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See all inscriptions from Lepcis


The Neo-Punic form, Lpqī, appears on coins of the first century BC and early first century AD (Müller, Numismatique II, 3 ff. and Suppl., 33 ff.). The Latin form varied considerably. See most recently Romanelli, Rend. Acc. Linc. 5 XXXIII (1924) 253-62. Locally the original form was Lepcis. But outside Tripolitania, the name early became assimilated to that of the Byzacene town of Leptis, in longer and closer contact with Rome and was probably more familiar; and to distinguish between the two, the Tripolitanian city came to adopt the distinguishing adjective Magna, giving Lepcis Magna or Leptis Magna, and eventually Leptimagna. The evidence is both epigraphic and literary, and may be summarized as follows:

a) Local epigraphy.

Some ninety inscriptions from the site prove that the correct local form was Lepcis (Lepcitanus). In the first century the town is always civitas Lepcitana (301, 330, 331): Lepcis Magna is first found under Trajan (302, 355), the adjective being one of the first official titles of the colony; and thereafter colonia Lepcis Magna is the normal style. The derivative ethnic, Lepcimagnensis, first appears in the second half of the third century (522, 544): it is common in the fourth century but never entirely replaces Lepcitanus.

Of the three inscriptions from the site that use the dental form, two figure on imported blocks of marble (530, Leptis Magna) and were cut elsewhere. Leptitanus is found on one official text of the late fourth century (474).

b) External inscriptions.

On the four external inscriptions that can certainly or probably be attributed to the Tripolitanian city, Lepcimagnensis is found once, at Rome (CIL VI, 1554, third century; the dental form printed in the text in as unjustified emendation of the guttural read on the stone), and Lepcis and Lepcitanus, once each, at Lambaesis (CRAcad. 1905, 532; CIL VIII, 3521): the fourth, at Tibur (CIL XIV, 3593, third century), gives Leptim(agnensis). It is uncertain to which of the two towns three other Italian instances of the dental form refer (CIL V, 6990, VI, 32623 l. 15, X, 6341).

c) Literature.

Confusion between the two towns certainly existed by the time of Mela (I, 37: Leptis altera); and the distinguishing adjective, Magna, is found as early as Pliny (HN V, 4,27: Leptis altera quae cognominatur Magna). The confusion has certainly affected the manuscript tradition in favour of the dental form; and since there may have been error also in the opposite sense, through misreading of T as C, the value of the manuscript evidence for the two spellings would be dubious, even were it readily available. The lists that follow, therefore, though based on the best available editions (quoted in brackets after each reference) should be treated with caution.

Lepcis (Lepcitanus). Of texts that refer certainly to the Tripolitanian town, there is some manuscript evidence for this form in each of the following: Pliny HN V, 5, 31 (Mayhoff, Leipzig, 1906); Tac. Hist. IV, 50 (De Gubernatis, Turin, 1929); Tac. Ann. III, 74 (De Gubernatis, Rome, 1940); SHA Vita Sev. II, 6 (Hohl, Leipzig, 1927); Eutrop. Brev. VIII, 18 (Droysen, Berlin, 1879; Aur. Victor, Epit. de Caes. XX, 9 (Pichlmayr, Leipzig, 1911). Also in the following, which probably refer to the Tripolitanian town: Cic. Verr. II, 5, 155 (Klotz, Leipzig, 1939); Livy XXXIV, 62 (McDonald, Oxford, in preparation); Pliny Ep. II, 11, 23 (Schuster, Leipzig, 1933).

Lepcis Magna (Lepcimagnensis). There is no recorded instance of Lepcis Magna but Lepcimagnensis occurs in some manuscripts of Sentent. episc. de haeret. baptiz. (Hartel, CSEL III, i, Vienna, 1868).

