Leptis Lights





The punic settlement at the Lebda delta, dates back to the end of the 7th century BC., as proved by some archeological pottery remains. Nevertheless its urban features can only be dated back to the late 6th century BC., following  the Greek  continuous attempts to colonize the coast. The fertility of the inland and its strategic position for long-distance trade gave to Leptis a favourable asset in the “Emporia”, region which included the lebanese-punic town of Oea (Tripoli) and Sabratha.

After its defeat in the second punic war (202 BC.), Carthage lost its control on the Emporia which went under the hegemony of Maxinissa. As part of his kingdom, the town developed its trade and the countryside became more populated with farms. By the end of the century, during the Jugurtha war, Leptis signed with Rome a treaty of mutual friendship and alliance. Having sided with Pompey, Caesar imposed a tribute of 3 million pounds of oil to the town.

In the augustan age, as part of the African Proconsular province and thanks to the generosity of its wealthy inhabitants, Leptis acquired  the typical architectural features of a roman town, with its own spa and places for entertainment.      

Under Vespasian, Leptis obtained the town Statute, under Trajan the title of a Roman colony and following to this, its inhabitants obtained the Roman citizenship.

In 193 AD. Lucius Septimius Severus from Leptis became emperor and he bestowed the same privileges of any Italian town on his birth place. Leptis reached its greatest splendour thanks to the monumental public works that he planned and paid for. Unfortunately, after the death of his son Caracalla, these imponent works were stopped, all the villas in the territory began to decay and soon afterwards they were abandoned.

It is possible that in the late 3rd century , problems of maintenance already appeared in the harbour structures.

Under Diocletian, within his comprehensive administrative reform, Leptis became the main town of the new Tripolitan province.

The following century saw a fast process of decay: the Tripolitan countryside was repeatedly devasted by the raids of the semi-nomadic tribes from the inland, among which were the Austurians (363 – 367 DC.). The town was preserved thanks to its walls, built during Costantine’s reign. When the Vandals passed to Africa (429 AD.),

Tripolitania fell into their hands, but their presence didn’t leave any visible sign on Leptis.

Only in 534 AD., when Justinian re-conquered Africa, Tripolitania and Leptis became part of the Empire again. The Byzantine town was enclosed  in a new and narrower wall circuit and lived its last urban phase, as witnessed by the building of new religious monuments. Nevertheless, the urban texture is hopelessly falling apart, and with the Arabian conquerors the whole process of decay is accomplished.     


Images of the Roman town “Leptis Magna” in Lybia 

The exhibition includes 50 panels (50x70 cms) for 78 colour photographs (30x45 cms).

Texts, maps and captions by Roma Tre University.