Leptis Magna Things to Do

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    Severan Arch
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    Cardo Maximus, Leptis Magna
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Most Recent Things to Do in Leptis Magna

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    Market

    by iwys Updated Apr 7, 2007

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    The market is one of the most fascinating parts of Leptis Magna, because many of the original structures, including serving counters and measuring blocks, remain.

    The most significant of these structures are two octagonal tholoi or serving kiosks. Each one is 20 m in diameter and surrounded by serving hatches from which goods were sold. One of these halls was for fruit and vegetables while the other was for textiles.

    The market dates back to 9-8 BC. Its construction was paid for by a wealthy local citizen, Hannobal Rufus, who ten years later also funded the building the city's theatre. The marble columns and decorated facades were added around 200 AD, during the reign of Septimius Severus.

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    Nymphaeum

    by iwys Updated Apr 7, 2007

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    The Nymphaeum at Leptis Magna is one of the best-preserved I have seen. Built in the early 3rd cenury AD, it stands two stories high and is decorated with pink granite and cipolin columns. A nymphaeum was a Roman temple consecrated to water nymphs. The building was designed to replicate a water-filled grotto, the habitat of the water nymphs. It was a partially-covered rotunda filled with plants and flowers, sculptures, ornamental fountains and paintings. The nymphaeum served as both a sanctuary and a reservoir. It was also used for wedding ceremonies.

    It stands in Wadi Lebda and, like most nymphaea, was originally built around a natural spring. When this dried up, water was supplied, as it was to the neighbouring Hadrianic Baths, by aqueduct.

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    Hadrianic Baths

    by iwys Updated Apr 6, 2007

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    The building of this impressive Roman bath complex was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. Some archaeologists believe they opened the following year, but the complex was developed over decades.

    The arrival of both running water and marble in the early 2nd century AD meant that this complex of buildings could be the first in Leptis Magna to be built largely of marble and to make extensive use of piped hot and cold water. It was entered from an exercise area or palestra. On passing through the entrance, the first thing you see is the open air swimming pool, surrounded on three sides by porticos, paved with marble and mosaics and flanked by a pair of colonnaded halls, beyond which, on each side, was a latrine or forico, with marble seats.

    Four doors from the swimming bath opened onto a corridor surrounding the cold room or frigidarium. The hall of the frigidarium measured 30m by 15m, was paved and panelled with marble and had a vaulted roof supported by eight cipolin columns. At each end of the hall arches opened onto cold plunge baths, surrounded by statues.

    Other rooms are the apodyteria or changing rooms and cryptae or promenades.

    Next comes the warm room or tepidarium,with a large central bath and two smaller baths at the side. The tepidarium is flanked by sweat rooms or laconica. Beyond the tepidarium is the calidarium or hot room. Finally, at the back, there are the basins for rinsing.

    Each part of the complex is clearly signposted in English.

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    Arch of Septimius Severus

    by iwys Updated Apr 6, 2007

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    Arch of Septimius Severus
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    The Triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus is the first monument you see when you enter Leptis Magna and that is as it should be, because the arch was built in 203 AD to greet the return of the greatest son of the city, the man who had been Emperor of the Roman Empire since 193 AD and the man responsible for turning his hometown into one of the grandest cities in the classical world, Lucius Septimius Severus.

    The four-way arch is a magnificent structure built of limestone. It consists of four pillars supporting a domed roof. It is decorated with marble, corinthian columns and stone reliefs depicting scenes from the life of Septimius Severus. The centrepiece shows him shaking hands with his son, the next emperor, Caracalla.

    The arch stands at the intersection of the city's two main roads, the Decumanus, which ran east-west through the city and connected Alexandria to Carthage, and the north-south axis, the Cardo Maximus.

    This was not the only triumphal arch of Septimius Severus built in 203 AD. Another one was built in the Forum in Rome to celebrate his victory over the Parthians.

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    Theatre

    by grets Written Mar 20, 2005

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    Theatre

    This is the oldest stone theatre anywhere in the Roman world, and is second in size in Africa only the one at Sabratha (see my Sabratah pages).

    The construction of the theatre started in year 1 AD on the site of a 5th century BC Punci necropolis.

    The stage would have been adorned with hundreds of statues and sculpures, such as portraits of gods and emperors as well as prominent citizens of Leptis Magna.

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    Tiberius Arch

    by grets Written Mar 20, 2005

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    Tiberius Arch

    The Arch of Tiberius dates from the 1st century AD.

