Today, the ancient Roman towns of Leptis Magana and Sabratha on the Mediterranean cost of Libya attract only a few curious travelers. But two thousand years ago they were thriving commercial and agricultural centers whose value to Rome was measured by the wealth of produce shipped annually to the cities of the Empire. This volume is primarily an introduction to the personality of these two towns, recovered by archaeologists from the burying sands only in relatively recent years.
The text offers a concise and informative survey of the history of the history of the region known as Tripolitania and examines the cultural and social life of Leptis Magna and Sabratha as reflected in the magnificent ruins depicted in the accompanying plates. The first chapter provides an understanding of Roman government and organization in Africa from the time of Scipio’s destruction of Carthage in 146 B.C. until the beginning of Mohammedan rule in 698 A.D. This discussion gives perspective to the life of Leptis Magna and Sabratha by placing it in context with Roman Africa in general, explaining the various political divisions of the Roman provinces as well as the manner of civil and military administration under early imperial Roman, Vandal, and Byzantine rule. The second and third chapters deal, respectively, with the particular ruins of the two towns.
Although both Leptis Magana and Sabratha (unlike their sister city Oea, or modern Tripoli) succumbed to the smothering weight of drifting sand dunes, they are made to live again in the pages of this volume. Kenneth Matthews’ text is an excellent summary of life in Roman times, while the photographs by Alfred Cook provide views, unsurpassed in beauty and clarity of detail, of the buildings and art that once flourished along the rim of the Mediterranean Sea.