All Roads Lead to Roman Archeology

This morning I got my results from the last semester at uni, and it reminded me about I post I’d meant to make ages ago and forgotten. In the major essay for my Roman Archeology unit I had to write about Roman city planning with regard to three specific towns. So I chose Rome (obviously) and, after some recommendation from my dad, the city of Lepcis Magna in modern-day Libya, and the city of Emerita Augusta (Mérida) in Spain. As I was researching for the essay I found some truly stunning photographs of these two cities (obviously there were stacks of Rome itself) and I thought to myself, when this essay’s over and done with, I should post them. Well, things got a bit hectic around the end of term, as things are want to do, and I completely forgot about it. Seeing the results (which I’m very pleased with!) reminded me and so now I present the Roman colonial cities of Lepcis Magna and Emerita Augusta.

The theatre at Lepcis Magna, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The main Basilica (a non-religious, civic gathering place) of Lepcis Magna.
Part of the Hadrianic Baths.
A Triumphal Arch on the old road to the theatre.

The area of Lepcis Magna was first settled by the native Berber people on the coast of North Africa. It later became part of the Carthaginian Empire and it became a major trading port. When Carthage was defeated by Rome, Lepcis Magna was subsumed into the growing Roman Empire. The majority of Berber and Carthaginian building works at Lepcis Magna have not survived, although whether this is due to deterioration or intentional destruction is not clear. The city never came under Greek influence, unlike many cities on the east of the North African coast, and so nearly all of the remaining architecture is of Roman origin. Lepcis Magna continued to function as a busy trading port throughout the Roman Empire, however many of its most impressive features were actually built by the Emperor Septimus Severus, an ethnic Carthaginian whose birth-place was Lepcis Magna. The city eventually fell into abandonment after the fall of the Roman Empire.


The theatre at Emerita Augusta.
The Temple of Diana at Emerita Augusta.
One of three vast aqueducts that supplied water to Emerita Augusta’s baths, public fountains and sewer system.
Areal view of Emerita Augusta’s theatre (left) and amphitheatre (right).

Emerita was founded, somewhat unsurprisingly, by the Emperor Augustus. It was set from the start to be a well-designed, thoroughly thought-out example of a Roman city, and it shows. Emerita was built with the latest Roman technology and fully integrated infrastructure – a highly modern city by the standards of it’s day. Augustus wanted Emerita to be a prominent mark on the landscape and a testament to the might of the Roman Empire. The ruins of Emerita Augusta would have once been a very impressive site. Interestingly enough, the theatre at Emerita, now known by its Spanish name of Mérida, is the only Roman theatre still currently in use!

A performance in the Roman theatre, complete with an orchestra in the ‘pit’.

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