Originally a 7th century BC Phoenician foundation, it was greatly expanded under Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193–211), who was a native of the city. The 3rd Augustan Legion was stationed here to defend the city against Berber incursions. After the legion's dissolution under Gordian III in 238, the city was increasingly open to raids in the later part of the 3rd century. Diocletian reinstated the city as provincial capital, and it grew again in prosperity until it fell to the Vandals in 439. It was reincorporated into the Eastern Empire in 533 but continued to be plagued by Berber raids and never recovered its former importance. It fell to the Muslim invasion in c. 647 and was abandoned.
Shown within Libya
|Alternative name||Lepcis Magna, Neapolis, Lpqy|
|Founded||7th c. BC|
|Abandoned||7th c. AD|
|Periods||Iron Age to Byzantine|
|Official name||Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna|
|Criteria||i, ii, iii|
|Designated||1982 (6th session)|
|Region||North African cities|
The Punic name of the settlement was written LPQ (Punic: 𐤋𐤐𐤒) or LPQY (𐤋𐤐𐤒𐤉). This has been tentatively connected to the Semitic root (present in Arabic) LFQ, meaning "to build" or "to piece together", presumably in reference to the construction of the city.
This name was hellenized as Léptis Megálē (Greek: Λέπτις μεγάλη, "Greater Leptis"), distinguishing it from the "Lesser Leptis" closer to Carthage in modern-day Tunisia. It was also known by the Greeks as Neápolis (Νεάπολις, "New Town"). The latinization of these names was Lepcis or Leptis Magna ("Greater Leptis"), which also appeared as the "Leptimagnese City" (Latin: Leptimagnensis Civitas). The Latin demonym was "Leptitan" (Leptitanus). It was also known as Ulpia Traiana as a Roman colony. Its Arabic name is Labdah (لَبْدَة).
The Phoenician city was founded in the second half of the 7th century BC. Little is known about Leptis during this time, but it appears to have been powerful enough to repel Dorieus's attempt to establish a Greek colony nearby around 515 BC. Like most western Phoenician settlements, Leptis became part of the Carthaginian Empire and fell under Rome's control with Carthage's defeat in the Punic Wars. Leptis remained highly independent for a period after about 111 BC.
The Roman Republic sent some colonists together with a small garrison in order to control the city. The city prospered and was even allowed to coin its own money in silver and bronze. Reflecting its blend of cultures, its coins bore Punic inscriptions but images of Hercules and Dionysus. Soon Italian merchants settled in the city and started a profitable commerce with the Libyan interior. The city depended primarily on the fertility of its surrounding farmland, where many olive-presses have been excavated. By 46 BC, its olive oil production was of such an extent that the city was able to provide three million pounds of oil annually to Julius Caesar as tax.
During the reign of Augustus, Leptis Magna was classified as a Civitas libera et immunis, or a free community, over which the governor had an absolute minimum of control. As such Leptis retain its two suphetes at the head of its government, with the mhzm, similar to the Roman aediles, as minor magistrates. In addition there were such sacred officials as the 'addir 'ararim or praefectus sacrorum, the nēquim ēlīm, and probably a sacred college of fifteen members. These offices were still in effective operation when Leptis was made a "Municipium" with a certain degree of Roman rights and privileges at some time between 61 and 68 A.D., during the rule of Nero.
Leptis Magna remained as such until the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, when the city and the surrounding area were formally incorporated into the empire as part of the province of Africa. It soon became one of the leading cities of Roman Africa and a major trading post. The city grew rapidly under Roman administration. During the reign of Nero an amphitheatre was constructed. The settlement was elevated to municipium in AD 64 or 65 and to colonia under Trajan (r. 98 –117)
Leptis achieved its greatest prominence beginning in AD 193, as the hometown of emperor Septimius Severus. Septimius favored his hometown above all other provincial cities, and the buildings and wealth he lavished on it made Leptis Magna the third-most important city in Africa, rivaling Carthage and Alexandria. In AD 205, he and the imperial family visited the city and bestowed great honors. Among the changes that Severus introduced were to create a magnificent new forum and to rebuild the docks. The natural harbour had a tendency to silt up, but the Severan changes made this worse, and the eastern wharves are extremely well preserved, since they were scarcely used.
