Luca Galuzzi - www.galuzzi.it
The territory of what is today Libya, along with Algeria and Tunisia, was once part of ancient Rome´s second most prosperous region after Italy itself, beginning with the Roman Republic´s conquest of Carthage and the rest of the Punic Empire in 146 BCE and lasting until 439, when it was in turn conquered by Germanic Vandals. Its legacy (as well as that of ancient Greece, which had its own colonies along this coast) lives on today in some extraordinary archaeological sites which will thrill ancient history aficionados, and here are ten of the most significant:
Located near the modern-day city of Al Khums and just under a two-hour drive east of capital Tripoli, this is is one of the most Mediterranean´s most prominent and best-preserved Roman ruins of all, protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded by Berbers around 1000 BCE, like Carthage it became an important city of for the Phoenicians, and then for another 500 years flourished under Roman rule. Emperor Septimius Severus (193 BCE-211 CE) was a native of the city, and a number of landmarks date from his rule; highlights include the Severan Basilica, a grand amphitheater (top), a marketplace, forum, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Hadrianic Baths, and much more.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site and like Leptis Magna one of the three cities of ancient Roman Tripolis, it´s was founded as a trading post by the Phoenicians around 500 BCE and is located on the coast about 45 minutes west of Tripoli. Its impressive remains include a well-preserved 3rd-century theatre (above, one of the most imposing of its type in existence), basilica, and various temples.
Also known as Kyrene , this one´s a bit farther afield – on the eastern coast between Benghazi and Derma (the city devastated by the recent floods) and reachable from Tripoli in a bit over four hours by flying to Benghazi, then driving, if you don´t want to spend 12 hours driving the entire way. Before it was conquered by Rome, this was one of the principal cities in the Hellenistic world, founded around 630 BCE; as yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site is famed for ruins including the Temple of Zeus, the Sanctuary of Apollo, a large theatre, a renowned library, a necropolis, and Roman tombs. Just 20 kilometres (a bit over 12 miles) away, you can also see Apollonia, a harbour town which served as Cyrene´s port, with ruins of Roman baths and a small theatre as well as several Byzantine churches; there´s also a museum dedicated to Apollonia in the contemporary town of Susa next door.
Also well worth a stop in this area (it´s located between Cyrene and Apollonia, part of the modern-day village of Tolmeita), this was one of the Pentapolis (five significan Greek colonies of this region, which also include Cyrene, Apolonnia, and Tocra, below). Founded in the 7th century BCE and then in the early 3rd century BCE expanded under and named after one of the Ptolemies (the Greek dynasty which included Cleopatra and ruled Egypt and this part of North Africa for nearly three centuries), ruins of villas, a basilica, and public baths.
Also known and Tauchira and Tukrah, and located just 40 minutes west along the coast from Ptolemais, remnants of a Roman theatre, basilicas, tombs, baths, houses, and various other structures are visible at both the oldest and least excavated of the Pentapolis towns (sadly, it´s also under threat from coastal erosion, which has already resulted in the loss of a significant part of the site)..