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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing book, 13 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Libya: The Lost Cities of the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
This amazing book about the ancient cities of Libya is published by the German publishing house Könemann. It is a picture book in a large format (28 x 32 cm). The photos are taken by Robert Polidori who is a very talented photographer. Clearly, a lot of effort and time went into this project; and it paid off: the photos are absolutely wonderful.

Sometimes he gives us the grand view of a temple or a theatre. Sometimes he gives us a small detail of a monument. But each time the image is very powerful. It is as if you can stretch out your hand and touch the ancient stones, although they are just pictures on a page.

I have been to Libya. I have visited the sites presented here. When I look at these photos, I feel I am back in Libya again, walking along a Roman street among the ancient monuments which are often surprisingly well preserved.

I would recommend this book just because of the photos. But they are in fact only one element of the book. There is also an excellent text, written by professional scholars, three Italian archaeologists, who have done excavation work in Libya and who know their topic very well. They are:

* Antonino Di Vita
* Ginette Di Vita-Evrard
* Lidiano Bacchielli

Könemann publishes books in several languages. I know there is a French version of this book. I assume there is a German version as well, perhaps also an Italian version, but the version under review here is in English.

Most of the ancient sites are located in the northern part of Libya, on or near the Mediterranean coast. The northern part of the country is divided into two parts. In the west we have Tripolitania, which is the Greek word for an area with three cities. The modern capital Tripoli (ancient Oea) is in the middle, Sabratha some 80 km to the west, and Lepcis Magna (sometimes spelled Leptis Magna) some 120 km to the east.

In the east we have Cyrenaica, which is named after the major city Cyrene, which is located inland, some 20 km from the coast. Other cities in his area are Apollonia and Ptolemais, which are both located on the coast. The eastern part of Libya is also known as Pentapolis, which is the Greek word for an area with five cities.

The text is divided into two parts. Here is a brief overview:

PART ONE - TRIPOLITANIA
* The region
* The historical background
* Lepcis Magna
* Sabratha

PART TWO: CYRENAICA
* The history of Cyrenaica
* Cyrene
* The other cities of the Pentapolis

At the end of the book we find an appendix with eight short items: a note about the ancient author Apuleius (who was on trial in Sabratha around AD 157-158), notes with references, a chronology, a bibliography, a glossary, biographies of important persons (and gods) mentioned in the book, a drawing of Lepcis Magna seen from the air (by Jean-Claude Galvin), and a map of the Mediterranean Sea.

Polidori's photos are not the only illustrations here. There are two maps of Lepcis Magna (pages 47 & 51), two maps of Sabratha (pages 148 & 152), a map of Cyrene (page 194), and a map of Apollonia (page 230). In addition, there are drawings of several monuments in Lepcis Magna: the Arch of Septimius Severus (page 115), the Nymphaeum (page 118), and the Basilica of Septimius Severus (pages 122 & 133). All maps and drawings are very helpful.

If I had to complain about anything in this book, I would say that part two about Cyrenaica is too short. The text covers Cyrene, Ptolemais and Apollonia. But it does not include Tocra (Teuchira) and Qasr Libya (Olbia). In addition, there is no index. But I have decided that I will not complain about anything here, because I like what I see.

There is a brief presentation of Tocra and Qasr Libya in Lonely Planet's guidebook: Libya (Lonely Planet Country Guide).

If you are interested in ancient history, especially Greek and Roman history, you do not want to miss this amazing book. Unfortunately, it is out of print. You will have to get a second hand copy. If you can find one, do not hesitate: go ahead and buy it. You will not be disappointed.

PS. For more information about the ancient history of Libya, see the following guidebooks: Tripolitania (2009) and Cyrenaica (2013). Both of them are written by Philip Kenrick.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost in Space, Time and Sand, 18 Mar. 2013
By 
This review is from: Libya: The Lost Cities of the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
Ruins haunt us. They bespeak the end of all things; the transience of human endeavours and an emptiness where not even the ghosts can eke out an existence.

Libya was a backwater in the Roman Empire. The empurplement of its most famous son, Lucius Septimius Severus, founder of the Severan dynasty and conqueror of Parthians, was its most signal event. The Punic-Roman emperor never forgot his origins; he commissioned an extensive building program at Leptis Magna, City of White Stones. It all came to nothing. Once the veneer of civilization crumbled and the legions of the Second Rome - Byzantium - melted away, the metropolis was devoured by sand and lost to memory.

This lavishly produced coffee-table book surveys the various Roman cities of Libya which were exhumed from oblivion by Italian archaeologists in the first half of the Twentieth Century: Leptis Magna, Sabratha, Cyrene, Cyrenacia and Ptolemais. While the narrative covers off the history of the province, assuredly you are not purchasing this book for its text.

Bathed in gold as shadows amass, many of the ruins are photographed in the sunlight of late afternoon. The most mesmeric image of all is the photo taken of the medallions of the Medusa from the Severan Basilica at Leptis Magna. In varying states of decay, the trio commiserate in the twilight on their joint doom. Due heed is paid to the stupendous Roman theatre at Sabratha which the Italians restored to its former glory. What an edifice! The stage consists of three storeys of columns, no less. At last, here is a setting that is worthy of the Women of Troy or Oedipus at Colonus. Even so, I prefer its counterpart at Leptis Magna where the audience in the upper tiers could behold the Mediterranean as events unfolded on the stage. One wonders: what was the last play to feature in Antiquity before the curtain came down for good? Was it Sophocles or a bawdy potboiler? Not even the wind can answer. Likewise mute are the statues of the Dioscuri who gaze out manfully at the empty seating. What are they looking at? Are they trying to out-stare Eternity?

Both Leptis Magna and Sabratha have amphitheaters to their name. The Altar of Nemesis, a customary feature of such structures, has somehow ended up on the cobblestones of the former. Which much has been reconstructed, it awaits resurrection.

Being an advocate of busman's holidays, I am unlikely to see these wonders with my own eyes. The authors accordingly have my gratitude. Better still, if you want to glimpse New York in a millennium's time, purchase this book. And last person left - turn off the lights!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roman cities of Tripolitania magnificiently documented, 2 Mar. 2001
By 
Bernhard Krainer (Wien) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Libya: The Lost Cities of the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
Living in Libya for three years (oil industry)gave me the opportunity to visit and photograph these great Roman cities on numerous weekendtrips and gain a good first hand knowledge of all the ruins. I was quite surprised to find this excellent book (good price!!) in London after my return; the Italian archeologists can only be congratulated. Not only are the photographs providing a very good documentation and are allowing for an impression of the real thing but also the text is quite informative and up to scientific standards. Some of my Libyan collegues used to joke: "If you know Leptis Magna, you can forget about the Forum Romanum". Having seen both I can only agree.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How can they produce such quality at this low price??, 2 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Libya: The Lost Cities of the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
I will admit I haven't read the text of this book yet -- the pictures are just too seductive. The quality of the colour photography is amazing, the breadth (from wide panorama to details) remarkable. Unusually, you can actually get a feel for the geography of the sites as well as their details. Nearly 250 pages of stunning photographs, and selling at a ridiculously low price. Don't wait -- buy it!!
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Libya: The Lost Cities of the Roman Empire
Libya: The Lost Cities of the Roman Empire by Lidiano Bacchielli (Hardcover - 1999)
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