Leptis (Leptitanus). Of the texts that refer certainly to the Tripolitanian town, this is the only relevant form that is recorded in the following: Sallust, Bell. Iug. 19, 77, 79 (Ahlberg, Leipzig, 1919); Sil. Ital. III, 256 (Bauer, Leipzig, 1890); Statius, Silv. IV, 5, 30 (Frère and Izaac, Paris, 1944); Julian, Dig. XXVIII, 6, 30 (Mommsen and Krueger, 1920); SHA, Vita Sev. I , 2 and XV, 7 (Hohl, Leipzig, 1927); Aur. Victor Liber de Caes. XX, 19 (Pichlmayr, Leipzig, 1911); Amm. Marc. XXVIII, 6 (Clarke, Berlin, 1910); Orosius VII, 17, 1 (Zangemeister, CSEL V, Vienna, 1882); Coll. Carth. AD 411 287 (Migne, PL XI, Paris, 145); Cosmogr. Iuli Honori, 44 (Riese, Geogr. Lat. Min., Heilbronn, 1878; Not. Dign. Occ. XXXI, 14 (Seeck, Berlin, 1876). Also in the following which probably refer to the Tripolitanian town: Caesar Bell. Civ. II, 38, Bell. Afr. 97 (Muesl, Berlin, 1906); Lucan Phars. IX, 948 (Housman, Oxford, 1927); Pliny HN V, 5, 31 (Mayhoff, Leipzig, 1906); Archaeus (Migne, PG V, Paris, 1857, col. 1490).

Leptis Magna (Leptimagnensis). The only relevant recorded form in the following: Pliny HN V 4, 27 (Mayhoff, Leipzig, 1906); Paulus Dig. L, 15, 8, 11 (Mommsen and Krueger, Berlin, 1920; Geogr. Rav. V 6 (Schnetz, Leipzig, 1940); Cosmogr. Iuli Honori 44 (Riese, Geogr. Lat. Min., Heilbronn, 1878); Cosmogr. Aethici 44, 14 (ibid.); Acta conciliorum AD 393 (= Augustine, in psalm. XXXVI, 20, Migne PL XXXVI, Paris, 1841); Notit. prov. et civ. Africae AD 484 (Halm, Berlin, 1879); Justinian Cod. I, 27, 2, 1 (Krueger, Berlin, 1905).

Leptimagna. Found in Solinus 27, 8 (Mommsen, Berlin, 1895); Itin. Ant. 57.8, 63.2, 73.5, 77.3 (Cuntz, Leipzig, 1929); Tab. Peut.

The earlier Greek name for the town seems to have been Νεάπολις, and it is mentioned under this name by Ps. Scylax 109, 110 (C. Müller, Geogr. Gr. Min. Paris 1882) and by Dionysius Perieg. 205 (ibid.); see also Steph. Byz. (Meinke, Berlin, 1849) s.v. Άβρότονον, citing Ephorus, and mistakenly identifying Νεάπολις with Sabratha. The identification of Νεάπολις with Lepcis is attested by Strabo (XVII, 835c) and by Ptolemy (IV, 3, 3).

There is the same variety in the later Greek forms as in the Latin. Λέπτις is found in Strabo XVII, 835c (C. Müller, Geogr. Gr. Min., Paris, 1882); in George of Cyprus, Descr. orbis Romani, 797 (Honigmamn, Brussels, 1939); and perhaps also, with the ethnic Λεπτίτης, in Suidas, s.v. Κορνοῡτος (Adler, Leipzig, 1933), and in Steph. Byz., s.v. Τέργις (Meineke, Berlin, 1849; the passage may refer to the Tripolitanian town). Λέπτις Μεγάλη is found in Ptolemy Geogr. IV, 3, 3 (C. Müller, Paris, 1883); and in Stadiasm. maris magni 93(C. Müller, Geogr. Gr. Min., Paris, 1882). Λεπτιμάγνα is found in Procop. Aedif. VI, 4 and Bell. Vand. II, 21 (Haury, Leipzig, 1913); and in Balsamon and Zonaras, Canones Synodi Carthaginiensis 374 (Migne, PG CXXXVII, Paris, 1865). This evidence suggests a strong Greek preference for the dental form; but since so many of the editions employed were published before the correctness of the guttural form was admitted, it is possible that variant forms have not been recorded. The form Λέρκις presumably for Λέπκις, found in one manuscript of the Greek version of Eutrop. Brev. VIII, 18 (Droysen, Berlin, 1879) may be no more than the translator's version of the Latin original; but Λέπκις ἡ Μεγάλη is securely attested by one late inscription from the site (282).


