Leptis Magna is a ruin city at the coast of Libya, described as one of the best preserved Roman cities in Africa and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Protected by a cover of sand for 800 years, it was only scientifically discovered in the 1920s, and a slow excavation which has lasted till today began.

The seafaring Phoenicians founded the port town some time in the 10th century BC, in an area already settled by Berber tribes. The Greek created a colony there called Lepcis about 650 BC, and two hundred years later the city was under Punic control. Through a series of events the mastery shifted to the Romans, and in 23 BC it became part of the new Roman province Africa.

The Romans brought good fortune, and Leptis Magna prospered. Especially rich was the reign of Septimius Severus. The emperor had been born in the city, and he ensured that many beautiful buildings and monuments were erected.

As Rome lost power, so did the city, which lost both trade and patronage. The city suffered raids and plundering from the Berbers, who were still present. The city was partially restored under Nicomacus Flavianus, but suffered badly from destruction by the Vandals who destroyed its outer wall. The last straw was yet another sack from the Berbers in 523 - the citizens gave up and left.

Ten years later, Justinian sent out an expedition which restored the region on Roman hands. With half of Leptis Magna covered in sand it could never reach its heights of earlier splendour, however. The area was conquered by the Arabs in 643.

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