Sabratha

Definition

by
published on 28 April 2011

Sabratha was an ancient Carthaginian city on the coast of north Africa. The name of this city comes from its Punic name SBRTN, of which the pronunciation is still unknown. Sabratha was a major city of Tripolitania, together with Lepcis Magna and Oea.

Archaeological evidence suggests the existence of Sabratha during the 5th century BCE. At this time, it was a seasonal colony of the Carthaginian empire. Despite the area not being fertile, the location was chosen because of a little natural harbor that was ideal for Mediterranean trade. One century later, it became a proper town and the first stone monuments were built. The Carthaginian market that was constructed later became a Roman forum. From this period, archaeologists also found a Tophet (a children's cemetery) and several steles of the Tanit cult. In the south of the city, a necropolis was found that is home to a triangular mausoleum that contains elements of Alexandrian influence and Punic art. The city's most important temples were dedicated to Liber Pater, Isis and Serapis. Very few Punic inscriptions have been discovered in this city.

After the fall of Carthage, the city prospered, as its harbor became a trade hub. The heyday of the city was during the Antonine period, and it became a Roman colony during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, around 165-166 CE. In 253 CE, the city is mentioned as a bishopric.

Starting in 365 CE, Sabratha slowly declined in importance due to barbarian raids and an earthquake. The last restoration of buildings was in the first part of the 5th century CE in the forum basilica. Vandals and Byzantines also occupied the city. During Justinian's reign, many churches were constructed, the most famous being the basilica mentioned by Procope of Cesarea. The end of Sabratha came with the Arabs, probably around 8th century CE, who used Tripoli as their trade hub.



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