Todays dead and abandoned, ruined city of Egnazia, stretches back 3,500 years.
With an original mix of Greek Illyrian settlers and local Messapian inhabitants, it was founded in approx 1,600 BC during the Copper Age. Described in the first century BC by Strabo using its Greek name of Gnathia, and visited by the Roman poet Horace in 38AD – its scattered settlements were secured by the massive stone walls and its seaport Acropolis.
Egnazia was defensively built and its famed two kilometre long walls standing over 7 metres in height, encircled the town and protected the metropolis, the towns harbour and also the fortified raised citadel of Egnazia’s Acropolis that guarded the port.
The area fell under Roman domination after the series of Punic Wars against the Carthaginians under Hannibal. A thriving commercial town with rich merchants and trade, Egnazia prospered and grew under the Roman Empire. The Emperor Trajan in AD 109 added the Via Traiana that bisects the city and together with the new port facilities and breakwaters built around the same time, these public works assisted in expanding its trade.
All things come to an end however and with the decline and ultimate fall the Roman Empire in the West, Egnazia was to find it would not long outlast it.
Caught up in the ongoing conflict for the regions supremacy that was raging between the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire and the destroyers of Rome, Egnazia was captured by the Goths, and, completely and totally ruined by the ensuring pillage, slaughter and rape that occurred after its fall.
Utterly vanquished, the few, small insignificant groups of shattered survivors, eked out an existence amongst the ruined city, and trying not to draw attention to themselves, they mainly lived by hiding in converted Messapian tombs, outside of the walls that dated from the city’s more glorious past.
Agony was soon re-visited upon them however with Saracen pirates and Turkish attacks.
Enduring raids that killed the menfolk and seized women and children for the Sultans slave markets, the invaders pillaged and plundered what little wealth the area had recovered.
Finally in the ninth century AD, the few remaining Egnazians finally gave up, by abandoning the area and they moved to the security of Monopoli and inland to Fasano.
The City stood silent and empty – a sanctuary for fugitives – until in the 12th century its walls and structures started being dismantled for building materials needed by people elsewhere.
Uninhabited for 1,200 yrs, and with no nearby modern inhabitation to disturb its ruins, Egnazia today resembles a southern Pompei. Walking through the ruined city and by treading the roads marked by the foundations of its original dwellings, one can follow the routes taken by the citizens of old.
Visit the Forum, the Roman Amphitheatre, the religious Shrines and the Basilica.
Stroll down to the old harbour still with traces of its wharves and walls. In the Acropolis itself porticoes surround a Greek Agora, or Piazza of pre-Roman origin. Crossing to the other side of Emperor Trajans Via Traiana, there is a maze of shops, houses and workplaces, with kilns and a forge and underground grain storage bins. Storage cisterns, wells and rainwater channels cover the area and show the Roman ingenuity of coping and overcoming in areas with water shortage.
A short walk end will reveal at the towns Northern edge the original walls, still preserved and ascending to their full 7 metres height of antiquity, and whilst many Roman tombs are located inside the old town, the famed Necropolis of Egnazia that dates back to the Messapian era extends over a huge area outside of the walls.
Excavations are continuous and uncover new structures in the still hidden and undisturbed parts of the site, whilst further relics from the past are constantly discovered amongst the Necropolis itself.
After a long day spent exploring Egnazia and walking amongst the shadows of a city long dead, return to the comfort of our Villas, and live life beside the illuminated pool waters by relaxing with an aperitivo while deciding upon which restaurant to dine in later that evening.