Leptis overextended itself during this period. During the Crisis of the 3rd Century, when trade declined precipitously, Leptis Magna's importance also fell into a decline, and by the middle of the 4th century, even before it was completely devastated by the 365 tsunami, large parts of the city had been abandoned. Ammianus Marcellinus recounts that the crisis was worsened by a corrupt Roman governor named Romanus who demanded bribes to protect the city during a major tribal raid. The ruined city could not pay these and complained to the emperor Valentinian I. Romanus then bribed people at court and arranged for the Leptan envoys to be punished "for bringing false accusations". It enjoyed a minor renaissance beginning in the reign of the emperor Theodosius I.
In 439, Leptis Magna and the rest of the cities of Tripolitania fell under the control of the Vandals when their king, Gaiseric, captured Carthage from the Romans and made it his capital. Unfortunately for the future of Leptis Magna, Gaiseric ordered the city's walls demolished so as to dissuade its people from rebelling against Vandal rule. The people of Leptis and the Vandals both paid a heavy price for this in AD 523 when a group of Berber raiders sacked the city.
Belisarius, general of Emperor Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire, recaptured Leptis Magna in the name of the Roman Empire ten years later, and in 533/4 it was re-incorporated into the empire. Leptis became a provincial capital of the Eastern Empire, but never recovered from the destruction wreaked upon it by the Berbers. In 544, under the prefecture of Sergius, the city came under intensified attack of Berber tribes, and after some successes, Sergius was reduced to retreating into the city, with the Leuathae tribal confederation camped outside the gate demanding payments. Sergius admitted eighty deputies into the city to present their demands, but when Sergius moved to leave the conference he was detained by the robe by one deputy and crowded by others. This provoked an officer of the prefect's guard to kill the deputy laying hands on the prefect, which resulted in a general massacre. The Berbers reacted with an all-out attack and Sergius was eventually forced to abandon Leptis and retreat to Carthage.
By the 6th century, the city was fully Christianised. During the decade 565–578 AD Christian missionaries from Leptis Magna even began to move once more among the Berber tribes as far south as the Fezzan in the Libyan desert and converted the Garamantes. Numerous new churches were built in the 6th century, but the city continued to decline, and by the time of the Arab conquest around 647 the city was mostly abandoned except for a Byzantine garrison force and a population of less than 1,000 inhabitants. Under Arab domination Leptis disappeared: by the 10th century the city was forgotten and fully covered by sand.
Today, the site of Leptis Magna is the site of some of the most impressive ruins of the Roman period.
Part of an ancient temple was brought from Leptis Magna to the British Museum in 1816 and installed at the Fort Belvedere royal residence in England in 1826. It now lies in part of Windsor Great Park. The ruins are located between the south shore of Virginia Water and Blacknest Road close to the junction with the A30 London Road and Wentworth Drive.
When Italians conquered Italian Libya in the early 20th century, they dedicated huge efforts to the rediscovery of Leptis Magna. In the early 1930s Italian archeological research was able to show again the buried remains of nearly all the city. A 4th to 3rd century BC necropolis was found under the Roman theatre.
In June 2005, it was revealed that archaeologists from the University of Hamburg had been working along the coast of Libya when they uncovered a 30 ft length of five colourful mosaics created during the 1st or 2nd century. The mosaics show with exceptional clarity depictions of a warrior in combat with a deer, four young men wrestling a wild bull to the ground, and a gladiator resting in a state of fatigue and staring at his slain opponent. The mosaics decorated the walls of a cold plunge pool in a bath house within a Roman villa at Wadi Lebda in Leptis Magna. The gladiator mosaic is noted by scholars as one of the finest examples of representational mosaic art ever seen—a "masterpiece comparable in quality with the Alexander Mosaic in Pompeii." The mosaics were originally discovered in the year 2000 but were kept secret in order to avoid looting. They are currently on display in the Leptis Magna Museum.
There were unfounded reports that Leptis Magna was used as a cover for tanks and military vehicles by pro-Gaddafi forces during the 2011 Libyan civil war. When asked about the possibility of conducting an air-strike on the historic site, NATO refused to rule out the possibility of such an action saying that it had not been able to confirm the rebels' report that weapons were being hidden at the location.
Al-Khums or Khoms (Arabic: الخمس) is a city, port and the de jure capital of the contested Murqub District on the Mediterranean coast of Libya with an estimated population of around 202,000. The population at the 1984 census was 38,174. Between 1983 and 1995 it was the administrative center of al-Khums District.Al Khums District
Al Khums or Khoms District (Arabic: الخمس ) was a district of Libya from 1983 to 1995. It lay in the northwest of the country, on the Mediterranean Sea. Its capital was Khoms.
