22 May 2016

Lepcis Magna (Libya)

Kaart Leocis Magna klein

Leptis Magna (sometimes given the local name Lepcis), with some 100.000 inhabitants, played an important role in the Roman empire. The ruins are near modern Khoms in Libya, about 130 kms east of Tripoli, where the Wadi Lebda reaches the coast.

During the reign of the emperor Augustus Leptis Magna was called a civitas liber et immunis, a free town where the governor had minimal jurisdiction. Tiberius incorporated the city in the Roman empire as part of the province of Africa. During the reign of Nero the city became a municipium, a city with a certain degree of Roman rights and privileges. Trajan made it a colonia.

The city became one of the most important African trade harbours. It got a boost around 200 AD because one of her citizens was a berber named Septimus Severus, emperor between 193 and 211. He visited the city in 205 AD and donated many buildings such as a forum, a temple for Jupiter, and a basilica. Excavations were undertaken mostly by Italian archaeologists. The ruins of the city are very extensive.

The harbour was renewed by Septimius Severus with a dam, a lighthouse and two big basins. Like so many harbours it was threatened by silt. The new docks built by Septimus Severus made it only worse. As a result these new docks were hardly used and are preserved in a very good condition.

See also:
- A documentary about Leptis Magna by The Libya Observer: part 1, part 2.
- A video impression by Capitolivm.
- "Leptis Magna, main port to Africa", also available in Dutch and Italian.

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