy subject, where any general statement is apt to provoke suspicion”. A characteristic of heroes and hero-cults is their heterogeneity, both in relation to the nature of the heroes themselves and the appearance of their cult-places, and, to a lesser extent, the cult practices. Their importance in the Greek religious system is, on the other hand, indisputable, not the least from the fact that they were worshiped all over the Greek territory from the late eighth century BC to the end of antiquity.

For the ancient Greeks there was no clear-cut definition of a hero; still, heroes were distinguished from gods and from the ordinary dead. How we perceive a hero and his cult is dependent on which kind of evidence we consider. A hero can be defined as a person who had lived and died, either in myth or in real life, this being the main distinction between a god and a hero. He was thus dead and may have had a tomb, which sometimes was the focus of a cult, though not all heroes received religious attention. The difference between a hero and an ordinary dead person lies in the relationship with the living, the ordinary dead having some kind of connection with those tending the grave and presenting offerings, while the heroes were worshiped on a more official level. Finally, the hero was generally a local phenomenon and most heroes were connected with one specific location.

The use and meaning of the term hērōs

The written sources provide us with accounts of myths and cults of heroes, but the designation hērōs is not always a distinct marker of the status of the figure described in this manner or of the extent to which he received any form of cult. The etymology of the term is unclear. A connection with Hera has been suggested, the hērōs being seen as the young divine consort of the goddess in her aspect as a goddess of marriage or of the seasons.

A Linear B tablet from Pylos (PY Tn 316) mentions a Tiriseroe which may refer to a divinity, but it is difficult to know whether the Mycenaean hērōs constituted an equivalent to the hero of later periods.

Homer uses hērōs for the human protagonists of his epics, not only the warriors but also the bard Demodocus and even the people of Ithaca at large, but not for a recipient of cult in the same sense as in the archaic and classical periods.

In Hesiod’s Work and Days (157-68), the Heroes constitute one of the four races, which came before the present Iron Race of men. After Gold, Silver and Bronze, the Heroes were created, ‘‘a god-like race of hero-men who are called demi-gods”; they fought at Thebes and Troy and perished there, apart from a lucky few who continued their lives on the islands of the blessed.

From the archaic period, hērōs is used not only for a figure of extrahuman status, a protagonist of myth and epic, but also for a divine figure receiving cult. The terminology is not unambiguous, however, and an individual who fulfilled the criteria for being a hero could sometimes be called a god (theos), as was the case with the athlete Theogenes, worshiped on Thasos (Pausanias 6.11.2-9), or the healing divinity Hērōs Iatros from Athens, designated as theos in a third-century inscription (IG ii2 839).

Hērōs seems in this case to have functioned more as a name or a title. The disparity between terminology and content is evident also for the heroines. Though the concept of a female equivalent of hērōs exists in Homer, the earliest use of a term for a heroine (hērōis) is found in Pindar (Pythian 11.7). But the fluid use of hērōs can reflect the character of the figure in question as well, Heracles being the prime case. Born a mortal, he burnt himself to death on Mount Oite and finally ascended to the gods on Olympus. He was worshiped all over Greek territory but there was no tradition of him having a tomb. Heracles was primarily perceived as a god, though of mortal descent, a status pinpointed when Pindar describes him as a hērōs theos (Nemean 3.22). Also the Dioscuri and Asclepius transgressed the category of heroes with the panhellenic spread of their cults and their mythical background presenting them as partly immortal.

In the hellenistic period, some tombstones for the ordinary dead begin to carry the word ‘‘hero” or ‘‘heroine.” These are frequently decorated with heroic motifs, such as banqueting scenes and riders, and, where the age of the departed is known, they were often children or adolescents, whose untimely death may have led to them being heroized. Instead of taking hērōs to have meant simply ‘‘dead man” and as a sign of the devaluation of hero-cults after the classical period, it seems that these individuals were in some way considered as special and distinct from the ordinary dead.

The rise of the hero concept

The earliest traces of hero-cults depend on which kind of sources are considered and it is not obvious that the written and archaeological evidence for heroes and hero cults coincided from the beginning. Tendencies of hero-worship may be distinguished in Homer, such as the tomb of Ilios being a respected landmark (Iliad 10.414, 11.166, 371, 24.350) and bulls and rams being sacrificed by the Athenian youths to Erechtheus (Iliad 2.550-1).

The basic features of the Hesiodic heroes, that they are mortal but still semi-divine, is in accordance with the concept of heroes as we know it from later periods and it is possible that these heroes (as well as the races which preceded them) were thought to correspond to the heroes of the kind later receiving cult.

Even though our earliest written sources do not use hērōs in the same sense as in later periods, or refer to hero-cults directly, the archaeological evidence indicates that hero-cults existed in some form in the late Early Iron Age. From the eighth century, there is a small and scattered group of hero shrines, all connected with epic or mythic heroes, identified by inscribed dedications (in most cases postdating the installation of the cult): Helen and Menelaus at Sparta, Odysseus in the Polis cave on Ithaca, and Agamemnon at Mycenae. A hērōon dedicated to the heroes who participated in the expedition against Thebes was established in Argos in the early sixth century.

