Lepcis Magna: Theater (1)
||Lepcis Magna: Phoenician
colony, later part of the Carthaginian
empire, the kingdom of Massinissa,
and the Roman empire. Its most famous son was the
||Like so many Greek and Roman towns, Lepcis
Magna had a theater. It was partly financed by a
Tapapius Rufus, who had earlier built the city's market, the Macellum.
The theater, the oldest of Roman Africa, was partly excavated from a
hill, which had until then been used as a cemetery. After the theater
it is the largest south of the Mediterranean.
upper part of the stands was not excavated from the hill, but erected
from natural stone, concrete, and bricks. Five flights of steps enabled
the people to enter and leave the building, and divided the stands into
six segments. On the upper edge, a colonnaded walk was erected, which
shadow to the higher seats, where the poorer people sat. The front
were occupied by the city's rich and famous.
monument was completed in 1 or 2 CE, but there were later additions.
To the colonnaded walk, which is visible on the third photo, a small temple
was added in 35 or 36, dedicated to the goddess Ceres Augusta. The temple can be seen on the fourth photo.The
on the semicircular wall on this photo (known as IRT
347) mentions that it was made by Tiberius Claudius Sestius, suffete
in 91-92. The pavement was laid during the reign of Antoninus
the cult statue from the temple of Ceres Augusta ('the august
grain goddess Ceres') is in the National Archaeological Museum in
It has the features of Livia
Augusta, the mother of the ruling emperor, Tiberius.
An inscription (IRT 269) tells that Gaius Rubellius Blandus, governor
of Africa, dedicated the sanctuary, which had been paid for by
"the woman who adorns her fatherland" and daughter of the Annobal
Rufus who had built the theater itself. The presence of a temple in a
was an old feature, which can also be seen in the Theater of Pompey in
Rome. Originally, Roman conservatives did not like the popular
comedies, and even demolished theaters. By adding temples, these
were made sacred monuments that had to be left intact.
were several of these tunnels, cut into the rocky soil underneath
the hill in/on which the theater was erected. They allowed the visitors
to enter and leave.
There is another possibility, though. Lepcis did not
have an amphitheater
until 56, and the theater may have served for hunts, executions, and
contests, as was common in the Roman world. If this is correct, wild
convicts, and fighters may have used the corridors as well before their
fatal visit to Lepcis' theater.
entrance, however, was a road through the open air. Coming
from the Cardo,
you would arrive at the theater over here, and enter it close to the
(background). Both the stage and the access were richly decorated with
all kinds of statues. All in all, 133 have been identified. Most of
were damaged, others grace the museums of Lepcis and Tripoli.
them, representing Castor and Pollux, survived the barbarian
attacks of the fifth century and were rediscovered in near-perfect
However, they have been removed because they attracted too much
from modern-day vandals. These two headless statues, are now placed
casually in a corridor, apparently being less attractive to damage.
|Another statue shows
the god Apollo with his lyre. It is now in the National Archaeological
Museum in Tripoli. The next photot shows the
inscription at the entrance (IRT 323):
DIVI Filio AVGvsto PONTifice
MAXimo TRibvnicia POTestate
| COnSvle XIII PATRE
PATRIAE | ANNOBAL ORNATOR
CONCORDIAE FLAMEN | SVFES PRAEFectvs
TAPAPI Filivs RVFVS
De Sva Pecvnia Faciendvm
COERavit IDEMQve DEDICAVIT
||"When the father of
the fatherland, Caesar Augustus,
son of the deified [Caesar],
maximus, vested with the tribunician
power for the twenty-fourth time, being consul
for the thirteenth time, Annobal Rufus, the adorner of his country and
lover of concord, priest, suffete, prefect
of the sacred objects, the son of Himilco Tapapius, took care to build
this at his own expense, and dedicated it."
inscription known as IRT 322, which
entrance, has exactly the same wording, although it is adorned with two
shaking hands in the center, to stress that Annobal Tapapius Rufus was
indeed a lover of Concord. There is a Neo-Punic inscription added,
for the Lepcitanians.
identical text, IRT 321, now in the
Tripoli. The imperial titulary -which did not mean a thing to the
in the street- is missing, but the text is essentially the same.
is the tribunal, the box for
decorated with laurel wreaths and cornucopias. According to the
IRT 521 (Lvcivs
Lvci Filivs GALLVS
SACRIS FACivndis COnSvl
PROCOnSvl PATRONvs DEDICAVIT),
it was made by
governor Lucius Caninius Gallus, acting as patron of the Lepcitanians.
This official was governor of Africa in 8 CE, seven or six years after
Annobal Tapapius Rufus had finished the theater itself.
octagonal altar was added later
commemorates the rebuilding of the stage. It is very damaged, but the
inscription can be read, and helps us to reconstruct the incomplete
texts (from which, for example, the name of the builder is missing),
are known as IRT 318. The main inscription (next photo):
can be translated as "sacred to the emperor" and "dedicated by
governor Asprenas". The name of the ruler is missing, but Domitian
is meant, because the inscription was paid for by the same Tiberius
Sestius who erected the semicircular balustrade in 91 or 92 after he
received the right "to wear the broad stripe". This means that he had
the Roman Senate.
He was not the only Lepcitanian to have success in Italy: the
Severus was some sort of celebrity, praised by the poet
dedicated a poem to the man from Lepcis (Silvae
4.5). Claudius Sestius
presents himself as a Roman, although he still uses the old Punic
"adorner of his country and lover of concord".
Sva Pecvnia Faciendvm
of his country,
order of decuriones
and the people
of his ancestors'
those of his own-
the right to wear
broad stripe for ever,
care to build at his
altar and stage.
Jona Lendering for
Revision: 22 July 2012