The site of Lepcis, the easternmost of the Three Cities, offered certain natural advantages to justify its selection as one of the earliest, and probably from the outset the most important of the Punic Emporia. The possession of a modest natural harbour (that it was a poor harbour, even by local standards, see Stadiasm. maris magni, 93), at the mouth of the Wadi Lebdah, was an asset that it shared with Sabratha and Oea: but Lepcis alone had direct access to the agricultural resources of the Djebel; and although the axis of the later, official road-system ran from Oea to Mizda, the shortest and best-watered caravan route to the Fezzan must at all times have lain to the east of the Gefara. The abundant local supply of first-class building stone was not exploited until Augustan times; but thereafter it constituted a valuable additional asset, one, moreover, that is of considerable importance for the assessment of the surviving remains, including the inscriptions.

Under the Carthaginians, the Tripolitanian coast probably formed part of a tributary province, the Emporia, of which Lepcis was perhaps the administrative centre (Polyb. III, 23; Livy XXXIV, 62; see De Sanctis, Storia dei Romani III, 2, 579; Gsell, Hist. ancienne de l'Afrique du Nord, II, 127-8; the daily tribute of a talent paid to Carthage may well be that of the territory as a whole, paid through Lepcis, rather than of the city itself). The objections to this identification raised by Townsend, Classical Philology XXXV (1940) 274 are unconvincing; see Haywood, ibid. XXXVI (1941) 246-56. Carthaginian interest in the coastland of the Eastern Djebel, as early as the close of the sixth century BC, is attested by the story of the Greek attempt, under Doreius, c. 511 BC, to establish a colony at the mouth of the river Cinyps, the Wadi el-Caam, 20 km to the east of Lepcis (Hdt. V, 42). This was the first, and only recorded, attempt by Greeks to establish a foothold west of the Greater Syrtis, and it ended three years later in the expulsion of the settlers; thereafter Tripolitania was acknowledged Punic territory. Lepcis is not named in connection with Doreius episode; but the discovery of a late-Corinthian cup, dating from the early years of the fifth century, in one of the tombs of the cemetery under the Roman Theatre, shows that Lepcis either already existed at the time of the attempted Greek settlement, or was founded immediately afterwards, in answer to it.

In the first half of the second century, Masinissa claimed, and eventually annexed, the Emporia (Polyb. XXXI, 21; Livy, XXXIV, 62), but Lepcis evidently retained a considerable degree of autonomy (Sallust, Bell. Iug. 77: imperia magistratuum et leges). During the Jugurthine war it became a civitas foederata of Rome (ibid.) By the first century BC it had evidently established control over a considerable area of fertile hill-country inland. The fine of three million pounds of oil annually, imposed on Leptis by Caesar for its aid to Juba, is almost certainly to be attributed to the Tripolitanian rather than the Byzacene city (Gsell, Riv. Trip. I (1924-5) 41-46; this identification, queried by Townsend, is confirmed by Haywood, loc. cit.). It attests a notable degree of agricultural development, and shows that subsequent Roman exploitation of the province's resources was rooted in Punic and native enterprise.

Apart from the cemetery found under the Augustan theatre, none of the surviving monuments of Lepcis can be shown to be earlier than the late first century BC. The original inhabited nucleus lay probably on the gently rising ground to the west of the wadi mouth, and by early Augustan times it may have been extended to include the greater part of the area later enclosed by the Byzantine defences, around the Forum Vetus. A number of dated Augustan and Tiberian monuments (especially significant, for their relation to the street plan, are the Market, 319; the Theatre, 321, 322, 323; the Chalcidicum, 324; and the Arch of Augusta Salutaris, 308) attest to the rapid growth of the city, inland about the axis of the street that divides Regions II and IV from Regions III and V; and although excavation has not yet revealed the limits of the first-century city, the buildings already excavated confirm the evidence of epigraphy that this was a time of great prosperity and civic activity, culminating in the grant of colonial status under Trajan. The second century is perhaps less adequately represented by the remains so far uncovered: if there was anything at Lepcis to correspond to the Antonine expansion of Sabratha, it lay outside the limits of the current excavations (e.g. the, as yet undiscovered, Ulpia basilica cum foro eius, 543). But within the excavated area many of the existing buildings were rebuilt at this time in richer materials; and at least one great, new, second-century building has been unearthed, the Hadrianic Baths (357, 361), set on open ground between the first century city and the Wadi Lebdah.