Traces of Iron Age activity are found at Mycenaean tholos and chamber tombs over most of the Greek mainland in the eighth century, though some instances date back to the tenth century BC. Some deposits, rich in content and spanning several centuries, were probably herocults (as at Menidi in Attica and Berbati in the Argolid), while offerings of a more simple nature suggest ‘‘tomb cult” directed towards the recently dead or to ancestors. A recent finding at a tholos tomb in Thessaly of an inscribed tile (seventh or sixth century BC) dedicated to Aeatus, the mythical founder of the region, shows that the heroes worshiped at the Bronze Age tombs may have been identified with mythic and epic figures as well.

Veneration of the recently dead also developed into hero-cults. Some individuals were buried in a manner clearly exceeding the regular norm, such as the couple interred in the tenth-century monumental house at Lefkandi, though at this site there is no sign of a subsequent cult. In Eretria, a group of people – men and women – were given rich cremation burials near the West Gate in the late eighth to the early seventh century. A triangular precinct was constructed around 680 BC and a building functioning as a shrine or a dining room was later erected next to it, the cult-place being in use until the late classical period, most likely as a hero-cult.

Another early category of hero to consider is the oikist, the leader of the party setting out to found a new colony outside the Greek homeland. The oikist was chosen by the oracle at Delphi and after his death buried in the agora of the new colony and there received a cult. Considering the early institution of some of these cults, as early as the mid-eighth century BC, it is possible that they influenced or even gave rise to hero-cults in the motherland.

Why did hero-cults arise in the eighth century? The spread of the Homeric epics (and Hesiod’s writings) may have stimulated the identification of the Mycenaean tombs as those of the Homeric heroes, though a number of later-attested heroes do not figure in Homer. The occurrence of hero-cults is contemporary with the rise of the city-state, and hero-cults can be seen as a response to political and social changes. It has been suggested that they were mechanisms for aristocrats and prominent families to assert themselves or attempts by individual landholders and smaller communities to claim rights to land and territory.

On the whole, the origins of hero-cults must be viewed as highly diverse. Certain hero-cults may be derived from an interest in ancient graves or the tending of the graves of important contemporary individuals, while the heroes of myth and epic inspired others. To attempt to single out the factor that gave rise to hero-cults seems to be a futile endeavor. A more fruitful approach is to focus on the development of the category of heroes, a heading under which a whole range of figures with diverse origins came to be included, as well as on the political, social, and religious changes which contributed to this process.

Though the earliest traces of heroes and hero-cults date back to the Early Iron Age, heroes and hero-cults in the full sense of the terms did not become a prominent feature of Greek religion until the archaic period. Furthermore, different hero-cults came into being (and also disappeared) continuously all through the archaic, classical, and hellenistic periods, and the Bronze Age tombs even became the focus of religious attention a second time, in the late classical and hellenistic periods.

Book of interest

BUTRINT – Albania

gr. Βουθρωτόν              lat. Buthrotum

Butrint occupies the small Ksamili peninsula between the straits of Corfu and Lake Butrint. Due to such a strategic position on the Mediterranean Sea, there were many military operations for the control of the area from the first Peloponese war (V century BC) until the Napoleonic wars (XIX century).

Butrint was controlled by the tribe which was part of the Greek Epirot Federation. Colonists from Corcyra settled in Butrint around the IV century BC. Within a century of the Greeks arriving, Butrint had become one of the ancient world’s major fortified maritime trade centres with its own acropolis

Butrint then came under the control of the Illyrians anxious to control the maritime trade and during the 3rd Macedonian war in 167 BC, the city was conquered by the Romans. The Romans used the port as a supply base for military campaigns in Epirus and Macedonia in the II century BC and area was afterwards “romanised”. With the creation of the Byzantine Empire in the East, Butrint was therein enveloped and remained part of the Empire until the latter’s fall at the hands of the Turks in 1453.

Barbarians, Vandals, Slavs, Goths invaded the city, the Slavs settling there from the VII century until the Byzantines expelled them in the IX century…[read more]

1990

Butrint was nominated as a World Heritage Site

1991

Butrint’s nomination was deferred

1992

Butrint designated as a World Heritage Site

1997

Butrint was put on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger

1998

Office for the protection of the World Heritage Site of Butrint created

1999

Extension of the Butrint protected zone

2000

Butrint National Park established

2003

Inscribed on the Ramsar

2005

Butrint removed from World Heritage Site in Danger list

In 1972 UNESCO adopted the Convention ‘Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’ and under its auspices introduced the World Heritage List. Butrint was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 1990 but in May 1991 ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) recommended that its inclusion be deferred to await verification of various definitions and plans relating to its protection. By 1992 ICOMOS was satisfied that all the protective requirements were in place and they recommended that Butrint – the intramural area covering 16 hectares – be included on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion iii .

In 1997 civil unrest prompted ICOMOS to recommend that further action regarding the protection of the site was essential and Butrint was put on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. As a result a workshop for the definition of the past, present and future of the site was held in 1998 which led to the Albanian Government creating an office for the protection of the Butrint Site. In 1999 ICOMOS asked to extend the buffer zone of the site for fear of uncontrolled tourist development in a small area on the coast. The protected zone was therefore extended under the existing criterion (iii) on condition that the State Party withdrew plans for this development. The establishment of the Butrint National Park in 2000 gave the site new legal status and protected an area of 29 km², managed by the appointment of a director.

Official Butrint Website

Butrint on WHC site

The Butrint Foundation

Butrint rediscovered