Everyone knows Rome's impressive coliseum and famous aqueducts. But the ancient Roman Empire spanned well beyond the confines of Rome and modern-day Italy, with its influence and control expanding far east and far west.
What we now refer to as the Middle East and North Africa fell squarely within the Roman Empire's domain, leaving a plethora of monuments and temples in the wake of its decline and fall. Many of the ancient ruins scattered throughout the region rival and surpass their counterparts in Rome in impressiveness, size and preservation.
Here are 11 ancient Roman sites from the region that will excite any history buff.
1. Jerash, Jordan
Although the history of Jerash dates back to at least the Bronze Age, it was conquered by Rome in 63 B.C. Later, in 90 A.D. the city was combined into the Roman province of Arabia. Today, the city still features some incredibly well preserved ancient ruins, including the Oval Forum, the Arch of Hadrian and an ancient theatre. Visitors can spend several hours exploring the expansive site, which stands in contrast to the modern city surrounding it.
2. Carthage, Tunisia
Although Carthage was initially established by the Phoenicians in the 9th century B.C., it fell to Rome in 149 B.C. The Romans then rebuilt the city. Today, tourists can visit the acropolis, baths, basilicas and cisterns as they explore the millennia of history resting in this ancient city.
3. Baalbek, Lebanon
Baalbek's history also extends to pre-Roman days, however significant development of the site was undertaken under Roman rule. The temple complexes attracted thousands of pilgrims in the height of the Roman empire. Well-preserved, the ruins offer visitors a hands-on experience unmatched by similar sites in Europe.
4. Leptis Magna, Libya
Leptis Magna was once considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the Roman empire. Also with Phoenician origins, the city became Roman in 146 B.C. Today, the ruins are considered among the most impressive Roman ruins left in the world. From impressive monuments and remnants of residential areas, you're sure to be impressed if you get the chance to explore.
5. Tyre, Lebanon
Passing hands from the Pheonicians to the Greeks and then the Romans, Tyre was originally founded in 2750 B.C., according to tradition . The main sites left for tourists to explore are the old city, which was once an island but was connected by a manmade land bridge during Alexander the Great's conquest, and the ancient Roman hippodrome.
6. Volubilis, Morocco
Volubilis was an important outpost for the Roman empire and has remained relatively well-preserved throughout the centuries. Although the ruins have been supplanted by several other ancient civilizations, the Roman ramparts were built from 168-169 A.D. The site covers some 42 hectares and is considered especially important to archaeologists and historians since it provides a significant example of the Romanization of the empire's frontiers.
7. Palmyra, Syria
Although parts of this ancient cultural hub were significantly damaged and destroyed by ISIS, the ruins of Palmyra will long be remembered as some of the most impressive in the region. An architectural testament to the shifting influence of empires, the city embodied Graeco-Roman and Persian influences. It served as significant trade route stop during Roman rule, beginning in the mid-first century A.D.
8. Timgad, Algeria
Founded as a military colony in 100 A.D. by Emperor Trajan, the ruins are located on the northern slopes of the Aurès mountains. The city is praised as an impeccable example of the precise urban planning of the ancient Romans. Once immensely prosperous, the city still serves as a stunning example of the ancient empire's grandeur.
9. Qalaat Faqra, Lebanon
Located in Mount Lebanon at an elevation of about 1600 meters, this ancient site is composed mainly of a large tower, an altar, a shrine and a major temple. Used principally to worship and honor Jupiter, Adonis and Atargatis, the site dates back to the first century.
10. Apamea, Syria
Apamea is home to one of the largest remaining Roman theaters, with a capacity to seat some 20,000 people. Additionally, the city's 2 km long colonnade, known as the Great Colonnade of Apamea, was one of the most famous in the ancient Roman empire.
11. Amman Citadel, Jordan
In 30 B.C., this ancient city became part of the Roman Empire. Located in the heart of modern day Amman, the site has an extensive history of changing hands between empires prior to the Roman conquest. In addition to Roman architecture, remnants of Greek, Byzantine and Umayyad civilizations can be noted.