History

The name

Gjirokastra is often known as “the City of Stone” and its most distinctive feature is the silvery-colored limestone which gives the city its character.  The stone is quarried nearby and is used in the construction of buildings, roofs and streets.

No one knows for certain the origin of the name “Gjirokastra”. A popular story maintains that it refers to the Princess Argyra, in the 15th century. It is said that when the town was captured by the Ottoman Turks (by 1420)  Argyra (Argjiro in the local language) was so desperate not to be taken by the enemy, that she threw herself and her young son from the top of the castle battlements.

More realistically, it may take its name from the Argyers, an ancient tribe living in the Drino valley or from the Greek word for silver argyros – a reference to the way the stone walls and slate roofs shimmer in the rain.

The only certainty is that the first historical record of Gjirokastra appears in the 14th century when the Byzantine chronicle Kantakuzen refers to a city and a castle at Argyrokastron.

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