Roman Theater at Sabratha, Libya
The port city of Sabratha was established around 500 BC as a Phoenician trading-post that served as a coastal outlet for the products of the African hinterland. It was part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
Sabratha’s amphitheater was probably built during the reign of the Emperor Commodus (AD 161-92), with its three orders of columns of the frons scenae (the elaborately decorated background of a Roman theatre stage). It had a capacity of 5,000 seats.
Sabratha reached its monumental peak during the rule of the Severans. The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century, particularly the quake of AD 365. It was rebuilt on a more modest scale by Byzantine governors. Within a hundred years of the Arab conquest of the Maghreb, trade had shifted to other ports and Sabratha dwindled to a village.