Lixus, an ancient city located north of the city of Larache, Morocco, on the right bank of the Ued Loukkos (Loukkos River). Originally founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, it gradually grew in importance, then passed to […]
Lixus, an ancient city located north of the city of Larache, Morocco, on the right bank of the Ued Loukkos (Loukkos River). Originally founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, it gradually grew in importance, then passed to the Carthaginian domination. After the destruction of Carthage, Lixus fell under the control of Rome and became an imperial colony , reaching its peak during the reign of Emperor Claudius I (41-54 AD).
Some ancient Greek writers place in Lixus the mythological garden of Hesperides, the guardians of golden apples. Only a quarter or less of the site has been excavated, but the ruins are partly visible, it is impressive to see and the route gives for an hour or two of exploration. In addition to its archaeological value, Lixus for its mystical association with the legendary Hercules, is a fertile ground for imagination.
The site is not fenced, so we have the freedom to walk and explore. It is not necessary to take a guide as it is not big enough to need it. A sign at the entrance explains the site with a very useful map.
Lixus is one of the oldest inhabited places in Morocco: the megalithic stones of the area confirm prehistoric settlements before the Phoenicians and Carthaginians who settled here. The Phoenicians were the first to establish Lixus as a trading station around 100 BC. According to Pliny and Tabus, it is here that Hercules was sent to accomplish his penultimate work: collecting the golden apples of the Garden of the Hesperides.
In 600 BC, Lixus fell to the Carthaginians, who kept it as a trading post of gold, ivory and slaves. In 45 AD, it fell under Roman rule and became an important export city of salt, olives, wine, garum (a fish paste) and wild animals that were used in the amphitheaters of the empire.
After the Roman emperor Diocletian withdrew from North Africa, Lixus fell quickly and was completely abandoned after the fall of the Empire.
Points of interest in Lixus
The garum (fish paste) factories developed during the 1st century AD and continued to function until the Romans retired in the 5th century.
The Acropolis, where you can still see the ruins of the amphitheater. A dirt road, about 100 m along the Tangier road towards the hills, leads to the Upper Town (or Acropolis), where you can see the minor ruins of the public baths and amphitheater. It provides a lovely view of the area. In the public baths stand out some mosaics depicting Helium, Mars, Rhea, Venus and Adonis. Most of them are now on display in the archaeological museum of Tetuan. The unique mosaic that remains represents Oceanus, unfortunately, has been irreparably damaged and is currently covered.
Continue your walk past the public baths and the amphitheater towards the main walls of the Acropolis and the main ensemble of buildings. There is a network of walls and foundations, the original city walls, civil buildings and other public baths. To the south is the impressive citadel, a set of ruins. There are temples, including an early Christian basilica and pre-Roman buildings that have Phoenician influence in their architecture.
Lixus has private security, which are in charge of showing you stone by stone of the excavation as well as ensuring the safety of visitors and the ruins explain the history of the ancient city in detail. The visit is free, but they ask for a tip for their guide service.
The site is located about five kilometers from Larache, on the main road Larache – Tanger. To get there, take bus #4 or 5 from Larache , just outside the Kasbah de la Signorine. You can also hire a small taxi to get there, it will cost you about 20dh each way, or rent a small boat on the beach.
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