Volubilis

The ruins of Volubilis sit in the middle of a fertile plain about 33km north of Meknès in northern Morocco, near the heights of the Atlas Mountains. Considered the ancient capital of the kingdom of Mauretania, Volubilis developed from the 3rd century BC onwards and became an important outpost of the Roman Empire. The ancient city is the best-preserved archaeological site in Morocco and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Extensive remains of fine buildings and many beautiful in situ mosaics survive on the archaeological site.

Coordinates: 34° 4′ 16″ N, 5° 33′ 13″ W

Volubilis was a Roman settlement constructed on what was probably a Carthaginian city, dating from the 3rd century BC. In the 1st century BC, under the Mauretanian king Juba II, Volubilis became a flourishing centre of late Hellenistic culture. Annexed to Rome about 44 AD, the city grew rapidly under Roman rule. Claudius made it a municipium (a community that exercised partial rights of Roman citizenship) as a reward for supporting Rome against Aedmon’s rebellion. It became the chief inland city of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana.

From the 1st century onwards, Volubilis expanded spectacularly due to the wealth and prosperity derived from the province’s fertile lands, which produced valuable export commodities such as grain, olive oil, and wild animals for gladiatorial spectacles. During the 1st century AD, major urban structures were constructed; the Forum (probably Neronian), two sets of baths (Flavian), temples and two street grids with different orientations. The aqueduct that fed the first baths was built between 60 and 70 AD. The urban landscape was formed of houses with shops along their facades, bakers, and oil pressing complexes. The latest are so numerous that they suggest that the olive was one of the town’s principal riches.

Under Marcus Aurelius in 168-169 AD, walls surrounding the city were constructed, including eight monumental gates flanked by towers. At that time, Volubilis occupied an area of 42 hectares. Further additions came during the Severan dynasty between 193 and 235 AD when a new monumental centre was created, including the Capitoline temple, the civil basilica and the remodelled Forum. A monumental arch was added during the time of the emperor Caracalla. It was built in 217 AD by the city’s governor, Marcus Aurelius Sebastenus, to honour the emperor and his mother, Julia Domna. It was meant to thank them for having bestowed upon the inhabitants of Rome’s provinces Roman citizenship and tax exemption. Also dating back to this period are the richly decorated houses with peristyles, pools and large mosaic floors, numerous bakeries, and about one hundred oil presses attesting to the thriving economy of this Roman outpost.

Towards the end of the 3rd century AD, the Roman administration and army withdrew from the area due to the Diocletian reorganization of Mauretania Tingitana. The city fell to local tribes and continued to be inhabited for at least another 700 years, first as a Latinised Christian community, then as an early Islamic settlement. In the late 8th century, it became the seat of Idris ibn Abdallah, the founder of the Idrisid dynasty and the state of Morocco. By the 11th century, Volubilis had been abandoned after the seat of power was relocated to Fes.

Archaeological excavations began in 1915 and continue to this day. They have exposed a large part of the town (more than 20 ha.), but much remains to be excavated, particularly in the area occupied in the post-Roman period.