It is notable for the ancient Roman city of Leptis Magna which is 120 km east of Tripoli along the coast. Leptis Magna prospered for 500 years, most intensely under the patronage of hometown boy, Emperor Septimius Severus aka "the Grim African".
Al Murgub 1998 to present
Al Khums 1983-1995
120 km east of Libya capital Tripoli
Area code 053
Time zone UTC+2
Last statistic population 427.886Arch of Septimius Severus (Leptis Magna)
The Arch of Septimius Severus is a triumphal arch in Leptis Magna, located in present-day Libya. It was commissioned by the Libyan-born Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.
The Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211) ruled through a program of dynastic succession, militaristic power and architectural revival. He was the first Emperor born in the provinces since Hadrian and Trajan. Idolized for his military successes, having been declared emperor by his troops, Septimius is most well known for his Parthian victories from 194-195. With the military success of the emperor came a dramatic building program in Rome as well as the emperor's city of birth and the world heritage site, Leptis Magna. Part of said building programs, erected to celebrate the triumph of the Parthian victories were two arches dedicated in Rome as well as one dedicated in Leptis Magna. Leptis Magna stands apart from the building programs of Rome, The commemorative arch of Leptis Magna stands as testament to the Severan dynasty, military might, urban revitalization as well as divine acceptance.
With the Emperor’s significant presence in the province, it comes at no surprise that a triumphal arch was erected in Leptis Magna. While the exact date is not agreed upon, it is generally accepted that the Arch of Septimius Severus at Leptis Magna was erected on the occasion of the Severus’ African tour in 203. Built as a tetrapylon, the four-way arch marks the intersection of the two most significant urban roads, the cardo, north-south direction, and the decumanus maximus, the main east-west thoroughfare of this once-prominent port city of the Roman Empire in Africa. The city as well as the arch fell into ruin and was abandoned after barbarian invasions of the late 5th century. Justinian later appropriated Leptis Magna, utilizing sculpture from the arch in his great basilica .Emporium (antiquity)
An emporium refers to a trading post, factory, or market of Classical antiquity, derived from the Ancient Greek: ἐμπόριον, romanized: (empórion), which becomes Latin: emporium. The plural is emporia in both languages, although in Greek the plural undergoes a semantic shift to mean "merchandise".Famous emporia include Sais, where Solon went to acquire the knowledge of Egypt; Elim, where Hatshepsut kept her Red Sea fleet; Elat, where Thebes was supplied with mortuary materials, linen, bitumen, naphtha, frankincense, myrrh and carved stone amulets from Palestine, Canaan, Aram, Lebanon, Ammon, Hazor, Moab, Edom, Punt and the Arabian Peninsula from Petra to Midian; and Olbia, which exported cereals, fish and slaves.
Emporia functioned much like European trading colonies in China.
In the Hellenic and Ptolemaic realm, emporia included the various Greek, Phoenician, Egyptian and other city-states and trading posts in the circum-Mediterranean area. Among these commercial hubs were cities like Avaris and Syene in Lower Egypt, Thebes in Upper Egypt, and Opone, Elim, Elat and other Red Sea ports. For the Hittites, it encompassed Kanesh and Kadesh. For Phoenicia, it included Cádiz, Carthage, Leptis Magna, and Cyrene, among others (although Cyrene had been founded by Greeks).Gaius Septimius Severus Aper
Gaius Septimius Severus Aper (c. 175 - 211/212) was a Roman aristocrat. He was appointed Consul Ordinarius in 207 with the otherwise unknown Lucius Annius Maximus.
Aper came from Leptis Magna and was probably a grandson of the Consul Suffectus of July 153, Publius Septimius Aper. Aper is possibly the same person called Afer in the Historia Augusta, who at the end of the year 211 or 212 was executed on command of the emperor Caracalla.Gerisa
Gerisa or "Gaerisa" was an ancient city of Roman Libya near the Limes Tripolitanus. It was called "Ghirza", a small village of 300 inhabitants on the pre-desert zone of Tripolitania.Leptis Magna Museum
Leptis Magna Museum is an archaeological museum located in Khoms (Leptis Magna), Tripolitania, Libya.Libya in the Roman era
The area of North Africa which has been known as Libya since 1911 was under Roman domination between 146 BC and 672 AD. The Latin name Libya at the time referred to the continent of Africa in general. What is now coastal Libya was known as Tripolitania and Pentapolis, divided between the Africa province in the west, and Creta et Cyrenaica in the east. In 296 AD, the Emperor Diocletian separated the administration of Crete from Cyrenaica and in the latter formed the new provinces of "Upper Libya" and "Lower Libya", using the term Libya as a political state for the first time in history.Limes Tripolitanus
The Limes Tripolitanus was a frontier zone of defence of the Roman Empire, built in the south of what is now Tunisia and the northwest of Libya. It was primarily intended as a protection for the tripolitanian cities of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Oea in Roman Libya.List of Roman triumphal arches
For the history of triumphal arches, see Triumphal arch.