Septimius Severus was born at Lepcis, c. 146, and his accession marked the high tide of the city's fortunes. It received the ius Italicum, perhaps in 202 (see 3. LOCAL GOVERNMENT, section (b) below); the security of its territories and commerce was assured by the reorganization of the frontier defences; and a series of grandiose new buildings was planned, including an artificial harbour, a forum and basilica, a monumental colonnaded street and nymphaeum, and a triumphal arch, in addition to the restoration and enlargement of such existing features as the circus and, perhaps, the water-supply (Ward Perkins, JRS XXXVIII (1948) 59-80). Despite the magnificence of its monuments, however, Severan Lepcis was in some respects an artificial creation. The city's resources were probably overstrained; and with the fall of the dynasty, there follows a period of decline that is in striking contrast to the prosperity of the preceding age. There was little new building, and existing buildings fell into disrepair (see, particularly, 467, ll. 1-4). The inscriptions tell the same story. Of 161 imperial dedications found at Lepcis, 10 only date from the half century following the death of Severus Alexander, and the quality of these is noticeably poor. A comparison with the contemporary series at Sabratha proves that this decline was the result of, or was aggravated by, local conditions, and cannot be attributed solely to larger events outside Tripolitania.

The decline was arrested, temporarily at any rate, during the fourth century. Under Constantine, public buildings were restored (467, 468), and a defensive wall was built, enclosing the greater part of the inhabited area (468). But although the city thereby escaped sack during the troubled events of the later fourth century, its territory was ravaged and its commerce disrupted; and the grandiloquence of the fourth century dedications in the Forum Severianum, while they attest the continuance of the outward forms of city-life into the early fifth century (the latest dated text is 480, AD 408-23), cannot conceal its growing poverty and degradation. The conquest of Tripolitania by the Vandals in 455 was a final and crippling blow; and to the hand of man was added that of nature. Sand-dunes may have begun to engulf the outlying quarters as early as the fourth century; and, at some uncertain date in late antiquity, the great flood-water dam above the city broke, subjecting it to disastrous winter floods. When Justinian's forces reoccupied the territory, they found the city abandoned and largely buried under the encroaching sand (Procop. Aedif. VI, 4).

Justinian re-established Lepcis within a defensive wall that enclosed a modest area around the harbour and the Forum Vetus. But, although it was made the seat of the dux limitis Tripolitanae provinciae, it never recovered its importance as an urban centre. A small community lingered on within the walls ; and as late as the twelfth century Edrisi (Geogr., transl. P. A. Jaubert, Paris, 1836, V, p. 284) speaks of a defended place by the sea, occupied by craftsmen and serving as a market for the district. But it is nowhere mentioned by the Arab historians in their accounts of the invasions of the seventh century: the primacy of Tripolitania and the name Tripoli, had passed to Oea. During the early centuries of Arab rule Lebda figures several times as a military post (see Romanelli, Leptis Magna, 33-6). But this too was finally abandoned. The early European travellers found the site buried and deserted, save for scattered Arab villages in the suburbs and cemeteries to the east and west of the classical city.


From Augustus to Trajan.

Both under Carthage and under the Numidian kingdom (Sallust, Bell. Iug. 78) Lepcis had enjoyed a considerable degree of local autonomy;but for its institutions prior to Augustus, the only evidence is that afforded by the independent coinage, first issued after Lepcis became a civitas foederata of Rome during the Jugurthine war (Müller, Numismatique II, 3 ff.; Suppl., 33 ff.; these are said to record a praefectus, presumably a mint-master), or that implied by the native character of the city's constitution under the early Empire. Pliny (HN V, 4, 27) describes Lepcis simply as oppidum; and it may be that Caesar reduced it for a time to stipendiary status as a reprisal for its alliance with Juba. The survival of its native constitution, however, in the first century AD, and its coinage under Augustus and Tiberius, which may have included a silver issue (Müller, loc. cit.), seem to indicate that it retained a favoured status under the Empire; and it has been suggested (Grant, 340 ff.) that libertas was restored to it by Augustus, c. 7-5 BC.

