Morocco’s Roman Past

Morocco offers an array of tremendous and exciting places to visit and experience firsthand. If history wets your palate, then Morocco’s bygone Roman Empire days will satiate you. Start your Roman quest in Volubilis, a settlement constructed on what some say was a Carthaginian city dating back to 3rd century BCE.

Volubilis was consequential in Morocco even after the Roman Empire fell, existing for at least another 1000 years. Rome used Volubilis as an administrative epicenter for this constituent of its empire. Officials living here were responsible for the production and export of grains to Rome. Volubilis was also a military center and used for contacts with the neighboring Berber tribes which never fell under Roman rule. Standing until the royal palaces of Moulay Ismail were constructed using the city’s marble for building materials, Volubilis proper was abandoned in the 18th century.

Volubilis is 800 x 600 meters in size. If you want to explore and understand what you are seeing, carry a good guide book or pay a local guide. (Many of the most valuable excavations have been taken to the Archaeological Museum in Rabat.)

Still, Volubilis is filled with historic collections not to be missed. Approximately thirty mosaics are still in their original places, most of which have been fenced off for protection, but still can easily be touched. Not the biggest arch, but it is in good shape, the eminent Triumphal Arch is standing at the end of Decumanus Maximus. Most Roman cities had a forum and Volubilis was no exception. Columns still stand marking the spot. Even though there isn’t much left to the basilica, it gives you a mind’s eye view of its previous enormity.

Volubilis reached a population around 20,000 people; not incredibly large or dominating, but big enough given its location. Furthermore, there are three houses that shouldn’t be missed in your visit are: The House of House of the Euphebus, next to Triumphal Arch, the house of Dionysus near the Decumanus Maximus, and the House of Orpheus close to the olive presses.

Many of the most famous Roman ruins throughout the world are not in as good of shape as the ruins at Volubilis. It is easy to imagine what life in the ancient Roman times may have been like once you’ve walked the old ruins or touched the crumbling pillars. An easy side trip from Meknes, this ancient roman city offers a Morocco tour not easily forgotten nor easily matched.

By Carole Morris

Carole Morris


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