Leptis Magna was originally a Punic settlement from around the 7th century BCE until 146 BCE when Rome defeated Carthage and the city became part of the Roman republic. Although the city was answerable to Rome, becoming an important maritime trade post for regional agriculture, particularly olive oil, it maintained much of its Punic identity. Until the reign of Trajan, when it fully adopted Roman culture as a colony, the city had its own traditional constitution and still used the Punic language and customs. Many of the city’s most impressive architectural sites can be traced to the reign of Septimius Severus, 193–211 CE, who was in fact a native of the city and the first African Roman Emperor. He was very fond of his home city and, under the Severan building programme, transformed it into a rival of Alexandria and Carthage as one of Africa’s most important Roman cities at the time.
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