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OEA (Tripoli, Trablus) Libya.

The central one of the three cities (treis poleis) that gave the region its name. Founded as a trading station by the Carthaginians beside a small natural harbor, it prospered under Roman rule. In late antiquity its location in a fertile coastal oasis saved it to some extent from the rapid decline of its neighbors, and after the Arab conquest of A.D. 643 it was chosen to be the military and administrative capital of the whole territory between the two Syrtes. The heart of the Classical city, enclosed within its late antique walls, has been continuously occupied ever since, obliterating all but a few remains of the Roman town.

The principal surviving monument is an elaborately ornamental quadrifrons archway dedicated to M. Aurelius and L. Verus in A.D. 163, the central stone dome of which was carried on flat slabs laid across the angles and was concealed externally within the masonry of an attic, now destroyed. Early drawings show this attic in turn supporting a circular pavilion, but this seems to have been a later Islamic addition. The arch stood at the intersection of the two main streets of the town and the adjoining streets and alleyways of the post-Classical town incorporate many elements of an orthogonal street plan. Near the arch are the remains of a temple dedicated to the Genius Colonine (A.D. 183-85), and the forum probably lay nearby. There was a monumental bath on or near the site of the present castle. The city walls, demolished in 1913, incorporated long stretches of the late antique defenses.

Near the base of the W harbor mole was found a Punic and Roman cemetery, and scattered burials, including a small Jewish catacomb (now destroyed), have come to light towards the E, under the modern town. In and near the oasis are the remains of several villas, with mosaics; also two Christian cemeteries, one of the 5th c. at Ain Zara, and one of the 10th c., at En-Ngila.

The archaeological museum, housed in the castle, contains antiquities from the whole of Tripolitania except Sabratha. The fine series of sculpture from Leptis Magna includes the Julio-Claudian group from the Forum Vetus and the figured panels of the Severan Arch. Other notable exhibits are the mosaics and the Romano-Libyan sculpture from Ghirza.


S. Aurigemma, “Le fortificazioni della cittá di Tripoli,” Notiziario Archeologico del Ministero delle Colonie 2 (1916) 217-300; “L'arco quadrifronte di Marco Aurelio e di Lucio Vero in Tripoli,” Suppl. to Libya Antiqua 3 (1969); G. Caputo, “Il tempio oeense del Genio della Colonia,” Africa Italiana 7 (1940) 35-45; J. M. Reynolds and J. B. Ward-Perkins, Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (1952) 63-72; D.E.L. Haynes, An Archaeological and Historical Guide to the pre-Islamic Antiquities of Tripolitania (1955) 101-6; P. Romanelli, “Tripoli,” EAA VII (1965) 986-87.


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