Marina el-Alamein

Marina el-Alamein

general information

OTHER NAMES: Antiphrai (Antiphra - Antiphro) - Marina el-Alamein
GREEK NAMES: Ἀντίφραι (?)
LATIN NAMES: Antifrus - Antiphra
ARABIC NAMES: مارينا العلمين
ARABIC TRANSLATION: Marina al-'Alamayn
AREA: Western Delta
PAThs ID:117
TYPOLOGY: Settlement; Harbour
DATE FROM: II c. BCE (199-100 BCE)
DATE TO: VI c. (500-599 CE), beginning of VII c. CE.
DATING CRITERIA: Archaeology; Literary sources; Epigraphic sources
STATUS: completed
EDITOR: Valeria Parisi
LAST MODIFIED: 21/01/2019

Marina el-Alamein


The ancient town on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, located about 96 km west of Alexandria, 40 km west of Taposiris Magna (Abu Sir) and 185 km east of Paraetonium (Marsa Matruh), near the modern site of Marina El-Alamein, was accidentally discovered in 1985-86, when the remains of Graeco-Roman structures were uncovered during earthworks for the construction of a tourist village. From 1987 prof. Wiktor A. Daszewski has directed systematic excavations carried out by a mission of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, while starting from 1995 was also organized the Polish-Egyptian Conservation Mission, led by prof. Stanisław Medeksza, with the aim of conserving and restoring the archaeological heritage from the site. Although so far no epigraphic documents have been found to confirm this, it has been assumed that the modern city of Marina might correspond to the ancient harbour-town of Leukaspis (Strabo, XVII, 1,14; Claudius Ptolemaeus, Geographia IV, 5-9) or to the city of Antiphrae, mentioned, among others, by the Stadiasmus Mari Magni, Hierocles (Synecdemus et Notitiae Gracae Episcopathum, 1 805; H 734 2), Stephanos of Byzantium (Ethnica, s.v. Ἀντιφρα p. 101, ed. A. Meinecke, Berlin 1849) and George of Cyprus (Descriptio Orbis Romani, s.v. Ἀντιφρον, p. 143, ed. H. Gelzer, Leipzig 1890) (for the literary sources, see Daszewski et alii 1990, pp. 15-17, 35-36; Czerner 2012, p. 111, note 1). According to Daszewski both names, Leukaspis and Antiphrae, would refer to the same site in different periods: the toponym Leukaspis is used till the middle of the 2nd century CE, and then referred only to an independent harbour, that later probably joined with the settlement of Antiphrae, creating a new and larger city.

The origins of the city date back to the second half of the 2nd c. BCE and the settlement is in existence till the end of 6th/beginning of 7th c. CE. A critical destructive event is the earthquake occurred in the middle of the 3rd c. CE, after which the city was partly abandoned.

One of the main features of the settlement is represented by its syncretism, that connotes it from its origins and is clearly visible in all its cultural expressions, from architecture to religion. This role is determinated by the strategic position of Marina, crossed by different trading routes, overland and maritime, including the one connecting Alexandria with Cyrenaica and the one towards the oasis of Siwa, with the oracle of Zeus Hammon. The prosperous town, with its small harbour is inhabited by landowners and merchants engaged in commercial exchange with neighbouring centres and distant regions (Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, North Africa, Cyprus, Crete, Knidos).

The archaeological preserved structures are several and include public buildings – a pier, a Forum/Agora, two baths, warehouses, cisterns, and a necropolis – and private houses, together with a church. The necropolis, with its almost 50 tombs, hosts the most ancient Marina’s monuments, dating back to the late 2nd c. BCE. There are different typologies of tombs, from the simplest (inhumation burial in a rock-cut trench) to the most complex (stepped pyramids, cuboidal structure with pillar monuments decorated with “Nabatean” capitals of a peculiar type) that can be dated up to the 3rd c. CE.

The so-called Forum or Agora is a large square paved with limestone slabs, with colonnaded porticoes on eastern, northern, and southern sides. The south double-colonnaded portico ended in an exedra, where a marble inscription dedicated to Trajan or Hadrian was discovered. A civic basilica was constructed in the insula back of the south portico. The structure was linked to a bath, where an inscription remembered the name (hammered out) of a Prefect of Egypt, identified as Titus Flavius Titianus, and datable to 129 CE (Łajtar 2005). A residential quarter with several private houses, Hellenistic and Early Roman, were also discovered in Marina and then restored by the Polish Conservation Team. One of these houses is associated to a singular structure with a raised podium and pseudo-Corinthian columns, with an inscription referred to Imperator Caesar Marcus Antoninus Commodus (182-183 CE) (Łajtar 2001; 2003, pp. 177–179).

