The settlement of Orraon, cradle of the Molossian tribe, was founded shortly before mid-fourth century BC with a view to controlling the pass from the Ambracian Gulf to the Epirote inner land. It was built on a low hill (350 m) on the west foothill of Xirovounio next to the present day settlement of Kastri Gymnotopou, with an excellent view of every point on the horizon and especially the flat coastline of the Ambracian Gulf. In 168 BC the city made a stand against the roman legions but paid the price as its fortifying wall fundamentally destroyed. Nevertheless, its inhabitance continued until 31 BC after which its inhabitants were forced to install themselves at Nicopolis.

The strategic position of the city, its natural fortification to the south (steep rock), together with a wall fortified with towers and narrow pathways surrounding it on the accessible sides of the hill, a supply of water tanks as well as an absence of places of common use all attest to the settlement’s special character as a fortress.

Its city plan was based on the Hippodamian system (created by the architect Hippodamus of Miletus), following the pattern of the neighbouring city of Amvrakia, consists of narrow parallel streets (2.5-3.50 m across), stretching in a north-south direction, intersected by two streets at right angles, lying east-west, thus forming long and narrow building blocks. The narrow side of each block, which is 15 m wide, constitutes the construction of one residence. This diverges from the known examples of other cities of the fourth century BC (obviously due to the small size of the settlement). All houses are built entirely of stone, using local resistant limestone, which has led to the exceptional and rare preservation of some of them up to the second floor.

Author-Editor: Archaeologist Nikolaos V. Pappas,M.A.

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