Suitcase and World: Volubilis. وليلي

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Volubilis. وليلي

Ilove going to visit Roman ruins. To some people, they're nothing more than  rubble that used be a place where people once lived but to me, they are amazing places.

Every Roman ruin is different, just like every city and town is different.  Seeing the ruins gives me a small glimpse into ancient Roman culture which I have long felt was an incredibly advanced culture for its time.  For one thing, I have long marveled at Roman engineering skills.  Whereas other cultures built their towns and villages next to rivers and lake so that they could have easy access to a supply of water, the Romans hand built aqueducts and reservoirs to bring the water to their towns!  At Ephesus, they even had a toilet system!

Located about 33 kilometers north of Meknes lie the ruins of Volubilis.  Volubilis is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a large Roman colonial town.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The origin of the name of Volubilis is unknown.  Some scholars believe it may be a Latinized version of the Berber name for the oleander plant which grows in profusion on the banks of Wadi Khoumane that flows through part of the site.

"A bit of history"
Archaeological findings on the site indicate that it was first settled in by Carthaginian traders in the 3rd Century BC.  At the time, it was the capital of the region known as Mauritania.

The Romans annexed Volubilis to the Empire around 45AD, when Emperor Claudius officially annexed North African Mauritania. Volubilis was considered one of Roman Empire’s most remote and far-flung outposts. The imperial roads stopped here and despite successive attempts, Rome never managed to subdue the Berber tribes of the Atlas. At its peak, Volubilis is estimated to have housed up to 20,000 people.

The ruins today are those of the 2nd and 3rd century AD buildings that were constructed and occupied by the culturally diverse inhabitants of the time which were predominantly Jews, Syrians and Spaniards living alongside the indigenous African population. The world's first racial "mixing bowl".

 During Roman times, the city exported olives and wheat to Rome as well as wild animals, including lions and Barbary bears, for Roman games across the Empire.  Though direct Roman rule only lasted a little over 200 years, Volubilis continued to be inhabited and active well into the eighteenth-century.  Its buildings were finally felled by the Lisbon earthquake in 1772.

 The ancient town is well defined by the remains of its walls. They had about 40 interval towers and were entered through eight gates. The buildings of Volubilis are for the most part constructed using the grey-blue limestone quarried nearby on the Zerhoun massif. They are notable for the large number of mosaic floors still in situ .

 "A good map and a good guide 
(1) House of Orpheus, (2) Public Baths, Capitol, Basilica, (3) Forum Baths, (4) Macellum, (5) Forum, (6) House of the Athlete, (7) House of the Dogs, Triumphal Arch, (8) House of the Ephebus, (10) House of Columns, (11) Knight's House, (12) North , Baths, (14) Labors of Hercules, (17) Nymphs Bathing, Gordian Palace, House of Venus, Open-air Museum, Oil Presses, Southwest, Gate, West Gate, Northwest Gate, North Gate, Tangier Gate, Entrance, Cafe, Temple B

Although less than half of Volubilis has been excavated to date, from the online maps images I've seen of Volubilis, it looks like it's a pretty sizable site. We definitely will need to buy a map to help identify what we see. It may also be a good idea to splurge on a guide as well. Always helps to have someone explain things to you.

My plan is for us to go to Volubilis from Meknes. From what I've read, the best thing to do is to hire a grand taxi for a round trip ride so that will be the game plan. I think it will be our first try at hiring a grand taxi so that should be an interesting experience!

Volubilis, here I come!