Sabratha - History and Facts | History Hit


Sabrata, Nuqat al Khams, Libya

A picturesque ancient city on Libya’s coast, Sabratha contains some excellent Roman ruins.

Peta Stamper

19 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Sabratha

Once a thriving Roman city, the impressive ruins of Sabratha lie approximately fifty miles west of Tripoli, Libya, alongside the modern town of the same name. Remarkably picturesque, the ruins of Sabratha look out across the Mediterranean and give modern visitors an insight into why this location served the ancient trading routes so well.

Sabratha history

Much like Leptis Magna, Sabratha itself was a Roman conquest rather than a Roman creation, starting life as a Phoenician city before becoming part of the Numidian Kingdom and eventually falling under Roman control. The city flourished throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries before a series of elements combined to cause its decline and eventual abandonment.

A devastating earthquake struck Sabratha in the late 4th century (likely to have been around 365 AD) while the city suffered during the Vandal invasions and Byzantine Reconquest. Much of what can be seen at Sabratha today was partially or wholly reconstructed by the Italians in the early 20th century – particularly under Mussolini who gave speeches from the ancient theatre.

Sabratha today

Today, visitors can explore an impressive set of ruins, including the three-storey theatre, several temples and the remarkable remains of luxury Roman villas, which boast well preserved mosaics. Also found at Sabratha is the Byzantine-era Basilica of Justinian.

A good place to start your exploration is at the museum, which contains background information, exhibits and artefacts and is accessed with a $2 entry fee. Check the official advice of your country’s foreign office before considering travelling to Libya.

Getting to Sabratha

Sabratha site is situated 40 miles west of Tripoli and is found in the Zawia district of the ancient ‘three cities’ of Roman Tripoli. Best accessed by car, you will find Sabratha along the coastal road, an hour and a half drive from the modern city of Tripoli.

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