Tuesday 23 February
10 AM PST
1 PM EST
6 PM GMT
7 PM CET
With Dr. Eireann Marshall
Leptis Magna, a Phoenician city founded in the 7th century BC, is one of the most magnificent archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. Grown wealthy, from agriculture and olive oil, the city was hugely developed in the beginning of the 2/3 centuries AD when its most famous son, Septimius Severus, become emperor. The evocative remains include a stunning quadrifrons triumphal arch built in the style fashionable in the period, with broken pediments, a largely intact theatre which still includes the stage building, as well as a Hippodrome and Amphitheatre. The prosperity brought to the city because of its trade is witnessed in its remarkable harbour and the fruits of this wealth are witnessed in the remarkable mosaics from the city’s houses.
The scale of the monuments and their state of preservation make this a unique site. Sadly, visiting the city has been difficult since the advent of Ghaddafi in the late 1960s; apart from the decade from 2000-2010, the site has been closed to tourism. While there were initially concerns about the safety of the ruins during the First Libyan Civil War in 2011, the city survived unscathed, despite initial fears that pro-Ghaddafi forces were using the site as cover. All the more remarkably, Leptis has also come through the Second Libyan Civil War intact, in spite of the power vacuum which has made the site vulnerable to attack from extremists – due to the heroic efforts of local volunteers who protected the site.
This remarkable city, aggrandised by the emperor Septimius Severus, who was so proud of his native town, has been lost to us for some time but has come through this period intact. Not all cities caught up in recent violence have been so fortunate