The birthplace of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus is one of the most beautiful and best preserved North African ruined cities of the Roman Empire with magnificent buildings, villas, baths, temples, two forums, a boulevard with marble columns, a basilica and a triumphal arch. The trading town, which dates back to Phoenician origins, lost its importance in the 7th century and was abandoned in the 11th century.
Leptis Magna Ruins: Facts
|Official title:||Leptis Magna ruins|
|Cultural monument:||Roman ruined city, including with the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, the baths of Hadrian and the 450×100 m large circus, the old and the new forum (100×60 m), a boulevard with 250 marble columns, the sanctuary of Venus Chalcidica, the temple of the city god Father Liber, who on the temple of Cybele, the old forum church and the basilica of Septimius Severus|
|Location:||Leptis Magna, east of Al-Khums and Tripoli|
|Meaning:||the birthplace of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus and one of the most beautiful North African ruined cities of the Roman Empire|
Leptis Magna ruins: history
|around 800 BC Chr.||Establishment of a Phoenician trading port|
|69-79||under Emperor Vespasian war between Oea and Leptis Magna|
|193-217||heyday under the emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla|
|203||Construction of the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus|
|297||Capital of the Roman province of Africa Tripolitania|
|435||Treaty between Valentinian III. and the vandals over Numidia|
|455||Invasion of Leptis Magna by the Vandals|
|533||Conquest by the army of Justinian I.|
|643||Invasion of the Arabs|
|11th century||Task of the city|
|1920/21||first excavations with uncovering Punic graves (4th / 3rd century BC)|
|1987/88||Damage from flooding|
|2005||Hamburg archaeologists announce the discovery of five unique mosaics from the 1st or 2nd century in the bathroom of a Roman villa|
Splendor and splendor in the Nice of North Africa
Already 2500 years ago, not far from today’s town of Al-Khums, Greek trading boats regularly landed in the area of a protective headland, which they named Hermaion after their god Hermes, the patron saint of traders. Against this Greek merchant competition, the Phoenician Carthage founded the city of Leptis not far from this old landing site. With the destruction of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War, Leptis fell into Roman hands. Under Caesar, a tribute of tens of thousands of hectoliters of olive oil was imposed on the city, which had relied on his rival Pompey in the Roman civil war, an impressive indication of its wealth at the time.
Anyone entering the city today will quickly recognize its importance: the visitor walks on polished limestone pavement through seemingly endless streets that stretch between temples, palaces and baths down to the shores of the azure Mediterranean Sea. Leptis Magna is one of the most impressive ruins and excavation sites in the entire ancient world!
The Provincia Africa Tripolitania was not only the breadbasket of Rome, but with its cities and ports also an important power base for ruling the Mediterranean. From Leptis Magna the important land campaigns against the tribes of the sub-Saharan hinterland, above all against the Garamanten, were carried out.
After Leptis had long since received the nickname Magna, the “Great Leptis”, because a Leptis Minor already existed, the city flourished when one of its sons, Septimius Severus, became Emperor of the Roman Empire. Many buildings were erected during his reign in a monumental splendor that was only unparalleled in the capital Rome. The porticoed halls of the temples were so lavishly decorated that the removal of the most beautiful columns for the construction of the Palace of Versailles is hardly noticeable today. A basilica measuring 100 by 40 meters was built, as was a new forum. After the expansion of the port, theaters, baths and brothels, but also temples and triumphal arches were built in large numbers, the furnishings of which testify to a wealth bordering on lavish luxury.
Leptis became the most important city and administrative seat of the coastal towns of Tripolitania, the three-city alliance with Oea, today’s Tripoli, and Sabratha, and a defensive zone against the warlike Saharan tribes was developed in the hinterland. Large forts like Cydamus, today’s Ghadames, secured the important trade routes. According to listofusnewspapers, Romanized Libyans, well-fortified borderland residents, were settled in fortified farms. The city by the sea may have been the destination of pleasure trips back then, just as Nice is today for the residents of the Provençal Alps. Up to the present day traces of Roman agriculture and Roman irrigation systems can be found everywhere in the hinterland, and olive trees still thrive here on field terraces, whose almost biblical age undoubtedly points to Roman origins.
The invasion of the Vandals in the 5th century left Roman North Africa and Leptis Magna in ruins. During the heyday of the Eastern Roman Empire under Justinian I, Leptis Magna once again gained in prestige and splendor, even if the Byzantine city wall by no means enclosed the extension of the former Leptis. The invasion of Arab armies in the first half of the 7th century left the city in ruins and forgotten.
In the colonial race for territories in Africa, Italy won the battle for Libya over its rival England. With the fascist era in Italy under “Duce” Benito Mussolini, extensive excavations began in Leptis Magna in an effort to exploit the imperial splendor of the once lively and rich Roman city for the glory of its own violent regime.