Lepcis Magna, which began as a small port city on Libya's Mediterranean coast, became a magnificent Roman city in the third century A.D. under the rule of Emperor Septimus Severus. Before Roman rule, Lepcis was a trading post for Carthaginian merchants. After the fall of Carthage, Lepcis grew some in size and power, becoming an important center of trans-Saharan trade with the Roman Empire.
It was here that future Emperor Septimus Severus was born in A.D. 146. Septimus rose to power through civil war and coup. After a line of battles and murders that lasted many months, Septimus marched on Rome, with the support of the prataeorian guard in A.D. 193, seizing the crown for himself. This warrior-king reduced the power of the Roman Senate, encoroprated more people from outside the city of Rome into the government, and kept barbarian tribes in line through military force and diplomacy.
In c. A.D. 196, Septimus began a reconstruction of Lepcis that would not be completed for twenty years, in A.D. 216, five years after his own death. The project entailed the construction of a new forum, amphitheater, basillica, and temple, dedicated to his family. The magnificent art and architecture at Lepcis was meant to display the majesty and power of Severus dynasty. The city also depicted harmonious relationships within the family as a type of propaganda. It became apparent that these were false after Septimus's death. On February 4, A.D. 211, Septimus Severus died at York, under the stress of fighting the Caledonian tribes.
It was not until the turn of the 20th Century that Lepcis was rediscovered. Lepcis was saved from probable destruction in 1943 when British archaeologists Major John Ward-Perkins and Mortimer Wheeler saved the city from becoming a RAF radar post. Ever since the 1930's, archaeologists and art historians have been studying and attempting to reconstruct this once-great city.