Leptis Magna, Libya: Rome by the sea

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Libya is not an easy country to visit, but the magnificent Roman site of Leptis Magna makes it well worth the effort, says Annabel Simms.

A majestic but forgotten Roman city overlooking the Mediterranean in North Africa? It sounded too good to be true when I first read about Leptis Magna in an article by Geoff Dyer in Prospect magazine 10 years ago. He had been haunted by it after seeing a background of columns by the sea on an old photo and the name acted on him like a summons.

Unfortunately it was in Libya, not the easiest country to visit then, so it took him some trouble to obey the call. But it was worth the effort. His article was about the mysterious pleasure of gazing at a Classical site that had not been seen by thousands of other eyes, implying that the soul is sucked out of a place by too much exposure to visitors, historic or modern. It also implied that Libya was a necessary evil en route to this magical spot.
I longed to see Leptis Magna for myself before its inevitable discovery by the rest of the world....

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