Volubilis was the capital of the Roman province of Mauritania (Land of the Moors), Rome’s southwestern most city in Northern Africa, approximately 2 000 years ago. Volubilis is surrounded by some of Morocco’s most fertile plains and supported by two river systems, which aided the population of around 20 000 people who were responsible for farming wheat, as was ordered by Rome.
Volubilis remained part of the Roman Empire until the end of the 3rd century, when it fell into the hands of Berbers, Greeks, Syrians and Jews. By the end of the 8th century Idris I, believing to be a direct descendant of Mohammed, turned Volubilis into the birthplace of Islam for the area. Volubilis was abandoned in the 18th century, when a lot of its buildings were destroyed by the Lisbon earthquake and the city was sacked and the marble taken to build the palaces in Meknes.
At the entrance you are given a map and it is advised to follow the circuit on a clockwise direction once you pass the visitor center.
House of Orpheus
As you enter the site you will pass lots of small ruined houses, the largest in this area and identified with a sign, is the House of Orpheus. This house is remarkable because of three fantastic mosaics that housed inside the ruin. The first is of nine dolphins, which symbolize good luck, the second mosaic and my favourite is of Orpheus, who the house is named after, charming animals with his lyre. The final mosaic is Amphirite in her sea drawn chariot.
We left the House of Orpheus and headed north past the baths and olive press ,to the houses of public life.
Houses of Public Life
The wide-paved street leads up to the public life buildings which include the Capitol, the Basilica, and the Forum which are all found on the street Cardus Maximus, the main east–west street.
The basilica from many different angles.
The Capitol building
Arch of Caracalla
The Arch of Caracalla sits above the olive groves and fertile plains and is considered the center of the ancient Roman site of Volubilis. The arch is also located at the end of the Decumanus Maximus, which is the main north-south road. The arch was built in 217 AD and destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, before it was restored to its former glory in 1932. The arch is named after the Emperor of the time, Caracalla. Interestingly only one side of the arch, the east side, is decorated and is supported by marble columns.
The above photo is of the decorated side of the arch (east side) while the photo below is the undecorated side.
We continued along the Decumanus Maximus stopping to look at the various archways, columns and mosaics.
House of Hercules (Also on the right hand side of the Decumanus Maximus)
The house of Hercules is named after the beautiful floor mosaic which illustrates the labours of Hercules. Most of the mosaic is in excellent condition and Max recognised quite a few of the mythical characters like Cerberus.
On the right hand side of the Decumanus Maximus are a few more houses with mosaics to explore.
House of the Bathing Nymphs (right hand side of the Decumanus Maximus)
Named after the beautiful mosaics of beautiful naked nymphs.
Next door to the House of Bathing Nymphs is another room filled with a beautiful mosaic of Hylas being abducted by nymphs. Those naughty nymphs, getting up to all sorts of mischief.
The site is extensive and some of the houses containing mosaics can be difficult to see among the grass and flowers, but if you have a guide or are lucky enough to find them they are very beautiful.
Tourist Information for Volubilis
- Open from 8.30 am until sunset
- Entrance to site is 70 DH for ages 13 years and above/ 30 DH for 12 years and under
Other information: There is a small shady café built around a tree near the car park, for drinks, snacks, and more substantial bites. There is an information centre which I believe is relatively new.