For post-Roman triumphal arches, see List of post-Roman triumphal arches.This is a list of Roman triumphal arches. All currently surviving Roman arches date from the imperial period (1st century BC onwards). They were preceded by honorific arches
set up under the Roman Republic, none of which survive. Triumphal arches were constructed across the Roman Empire and remain one of the most iconic examples of Roman architecture.Murqub District
Murqub (Arabic: المرقب Al Murqub), sometimes spelt Al Murgub or Al Marqab or al-Morqib, is one of the districts of Libya. The main city and capital is Khoms. The widely visited UNESCO World Heritage Site of Leptis Magna is also located in the district. In the north, Murqub has a shoreline on the Mediterranean Sea. On land, it borders Misrata to the east and south, Tripoli to the northwest and Jabal al Gharbi to the west.
Per the census of 2012, the total population in the region was 157,747 with 150,353 Libyans. The average size of the household in the country was 6.9, while the average household size of non-Libyans being 3.7. There were totally 22,713 households in the district, with 20,907 Libyan ones. The population density of the district was 1.86 persons per sq. km.
In 2007 the district was enlarged to include twenty-six Basic People's Congresses (townships) of what had been the Tarhuna wa Msalata District.Oea
Oea () was an ancient city in present-day Centreville à le Souq Yafran in Tripoli, Libya. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC and later became a Roman–Berber colony. As part of the Roman Africa Nova province, Oea and surrounding Tripolitania were prosperous. It reached its height in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, when the city experienced a golden age under the Severan dynasty in nearby Leptis Magna. The city was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate with the spread of Islam in the 7th century and came to be known as Tripoli during the 9th century.Publius Septimius Geta (father of Septimius Severus)
Publius Septimius Geta (fl. 2nd century, c. 110 – 171) was the father of the emperor Lucius Septimius Severus, father-in-law of the Roman empress Julia Domna and the paternal grandfather of Roman emperors Caracalla and Geta. Besides mentions in the Historia Augusta, Geta is known from several inscriptions, two of which were found in Leptis Magna, Africa (East of Tripoli in modern Libya).Roman colonies in Berber Africa
Roman colonies in Berber Africa are the cities —populated by Roman citizens— created in Berber North Africa by the Roman Empire, mainly in the period between the reigns of Augustus and Trajan. These colonies were created in the area—now called Tamazgha by the Berbers—located between Morocco and Libyan Tripolitania.Roman roads in Africa
Almost all Roman roads in Africa were built in the first two centuries AD. In 14 AD Legio III Augusta completed a road from Tacape to Ammaedara: the first Roman road in Africa. In 42 AD the kingdom of Mauretania was annexed by Rome. Emperor Claudius then restored and widened a Carthaginian trail and extended it west and east. This way the Romans created a continuous coastal highway stretching for 2,100 miles from the Atlantic to the Nile. In 137 Hadrian built the Via Hadriana in the eastern desert of Egypt. It ran from Antinoopolis to Berenice.
