Archaeology Odyssey 6:6, November/December 2003

Field Notes

By Doug AlexanderChristopher Sherwin LightfootJudith Harris

Archaeology Odyssey

Leptis Magna in Surrey

Ruin-hunters disinclined to travel to Libya’s Mediterranean coast to visit ancient Leptis Magna might prefer a sojourn in England’s green and pleasant land. Corinthian columns and architectural fragments from the Roman city now stand along the shore of a large man-made lake, called Virginia Water, south of Windsor Castle.

Just how did these 2,000-year-old ruins wind up as a royal garden folly?

Back in 1816, a Colonel Warrington—the British consul-general to Tripoli—and Augustus Earle, a noted artist, visited Leptis, a former Punic caravan city rebuilt by the Roman emperor Septimius Severus around 200 A.D. The men discovered that the ancient ruins were largely covered by sand dunes, as captured in Earle’s watercolor. Warrington persuaded the Bashaw (pasha) of Tripoli to present Britain’s prince regent (later George IV) with a most unusual gift: all that could be readily extracted from the sands of Leptis Magna.

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