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A History of Volubilis: The Roman-era Ruins in Morocco

posted on: Sep 13, 2021

A History of Volubilis: The Roman-era Ruins in Morocco
The magnificent Roman-era ruins of Volubilis in Morocco. Photo: Wikipedia

By: Claire Boyle / Arab America Contributing Writer


Morocco has so many exquisite cities, monuments, relics, and such interesting history, but were you aware that your exposure to this wonderful country is about to become even more intriguing? Did you know that tucked away in the northwestern part of Morocco near Fes and  Meknes there are ruins dating to the Roman Empire? Come, and introduce yourselves to the wondrous city of Volubilis, the place in Morocco that hosts both a(n) UNESCO World Heritage Site and an active archaeological site. In this article, we will learn about the history of Volubilis, its connection to the Roman Empire, why it was abandoned, some famous artifacts found at the archaeological site, and what is being done in modern times to preserve this beautiful piece of antiquity. Join us for an exciting trip to Volubilis, one of the most stunning places in all of Morocco!

History of Volubilis:

A History of Volubilis: The Roman-era Ruins in Morocco
An image of the beautiful ruins of Volubilis that have survived to this day. Photo: Claire Boyle’s Personal Photos

The city of Volubilis has a long and storied history that is quite interesting. Here, we will learn about its multiple changes-of-hands because there have been many cultures and countries that have occupied the area. First, we must know, ‘how long has Volubilis existed as a(n) usable space for establishing a civilization?’ Well, that is answered by that Volubilis is thought to have been originally settled in the “third century (300-201 BCE) and that it was abandoned around the eleventh century AD (1000)!”

So, in a basic overview, what can one tell about the city of Volubilis?  The first important thing to know about the history of Volubilis is that it has “always been tied to the Roman Empire,” and that includes multiple civilizations over many years. So, what legendary kingdoms have called Volubilis their home over many centuries? We trace the city’s origins to that of “Carthage, Numidia, and then the Romans overtook it in 42 AD” where it became a major economic and administrative center for their empire. Furthermore, Volubilis was originally considered to be the “ancient capital of the Maghreb” (the Arabic name for North Africa) which in those olden times was called ‘Mauretania.’”

Starting with the conquest in 42 AD, Volubilis had its glory days under the administration of the Roman Empire until constant tribal conflicts with the “Berbers led to the city’s decline around 280 AD.” Volubilis still lived on after this period, but its influence was reduced especially since there were multiple earthquakes that occurred nearby that destabilized and eventually destroyed parts of this exquisite city. Volubilis would become completely abandoned by around 1000 AD, and yet its ruins are still telling stories of a long-lost ancient time to the numerous tourists who pass through and the many archaeologists who continue to study this wondrous place in modern times.

The Treasures of Volubilis:

A History of Volubilis: The Roman-era Ruins in Morocco
The pillars of Volubilis reminiscence of a more ancient time. Photo: Morocco Like a Local

Volubilis has for many years been an archeological site, and with that, there have been numerous artifacts found that are treasures. Archaeologists have found items ranging from “eight monumental gates, public buildings such as a basilica, capitol, and triumphant arch, and in older times, it was once a center of olive oil production.”

Additionally, some of the other artifacts that have been found at Volubilis include beautiful Roman mosaics that are thought to possibly depict “Orpheus, the legendary Greek musician-god.” The ‘Orpheus’ mosaic is one that is of a circular pattern, and it also appears to have pictures of animals in it. The fact that these mosaics were made hundreds of years ago, and have still stood in perfect condition to this day is quite amazing! These images are so realistic-looking that one might think they were just created recently, but alas, they are probably over 1800-1900 years old which is just astonishing! See the beautiful ‘Orpheus’ mosaic below for yourself:

A History of Volubilis: The Roman-era Ruins in Morocco
The ‘Orpheus’ mosaic is seen in Volubilis. Photo: Claire Boyle’s Personal Photos

Some of the other astonishing sights that are found in Volubilis include beautiful columns, exquisite archways, and interesting walls that most likely protected the city from potential invaders. One can see how it was originally designed to work as a fortress, but now it is just one of ethereal beauty. If you are ever in Morocco and visit Volubilis, you will not be disappointed! It is like taking multiple steps back in time which is so cool to do!

Finally, you will see “Roman baths and aqueducts that once held an olive oil making machine as well an amazing temple!”

Preservation of Volubilis:

A History of Volubilis: The Roman-era Ruins in Morocco
The exquisite Capitoline Temple in Volubilis, Morocco. Photo: Wikipedia

So, what is being done to preserve this ancient Roman ruin? Actually, there are many initiatives and things that are being done to protect these for eternity.

-Well, first of all, Volubilis is an active archaeological site and has been for numerous years now. As a tourist, one can visit the site and get a tour of it. The tour will usually start with reading the “Map of Volubilis,” a plan that was used to depict the huge site of Volubilis.

-Secondly, in 1997, “Volubilis was named as a(n) UNESCO World Heritage Site” which allows for added protection and funding to maintain and preserve this historical site. It also gives Volubilis recognizable status throughout the world as one that is a relic of utmost cultural importance.


A History of Volubilis: The Roman-era Ruins in Morocco
A panoramic view of Volubilis. Photo: Wikipedia

Volubilis is an amazing archaeological and historical site that has hosted numerous different civilizations over the centuries. It is one of ethereal beauty, charm, intrigue, and mystique, and yes, it can be found right in Morocco, between the glorious cities of Fes and Meknes. If you are ever in Morocco, be sure to check out these grand Roman ruins in Volubilis! It will surely make for an amazing experience!

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