Lepcis Magna: Cardo
||Lepcis Magna: Phoenician
colony, later part of the Carthaginian
empire, the kingdom of Massinissa,
and the Roman empire. Its most famous son was the
As long as the Romans planned their cities, they were inspired by gridiron
plans: the ideal city looked like a chessboard, with building blocks (insulae)
on the fields, and in the center a forum, a square that was at the same
time the city's commercial, religious, and administrative center. Here,
the two main roads intersected: the Cardo Maximus and the Decumanus Maximus.
Of course, practical considerations were always more important than the
ideal blueprint. In Lepcis
Magna, the engineers found an already existent city, in which
the main temples were located close to the sea and at least one market
appears to have been near a city gate. However, when the Roman engineers
had to add new quarters - and Lepcis was a boom town during the Roman age
- they used their customary blueprint, and a Cardo and Decumanus
were made. The first one ran from the southwest to the northeast and continued
along the old market (the Macellum) to the temple area.
||The other street, today called the Decumanus,
one was in fact the main road along the North-African coast, which began
continued through the Cyrenaica,
reached Lepcis, and continued to Oea,
and beyond. It passed along the city, and the crossroads of the Cardo and
Decumanus were therefore a little bit (some 350 m) outside the old city.
The place is now dominated by the Arch
of Septimius Severus (first photo), but was once marked by this simple
milestone only. It mentions that Lucius Aelius Lamia, the governor
of Africa, ordered to do so by the emperor Tiberius,
had constructed the road, and that it continued for 44 miles (66 km) into
the surrounding countryside, to the sanctuary of Ammon
at Mesphe (Medina Doga). We know that this man was governor in 14-17.
||Because the Cardo was the main artial road, it
was well suited to erect monuments, where any visitor would see them. A
remarkable example is the
of Gavius Macer, a commander of the Third
legion Augusta, which was built shortly after the construction of the
Cardo. Of this inscription, only a fragment remains: it mentions a man
named Scipio, who was the commander of a subunit of the Ninth
legion Hispana that supported the Third during the war against Tacfarinas.
||Among the other monuments were a fountain, the
of Trajan, and this little elephant, which is now in the Museum of
Lepcis Magna. Beyond the Arch of Trajan and the elephant, there is a little
dip in the road, which probably marks the place where one would have entered
the pre-Roman city. The next monument is the Arch
of Tiberius, which is close to the entrance of Macellum. There are
no monuments beyond this point; if you continue along the road, you will
arrive -after passing through the Byzantine Gate- near the temple area.
||This inscription (CIL, 8.25844) appears to be from an arch that was later demolished. It says
SALVTARIS Gaivs VIBIVS MARSVS PRO
which means that Gaius Vibius Marsus in his third year as governor dedicated
something to Augusta Salutaris. This last title, extremely rare, is probably
a variant on Salus Augusti, the health of the emperor.
||Finally, an inscription that says: Lvcio
CAESARIS ANTONINI AVGvsti FILIO COnSvli
II LEPCITANI PVBLICE (more...),
"On behalf of the Lepcitanians dedicated to Lucius Aelius, consul for the
second time, son of Caesar Antoninus Augustus". This is a reference to
the emperor known as Lucius
Verus, who was the son of Lucius
Aelius, had been adopted by Antoninus
Pius, and was officially known as Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus.
When he became emperor in March 161, he choose the name Lucius Verus. This
inscription was probably made after he had become consul
for the second time (1 January 161), and before the Lepcitanians heard
that Antoninus was dead, and had been succeeded by Marcus
Aurelius and Lucius Aelius, and that the latter had accepted
a different name.
The four inscriptions are included in J.M. Reynolds & J.B. Ward
Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (1952 London). The dedication
milestone is #930, the Scipio-stone is #739, the dedication to Augusta
Salutaris #308, and the last one is #381.
Jona Lendering for
Revision: 29 May 2007