PORTFOLIO

The Basilica (court of law and seat of the magistrates) lies on the eastern side of the forum. This imposing building is 42.2m long and 22.3m wide and originally had two storeys.
The outer wall of the basilica is faced with Corinthian columns and overlooks the forum where markets were held. The paved forum had numerous statues of emperors and local dignitaries, of which only the pedestals now remain.
Statue base for Caecilia Caeciliana.
Caeciliae Caecili[anae] / L(ucius) Caecilius Caec[ilia]nus pater et Valeria / Manlia mater filiae / piissumae d(e) s(ua) p(ecunia) d(e)d(erunt)
The interior of the basilica is divided into three parts, a central nave outlined to its north and south by an apse and two lateral aisles framed by Corinthian columns.
The basilica was converted into a church after the end of Roman rule. In the central area, a semicircular depression has been cut into the floor, representing a baptistery.
The Capitolium (dedicated to the three chief divinities of the Roman state, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva), with its porticoed courtyard, faces the back wall of the basilica. An altar stands in the courtyard in front of 13 steps leading up to the Corinthian-columned temple, which had a single cella.
The Capitolium was completed under the reign of the emperor Macrinus in 218 AD. Erected on a tall podium, this temple probably was peripteral and hexastyle (six columns) but was clumsily restored in modern times as a four-columned prostyle building.
View of the basilica and the Capitolium.
The House of Orpheus in the southern part of the city. It takes its name from the large mosaic depicting Orpheus playing his lyre to an audience of animals and birds.
The mosaic of Orpheus embellished the triclinium (dining room) of the house, where the diners would have reclined on couches set against the walls and admired the central mosaic.
Fountain with circular baths lined with mosaics and triclinium in the House of Orpheus.
Reconstructed Roman oil press in the House of Orpheus. Olive growing was the main industry in Volubilis.
Mosaic with dolphins in the House of Orpheus.
The triumphal arch is situated according to the usual architectural layout. It is found in the Decumanus Maximus (the principal axis), at the junction of the northeast, central and western sectors of the city.
The arch was erected sometime between December 216 and April 217 AD by the council of Volubilis in honour of the emperor Caracalla who bestowed Roman citizenship on its inhabitants and exempted them from paying taxes.
The inscription on the top of the arch was reconstructed from the fragments found scattered on the ground.
South side of the Arch of Caracalla. The monument was reconstructed by the French between 1930–34. However, the restoration is incomplete and of disputed accuracy.
The entrance to the House of the Ephebe. The house was named after a bronze statue found there.
The courtyard of the House of the Ephebe leads to a number of public rooms decorated with mosaics.
Detail of mosaic of a lobster in the House of Ephebe.
The entrance to the House of the Columns is named after the diversity of its columns (fluted, plain, spiral).
The atrium with a large circular pool in the House of the Columns.
Private garden with a lobed fountain in the House of the Columns.
Mosaic in the House of the Knight depicting the god Bacchus encountering the sleeping Ariadne, 1st century AD.
The entrance to the House of the Labours of Hercules, named for the mosaic depicting the twelve tasks that the demigod had to perform as penance for killing his wife and children. The house was of palatial size, with 41 rooms covering an area of 2,000 m2 (22,000 sq ft).
The atrium with a lobed fountain in the House of the Labors of Hercules.
Mosaic of the Labours of Hercules, in a triclinium of the house of that name.
Detail of the mosaic of the Labours of Hercules showing little Hercules strangling the snakes sent by Hera, one in each hand, before they could bite him, 1st century AD.
Detail of the mosaic of the Labours of Hercules showing Hercules capturing the three-headed dog Cerberus from the underworld, his twelfth labour, 1st century AD.
Detail of the mosaic of the Labours of Hercules showing Hercules slaying the Stymphalian birds with a bow and arrow, his sixth labour, 1st century AD.
The Decumanus Maximus was the main street in the city. It was paved with footways on either side and was lined with arcaded porticoes on either side, behind which were dozens of shops.
Section of the portico leading to the shops on Decumanus Maximus.
Detail of the arcade with the figure of the god Mars.
The Decumanus Maximus.
Overview of Volubilis.
The House of Dionysos and the Four Seasons.
Mosaic of the Four Seasons, in the triclinium (dining room) of the House of Dionysos, 3rd century AD.
Medallion from the mosaic of the Four Seasons depicting Summer in the triclinium of the House of Dionysos, 3rd century AD.
Ionic columns lining the Decumanus Maximus.
The Tingis Gate, built in 169 AD, marked the northern-eastern entrance to Volubilis.
The House of Venus was located towards the eastern side of the city. It was one of the most luxurious residences and had a set of private baths and a richly decorated interior, with fine mosaics dating from the 2nd century AD showing animal and mythological scenes.
Mosaic depicting Diana and a companion nymph being surprised by Actaeon while bathing. Actaeon is depicted with horns beginning to sprout from his head as he is transformed by the angry goddess into a stag before being chased down and killed by his own hunting dogs.
Mosaic depicting the Abduction of Hylas by the nymphs, 3rd century AD, from the House of the Procession of Venus.
The House of the Nereides.
Detail of the mosaic depicting Oceanus in the House of the Nereides.
Overview of Volubilis.

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Sala Colonia

Sala Colonia is an ancient city situated on the outskirts of Rabat, the present-day capital of Morocco. Its Roman remains were later incorporated into a medieval necropolis called Chellah. Built on a trading post used by the Phoenicians, Sala sits on a hill above the fertile plain of the Bou Regreg river which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The site contains the ruins of an ancient port city referred to as Sala by the renowned Greek geographer Ptolemy. The first excavations undertaken on the site (1929-1930) unearthed the remains of several buildings from the time of Trajan (98-117 AD) including a forum, a monumental fountain, a capitol, a triumphal arch as well as the decumanus maximus (the main east-west-oriented street).

Coordinates: 34° 0′ 24″ N, 6° 49′ 13″ W

sala-colonia

Phoenicians traders were the first to settle on the northern Moroccan coast as early as the 8th century BC. They founded several colonies including the settlement they called Sala on the banks of the Bou Regreg river. Under Punic influence, Sala became a city-state with diverse commercial relations with the Iberian peninsula as well as the Mediterranean and issued its own currency. The Phoenicians were later followed by the Carthaginians from the 3rd century BC onwards. The Romans took control of the area in about 40 AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius, and Sala became part of the province of Mauretania Tingitana. It was the most southwestern outpost of the Roman Empire in Africa. The Romans brought Sala to the status of a significant port and thriving economic hub. The city witnessed an important urban development, as evidenced by the layout of the forum, the capitolium and the curia, the octagonal nymphaeum, the triumphal arch and the thermal baths. An inscription confirms the status of the city as a Roman municipium and it was enclosed by a wall in 144 AD.

