Leptis Magna, Libya.

On the northwestern coast of Libya, the extensive archaeological site of Leptis Magna is one of the most splendid and unspoiled Roman sites in the Mediterranean. The ancient city encompasses some of the finest Roman monuments that were ever built.

Founded by the Phoenicians at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, the colony existed without real influence until the 4th century BC when Carthage became a Mediterranean force. The town eventually became part of the Roman Republic (and then Roman Empire) and it was integrated in to the province of Africa around 46 BC. The city was expanded and became a major trading centre and leading city of Roman Africa during the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus and Tiberius. 

The city reached its glorious pinnacle during the reign of Lucius Septimius Severus (193-211 AD), who was born there and the first Roman Emperor to be from Africa (he was of Phoenician rather than black African descent).

Severus mastered and instigated an ambitious building program that incorporated the latest and finest architectural and artistic elements, which completely transformed the city into one that was the envy of the Roman world.

What is observed now is chiefly from this remarkable age. There after the city was plundered and then become a stronghold of the Byzantine and then the Arabs. The drifting sands of the Sahara helped its preservation by burying the city over several centuries.

Leptis Magna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are five UNESCO World Heritage sites in Libya – Archaeological Site of Cyrene. Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna. Archaeological Site of Sabratha. Old Town of Ghadames and the Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus.

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All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

El Jem, Tunisia.

In Southern Tunisia, the sleepy agricultural modern town of El Jem was known as Thysdrus during the Roman period around the reign of Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-38).

Strategically situated on a major crossroad on the Afro-Roman trade route (on an originally Phoenician, Punic site), ancient Thysdrus (El Jem) was a thriving town, because of its endless olive groves and olive oil production. At its peak during the Roman period, the ancient city had a substantial population of 40,000 inhabitants.

Today, El Jem’s claim to fame is its magnificent honey-coloured stone Roman amphitheatre or Colosseum, which is the third largest in the Roman world (after Rome and Capua). Without question, it is one of the most impressive Roman monuments in Africa.

Dating from 230 to 238 AD and oval-shaped, its size, and splendour and preservation rivals and in some cases exceeds the Colosseum of Rome and illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome. 

The ancient stadium seated over 35000 people and was used for gladiatorial games. It was intact until a few hundred years ago when residents started using the stone blocks for other local constructions. The Colosseum of El Jem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The El Jem Archaeological Museum houses a superb and sumptuous collection of ancient mosaics discovered during excavations carried out at ancient Thysdrus. They mainly originate from the town’s former Roman villas and from the Roman Amphitheatre. In a peaceful setting, the well-presented museum itself is a restored Roman Villa known as the House of Africa. The mosaic collection is one of the finest of Roman antiquity.

Click to view the complete El Jem Amphitheatre image gallery.

Click to view the complete El Jem Museum image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Ephesus, Turkey.

Ionian Greeks established Ephesus around 1000 BC on the mouth of the now silted Kayster river on the Aegean coast and western Anatolia region of Turkey.

The city flourished during the 7th-6th centuries BC and again from the 4th century BC when it fell under the rule of Alexander the Great. After Alexander’s death, the city continued to flourish under the authority of one of his successors in Lysimachus. During this prosperous time, the Greeks erected the Temple of Artemis (Artemission) which was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

Under Roman power (1st century BC onwards) Ephesus developed into a principal seaport and commercial centre on the Aegean and its population grew to 400,000 in the 2nd century AD.

Ephesus was a key to the progress of Christianity and several biblical figures stayed here, including Saint Paul, Saint John the Evangelist and, according to some sources, the Virgin Mary. 

One highlight of Ephesus is the Great Theatre, which is built on the slopes Mount Pion. Erected by the Greeks in third century BC during the Hellenistic reign of Lysimachus, the theatre was remodelled and enlarged by the Romans to what is seen today. The tiers could accommodate 25,000 people, which made it one of the largest theatres in the Roman world. Used for plays, concerts and gladiatorial events, the theatre is famous for its use by the Bible character St Paul as a place to preach against pagan worship.

Another of the other major highlights is the Library of Celsus, which is the ancient city’s most famous building. It was erected in AD 114–117 by Consul Gaius Julius Aquila as a mausoleum for his father, Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, who is buried in a in a tomb under the apsidal wall on the right side of the back wall.

The library was one of the affluent in the empire and, at its peak, had over 12,000 scrolls. The statues observed in the niches between the doors signified wisdom, Sophia, knowledge (episteme), intelligence (ennoia) and virtue (arte) of Celsus.

Ephesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Buenos Aires is a dazzling example of old world charm. Its architecture, like its people, has been imported from the great cities of Europe.

Argentina’s sophisticated capital, Buenos Aires, is a metropolis of delights and contradictions. Geographically, it’s belongs to South America’s 2nd largest country and lays in the heart of the Latin world, yet, with over 85 percent of its residents of European descent, its lifestyle, culture and architecture are distinctly European. 

Ever since being established by the Spanish on a gold exploring expedition in 1536 and until the mid-20th century, waves upon waves of European settlers favoured Buenos Aires as their new home, and in doing so, transformed it into a European city of dreams. 

There’s no escaping the European influence from the very first moment you set foot in Buenos Aires. With its wide boulevards lined with 19th century Victorian and French-style homes, elegant Spanish villas, sidewalk cafes, striking parks and monuments; Buenos Aires resonates like London, Madrid, Rome and Paris.

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All text, images and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.