Leptis Magna was one of the most beautiful settlements dating from the time of the Roman Empire. Originally settled by the Phoenicians around 1100 BC, it was overtaken by the Romans in the second century BC, though it was essentially an independent city from then on. It is located along the North African coast in Libya, about 80 miles from Tripoli, and boasts a harbor along with the ruins of storehouses, monuments, and residential areas. Leptis Magna is one of the most unspoiled examples of Roman ruins left in the world.
The high point of the city’s history is usually considered the rule of Lucius Septimius Severus, from 193 to 211; this Roman emperor was a native of Leptis Magna. Severus greatly expanded the city, ordering new construction projects, and the attention he lavished on his hometown made it one of the most important cities in Africa, alongside Carthage and Alexandria. The Arch of Severus, one of the famous structures remaining here, was constructed in his honor.
However, Leptis Magna began to decline as it overextended itself in the third century, and it was conquered by the Vandals in 439 and almost entirely destroyed by a Berber tribe in 523; the city never recovered from that sacking. However, the site itself has remained beautifully preserved throughout the centuries, despite the occasional pillagers.
During Leptis Magna’s heyday, the major trading route here also consisted of the cities of Tripolis and Sabratha, with Tripolis being an essential part of the Trans Saharan caravan route and serving as an important trading outlet for inner Africa with the Mediterranean world. Sabratha was originally part of the Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before it was taken over by the Romans in the second and third centuries. Like Leptis Magna, this city was also an important trading spot for African goods and is now home to its own interesting ruins.
These magnificent structures near Al Khums Libya are a must-see for those who enjoy stepping back into time. The theater is one of the prominent sites at Leptis Magna. Still remarkably intact, the theater once held hundreds of spectators and was a central part of life at this Roman settlement. The rows of seats are situated in a semicircle looking down upon the stage area, which is backed by magnificent columns. The whole theater now gives visitors a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean and the North African Coast.
The Arch of Severus is a tribute to the Emperor Septimius Severus and is a symbol of Roman power and craftsmanship. The intricate details on the arch are meant to represent the achievements of the emperor who greatly improved the state of Leptis Magna. The Arch of Severus is a square structure with four arches on the sides and carvings and columns covering the outside of the structure. The Hadriatic Baths are also another point of interest at the ruins near Al Khums Libya. This huge bathhouse is one of the largest that was ever built outside of Rome.
In June 2005, one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries was made at Leptis Magna. During an excavation, archaeologist found five beautiful mosaics dating back to the first or second century. They are believed to have been part of a bathhouse and depict the strength of man. These mosaics are known as one of the most exquisite examples of Roman artwork still in existence.
Although the majority of Leptis Magna in Al Khums Libya has yet to be fully excavated, it is a wonderful site, and the ruins that can be seen there are stunning. Libya has been closed off to tourists for many years, and thus it has allowed the site to remain relatively undisturbed. The ruins are a wonderful insight into the Roman world in North Africa.