Sabratha’s port was established, perhaps about 500 BC, a Phoenician trading-post that served as an outlet for the products of the African hinterland, Sabratha was part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.
The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century, particularly the quake of 365. It was rebuilt on a more modest scale by Byzantine governors. The town was site of a bishopric. Within a hundred years of the Muslim invasion of the Maghreb, trade had shifted to other ports and Sabratha dwindled to a village.
Besides its Theater at Sabratha that retains its three-storey architectural backdrop, Sabratha has temples dedicated to Liber Pater, Serapis and Isis. There is a Christian basilica of the time of Justinian and also remnants of some of the mosaic floors that enriched elite dwellings of Roman North Africa. There is an adjacent museum containing some treasures from Sabratha, but others can be seen in the national museum in Tripoli.