Volubilis

Volubilis is a party excavated archaeological site just outside the imperial city of Meknes between Fez and Rabat. It dates back to the 1st and 2nd century starting out as a settlement for Phoenicians and Carthaginian tradersunder Roman rule. It expanded quickly and became a large and prosperous city renowned for its olive growing, and in turn created some impressive monuments and buildings; including a basilica, temple and the famous Triumphal Arch of Caracalla. At its most successful period it was more than likely occupied by at least 20,000 people. It became a thriving bustling city full of life and the ruins today reveal a snapshot of the city it was once was.

History

The Romans established Volubilis during the reign of Juba II who was ruler of that region after being appointed by Emperor Augustus. He was a studious and well-read man who married the daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra, Selene Cleopatra. During this time Volubilis had quite a diverse population which would have included Africans, Syrians, Spaniards and Jews, and Morocco has continued to this day with a thriving multicultural population. At one time Volubilis was known as a minicipium in that it was a self-governing Roman city, and as a result had some quite impressive fortifications built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (known as Caracalla). Some of these can still be seen today. On his death the Triumphal Arch of Caracalla was built in his honour in 217 AD. It is certainly one of the most fascinating monuments in the roman ruins and a treat for those with a fascination for Roman history.

Over the next few hundred years Volubilis would change its identity gradually from a Roman one to Christian and then in the late 8th century would come under rule of the Idrisid dynasty. It remained intact until the 18th century when it was hit by a powerful earthquake. Local Moroccans took advantage of this and used any materials they found to build the imperial city of Meknes nearby. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Volubilis was identified as an ancient roman city and during the French period (1912-1956) of occupation many artefacts were discovered, which included some beautiful roman mosaics. Around this time some of their public buildings and important houses were restored to their former glory. Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site.

It is certainly a fascinating area to visit, and for those interested in this period of Roman history Volubilisis a must. It is visually stunning and a spectacle to behold whether you go during the day or night. The floor mosaics are dazzling and although they are accessible to visitors they are advised not to walk on them due to their delicacy. The Bacchus and Ariadne mosaic in particular is stunning in its detail and pattern. The House of Orpheus, Hercules and the Cretan bull are all well preserved. Pillars still stand proud against the horizon and the doorways hover invitingly from a distance. Come to Volubilis and this Roman site is bound to impress. If you decide to visit during the day, it is advised to wear a hat due to the heat and make sure you bring with you plenty of drinking water

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