Lesh (Lezhë)

December 16th, 2013


Rubrika e Diellit: Tingellime vendemrash Ilire/


 An ancient Illyrian city, known in antiquity as Lissos (Λίσσος)/Lissus. Now Lesh and Lezhë (the latter form evolved for avoiding being confounded with the Albanian word lesh ‘wool’). It was founded as an ancient Illyrian settlement of Early Iron from 8th century BC1. Three centuries later, in 385 BC, it became a Syracusan colony by Dionysios I 2,3 .  Lissos came under the rule of the Illyrian  kingdom of ardaiei with their capital city Scodra by the second  half of the  3rd century BC during the rule of Agron, Teuta and Gentius. After the Roman conquest of Illyria in the 2nd century BC, Lissus became a Roman colony. Lissus  is mentioned again by Stephanus of Byzantium in the 6th century as an Illyrian city with a separate fortified site known as Acrolissus “πόλλίς Ίλυρίας, και Άκρόλισσος”4. By the end of  the 14th century it became  a possession of  the Republic of Venice. In 1467  there was convened the  League of Lesh organized by the Alnbanian national hero Georges Castriotis – Scanderbey. In western  late medieval sources the name appears mainly in the Italianized form Alessio. The  very rare form of the city name, Eschenderari, may be related to the Persian form of hero’s name , Eskander/Iskander.

The name of the city, Lissus, may be derived from a PIE *legh- ‘to lie’ (Compare Proto-Germanic *lega- ‘lying flat, low’, Old Norse lagr, Swedish låg, Danish lav ‘low’ and English low), which reflects the geographic position of the city, almost at the sea level.

The shift of the short open -i- in the ancient name of the city Lissus, to -e-in the modern form Lesh/Lezhw, is normal for Albanian, as attested by Latin loanwords such as meshë from missa, letër from littera, shpesh from spissus, peshk from piscis, ipeshkv from episcopus, etc.5


 1. Lissus Excavation Report 2004, Karl Franzens Universität, Graz, Österreich. Available:

2. Polybius, Histories  8, 15. 16.

3.  Diodorus Siculus, Library  XV 13. 4-5.

4. Stephani Byzantii Ethnicorvm quae svpersvnt. A. Meineke (ed). Reimer, Berlin,  1849.

5. Çabej, E. (1958). Problemi i autoktonisë së shqiptartëvet në dritën e emravet të vëndeve. Buletin i Universitetit Stetëror të Tiranës, Seria  Shk. shoq. 2, p. 54-62.


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