Bookmark and Share

Open the online Arabic language course

Roman Empire / Africa /
Leptis Magna
Other spellings: Lepcis Magna, Labqi, Lpqi, Labdah

Open satellite view

Leptis Magna

Arch of Septimus Severus in Leptis Magna, Libya.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Arch of Septimus Severus. Photo: Motohiro Sunouchi.

Theatre at Leptis Magna, Libya.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Theatre. Photo: Rob Glover.

Leptis Magna, Libya.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Carvings of Bacchus in basilica. Photo: NH53.

Amphitheater at Leptis Magna, Libya.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Amphitheater. Photo: Motohiro Sunouchi.

Travel information from
LookLex / Libya
Leptis Magna / Introduction
Arch of Septimus Severus
The Theatre
Hadrianic Baths
Via Trionfale
Severan Basilica
The Old Forum
Amphitheatre and Circus

Ancient Phoenician, later Roman city, now in Libya, close to the city of Al-Khoms, and 120 east of Tripoli.
Leptis Magna was located on a natural harbour protected by islands, and at the mouth of the seasonal river Labdah.
The main reason for Leptis Magna's wealth was the agriculture, exporting much grains and olive oil to Rome. More notable, perhaps, was Leptis Magna's role in exporting exotic animals for Rome's public amusement.
Leptis Magna's claim to fame in the modern world is owed to the fabulous state Roman city, where much dates to the 3rd century. A forum, a beautiful bath, a theater and an amphitheater are some of many spectacular structures.
The main reasons why Leptis Magna has survived so well into modern times was that no new city was built next by, meaning that Leptis Magna never had to serve as a provider of building material. Second, it was soon covered under desert sand, only to be unearthed in the 20th century. Third, nearby quarries provided its builders with first class hard limestone.

Around 1000 BCE: Established as a trading post of Phoenicia.
6th century: Carthage becomes the most important Phoenician colony, and took control over Leptis Magna together with other colonies.
202: With the defeat in the 2nd Punic War, Leptis Magna comes under Numidia and its King Masinissa.
111: Leptis Magna breaks out of Numidia, and becomes an ally of Rome. Leptis Magna would retain its Punic culture, and continued to use Punic language for about 200 years more.
1st century: A quarry was opened just south of Leptis Magna, yielding first class hard limestone. This limestone would be extensively used in the building of the fine monuments, and their survival until our times.
46 BCE: An annual tax is imposed on Leptis Magna of 1,5 million kilos of oil.
56 CE: An amphitheater is built here.
109: Leptis Magna becomes a colonia, securing its inhabitants Roman citizenship, yet great autonomy was guaranteed and no land was confiscated by Rome.
120: An aqueduct is constructed, providing Leptis Magna with constant water supplies.
146: Lucius Septimus Severus is born in Leptis Magna; he would later become Roman emperor.
193: Septimus Severus becomes emperor, and soon starts a great construction program for his home town.
203: Emperor Septimus Severus visits Leptis Magna, and gives it exemption from property and land taxes.
Middle 3rd century: Economic decline in the Roman Empire strikes Leptis Magna hard.
4th century: The economic decline in the Roman Empire had resulted in far lower number of inhabitants in Leptis Magna. Desert tribes used the city's weakness to raiding it numerous times.
365: Leptis Magna is severely destroyed by an earthquake.
455: Leptis Magna is conquered by the Vandals, who tears down its walls, but keep their control over the city.
523: Berber tribes raze Leptis Magna.
534: The Byzantine Empire destroys the Vandal kingdom, and takes control over Leptis Magna.
642: Muslim Arab troops take control over the region where Leptis Magna lies, but by now the city is almost empty.
1920's: Archaeological excavations start at Leptis Magna under the leadership of the Italian colonial authorities.
1982: Leptis Magna is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

By Tore Kjeilen