From Carthage to Cairo in ancient times
DR Barry Hobson entertained Holme Valley Civic Society with an illustrated account of a North African journey which started at Carthage in Tunisia, continued through Libya and ended at Cairo in Egypt – a distance of some 14,000 miles.Carthage was the home of Hannibal, the renowned general who crossed the Alps with elephants to fight the Romans but who, eventually, after several great victories, was defeated by the might of Rome and Carthage was razed to the ground. Although the city was re-developed in late Roman times to provide a port so that grain could be shipped to Rome, the ruins of a once-great city are not spectacular. Dougga, however, still has its Roman theatre in a good state of repair and as Dr Hobson is the author of Toilets In The Roman World, he was delighted to see that the Roman toilets there are so good that they have featured in the British Medical Journal. Elsewhere in Tunisia, Bulla Regia and Sbeitla both have three Roman temples with the latter also possessing a Roman theatre and a 4th century AD baptismal font, whilst El Djem boasts one of the largest amphitheatres and a villa with excellent mosaics. Crossing from Tunisia into Libya, there was an abundance of Roman remains.Sabratha is noted for the layout of its Roman city with temples, a toilet seating about sixty people and a theatre with a good stage and carved stage buildings on three levels, but it was Leptis Magna, one of the major Roman cities, which was the most spectacular.People will have marvelled at the huge city with its men’s and ladies’ baths – each with toilets – its market, its theatre and its amphitheatre and just outside the city lies the Villa Siline with excellent mosaics. For those more interested in Greek architecture, Cyrene is the place to visit. Its temple, agora (market place), bouleuterion (semi-circular tiered meeting place of the council), theatre and amphitheatre indicate that this was a very important site for the Greeks who were buried in tombs cut into the hillside. And so into Egypt and El Alamein, which is visited for a different reason, for here there is a cemetery with row upon row of 2nd World War graves. Alexandria, with its underwater archaeology and archaeological park, was founded by Alexander the Great in 331BC and soon became the new capital of Egypt. Then it was time to head south to Cairo , or rather to Giza on the outskirts of the capital city to see the Great Pyramid, the largest surviving pyramid and funerary monument of pharoah Khufu (Cheops). The two pyramids of his successors Khafra (Chephren) and Menkaura (Mycerinus) rise up alongside and nearby stands the Great Sphinx with the body of a lion and the head of a man, the largest monumental statue of Ancient Egypt. The next meeting of Holme Valley Civic Society will take place in Holmfirth Civic Hall at 7.30pm on Thursday, January 17 when Michael Brammah will talk about Conserving The Ancient Citadel of Erbil, Iraq. All welcome.