The ruins of the ancient Roman City of Sabratha lie around 80km west of Tripoli and are amongst the highlights of any visit to Libya. The name Sabratha is thought to be a derivation of a Libyan word meaning, "grain market". The ancient city occupied a prime coastal position, strung along the waters edge. The modern town extends from the south edge of the ruins. Early settlements (possibly nomadic) date back to the 5th Century BC, but it wasn't until the next century that a permanent settlement was established.
With its perfectly located harbour on the Mediterranean, the cities' wealth depended on maritime trade, ivory, and animals from Africa. This old town boasted one of the finest theatres of antiquity. Now it remains a skeleton structure of mosaic and marble fragments of the original building. The original was built in AD 190 during the reign of Commodus and was used till the 4th Century when it was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 365. The reconstruction is largely to its original form and though once the largest in Africa it even now seats 1500 people.
In the 7th Century Islamic rule took over and the city survived for at least a century, but then it was abandoned and left to the desert sands. It was re discovered in the early 20th century by Italian archaeologists.
Sabratha makes a good and easy day trip from Tripoli. It receives fewer visitors than Tripoli making it a more pleasant place to wander about undisturbed.