Photike Archaeological Project

Photike is located in the northern part of the Kokytos valley, close to modern Paramythia in Thesprotia. It was a Roman colonial town, probably founded during the reign of Augustus, which later developed into a Medieval episcopal see. Our knowledge of Photike has until now been based on Roman inscriptions and some partly excavated churches dating to the Early Christian and Middle Byzantine periods.

Since 2019 Drs. Yannis Chouliaras and Georgia Pliakou, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Thesprotia  and Dr. Björn Forsén, Finnish Institute at Athens/University of Helsinki have carried out a new project with the aim of shedding new light on Photike. With the help of a surface survey and geophysical prospection, the borders of the urban area and the possible layout of main streets have been located. In the late summer of 2021 the excavation of one of the newly found architectural structures was initiated.

 The excavation revealed remains of Roman buildings and graves, with the most conspicuous architectural feature being a room heated by a hypocaust system – a kind of central heating that produced and circulated hot air below the floor. The excavation produced finds stretching in date from the third century BC until the sixth century AD. The early finds indicate that there must have existed a Hellenistic settlement at this place before colonists were transferred there by the Romans.

The most interesting find of the first excavation season was a series of first-century BC roof tiles stamped with the name of Quintus Lucienus. He was a Roman senator and one of the synepirotae who were significant early Roman landowners in Epirus mentioned in Marcus Terentius Varro’s famous handbook on agriculture, De re rustica. This is the first time that Quintus Lucienus occurs in an inscription found in Epirus. Moreover, the stamps indicate that these tiles were produced on land belonging to Lucienus, most likely located somewhere close to Photike before it became a Roman colonial town.

The first years of the archaeological project on ancient Photike have thus shed light not only on the Roman town, but also revealed that the site was settled already before the arrival of the Roman colonists.