Inscriptions of the first century AD are more informative. The community was senatus populusque Lepcitanorum (615), and the chief magistrates two eponymous sufetes (319, 321, 322, 323, 341, 347, 348, 349a, 412, 599, 600, 609; sobti, 294; shūfetīm, Neo-Punic 12, 27, 28, 30, 32). Of the minor offices a Neo-Punic text mentions two annual mūhazīm, explained by Levi Della Vida as "collectors" or "inspectors" (599; see also in Bartoccini, Terme, 186), whose title was probably latinized as aedilis (99). They handled certain multae (599, n. 1 and, in the second century, 498, 597) and provided equipment for the market (498, 590, and perhaps 599); but it is not clear what was their relation to the IIIviri macelli (294). Latin texts attest, in addition to aediles, a curator pecuniae publicae (341) and a IIIIvir [..?..] potestate (305).

There seems to have been some remodelling of the constitution, or at least an adjustment of nomenclature, in the second half of the century. (The suggestion of N. Degrassi in Epigraphica VII (1945) 3 ff. that Lepcis became at this time a municipium civium Romanorum, is disproved by the career of L. Septimius Severus (342), discussed by Aurigemma, Quaderni I (1950) 59 ff.). In an inscription of 92, (347) senatus populusque has become ordo et populus, and confers for the first time on a distinguished citizen the perpetual right to wear a latus clavus (evidently a municipal dignity; see Horace Sat. I, V, 36); two provincial officials are described as patronus municipi (342, 346: the use of the term municipium cannot be stressed; for other non-technical, uses of the term on Lepcitanian monuments, see 286, 544); the IIIIvir appears (305); and the known magistrates and public benefactors, who, until the time of Vespasian, usually bear native names (the latest example, 300, is dated to 72), are all subsequently Roman citizens. But the chief magistrates continued to be sufetes (347, AD 92; 348, AD 93-4; 349a, under Domitian; 342 perhaps under Trajan), and Neo-Punic could still be used in official public inscriptions (318, AD 92; 349a, under Domitian).

During the first century a series of honorary titles were from time to time conferred on prominent citizens: amator patriae (347), ornator patriae (318, 321, 322, 323, 347: ornatrix, 269), amator civium (347), amator concordiae (318, 321, 322, 323, 347). These are translations of Punic titles (Levi Della Vida, Afr. Ital. VI (1935) 105: Rend Acc. Linc. IV (1949) 405 ff.), and are parallel at Sabratha (95) and at Gigthis (CIL VIII, 22743).

Native priesthoods attested in the first century are those of meqīm elīm and ba'al shelem ha-reshet (Neo-Punic 1 and 27 respectively; the Latin equivalents are not known), addir 'azarīm (Neo-Punic 27, 30, 32) latinized as praefecti sacrorum (319, 321, 322, 323, 347), and XVviri sacrorum (324). To these were added flamines (zūbeah, pl. zūbehīm, Neo-Punic 27, 32). There were two flamines Augusti Caesaris as early as 8 BC (319 = Neo-Punic 29): other inscriptions record flamines (319, 321, 322, 323, 601, 609); flamines perpetui (347, 600; Neo-Punic 32), flamines divi Augusti (341; also 598 in the second century), flamines Ti. Caesaris Augusti (596), flamines divi Claudi (352), and flamines divi Vespasiani (347; Neo-Punic 32; also 275 in the second century).

Trajan and later.