Claudius' road that began west of Carthage followed the coastline connecting the coastal towns. From Hippo Regius, on the coast, it continued westwards to Icosium (Algiers), Caesarea (Cherchell), as far as Rusaddir (Melilla) and Tingis (Tangier). It then continued along the Atlantic coast through Iulia Constantia Zilil (Asilah) and Lixus (Larache) to Sala Colonia (near Rabat). East of Carthage the road went through the region of the Carthaginian trading stations Sabratha, Oea-Tripolis, Leptis Magna and Cyrenaica before coming to Alexandria and the lower Nile region.Scaenae frons
The scaenae frons is the elaborately decorated permanent architectural background of a Roman theatre stage. Normally there are three entrances to the stage (Palmyra has five) including a grand central entrance, known as the porta regia or "royal door". The form may have been intended to resemble the facades of imperial palaces. The scaenae frons is often two and sometimes three stories in height and was central to the theatre's visual impact for this was what was seen by a Roman audience at all times. Tiers or balconies were supported by an exuberant display of columns, normally in the Corinthian order, often originally including many statues in niches.In smaller theatres it could support a permanent roof, enclosing the whole theatre, and in larger ones awnings over the whole or parts of the theatre, perhaps secured to masts rising above it, for which there is some evidence.This form was influenced by Greek theatre, which had an equivalent but simpler skene building (meaning "tent", showing the original nature of it). This led to the stage or space "before the skene" being called the "proscenium". In the Hellenistic period the skene became more elaborate, perhaps with columns, but also used to support painted secenery.The Roman scaenae frons was also used both as the backdrop to the stage and behind as the actors' dressing room. It no longer supported painted sets in the Greek manner but relied for effect on elaborate permanent architectural decoration. This achieved a baroque effect also seen in large nymphaea and library facades, often with an undulating facade, pushing forward and then retreating. All the significant examples date from the Imperial period; the Theatre of Pompey in Rome, completed in 55 BC, was the first stone theatre in Rome, and probably launched the style.An inscription in the entablature above the lowest columns often recorded the emperor and others who had helped to fund the construction. A feature often found in the Western Empire, but less so in the Greek-speaking areas, was the row of curved recesses in the face of the front of the stage, as at Sabratha and Leptis Magna.The roofed Renaissance Teatro Olimpico ("Olympic Theatre") in Vicenza, northern Italy (1580-1585, designed by Andrea Palladio) includes a fully decorated scaenae frons and gives a good general impression of what the Roman ones would have looked like in their original state, though it is in stucco over a wood framework. The theatre is also famous for the trompe-l'œil scenery, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, behind the scaenae frons, which gives the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon; it is not clear how much this reflects ancient practice. This was intended to be temporary in 1585, but remains in excellent condition.Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus (; Latin: Lucius Septimius Severus Augustus; 11 April 145 – 4 February 211), also known as Severus, was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. He was born in Leptis Magna in the Roman province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the cursus honorum—the customary succession of offices—under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors.
After deposing and killing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus, Severus fought his rival claimants, the Roman generals Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus. Niger was defeated in 194 at the Battle of Issus in Cilicia. Later that year Severus waged a short punitive campaign beyond the eastern frontier, annexing the Kingdom of Osroene as a new province. Severus defeated Albinus three years later at the Battle of Lugdunum in Gaul.
After consolidating his rule over the western provinces, Severus waged another brief, more successful war in the east against the Parthian Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 197 and expanding the eastern frontier to the Tigris. He then enlarged and fortified the Limes Arabicus in Arabia Petraea. In 202 he campaigned in Africa and Mauretania against the Garamantes; capturing their capital Garama and expanding the Limes Tripolitanus along the southern desert frontier of the empire. He proclaimed as Augusti (co-emperors) his elder son Caracalla in 198 and his younger son Geta in 209.
In 208 he travelled to Britain, strengthening Hadrian's Wall and reoccupying the Antonine Wall. In the same year he invaded Caledonia (modern Scotland), but his ambitions were cut short when he fell fatally ill of an infectious disease, in late 210. Severus died in early 211 at Eboracum (today York, England), and was succeeded by his sons, thus founding the Severan dynasty. It was the last dynasty of the Roman Empire before the Crisis of the Third Century.Shadrafa
Shadrafa (šdrpʾ, šdrbʾ, σατραπας, i.e. "satrap") is a poorly-attested Canaanite (Punic) god of healing or medicine.
His cult is attested in the Roman era (c. 1st to 3rd centuries) in Amrit and Palmyra in the Levant and in Carthage and Leptis Magna in Africa. He is sometimes depicted as a youth with a serpent or a scorpion.
In a Punic-Latin bilingual in Leptis Magna he is identified with Liber-Dionysus.
Various scholarly suggestions have Palmyran šdrpʾ to Heracles, Asclepios, Eshmun, Adonis, Nergol, Melqart and Resheph. It seems probable that Shadrafa arises from Hellenistic-Canaanite syncretism, and may represent an interpretatio punica of a Hellenistic deity.Tripolis (region of Africa)
Tripolis (Greek: Τρίπολις; meaning "three cities") was a district in ancient Tripolitania (an expanded area based on the Tripolis), now in Libya, along the Mediterranean between the Sabrata and Cinyps rivers, and comprising the three cities of Oea, Sabratha, and Leptis Magna.
Romano-Berber cities in Roman North Africa
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