The Cardo Maximus is the main north-south highway through Leptis Magna. It connected the coast to the interior villas and farms, which supplied the grain, olive oil and wine to the city and for export to Rome. Along it now you find the main entrance gate to the site, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Arch of Trajan, the Arch of Tiberius, the Byzantine Gate and right at the northern end, the Old Forum.
Although Roman roads are usually straight, this one has a kink in it where a southerly extension was added on a new alignment. It is paved with limestone flagstones, which have been worn smooth by the thousands of feet that have trod them over the centuries.
In Roman cities, the Cardo was the centre of economic life, lined with shops and merchants' stalls: the equivalent of the modernday high street. It was also used for victory parades and celebrations.
The Severan Basilica is 92 metres long, and 40 metres wide. It was built as a judicial basilica, and it has two apses at either end.
It was converted into a church by the command of Byzantine emperor, Justinian 1.(6th century)
First impression entering the basilica : a mess of stones and pillars. But the local guide explainded a lot of things and scetched the scéne. After all- a place to remember.
A nymfaeum was a Roman temple consecrated to water nymphs, and added during the reign of Septimius Severus. It once had a superb facade of red granite, and niches filled with marble statues, but most of it was destroyed by a flood.
This one stands near to the Wadi Lebda and, like most nymfaeum, originally built around a natural spring.
Next to the Nymfaeum you will find the Hydrianic Baths, a perfection of relaxing during that Roman glorieus period
Among the many sites at Leptis Magna you will find many arches, like the Severan Arch, the Palaestra or Sports Ground, the Nymphaeum, the Hadrianic Baths, the Colonnaded Street, the Severan Forum, the Severan Basilica, the theater, the harbour, the Circus, the Temple of Liber Pater, the Temple of Rome and Augustus, the Arch of Trajan, the Arch of Tiberius and the Market.
The site of Leptis Magna is the site of the most impressive ruins of the Roman period.
Leptis Magna, also known as Lectis Magna (or Lepcis Magna as it is sometimes spelled), also called Lpqy or Neapolis, was a prominent city of the Roman Empire.
The first three pictures are showing the Arch of Septimius Severus, at the end a look at the Arch of Trajan on the Cardo maximum. (Pic 4)
Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus, born in Leptis in 146, favoured his birthplace with the construction of magnificent public buildings of which a great forum , a huge basilica and a 12 km underground aqueduct. All this in the late 2nd century,
The theater in Leptis Magna is a typical Augustian age theater, built in AD 1-2, and subsequently renovated. The scaenae fronts (back scene) of the theatre is well preserved.
There was another group of dutch visitors. Three of them were singing the "Klokke Roeland song" , without microphone, just perfect.
The Hadrianic Baths are impressive, once you can imagine how it was constructed to get steamy water. One of the pools, measuring 28 times 15 metre, remains intact. This bath house was one of the largest that ever was built outside Rome itself.
Adjacent to the swimming pool in the Hadrianic Baths were the Forico or public toilets. These were indeed very public toilets where people sat together, in a row, on a long marble seat above a channel of moving water. Presumably, they chatted and perhaps also read, while they sat there.
There was a long trough of water in front of the seats, where sponges on sticks, which people used to wipe themselves, could be rinsed. And that is probably more information than you wanted to know!
The Palaestra is sometimes also known as the Gymnasium, but it was actually an oudoor sports ground, where the citizens of Leptis Magna exercised before entering the Hadrianic Baths. We can deduce from mosaics found at other Roman palaestrae that sports here would have included ball games, running, weightlifting and wrestling. There were also covered seating areas around the perimeter for spectators.
Leptis Magna's amphitheatre was built between 54 and 68 AD, during the reign of Emperor Nero. It had a capacity of 16,000. Whereas the theatre, where plays for the educated citizens were performed, was close to the city centre, the amphitheatre, where gladiators and wild animals were killed for the entertainment of the masses, was built 2km out of town.
The Old Forum, at the coastal end of the Cardo Maximus, was the original city centre, dating back to the 7th century BC, although most of what remains today was built in 2 AD. It is, like the newer Severan Forum, which replaced it, a large paved square, surrounded by public buildings, including the Civil Basilica, Curia or Senate House and the Temples of Trajan, Hercules and Liber Pater. On two sides it is flanked by the Byzantine wall.
Possibly the grandest of all the buildings in Leptis Magna is the Severan Basilica. It measures 90m by 40m and had a wooden roof over 30 m high. This was supported by the pink granite colonnades which flank the inner walls of the basilica. The whole structure resembles a vast cathedral, which it later became, but its original function was to be the city's courts of justice. The apse was where the presiding town magistrate or judge sat.
The basilica was started by Septimius Severus but completed by his son, Emperor Caracalla in 216 AD. It was converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral by Justinian in the 6th century AD, and an altar was placed in the apse.
The new Forum, built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Septimius Severus, measures 100m by 60 m, that is a similar area to a football pitch. The floor was completely covered with marble. It was surrounded by colonnnaded porticoes, with arches above them. Looking in at the Forum, from between the arches, there were hundreds of marble heads of Medusa, the goddess Victory and various nymphs.
At the south-western end of the square is a stone staircase, which led up to a temple dedicated to the imperial Severan family. The Forum was a public meeting-place, where judicial and civic business could be discussed. It was also the site of the city's main civic offices, where public libraries and records were kept.
Today the massive forum, which was once the heart of the city, is a strewn with a jumbled mass of fallen masonry and columns.
The Roman theatre at Leptis Magna is one of the oldest stone theatres in the world. It was built of limestone blocks in 1-2 AD and the columns at the back of the stage were added in 144 AD. The pulpitium or stage was decorated with statues and sculptures of gods and emperors. Only two of these remain: one of Hercules and one of Liber Pater. An inscription at the main entrance indicates that the theatre was originally paid for by a local citizen called Hannobal Rufus.
The theatre is 88.5 m in diameter. The curved rows of the cavea or seating area are still in excellent condition. The seating is divided into wedges by steps which lead up and down from the walk-way. High up at the rear of the auditorium were a colonnade and some small temples, icluding one dedicated to Ceres in 36 AD and another to the Di Augusti, or deified emperors, in 43 AD . There are 8,000 seats and from the upper rows there are beautiful views of the whole theatre and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.
Roman plays typically lasted two hours. Popular playwrights included Plautus and Seneca. The plays were sometimes about war but often comedies with mistaken identity between gods and humans being a common theme. The actors were dressed in a long robe called a chiton. For roles playing old men, actors wore white robes and grey wigs, for young male roles they wore purple robes and black wigs while yellow robes were for females. Audiences were usually rude and loud, often jeering the actors.
During reconstruction work, Phoenician tombs were discovered under the stage area, which indicated that the theatre stands on the site of a Punic necropolis dating back to the 3rd to 5th centuries BC.