They came, they saw, they conquered. The Romans, that is, in Africa! Walking up to Volubilis near Meknes, Moroccco, one might be forgiven with thinking you were in the Italian countryside, and not Africa! That the Romans sought to cross the Straits of Gibraltar around the first century, and build this little metropolis, is amazing. This is obviously a fertile valley and income was derived through olive growing. This metropolis covers 42 hectares and much is as yet unexcavated. It is possible to see where the buildings have been reinforced, as archeologists seek to discover more of this important historical site. While storks nest atop a Corinthian column, visitors wander about the ruins, envisaging past lives at work. There are incredible mosaic floors, perfectly preserved, depicting myths and legends.
It seems incredible, that Romans once lived in Africa! Bringing with them, their culture, their food, their way of life! Walking through this labyrinth of stone megaliths, one wonders what these early African immigrants thought of their new country and it’s inhabitants living in mud huts. The history of North Africa is one of conquerors galore. The Romans were just one of many cultures who tried to make it their own.
The Basillica was the site of local governance and justice for the settlement. There are a few houses belonging to some very wealthy families, as well as several two-roomed cottages belonging to some of the town’s poorer inhabitants. We also enjoyed seeing public baths or the Wash House, where villagers cleaned themselves. Of humorous note, we saw the perfectly preserved large phallic male member, hewn out of rock and well polished, to bring Fertility and good luck to the person rubbing it!
There is a temple in Volubilis, as well as a reconstructed olive oil press, one of several which were built in this settlement. There are several old olive trees still growing around this site! It’s amazing to think they might have been part of every day life for these early Romans! One day in the future, maybe someone will look at our old olive trees in our garden and wonder at how they formed an essential part of our diet!