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1,700 year old Roman villa discovered in Libya

Archaeologists have unearthed statues, elaborate mosaics and other treasures in a 1,700-year old villa in Ptolemais, about 100 kms east of Benghazi, a key trading port for the ancient Romans on the Libyan coast.

1,700 year old Roman villa discovered in Libya
Mosaics depicting Dionysus and a sleeping Ariadne discovered in Ptolemais [Credit: Miron Bogacki]
The artifacts and a hoard of 553 sestercii silver and bronze coins hailing back to Republican times were found in a vast building about 600 square meters in area, dating to the 3rd century AD.

Jerzy Zelazoski, an archaeologist from Warsaw University, said the coins were discovered inside a room alongside terracotta lamps, indicating they may have been the profits of local craftsmen.

They also discovered detailed mosaics built around a classical Roman courtyard inside the expansive building complex.

They included one depiction of the Greek god Dionysus sleeping with Ariadne, the mythical daughter of King Minos, the ruler of Crete, and another illustrating the adventures of the Greek hero Achilles.

1,700 year old Roman villa discovered in Libya
Bronze sestercii [Credit: Miron Bogacki]
The villa shows signs of centuries of inhabitation in its inscriptions and different frescoes and renovations. The house was most likely destroyed by earthquakes that rocked the region relentlessly between the mid 3rd century up until 356.

The horde of coins lay undiscovered for so long because they lay beneath fallen layers of the house.

While the house fell into disrepair, Ptolemais remained the capital of the Roman province of Cyrenaica which succeeded the Ptolemaic Empire, until the year 428.

Ptolemais was sacked by the Vandals as they swept across North Africa and the razed to the ground once again in the 7th century during the Arab conquest of the region.

1,700 year old Roman villa discovered in Libya
Oil lamp depicting gladiatorial combat [Credit: Miron Bogacki]
Libya retains some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins because of its dry climate and low population density. However, international antiquities bodies have expressed concern over the future of the sites because of the country’s fractious civil war.

Libya holds five UNESCO world heritage sites covering thousands of years of history. They include: Cyrene, a Greek colony founded in 631 BC; Leptis Magna, the Roman seat of power in North Africa; Tadrart Acacus, with prehistoric rock art sites dating from 12,000 BC to 100 AD; and Ghadames, one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities still in existence.

Source: The Tripoli Post [June 14, 2017]

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