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Volubilis ( Walili) is an archaeological site in Moroccomarker situated near Meknesmarker between Fezmarker and Rabatmarker along the N13 road. The nearest town is Moulay Idrissmarker. Volubilis features the best preserved ruins in this part of northern Africa. In 1997 the site was listed as a UNESCOmarker World Heritage site.

Roman period

In antiquity, Volubilis was an important Roman town situated near the westernmost border of Roman conquests. It was built on the site of a previous Carthaginianmarker settlement from (at the latest) the third century BC, but that settlement overlies an earlier neolithic habitation.

Volubilis was the administrative center of the province in Roman Africa called Mauretania Tingitana. The fertile lands of the province produced many commodities such as grain and olive oil, which were exported to Rome, contributing to the province's wealth and prosperity. Archaeology has documented the presence of a Jewish community in the Roman period.

After the Romans

Triumphal Arch in Volubilis
The Romans evacuated most of Morocco at the end of the 3rd century AD but, unlike some other Roman cities, Volubilis was not abandoned. However, it appears to have been destroyed by an earthquake in the late fourth century AD. It was reoccupied in the sixth century, when a small group of tombstones written in Latin shows the existence of a community that still dated its foundation by the year of the Roman province. Coins show that it was occupied under the Abbasids: a number of these simply bear the name Walila.

The texts referring to the arrival of Idris I in 788 show that the town was at that point in the control of the Awraba tribe, who welcomed the descendant of Ali, and declared him imam shortly thereafter. Within three years he had consolidated his hold on much of the area, founded the first settlement at Fez , and started minting coins. He died in 791, leaving a pregnant Awraba wife, Kenza, and his faithful slave, Rashid, who acted as regent until the majority of Idris II. At this point the court departed for Fez, leaving the Awraba in control of the town.


Volubilis' structures were damaged by the 1755 Lisbon earthquakemarker, while in the 18th century part of the marble was taken for constructions in nearby Meknesmarker.

In 1915, archaeological excavation was begun there by the French and it continued through into the 1920s. Extensive remains of the Roman town have been uncovered. From 2000 excavations carried out by University College Londonmarker and the Moroccan Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimoine under the direction of Elizabeth Fentress, Gaetano Palumbo and Hassan Limane revealed what should probably be interpreted as the headquarters of Idris I just below the walls of the Roman town to the west. Excavations within the walls also revealed a section of the early medieval town. Today, a high percentage of artifacts found at Volubilis are on display in the Rabat Archaeological Museum.

Historic exhibits


  1. C.Michael Hogan, Volubilis, Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham (2007)
  2. Two Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Morocco, Haim Zafrani, Ktav,2005, p. 2
  3. Reports on these excavation, as well as a detailed plan of the site, can be found at
  4. Bonechi Series, Morocco, Florence ISBN 978-700-9840-2, published 2006

Image:Volubilis-general view.jpg|General viewImage:Volubilis-Capitol.jpg|CapitolImage:Volubilis-basilica.jpg|BasilicaImage:Mosaic-Diana leaves her Bath.jpg|Mosaic-Diana leaves her bathImage:Seasons of the year.jpg|SeasonsImage:Mosaic-Amphition's_chariot.jpg|Mosaic-Amphition's chariotImage:Mosaic-acrobat.jpg|Mosaic-acrobatImage:Mosaic-Sea monsters.jpg|Mosaic-Sea monstersImage:Volubilis,Morocco.jpg|Volubilis (capitol)

See also

External links

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