Ancient Rome: c. 753 B.C.E. – 400 C.E.

The brilliance of ancient Roman art can be seen in the wall paintings of Pompeii, the massive ambition of the Colosseum, and the daring engineering of the Pantheon. According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 B.C.E. by Romulus, its first king. In 509 B.C.E., Rome became a republic ruled by the Senate (wealthy landowners and elders) and by the Roman people. During the 450 years of the republic, Rome conquered the rest of Italy and then expanded into France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa and Greece. Rome, in turn, was heavily influenced by Greek culture. The Republic collapsed in civil war during the 1st century B.C.E. and the Roman empire began. Starting with Augustus in 27 B.C.E., the emperors ruled for five hundred years. They expanded Rome’s territory and by about 200 C.E., their vast empire stretched from Syria to Spain and from Britain to Egypt.

Temple of Bel in 2005, Dura Europos, Syria (photo: Heretiq, CC BY-SA 2.5)
The ancient site now known as Dura-Europos (in what is today Syria) was not a key site in antiquity, but its importance is in its vast archaeological record.


Sabratha grid
A Phoenician trading-post that served as an outlet for the products of the African hinterland, and which was Romanized in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

Ancient Sabratha

Bosra grid
A magnificent 2nd-century Roman theatre, early Christian ruins, and several mosques are found within Bosra's great walls.

Ancient city of Bosra

The colony of Augusta Emerita, which became present-day Mérida in Estremadura, was founded in 25 B.C. at the end of the Spanish Campaign and was the capital of Lusitania.

Colony of Augusta Emerita, Mérida

Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna was one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman Empire, with its imposing public monuments, harbor, market-place, storehouses, shops and residential districts.

Leptis Magna

The Mauritanian capital, founded in the 3rd century B.C.E., became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings.


el jem
The impressive ruins of the largest colosseum in North Africa, a huge amphitheater which could hold up to 35,000 spectators, are found in the small village of El Jem

Amphitheater of El Jem

Djémila, or Cuicul, with its forum, temples, basilicas, triumphal arches and houses, is an interesting example of Roman town planning adapted to a mountain location.