The name of the ancient town derives from Anchises, the Trojan warrior, whose mythological union with the goddess Aphrodite resulted in a son named Aeneas. Aeneas, along with his father and his son, Ascanius, escaped the sack of Troy, and journeyed throughout the Mediterranean. Dionysos of Halicarnassus calls Onchesmos the Harbor of Anchises, while the Byzantine historian Procopius mentions that Anchises died at Onchesmos. During the 6th century C.E., the town’s name changes to Hagia Saranda or “Forty Saints”. The circumstances of this name change are unclear, but might have been related to the construction of a great basilica overlooking the modern city of Saranda. Various monuments and archaeological finds from the city have been excavated.
Among the more impressive finds are the ruins of a synagogue, a portion of a Roman Imperial archway, and the ruins of a late antique house. Also noteworthy are an apsidal building, an Odeon, a cemetery, and an elaborate mosaic, widely known as the Dolphin Pavement.