In ancient times the Southern Albania was inhabited by the Epiriot tribe of Chaonians.
At that time, the city of Vlora was called Aulona. It was renowned by many travellers as one of the main port cities of the southern Illyrian region, second only to Apolonia and Oricum.
The name, Vlora, is one of the few geographic names of Adriatic eastern coast that has remained unchanged since the ancient times. A relevant part of the population of these
provinces was able to resist the process of Romanization and enslavement, which characterised a large part of the Balkans peninsula. According to archaeological remains found in the area, South Coastal Region (Vlora region) was marked by significant prehistoric residences, cultural and economic settlements, cities and urban centres. South Coastal Region has numerous sites that prove the independence and the continuation of Illyrian culture through the Bronze and Iron Ages. Other known ancient settlements are the cities of Amantia, Olympia, Kanina, Himara, Cerja, Armeni, Saranda, Butrint, Finiq, Triport and Aulona. The ancient archaeological symbol of Vlore is “The Girl of Aulona” a sculpture of a nymph 87 cm high and carved by local masters with the limestone of Kanina. It is a testimony of
the grave clothes of the Illyrians. The city of Orikum was founded south of Vlora. Orikum is the most ancient port on the southern coast and was a noteworthy residential area in the 5th century B.C. Orikum then became a fortified port and an important Adriatic military base.
Amantia was founded in the 5th century B.C. and is one of the smallest southern Illyrian cities. Its remains include many buildings and stadia built with large stones. The ancient city of Phoenice (Finiq) was built in the 5th-4th centuries B.C. in the southern part of the Region, near the present city of Saranda. Phoenice was the main city of the Chaonians and later in the 2nd century B.C. became the capital of the state of Epir. The city of Saranda was initially the port of Phoenice and the first traces of the settlement go back to the 2nd century B.C with the name of Angjizmos. Although it was situated in a favourable geographic position, it never became an important centre like Butrint.
The latter was an ancient town within the region of Epirus. First archaeological evidences of settled occupation date back between the 10th and the 8th century B.C, although there is earlier evidence of settlement in the 12th century B.C.
Butrint was the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric. After a period of prosperity under the Byzantine administration, Butrint was occupied by Venetians in the late 14th century. In the late Middle Ages the city, under the Ottoman administration, was abandoned due to the formation of swamps in the area. At present, the site is a repository of ruins representing each period of the city development. In 1992 it was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
In the 6th century A.D. and continuing in the Middle Ages, Aulona was mentioned in a list of important port coastal cities, with developed naval facilities that exported olive oil, salt, timber and olives throughout the rest of Europe. In the middle of the 14th century the aristocratic
Delvina family ruled the town of Delvina and in 1354, Mehmet Ali Pasha Delvina was the owner of the castle and the city. In the 15th and 16th centuries the Ottoman regime turned Vlora into an important Adriatic Port. Vlora was the base for the Ottoman attacks against the southern Italian cities in 1480, against Himara insurgents in 1492 and served as a base for the Sultan Sulejmani against Corfu in 1537. In the 17th and 18th centuries Vlora was one of the most important harbours of southern Albania due to the shape of its bay that protected boats from storms. A large depot was built in the port of Vlora for the storage of agricultural products and goods to be exported. The city developed trade with Trieste, Venice,
Vienna, Corfu, Istanbul, Izmir, Brescia, Bari, Manastir, Ioanina and Malta. Vlora exported olive oil, olives, salt, wool and leather, as well as a many of other agricultural products from around the region.
Throughout the centuries Vlora has been known as one of the most patriotic areas of Albania. Struggles for freedom, independence and prosperity have been in the spirit of all people in the territory. South Coastal Region was the site of many wars against foreign occupations and struggles to spread Albanian education and was home to many patriotic societies.
The most important event in the city of Vlora happened on the November 28, 1912, when Ismail Qemali, together with other Albanian delegates from around the country, declared the Independence of Albania from the Ottoman invasion and raised the national flag in Vlora. Vlora became the first capital of the independent Albania. In December 1914 the Italians conquered Vlora. After the expansion of the Italian occupation, a resistance to their rule started to grow. In 1920, after the Congress of Lushnja, the “National Protection Committee” was created. The Commettee organised war troops in the War of Vlora.