Leptis Magna

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Archaeological site of Leptis Magna
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

Leptis Magna Arch of Septimus Severus.jpg
Severan Triumphal Arch
National territory: LibyaLibya Libya
Type: Culture
Criteria : (i) (ii) (iii)
Surface: 387,485 ha
Reference No .: 183
UNESCO region : Arabic states
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1982  ( session 6 )
Red list : since 2016
Map of Leptis Magna

Leptis Magna (also Lepcis Magna in inscriptions , today Lebda  /لبدة / Labda ) was next to Oea and Sabratha an ancient city in Libya and one of the three cities of the Tripolitania region in the province of Africa . The two variants Leptis and Lepcis can probably be explained with different transcriptions of the originally Punic name into Latin.


Leptis Magna is located near the city of al-Chums , about 120 km east of Tripoli . Within the large ruins, the Severan triumphal arch , the thermal baths , the old and new forum and the theater from Roman times are worth seeing. On the opposite side of Wadi Lebdah are the very well preserved and restored amphitheater and the circus, which is located directly on the sea . It is the largest preserved ancient city in the world.

In 1912, immediately after the area had been annexed as a result of the Italo-Turkish War (1911-1912), archaeological excavations began under Italian direction. The Severan Triumphal Arch was also reconstructed during this period. In particular, Benito Mussolini , who established a dictatorship in Italy in 1922, then forced the excavations, as he intended to justify the establishment of a colonial empire in North Africa by stating that the area was Roman before the conquest by the Muslims and is therefore now ruled again by Rome must be. The fascists Leptis Magna and other Roman cities in the Magreb served as underpinning for these claims ; the excavators there received enormous state support. With the Second World War these came to a largely standstill. After the end of the fighting, Italian archaeologists continued to work in Leptis to a lesser extent than before, until Muammar al-Gaddafi forced them to leave the country for the time being.

In 1982 Leptis Magna was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO . Only 5% of the city's area has been excavated so far. However, due to the unfavorable winds that blow hot and dry from the desert and humid and salty from the sea over the city, the exposed parts of the city are decomposing, which is why there are voices against further exposure of the city.


Leptis was probably the first Phoenician trading colony in Tripolitania (8th century BC). It came first under the sovereignty of Carthage and after the conquest by Numidia then finally under Roman rule (46 BC). In the Roman Empire Leptis Magna gained great importance and prosperity as a trading center for exotic animals from Africa, which were supplied by the Garamanten via the Trans-Saharan trade . Above all, lions and elephants were needed for the circus games throughout the empire. During the clashes between Pompey and Caesar , the city fought against Caesar and after his victory was punished with a tribute of 100,000 hectoliters of olive oil. Up to 100,000 people are said to have lived in Leptis Magna during this time. After the city had already been elevated to a colonia under Trajan (from then on all free inhabitants had Roman citizenship ), Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193 to 211), who came from Leptis Magna, gave the place the ius italicum , which was an extensive liberation of duties meant. The emperor also had his hometown expanded magnificently. Most of the buildings that are still impressive today date from this period.

When Emperor Gordian III. After the six-imperial year 238, when the Legio III Augusta , which was responsible for protecting the area against plundering nomads, dissolved, the security situation deteriorated dramatically: In the middle of the 3rd century, repeated nomadic invasions caused the city to decline. Although it was appointed provincial capital again under Emperor Diocletian and experienced a renewed boom in the 4th century, the city lost its importance after the conquest by the Vandals (455). In 533 Leptis was reintegrated into the Roman Empire under Emperor Justinian and experienced a final revival as the seat of a dux limitis . Then the decisive factor was the conquest of the city by the Arabs (probably 647). Soon after Oea (Tripoli) had become the new center of Tripolitania under the latter, Leptis Magna was abandoned by the population.

The titular bishopric Leptis Magna of the Roman Catholic Church goes back to a late antique bishopric of the city .


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

  • Stefan Altekamp : Return to Africa. Italian colonial archeology in Libya 1911–1943 . Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-412-08099-3 (work on archeology).
  • Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli , Ernesto Vergara Caffarelli, Giacomo Caputo: The buried city. Excavations at Leptis Magna . Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1966.
  • Paola Finocchi: Le sculture delle terme adrianee di Leptis Magna. Dagli appunti di M. Floriani Squarciapino (= Sculture Leptitane 1), Espera, Rome 2012. ISBN 978-88-906443-3-7
  • A. Laronde and G. Degeorge: Leptis Magna. La splendeur et l'oubli . Hermann, Paris 2005.
  • Kai-Uwe Mahler: The architectural decoration of the early imperial era in Lepcis Magna . Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft , Worms 2006
  • Detlev Kreikenbom: Change in the city of Leptis Magna during the early imperial era. Asymmetrical contacts and innovation . In: Walter Bisang (Ed.): Culture, Language, Contact . Ergon-Verlag, Würzburg 2004, ISBN 3-89913-315-3 , pp. 251-320.
  • Detlev Kreikenbom: Leptis Magna before the Arab conquest . In: Detlev Kreikenbom, Franz-Christoph Muth, Joerg Thielman (eds.): Arab Christians - Christians in Arabia . Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2007, ISBN 978-3-631-55040-3 (North African-West Asian Studies, 6), pp. 35–54.
  • Ernesto De Miro, Antonella Polito: Leptis Magna. Dieci anni di scavi archeologici in the area del Foro Vecchio. I level fenici, punici e romani . L'Erma di Bretschneider, Rome 2005, ISBN 88-8265-309-9 .
  • Maria Floriani Squarciapino : Leptis Magna . Raggi, Basel 1966 (Ruined Cities of North Africa 2).
  • Maria Floriani Squarciapino: Sculture del Foro Severiano di Leptis Magna , Rome 1974

Web links

Commons : Leptis Magna  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 32 ° 38 ′ 18 ″  N , 14 ° 17 ′ 34 ″  E