    Tiberius was born on 16th November 42 BC, and from year 39 BC when his mother Livia divorced Ti. Claudius Nero and married Octavian, Tiberius was destined for a life in the public eye as the stepson of the future ruler of the Roman world.

    Tiberius was the second Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from AD 14 until his death.

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    Market

    by grets Written Mar 20, 2005

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    Market

    The market was built in the 8th century BC to an African design, and is unique in Roman Africa. It was rebuilt during the reign of Septimus Severus. Stalls would line the circular walls, selling local produce and merchandise. As is the norm in markets today, special areas would have been set aside to various good, such as the fish stalls, fabric stalls, grain stalls etc.

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    Serapeum

    by grets Written Mar 20, 2005

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    Serepeaum

    Temple of Serapis.

    Serapis was a composite god, invented in the 3rd century by the Macedonians to mix Greek and Egyptian elements.

    Inscriptions in the temple tells of a man suffering from an incurable desease who came here to pray. Having been cured, he was so in awe that he became a priest in this same temple.

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    Punic Inscriptions

    by grets Updated Mar 20, 2005

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    Punic inscriptions

    Punic is the name given to the extinct language spoken by the Phoencians in North Africa. It is a Semetic language of the Afro-Asiatic family, closely related to Hebrew. In fact, archaeologists turned to Hebrew to decypher these inscriptions. The Phienican writing system is one of the earliest alphabets around, and is known only from inscriptions. Punic surbived even longer that the original language spoken in Phonecia itself, some belive it was in use right up until the Arab invasion in the 7th century.

    Some words used regularly in the English langage originate from Punic:

    Bible which means book, from Byblos, the port that exported paper to Greece.

    Gypsum, meaning plaster.

    Purple - a dye made in Tyre, modern-day Lebanon.

    For a description of the various characters, check out this link: Punic.

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    Inscriptions

    by grets Updated Mar 20, 2005

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    Inscription

    In the floor of the Old Forum, the name of the Leptician who had sponsored the construction of the forum, would hvae been inlaid in bronze in the marble floor. You can still see the depressions where the letters were, although the bronze has long gone of course.

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    Tombs

    by grets Updated Mar 20, 2005

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    Children's tombs

    In the Old Basilica there are the two tombs of the Bishop's children, a boy and a girl, who both died very young (it tells that Stephanie died aged nine).

    The Greeks and Romans had the necropolis outside the citiy walls and the areas were considered sacred. During the Christian times, bodies were brought inside the city limits, initially only those of children and women.

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    Carved pillars

    by grets Written Mar 20, 2005

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    Carved pillar

    At either end of the church, these extravagantly carved pillars honour Liber Pater, or Bacchus (Dionysus in reek mythology).

    Baachus was the Roman god of wine and intoxication and was accompanied by Maenads, the wild dancing women who would entice men by their acticities, and then muredr them.

    Bacchanalia, orgies in honor of Dionysus, were introduced in Rome around 200 BCE. These infamous celebrations, notorious for their sexual and criminal character, got so out of hand that they were forbidden by the Roman Senate in 186 BCE.

    Bacchus was also the god of the theatre, and the first plays in Greece were performed in his honour. There were mostly tragedies, but alos comedies, which poked pun at politicians and were often very disrespectful.

    Also depicted on the pillars are images of Cupid, Centaurs, Venus, Mars and Ban.

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    Apse

    by grets Written Mar 20, 2005

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    Apse

    The apses were built in classic Roman tile architecture, rather than of a big block of marble as was the norm at the time, in order to enable niches to be built into the walls. The niches would have housed marble statues.

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    Basilica

    by grets Updated Mar 20, 2005

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    Basilica

    The word basilica is somewhat confusing. Now used to describe a church, originally it meant the house of the king (basil = king), and the original basilicas were of judicinal purpose rather than religious. The building was converted to a church in the 6th century. It also spent some time as a mosque, but what we see today is in its Christian guise.

    The 92m long and 40m wide church has two apses at each end, aisles divided by columns constructed of pink granite imported from Egypt and it would have been topped by a wooden roof.

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    Winery

    by grets Updated Mar 20, 2005

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    Winery

    The Romans were very fond of their wine, in fact they even had a god of wine and intoxication, Bacchus.

    Bacchanalia, orgies in honor of Dionysus (Bacchus was known as Dionysus in Greek mythology), were introduced in Rome around 200 BCE. These infamous celebrations, notorious for their sexual and criminal character, got so out of hand that they were forbidden by the Roman Senate in 186 BCE.

    This doorway leads into what would have been the wine shop.

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