In about 250 AD the Romans lost control of the site to native Berber tribesmen, but Sala remained a trading centre and was still linked to the Roman Empire. Archaeological objects of Visigothic and Byzantine origin found in the area attest to the continuing commercial relations between Sala and Roman Europe.

What remained of the ancient city was abandoned in 1154 in favour of nearby Salé. The site of Sala lay deserted until the 13th century when the Merinids built a holy necropolis (or chellah), a mosque and a minaret on top of the Roman site, enclosed by a wall which still marks its boundaries today. The site, as part of the metropolitan Rabat, was granted World Heritage Status in 2012. If you visit Chellah in winter or spring, you will get additional wildlife as a large colony of storks inhabits the ruins.

PORTFOLIO

The foundations of the of the triumphal arch, it stood south of the capitol and faced the forum.
The foundations of the three-bay triumphal arch which stood south of the capitolium and faced the forum. It was build during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD).
The foundations of the triumphal arch.
The foundations of the triumphal arch.
The Capitol, the official temple of the Capitoline Triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, built on two terraces arranged on a rectangle 46 m long and 26 m wide.
The Capitolium, the official temple of the Capitoline Triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. It was built in opus africanum on two terraces.
The Capitol was subdivided into several spaces, including a peribole, a covered Corinthian portico, a paved courtyard of blue limestone, with an altar, three adjoining rooms preceded by a pronaos with a staircase and a room reserved for the treasury temple.
The Capitolium of Sala was paid for by Claudius Hosidius Severus, prefect of a Syrian cavalry squadron of Roman citizens. The main building phase of this complex is dated to between the end of the 1st century AD to the beginning of the 2nd century AD. It was probably inaugurated at the beginning of Hadrian’s reign in 120 AD.
The Capitolium was subdivided into several spaces, including a peribolos (a court enclosed by a wall), a covered Corinthian portico, a paved courtyard of blue limestone, an altar, three adjoining rooms preceded by a pronaos with a staircase and a room reserved for the treasury temple.
The Capitolium was subdivided into several spaces including a peribolos (a court enclosed by a wall), a covered Corinthian portico, a paved courtyard of blue limestone, an altar, three adjoining rooms preceded by a pronaos with a staircase and a room reserved for the treasury temple.
The vaults of nine shops looking out over the decumanus maximus.
The Capitoliun was supported by nine vaulted chambers (tabernae?) opening on the decumanus maximus.
The Decumanus Maximus, bordered on its eastern end by the Forum.
The decumanus maximus, bordered on its eastern end by the Forum.
View of the Forum with bases of honorary inscriptions dedicated to the emperors and the great magistrates of the city.
View of the Forum with bases of honorary inscriptions dedicated to the emperors and the great magistrates of the city.
The lower level of the forum with six shops serviced by a secondary road.
The lower level of the forum with six shops served by a secondary road.
Trapezoidal, it is covered with large blue limestone slabs kept up to 20.60 m of the podium. Built during the works carried out during the reign of the emperor Trajan, this public square was closed by two monumental gates, of which the powerful foundations still remain.
The forum was a trapezoidal structure paved with large blue limestone slabs. Built during the works carried out during the reign of Trajan, this public square was closed by two monumental gates which foundations still remain.
Pseudo-lotus capital outside the forum.
Pseudo-lotus capital outside the forum.
Roman mosaic in one of the workshops in the artisan quarter.
Roman mosaic in one of the workshops in the artisan quarter.
An apotropaic phallus as a symbol to avert the evil eye inside a workshop.
An apotropaic phallus as a symbol to avert the evil eye inside a workshop.
The ruins of the Curia Ulpia adjoining the basilica. The epithet Ulpia recalls the solicitude of Emperor Trajan, who undoubtedly granted financial aid to the local senate to erect the building.
The ruins of the Curia Ulpia adjoining the basilica. The epithet Ulpia recalls the solicitude of Emperor Trajan, who undoubtedly granted financial aid to the local senate to erect the building.

The public baths of Sala located at the intersection of the decumanus maximus and the cardo maximus.
The public baths of Sala located at the intersection of the decumanus maximus and the cardo maximus.
The octagonal Nymphaeum. It formed a water tower and was supplied by an aqueduct.
The octagonal Nymphaeum. It formed a water tower and was supplied by an aqueduct.

Roman ruins of Sala with 13th century minaret.
Roman ruins of Sala with 13th century minaret.
Storks nesting on the 13th century minaret.
Storks nesting on the 13th century minaret built of stone and zellige tilework.

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