After almost forty-two years with a tight grip on Libya, it seems time is running out for Moammar Gadhafi. Embroiled in what is essentially a civil war, the news over the past twenty-four hours seems to indicate his grip on power is finally ending. Good thing, as this not only sets the stage for real reform and freedoms for the people of Libya, but for tourists to begin trickling back into a country that had only really just begun showing its magnificent sites to the world.
I, for one, had Libya relatively high on my travel list, in particular for one site: Leptis Magna. About 80 miles [130 kilometers] east of Tripoli lies what have generally been referred to as the most pristine and well-preserved Roman ruins in the Mediterranean region.
Dating back to the 12th century B.C.E., it is purported that the first settlement on the site was founded by the Phoenicians. However, it was the Carthaginian era eight centuries later that pushed the town into the spotlight. Also known as Neopolis, by the 2nd century B.C.E. it became part of the Roman Republic, and later in the 1st century B.C.E. it became part of the province of Africa within the Roman Empire under the reign of Tiberius Julius Caesar, the 2nd emperor of the Roman Empire.
The city remained powerful on and off until the 6th century C.E., one of three major cities in ancient Africa [the others being Carthage and Alexandria], when it fell to the Vandals and later the Berbers. It became a provincial capital of the Byzantine Empire after the breakup of the Roman Empire, but never regained the prominence or splendor it had before it was sacked by the Vandals.
The region was ruled by the Arabs from the 7th century until the 16th century, and then by the Ottoman Empire until the early 20th century at which time Italy made a weak attempt at empire by making Libya its colony. Libya gained independence in 1952, and in 1969 Gadhafi gained power in a bloodless coup.
The splendor of Leptis Magna awaits us intrepid travelers, if only Gadhafi would get out of the way and leave us and the people of Libya alone.