Lepcis Magna

Definition

by
published on 28 April 2011
Tetrapylon ()

Lepcis Magna (also known as Leptis Magna) was a city in Libya founded by Phoenicians from Tyre at the end of 7th century BCE, where the Wadi Lebda meets the Mediterranean Sea. They chose this location because the wadi was a navigable waterway into the country and the coast formed a natural harbor.

During the Third Punic War, Lepcis Magna became an ally of the Romans, which made it a favored and important city within the Roman Empire. During the civil war between Pompey and Caesar, the city sided with Pompey and at the end of the war and Caesar's victory, the city lost its favorable status. Augustus agreed to return this status to Lepcis Magna and an imperial cult for him was created in the city.

It became a municipality during the reign of Vespasian and during this period, a Romanization of the elites becomes evident, even though Punic institutions remained in use. Finally, the city became a Roman colony during the reign of Trajan and adopted the Roman institutions.

The city reached its apogee during the reign of Septimius Severus and Caracalla. It became the second city of the province of Africa after the capital Carthage. It received new monuments: a new forum and basilica, a colonnaded street to join the old part of the city with Hadrian's bath, the harbor was restored, and one more triumphal arch was built. Because of the cost, Caracalla decided to stop the construction of the Forum in 216 CE, and it was thus never finished. When Diocletian decided to change the organization of the provinces, Lepcis Magna became the capital of the new province of Tripolitania.

The Romans left Lepcis Magna during the 6th century, after an attack of the Levathae, a Berber tribe. The Byzantines came back to Lepcis, but only in a little part of the city.



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