Volubilis Archaeological Site (World Heritage)

The Roman settlement was an important outpost of the Roman Empire in the province of Mauretania Tingitana from AD 44. Even today, the archaeological finds, such as B. the triumphal arch of Caracalla, thermal baths, villas (“House of Venus”) with unique mosaics and the remains of the five-aisled basilica to the importance of the city. In the 8th century, under Moulay Idris I, Volubilis became the capital of an independent Islamic state, the Idrisid Empire.

Volubilis Archaeological Site: Facts

Official title: Volubilis archaeological site
Cultural monument: Roman settlement, including with the “House of Orpheus” with the mosaic of a seahorse pulling a chariot, and the eponymous mosaic with the theme of the Orpheus myth, the “House of the dog”, “the pillars”, “the rider”, the Gallienus Thermal baths, the palace of Gordianus, the once five-aisled courthouse (basilica) and the 1200 m² “House of Venus”
Continent: Africa
Country: Morocco
Location: Volubilis, south of Fez
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: an important Roman outpost in North Africa and briefly under Moulay Idris I capital of an empire that was independent of the caliph Harun ar-Raschid

Volubilis Archaeological Site: History

25th v. Chr. under King Juba II. royal residence
40 AD Appointment as a Municipium by Emperor Claudius, a municipality with Roman civil rights
168/69 Construction of the 2.34 km long, average 1.6 m thick city wall
193-211 During the reign of Septimius Severus and his successors, sacred and secular buildings were built
217 Temple buildings in honor of Junos, Minerva and Jupiter and construction of the arch of honor for Emperor Caracalla over the Decumanus Maximus
238-44 Construction of the “House of Pillars” in the time of Emperor Gordianus III.
786 Idris Ibn Abdallah (Moulay Idris I), a descendant of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed and founder of the Idrisid dynasty, asks for asylum in Oualila (Volubilis)
792 Assassination of Idris Ibn Abdallah
1887-92 first digs
1913 further archaeological research
Since 2000 Excavations in the area of ​​the residence of Idris I.

Bread and games thanks to Mauretania Tingitana

Located far away from the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean as well as from all navigable rivers, Volubilis, the former capital of the province of Mauretania Tingitana, was an important center for the cultivation of grain and olives as well as for the export of Berber lions and elephants, which were here in Roman times still gave. In late antiquity, the supply of “bread and games” could only be ensured with the help of the North African provinces. This was probably already recognized by Emperor Claudius, who in 40 years annexed the Kingdom of Mauritania by force and two years later divided it into the two provinces of Mauretania Tingitana and Mauretania Caesariensis. But it was not until the Severer emperors, who came from North Africa, that the provinces experienced between the end of the 2nd century and the beginning of the 3rd.

The most important public buildings are located in the center of the city: in the immediate vicinity of the main temple, which was dedicated to the Roman gods Jupiter, Juno and Minerva – the guarantors of the stability and continuity of the Roman state – rises the partially rebuilt basilica with its five-aisled interior and large apses on the narrow sides. It served as a representative assembly and court hall, and sometimes also as a market hall; high arcade arches on the long sides made it accessible for everyone, or at least a visible one. Like all public buildings of the Romans, it did not contain any mosaics or wall paintings and its architecture alone was impressive. Not far from there were other smaller market buildings and several public thermal baths.

According to ebizdir, the most imposing building of Volubilis in Morocco was and is the memorial arch built in honor of Caracalla and his mother Julia Domna, whose central passage – flanked by presented pairs of columns with niches and medallions in between – nowadays affords a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape. Formerly, the single-storey blocks, so-called »insulae«, blocked the view of the poorer population – mostly small businesses and craftsmen. In their dwellings, often only a few square meters in size, with a small courtyard, domestic and professional life merged. The residents had to fetch drinking water several times a day in jugs or vats from the public fountain at the end of the aqueduct. Waste and sewage disposal only took place above ground, so that an ancient visitor was exposed to bad smells here. However, Roman society also offered an opportunity for social advancement, as the mosaics found in this quarter in the “House of Orpheus” and in the “House of Desultor” prove.

Things looked completely different on the Decumanus, the boulevard leading north with a sewer in the middle. Here the mansions of the rich, the merchants, large landowners and state officials, which were supplied with water directly from the aqueduct, were lined up in a well-ordered manner. The many-space buildings without windows on the outside were lined with shops of all kinds on the main street; They received light and air from the pillared courtyard, the peristyle, in which the softly splashing fountain or fragrant flower and herb beds created a pleasant atmosphere. The adjacent rooms of the landlord were often decorated with wall paintings and geometric or even figurative floor mosaics – the latter mostly with scenes from Greek mythology.

After the Romans withdrew from North Africa, Volubilis fell into disrepair. First the roofs of the buildings collapsed, later the walls were torn down by human hands and the stone material was rebuilt elsewhere. During the colonial period, however, French archaeologists brought back to light the mosaics, which were covered by protective layers of rubble and earth, in addition to a large number of broken columns and well-preserved capitals; In addition, some of the most beautiful bronze busts of antiquity were found, which are now among the treasures of the Archaeological Museum of Rabat.

Volubilis Archaeological Site (World Heritage)