|Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna *|
The Arch of Septimius Severus
|Criteria||i, ii, iii|
|Region **||Arab States|
|Inscription||1982 (6th Session)|
History as a city
The city appears to have been founded by Phoenician colonists sometime around 1100 BC, who gave it the Lybico-Berber name Lpqy. The town did not achieve prominence until Carthage became a major power in theMediterranean Sea in the 4th century BC. It nominally remained part of Carthage’s dominions until the end of the Third Punic War in 146 BC and then became part of the Roman Republic, although from about 200 BC onward, it was for all intents and purposes an independent city.
Map of Leptis Magna
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.
|2nd Emperor of the Roman Empire|
Bust of the Emperor Tiberius
|Reign||18 September 14 AD – 16 March 37 AD|
|Full name||Birth to adoption: Tiberius Claudius Nero
Adoption to accession: Tiberius Julius Caesar
As Emperor: Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus
Imperial name: Imperator Caesar Divi filius Augustus
|Born||16 November 42 BC|
|Died||16 March AD 37 (aged 77)|
|Place of death||Misenum|
|Buried||Mausoleum of Augustus, Rome|
|Consort to||Vipsania Agrippina
Julia the Elder
|Offspring||Drusus Julius Caesar
|Father||Tiberius Claudius Nero|
Photograph of the ancient market place of Leptis Magna, Libya.Photographer: Robert Bamler
Leptis achieved its greatest prominence beginning in 193, when a native son, Lucius Septimius Severus, became emperor. He 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 andAlexandria. In 205, he and the imperial family visited the city and received great honors.
|21st Emperor of the Roman Empire|
Alabaster bust of Septimius Severus
at Musei Capitolini, Rome
|Reign||14 April 193 – 4 February 211|
|Full name||Lucius Septimius Severus
(from birth to accession);
Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Eusebes Pertinax Augustus
|Born||11 April 145|
|Birthplace||Lepcis Magna (Khoms, Libya)|
|Died||4 February 211 (aged 65)|
|Place of death||Eboracum (York, UK)|
|Successor||Caracalla and Geta|
|Consort||Paccia Marciana (c. 175 – c. 186)
|Offspring||Caracalla and Publius Septimius Geta
(both by Julia Domna)
|Father||Publius Septimius Geta|
Tondo, probably from the year 199, Septimius Severus with Julia Domna, Caracalla and Geta, whose face is smeared out.
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 hardly used.
Leptis over-extended itself at this period. During the Crisis of the Third Century, when trade declined precipitously, Leptis Magna’s importance also fell into a decline, and by the middle of the fourth century, large parts of the city had been abandoned. Ammianus Marcellinus recounts that the crisis was worsened by a corrupt Roman governor named Romanus during a major tribal raid who demanded bribes to protect the city. The ruined city could not pay these and complained to the emperor Valentianian. 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.
|67th Emperor of the Roman Empire|
|Reign||19 January 379 – 15 May 392 (emperor in the East;
15 May 392 – 17 January 395 (whole empire)
|Full name||Flavius Theodosius (from birth to accession);
Flavius Theodosius Augustus (as emperor)
|Born||11 January 347|
|Birthplace||Cauca, or Italica, near Seville, modern Spain|
|Died||17 January 395 (aged 48)|
|Place of death||Mediolanum|
|Buried||Constantinople, Modern DayIstanbul|
|Predecessor||Valens in the East
Gratian in the West
Valentinian II in the West
|Successor||Arcadius in the East;
Honorius in the West
|Consort to||1) Aelia Flaccilla (?-385)
2) Galla (?-394)
|Father||Theodosius the Elder|
|Religious beliefs||Catholic Orthodoxy|
Solidus of emperor Theodosius.
Missorium of Theodosius I, flanked by Valentinian II and Arcadius, 388
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 523 when a group of Berber raiders sacked the city.
Belisarius recaptured Leptis Magna in the name of Rome ten years later, and in 534, he destroyed the kingdom of the Vandals. Leptis became a provincial capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (see Byzantine Empire) but never recovered from the destruction wreaked upon it by the Berbers. It was the site of a massacre of Berber chiefs of the Leuathae tribal confederation by the Roman authorities in 543. By the time of the Arab conquest of Tripolitania in the 650s, the city was abandoned except for a Byzantine garrison force.
Belisarius may be this bearded figure on the right of Emperor Justinian I in the mosaic in the Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, which celebrates the reconquest of Italy by theByzantine army under the skillful leadership of Belisarius
History as a historical site
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 Fort Belvedere royal residence in England in 1818. It now lies in part ofWindsor 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.
This pillar is off the tourist trail, outside the west gate.
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 atWadi 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.
In the 2011 civil war
There were 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.