As we were scanning a box on Roman sites around the Mediterranean this image of Leptis Magna sprang out at us. Located directly on the sea in what is now Libya, Leptis Magna rose to become one of the great cities and trading ports of the Roman Empire.
Economic decline and environmental change, including the progressive silting-up of its natural harbour, led to a decline of the city after the third century. Conquests and re-conquests added to the fate of the site, which eventually disappeared under sand.
Myres Collection: Institute of Archaeology, Oxford
This is the way ancient historian and photographer John Linton Myres (1869-1954) found it 1,000 years later, during one of his travels around the Mediterranean at the turn of the 20th century.
The image captures the magic and symbolism the site must have held for a European explorer: undisturbed and yet to be excavated, a visual incarnation of Shelley’s famous poem of Ozymandias, Myres being the traveller, recording his image in the full knowledge that his shadow would be as transient as the might of the once powerful rulers…