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The foundation of Lepcis


In his History of the Jugurthine War, section 78, the Roman author Sallustius (86-34) informs us about the early history of Lepcis Magna. When he speaks about "Sidon", he probably does not mean the city, but Phoenicia in general; and when he uses "Numidians", he means all native inhabitants of northern Africa. The translation was made by J.C. Rolfe, and was taken from LacusCurtius.

The town of Lepcis was founded by Sidonians, who are reported to have left their homes because of civil discord and come to that region in ships. It lies between the two Syrtes, which derive their name from their nature; for they are two bays situated almost at the extreme end of Africa, of unequal size but alike in character. Near the shore the water is very deep, elsewhere it is sometimes deep and sometimes shoal, just as it happens; for when the breeze causes the sea to swell and rage, the waves sweep along mud, sand, and great rocks, so that the aspect of the place changes with the winds. From this "sweeping" [1] the Syrtes get their name.

Only the speech of this city has been affected by intermarriage with the Numidians; its laws and customs are for the most part Sidonian, and these the inhabitants retained the more easily because they passed their life at a distance from the Numidian capital. For between them and the thickly settled part of Numidia lay an extensive desert.  

Note 1:
From Greek σύρω, "to sweep".
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2007
Revision: 6 June 2007
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