Ancient States & Regions
Dimal

Dimal: An Intriguing City Where Civilizations Clashed

The Illyrian city of Dimal (or Dimallum) was apparently founded sometime during the first half of the IV-th century B.C.E. However, Hammond (1968) credits Pyrrhus of Epirus or his successors for the foundation of Dimal. The Epirote ruler may have established a city here sometime in 290 B.C.E. The theory that credits Pyrrhus with the foundation of Dimal deserves attention when knowing that the latter founded the city of Antigonea not far south. 

Layout and Linguistic Explanations

The town consisted of two crests surrounded with walls of limestone blocks. These surrounding walls reached a length of about 2,400 meters (7.874 feet). The place was strong by nature as three sides of the hill where it stood were surrounded by thick gorges. The higher crest served as an acropolis while the lower seem to have sheltered the most part of the citizens. 

The ancient site has been identified in the hill over the current village of Krotina near Berat. The location stands in the west part of the Shpiragut mountain range suggesting an easy communication with the western lowlands (Apollonia, Eugenium, Bargulium) as well as with the eastern hilly hinterland (Antipatrea, Codrion). It’s geo-strategic importance stood in the control over the route adjacent to the coastal lowlands up to the flat land between the Apsus (Seman) river and Genusus (Shkumbin) river. 

An authentic portico/stoa with seven niches discovered in Krotina, Albania, ancient site of Dimal.

As for the meaning of the name Dimal, two main linguistic explanations have been presented. The first, presented by Hammond, suggests that the city was in antiquity called Dimallos, which in ancient Greek language meant “of double fleece”. This meaning corresponds to the numerous cattle roaming the fields of the nearby Myzeqeja lowland. The other theory, supported by Albanian linguistics, suggests that “Dimal” comes from “DY-MALE” which in the Albanian language literally means two mountains. This also fits the ancient landscape as the settlement consisted of two crests. 

Discovery

Excavations that identified Krotina with Dimal were conducted in 1963. This identification was primarily based on the findings of several tiles bearing the inscription “Dimallitan”. Various seales were identified on these tiles suggesting a large operation and presence of private and public workshops (ergastiri-s) during Hellenistic period. Some of the seals bear the names of private owners of the workshops while those with the inscription “Dimallitan” belonged to the city as public property. 

Reconstruction of tiles discovered in Krotinë reveal the word “Dimallitan” wich allowed for the identification of the discovery site with the ancient “Dimal” mentioned by classical authors.

The most important public building discovered in Dimal was apparently an authentic portico/stoa. It stood on the southern part of the acropolis and consisted of seven apse-constructions (semi-circular parts). Apart from the architectural significance, the apses of the portico also stabilized the otherwise slippery terrain on its back.

One of the most interesting findings in the locality of Krotinë is a fragment of a solar clock. In its original form, this clock was formed by twelve sections and the shadow of a rod that apparently determined what time it was. The fragments of a writing in ancient Hellenic letters suggest that this piece was produced by a Tarentinian. Solar clocks are rare findings in general; the piece discovered in Krotinë is the first such specimen found in the territory of the Albanian Republic. 

Fragment of a solar clock discovered at the locality of ancient Dimal, apparently imported from Tarentum in southern Italy.

Many coins have been discovered in the acropolis of Dimal. Coins from Apollonia consist of the largest part of the findings while those of Dyrrachium seem to belong to an earlier period. Other coins belong to other centres such as Bylis, Corinth, Ambracia, Macedonia, and Euboea. These findings are sufficient to suggest a settlement of trade importance. 

A series of other objects have been discovered in Krotinë, especially ceramic in the form of plates, cups, lamps, fragments of utensils of terra sigillata type imported from Hellenic regions of southern Italic lands through trading routes that linked Dimal with these parts. 

Historical Developments

The Illyrian city of Dimal played an important role in the events related to southern Illyria during III-II centuries B.C.E. The literal sources are limited and mention what must have been an intriguing city only in the context of Illyrian-Roman Wars and Roman-Macedonian Wars. Specifically, during 222-219, Demetrius of Pharos, regent ruler of Illyrian state of the Ardiaei, put Dimal under his total control. He placed a strong garrison here loyal to him with the intention of holding the approaching Roman enemy back. 

Demetrius chose Dimal as the main point of his anti-Roman resistance because of Dimal’s strong position and reputation for being an impregnable city. The Roman consul Luc Aemilius, aware of this fact, headed straight to Dimal and put it under siege. Aemilius knew that the fall of Dimal would discourage any further resistance from other regional settlements. The strategy worked: after a week of besiegement, Dimal fell to the Romans and other Illyrian settlements across southern Illyria gave up any plan for any meaningful resistance against the Romans. A Roman garrison was stationed in Dimal. 

Map of Dimal and the surrounding ancient towns in current western Albania facing southern Adriatic Sea.

In the decades that followed Dimal got involved in the wars between Macedon and Rome. In about 215, a treaty between Philip V of Macedon and Hannibal against Rome designates Dimal to become part of the Macedonian state. However, in the peace of 205 between Rome and Macedon, Dimal along with other nearby settlements remained part of the Roman protectorate in Illyria. 

Abandonment

As Roman continued to progress further east at the expense of Illyria and Macedon, Dimal lost its geo-strategic importance. Thus, during the I century B.C.E.-III century C.E., Dimal must have served primarily as a small military base that failed to rise to the status of a Roman colony or that of a religious center.

Important cities near Dimal such as Apollonia and Bylis continued to thrive primarily because they reinvented their role within the empire: Apollonia turned into a colony while Bylis grew into an early Diocesan town. The lack of this evolution seems to have brought Dimal to decline fast. By the beginning of the IV-th century C.E. it appears to have been completely abandoned. 

Bibliography

Dautaj, B. (1972). Zbulimi i qytetit Ilir Dimal. Iliria, vol II. 

Duataj, B. (1984). Te Dhena Numizmatike nga Dimali/Données numismatiques de Dimali. Iliria, vol XIV.

Feen, N., Heinzelmann.M., Klenner, I., & Muka, B. (2010). Report of the First Season “Dimal in Illyria” 2010. Universität zu Köln, Archäologisches Institut. 

Hammong, N.G.L. (1968). Illyris, Romen and Macedon in 229-205 B.C. The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. LVIII, Parts I and II. Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. Cambridge University Press. 

Livi, T. Ab Urbe Condita, XXIX.

Polybii. Historiae, III. VII.         

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