Leptis Magna should be the 8th Wonder of the World. Once upon a time, this was the largest and greatest Roman city in Africa and despite years of neglect, it still is. As you walk through what’s left of it today, you can still imagine the life the Romans must’ve lived. With its opulent baths, temples, two forums and elaborate decorations.
Leptis Magna was founded by the Phoenicians then conquered by Rome, the city was the birthplace of Septimius Severus, who rose to become emperor from 193 AD until 211 AD. It was during this time the city really prospered and many structures were built.
Leptis Magna was a highlight when we visited Libya. Exploring this ancient city takes time, but be sure not to miss the best places.
6 Incredible places to see when you visit Leptis Magna
The amphitheatre is about 3kms away from the main site and I recommend stopping here at the beginning. The design of the amphitheatre is different to many other amphitheatres in the world. This one has been hollowed out of the hill by the Romans, essentially using the slope to build part of the structure into. You can still find cages for the animals and according to archaeologists, you could seat 18,000 spectators here.
Leptis Magna – The Amphiteatre
2. The Arch of Septimius Severus
As you enter the main area the first thing you’ll see is the arch dedicated to Septimius Severus. It dates to the 3rd century but it has been restored to its former beauty. Dedicated to Septimius who was born in Leptis, he had a massive impact on the city’s development during the Roman time. Hence why an arch was built and named after him. Check out the details on the columns, you will find eagles – the symbol of the Roman Empire.
Leptis Magna – The Arch of Septimius Severus
3. Hadrianic Baths
By far some of the best-preserved Roman Baths in the world can be found in Leptis Magna. They were truly a social hub of the city. Designed to lay along the north-south axis with exceptional symmetry, the baths included a sports ground, open-air swimming pool, the frigidarium (cold room), changing rooms and sweat baths (sauna).
You can still see the terracotta pipes that were built to carry the steam from the furnaces and heat up the baths. Incredible. The floor was paved with marble and mosaics were also used to decorate the roof.
Leptis Magna – Hadrianic Baths
4. Severan Forum
Leptis Magna had two forums and the Severan is the one you want to see. The open-air Severan Forum measured 100m by 60m and its floor was covered by marble. As you walk through it you will see pieces of columns and arches that crumbled away with time but you can still imagine what was like during its heyday.
Some arches are still standing and you can see the heads of Medusa carved from marble used as decoration. The Basilica at the end of the forum had restricted access but you can peek through the gate to see small carved statues of Hercules decorating the main facade.
Leptis Magna – Severan Forum
Public shared toilets as a social hub? Yes, you can find them here. The Romans were exceptional engineers so it comes as no surprise that they built latrines in their city. Essentially marble seats with a hole in the middle and a small gutter for freshwater, life was very social here.
Leptis Magna – Latrines
Leave this one to the end when you visit Leptis Magna.
Leptis Magnas’ theatre is one of the oldest stone theatres anywhere in the Roman world and is the second-largest surviving theatre in Africa (after Sabratha). It dates to 1st-2nd AD. It’s believed that the stage was decorated with hundreds of statues and sculptures of gods and emperors. Only two remain now: Hercules and Liber Pater.
Leptis Magna – The Theatre
The design of the theatre amplifies any sound from the centre of the stage – we have tried this ourselves. When you stand exactly in the middle just before the stage, your voice will echo across the entire theatre. And when you walk up to the top and look down, you get the see the Mediterranean Sea as the backdrop.
A coffee lover, history junkie, former tour guide, and endless optimist. The mastermind of logistics and chief navigator for Very Hungry Nomads, two women on an adventure to visit EVERY country in the world. Marty is a social butterfly who describes her life as “just livin’ the dream".