Colonial status and universal Roman citizenship were given simultaneously by Trajan (412), who is commemorated both in the city's new name, Colonia Ulpia Traiana fidelis Lepcis Magna (353, 284), and, with his family, in the names of the curiae into which the population was organized. Eight of the eleven curial names, known from inscriptions of Severan date. derive from the household of Trajan - Dacica (413, 541), Germanica (391, 417), Marciana (417), Matidia (411, 436), Nervia (411, 414), Plotina (411), Traiana (413) and Ulpia (416, 421). The date of the grant is c. 109-110, when a triumphal arch was erected across the Main Street to record the colony's gratitude to its benefactor (353, 523, 537; see Romanelli Afr. Ital. VII (1940) 96 ff.).

Septimius Severus gave to Lepcis the ius italicum (Dig. L, 15, 8, 11). It is possible that two dedications, made in 202 to him and to Caracalla ob eximium ac divinam in se indulgentiam (393, 423; the similar dedication to Geta (441) is, however, dated to 209) refer to this grant; and the same two inscriptions also contained the earliest dated use of the title Septimiani, by which the citizens now indicated their imperial connection (393, 400, 404, 410, 415, 423, 429, 435, 441, 442, 450, 452, 453, 457, 459, 460, 620, 621; and Septimia, of the city, 283, 284). At about the same time three of the curiae (and possibly a fourth Iulia, (406, 417) seem to have added to their names in honour of the new dynasty: Severa Augusta (416), Pia Severiana (420 = presumably Severa Pia, 416) and Severa Ulpia (416). Under Gallienus the citizens adopted the further title, Saloniniani (456, 457, 459; and Salonina, of the city, 284; discussed by Goodchild, Reports and Monographs II (1949) 30 ff.).

The normal institutions of a colony figure in inscriptions from the time of Trajan onwards. The ordo decurionum (usually splendissimus; once sanctus, 638) passes its decrees (for a complete example, see 601), frequently in association with the populus (suffragia populi, 519, 561, 564, 565, 566, 567, 568, 574, 578, 581, 595). The following regular magistrates are recorded: IIviiri (375, 396, 412, 564, 567, 568, 578, 579, 595, 601, 605, 607), quinquennales (396) and aediles (376, 379, 498; Amm. Marc. XXVIII, 6,10). Curatores were appointed for special tasks, e.g. curator ad munus publicum edendum (601), curatores res refectionis thermarum (263); and a number of curatores rei publicae are recorded (467, 543, 561, 567; and, outside Lepcis, probably CIL XIV, 3593).

Of the pre-colonial, native honorary titles, several remained in use: amator patriae (275, 567, 603), ornator patriae (275), and amator civium (275, 553, 567, 603). A new title o(ptimus) o(rdinis) n(ostri) vir is found in a decree of the early third century (601).

Of the priesthoods, the praefectus omnium sacrorum (567, 568; and perhaps 608) probably represents the native praefectus sacrorum. Other recorded priesthoods are ἀρχιερεὺς Ἀσκληπιοῦ (265), augur (375, 396, 554, 564, 605), flamen (374, 396, 587, 592, 593, 601, 602), flamen perpetuus (412, 413, 567, 568, 578, 581, 588, 601, 607), flamen divi Augusti (598), flamen divi Vespasiani (275), pontifex (567, 568, 579, 581, 592, 595, 601, 608), primus sacerdos (438), sacerdos Matris Deum (567, 568; and perhaps 272) and sacerdos Mercuri et Minervae (304).

Fifteen tribal inscriptions are known: six (593, 598, 602, 629, 630, 675) and possibly a seventh (CIL XI, 1337, 8050), of whom two (350, 352) are certainly pre-colonial citizens, to Quirina; one (554) to Pollia.



The beginning of the epigraphic series at Lepcis coincides almost exactly with the beginning of a new epoch in the city's structural history. Prior to Augustus, the best available building material had been a soft local sandstone that could only be used, as at Sabratha and Oea, under a thick coating of stucco. In the closing years of the first century BC, however, quarries were opened to exploit the limestone of Ras el-Hammam, a magnificent building stone, somewhat resembling travertine. Sandstone was at once banished to second place and, with the solitary exception of the earliest known Latin text (319; 8 BC), it plays no part in the monumental epigraphy of Lepcis. The contemporary, Neo-Punic version of the same text (Neo-Punic 27) is on grey limestone, and the Latin limestone series begins a few years later (320, 328, 3BC; 321, 322323, AD 1-2).

