Leptis Parva (also Leptis Minor, Lesser Leptis or Little Leptis; not to be confused with Leptis Magna in Tripolitania) was an ancient city on the eastern coast of Tunisia by the Gulf of Hammamet in proximity to the modern city of Monastir.
It was founded as a Phoenician colony in the 8th century BCE, around the time Carthage was founded, and was a commercial city. Leptis Parva was a prominent city during the Phoenician period, but became a less important during the Punic rule of the region (c. 600 BCE to 146 BCE). It was incorporated into the Roman Republic with the destruction of Carthage in 146BCE, but gained more autonomy than it had during Punic Era. Julius Caesar used it as his base of operations in 46BCE during his winter campaign against supporters for Pompey led by Titus Labienus. It remained an important city even during the Byzantine period and was one of the most important cities in North Africa. It suffered the same fate that the other great cities, including Leptis Magna and Carthage, suffered at the hands of invading Arabs, who virtually destroyed the city in the 7th century CE. It was abandoned, never to be settled again.
It is mentioned for the first time in the 4th century BC. BC by the Pseudo-Scylax Trail. The city remains famous for its role in various events of ancient Tunisia:
- In 237 BC, J.-C., Hamilcar Barca wins in the vicinity an important victory over the Mercenaries who, under the command of Mathó , revolt against Carthage in the aftermath of the First Punic War.
- In 203 BC, During the Second Punic War, Hannibal Barca, returning from the Italian campaign where he won his meteoric victories in Trasimeno and Cannes, disembarked there before returning to Hadrumet and delivering his last battle to Zama against the troops of Scipio the African.
- During the Third Punic War, Leptis Minor is one of the seven Punic cities that ally themselves with Rome against Carthage. After the destruction of the latter in 146 BC, the Romans grant to this city the status of "civitas libera et immunis" (city free and exempt of taxes).
- The strategic significance of this city is again highlighted by the adventures of the Roman Civil War of 47–46 BC. J.-C. On this date, Leptis Minor allied himself with Julius Caesar against the Pompeians before the famous battle of Thapsus. After the defeat of the Republicans, the Numidian kingdoms were annexed by Rome to form the Africa Nova (new Africa) to replace the Africa Vetus (first Roman province).
The ascension of this city is confirmed by its relatively early promotion, compared with many African cities, to the rank of colony by the Roman Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the 2nd century. This city, strongly Romanized, then knew the implantation of a large number of Roman citizens of Italic origin and the mixing of different populations. Another sign of this integration in the Roman Empire is the relatively respectable rate in the statistics of the Leptian soldiers who served in the third legion in the second century. The political and economic importance of this city is also evident from the fact that it is, in the 3rd century, the chief town of a state area known as "regio leptiminesis". Moreover, epigraphy indicates that the imperial cult is practiced there and that Bacchus and Venus were among the deities venerated in this city.
At the time of the Byzantine conquest in 533, the army led by General Bélisaire went through the city heading for Carthage. The political-strategic importance of Leptis Minor is again emphasized by its choice as the seat of the Byzantine military command in Byzacena and its endowment of important fortresses.
Following the Islamic conquest, during the reign of the Aghlabids, the city is endowed in 859 with one of the oldest ribats that have ginned along the Ifriquian coast. This ribat is probably built on the ruins of a Byzantine fortress.
- Alban Butler, Paul Burns, Butler's Lives of the Saints: September (A&C Black, 1995 ) p41.