The same limestone continued to be used for all public inscriptions throughout the first century, and into the early decades of the second, when it was superseded, in part by marble, in part by coarser qualities of grey and brown limestone that were quarried from Ras el-Hammam after the exhaustion of the earlier, finer stone. Thereafter, as the early buildings were rebuilt or dismantled, the stone of which they were built was in great demand; and numbers of first-century inscriptions are represented by scattered blocks only, found re-used in later buildings. To assist in the identification of such scattered texts, the relative position in the stone of each line of text is recorded in the form of measurements from the top of the block (compare the text of 527 with 308).

Marble was not imported into Tripolitania in any quantity until the early years of the second century. There are only two first-century texts on marble, both of modest dimensions (335, 336). The main epigraphic series on marble begins with Trajan.


From the outset the public epigraphy of Lepcis displays a surprising range of quality. Lapidary capitals of excellent workmanship are found from Augustan times onwards, at first on limestone, and later on marble (321, 308, 352, 536; the latest monumental example is 428, AD 216). Throughout this period, however, fine lapidary capitals represent an optimum of epigraphic practice that was only exceptionally attained. At the other extreme is a variety of scripts that may be loosely characterized as "irregular capitals"; and between the two is almost every shade of intermediate form. At the outset, the poor quality of many of the public inscriptions may perhaps be attributed to the inexperience of local lapicides (e.g. 301, copying lapidary models, but already introducing some non-lapidary forms, e.g. l. 5 B and R). Throughout the first century, however, there is a positive tendency to vary strict lapidary practice by the introduction of curvilinear letter-forms, proper to painting and derived, no doubt, from contemporary painted graffiti. This tendency made itself felt at both ends of the scale (e.g. 527; and rather diffidently, 337); and by the end of the century 318 (Domitianic) already foreshadows the fully developed "Rustic capitals" of second century Lepcis.

Strict lapidary capitals are found as late as the early third century (428); but in general the robust lettering of the finer first century texts tends to be replaced after the first century by freer, more elegant forms; and these in turn shade imperceptibly (352, ll. 1-3) into a type of lettering that was in common use in the second and earlier third centuries and, at its best, closely resembles the better versions in use in contemporary Sabratha (275; cf. 117). A rigid classification is impractical; but, wherever possible, an approximate indication of the chronological range has been included in the description of the lettering.

Rustic capitals (see main Introduction section) were in common use from the beginning of the second to the middle of the third century, and were the characteristic script of the late Antonine and Severan periods. The examples illustrated [in the 1952 edition] (352, ll. 3-6; 295, 387, 456) were selected, from the more legible surviving examples, to illustrate the evolution of this script during the century and a half of its popularity. At times, particularly during the first quarter of the third century, its mannerisms were exaggerated to the point of illegibility; and the more humble versions, cut by inexpert craftsmen, often on poor stone, are always difficult to read.

The decline in the fortunes of third-century Lepcis is mirrored in the inscriptions. After Severus Alexander and Maximin, imperial dedications are few and poorly cut (e.g. 454, 455, 460); and there are very few public inscriptions that can be dated with certainty to the middle decades of the century. (This may be due, in part, to the practice, common in the fourth century, of erasing earlier inscriptions to make way for new). There is nothing to correspond to the third century lapidary capitals of Sabratha. The number of dated fourth century inscriptions is, by contrast, large. They form in the main a homogeneous group, the fringes of which belong in time to the late third and early fifth centuries (the term "fourth century capitals" in the description of individual texts must be read in this sense, unless otherwise qualified). Within this group there is a wide range of detailed practice and technical competence.; but the family likeness is strong throughout, and is based on their common derivation, in varying measure, from the preceding scripts. Texts that embody a consistent epigraphic style are few and are, for the most part, closely derived from Rustic models (e.g. 561; and, more remotely, 467, the finest of the fourth century inscriptions of Lepcis); they all belong probably to the earlier part of the period. Individual Rustic letter-forms continue to be common throughout the series, but they are usually mingled with other forms, with little regard for consistency or for proportion. The quality of the lettering is not a safe indication of date. Some of the poorest are demonstrably early (e.g. 522, late third century); and to the last there are some texts (e.g. 480) that try to observe a certain epigraphic standard.

[Exemplary texts illustrated in the 1952 edition]:

  • 321, ll. 1-4 lapidary capitals, ll. 4-5 Neo-punic. AD 1-2, in grey limestone.
  • 308, fine lapidary capitals. AD 29-30, on fine-grained, grey limestone.
  • 527, rather free lapidary capitals, with elements (e.g. curvilinear cross-strokes to Ts and Es, asymmetry of As and Xs) that anticipate the Rustic capitals of the following century. Probably Domitianic, on grey limestone.
  • 337, irregular capitals, AD 45-6, on fine-grained grey limestone.
  • 301, irregular capitals, c. AD 6, on grey limestone.
  • 275, second-century capitals with some Rustic forms; temp. Hadrian or Antoninus Pius, in marble.
  • 352, ll. 1-3, second century capitals; ll. 4-6, Rustic capitals. AD 101-3, on white marble.
  • 355, lapidary capitals; AD 102-115, on marble.
  • 536, lapidary capitals; c. 149-50, on marble.
  • 295, Rustic capitals; second half of the seond century, on grey marble.
  • 387, Rustic capitals; AD 196-7, on marble. The L of l. 10 (contrast ll. 1, 8) foreshadows that of the later, more mannered version of this script.
  • 456, late form of Rustic capitals; AD 264-5, on cream marble. The L, and the T with a short cross-bar (in many cases barely distinguishable from I), are legacies from the mannered scripts of the earlier thrid century.
  • 610, late third century or fourth century capitals; shortly before or after AD 300, on marble. The script, which embodies many individual Rustic forms, is unusually poor for so early a date; but by no means as poor as the closely related 522.
  • 471, fourth century capitals; AD 337-61, cut on marble over an earlier, erased text. Fourth century lettering of an average quality.
  • 465, early fourth century capitals; AD 306-12, on limestone.
  • 561, late, transitional form of Rustic capitals, cut on marble over an earlier, erased text. Not precisely dated, but attributable to to the late third century. The inscription illustrates two characteristic features of the late series at Lepcis: the erasure of earlier texts to make room for later (often after a very brief interval; see 475); and the name, in the genitive, cut on the border, above the main text (for another pre-fourth century example, see 543.
  • 478, late fourth century capitals; AD 383-408, on marble.
  • 477, late fourth century capitals; AD 379-95 (or, less probably, 408-50), on marble.


With the exception of one inscription (847), the source of which is not recorded, the Christian inscriptions of Lepcis all come from two cemeteries. The one of these adjoins Church 2, a building probably of the early fifth century, in the Forum Vetus; and the majority of the inscribed graves are flat tomb-slabs, and ante-date the re-establishment of the Forum Vetus by Justinian as the centre of civic life. Later the cemetery came once more into use, and one of the tombs of this later phase, an upstanding, stuccoed chest of characteristic late form (see the section on Christian epigraphy in the Main Introduction), retains traces of a painted text (841). The second cemetery adjoins Church 3, a building of Byzantine date near the head of the Colonnaded Street. There are a few flat graves in this cemetery, one of them inscribed (842); but the majority are of the later, chest-like form, and of these a few retain traces of painted texts.

A few of the better, and presumably earlier, texts in Church 2 are cut with some attempt at regularity; but, although the lettering follows the same general lines as that at Sabratha, the individual letter-forms remain, on the whole, closer to the classical models and develop less originality (e.g. the classical N figures throughout the series). Uncial forms occur sporadically, but there is no trace of minuscule. The ligature for VI is found once (384). The only sixth century text of any epigraphic merit (842) is an intruder to the series.

[The following exemplary texts were illustrated in the 1952 edition]:

  • 835, fifth century; on grey limestone. The lettering is cut with some attention to letter-forms and alignment; it represents the Christian epigraphy of Lepcis at its best.
  • 840, fifth century; on marble. Almost exactly contemporary with the previous example; the difference between the two illustrates the difficulty of dating these late inscriptions on style alone.