The church, on the south-eastern edge of Marina, is dated to end of 4th or early 5th c. CE and is near to a cemetery of child graves.

Among the most important finds from the site, the exceptional funerary portraits, painted on wooden plaques, should be mentioned. The presence of such portraits in Marina El-Alamein, in the Northern Egypt, proves that their spread is wider than hitherto believed and is not limited to the Fayum and a few sites in Upper Egypt

South-eastern suburbium

Late Antique Period

A complete analysis of the basilica’s relics was made by E. Luzyniecka in 1996, when also conservation works were started under the supervision of prof. Stanisław Medeksza. (Luzyniecka 1997; Grossmann 2002, A.7., pp. 392-393; Daszewski 2011, p. 434).

The church (19 x 10 m) is oriented from east to west and is built in limestone blocks. On the western side a large entrance between columns (tribelon) leads into a narthex where, in the southern corner, a two-flight staircase leading up to the roof and in a gallery. From the narthex, a wide entrance leads into a vestibule with two rooms on the northern and southern sides. This anteroom, through two doors, opens into the actual church, with a wider central nave and two side aisles, divided by two rows of three columns each, probably connected by arcades due to their relatively wide intercolumnies. At the eastern end the church has a central half dome apse and two side rooms, a prothesis and a diaconicon, entered directly from the aisles. In the middle of the apse there is a synthronon, as indicated by a transverse wall with a stepped structure.

Traces of a rectangular altar were found in the middle of the central nave. The position of the front cancelli is currently not visible.

The church is dated to the end of the 4th or early 5th century CE, also thanks to numismatic sources. Later, a necropolis of child tombs placed in amphorae was located to the northwest of the church, whilst other graves were placed inside, in the northern aisle. From an architectural point of view, this basilica has a parallel in the church of Abu Mina and, outside Egypt, in Syria and Cyrenaica, as suggested by Daszewski 2011, p. 434.


  • Annual Report Marina el-Alamein: Marina el-Alamein, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean II, 1989/1990-XXVI.1 (Annual Reports 1988-2016), Warsaw.
  • Bąkowska-Czerner 2012: G. Bąkowska-Czerner, Divinità egizie nella città greco-romana di Marina el-Alamein, in Aegyptus, 89, 2009, pp. 125-140.
  • Bąkowska-Czerner, Czerner 2015: G. Bąkowska-Czerner, R. Czerner, Le influenze dell’Occidente romano sull’antica città di Marina el-Alamein in Egitto, in P. Ruggeri (ed.), L’Africa romana. Momenti di continuità e rottura: bilancio di trent’anni di convegni L’Africa romana, Atti del XX Convegno Internazionale (Alghero, 26-29.09.2013), Roma 2015, pp. 1617-1630.
  • Bąkowska-Czerner, Czerner 2016: G. Bąkowska-Czerner, R. Czerner, The 20th Anniversary of the Polish-Egyptian Conservation Mission Marina el-Alamein, in The Polish Journal of the Arts and Culture, New Series 3, 1, 2016, pp. 133–142.
  • Bąkowska-Czerner, Czerner 2017: G. Bąkowska-Czerner, R. Czerner, Worship and places of worship in the Greco-Roman town at Marina El-Alamein, in G. Rosati, M.C. Guidotti (eds.), Proceedings of the XI International Congress of Egyptologist. Florence, Italy 23-30 August 2015, Florence Egyptian Museum, Oxford 2017, pp. 140-147.
  • Czerner 2009: R. Czerner, The Architectural Decoration of Marina el-Alamein, BAR International Series, 1942, Oxford 2009.
  • Czerner 2012: R. Czerner, Ricostruzione teorica degli edifici monumentali di Marina el-Alamein, in Aegyptus 89, 2009, pp. 111-123.
  • Daszewski 1991: W.A. Daszewski, Marina El Alamein – the site of an unknown Graeco-Roman settlement on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, in L. Krzyżanowski (ed.), Marina El Alamein, Archaeological background and conservation problems, vol. 1, Warsaw 1991, pp. 5-18.
  • Daszewski 1995: W.A. Daszewski, Temoignage de l’urbanisation de la cote mediterraneenne de l’Egypte a l’epoque hellenistique et romaine a la lumiere des fouilles de Marina el- Alamein, in BSFE 132, Avril 1995, pp. 11-29.
  • Daszewski 1997: W.A. Daszewski, Mummy portraits from Northern Egypt. The necropolis in Marina el-Alamein, in M.L. Bierbrier (ed.), Portraits and Masks. Burial Customs in Roman Egypt, London 1997, pp. 59-65.
  • Daszewski 1998: W.A. Daszewski, La necropole de Marina El-Alamein, in S. Marchegay, N.-Th. Le Dinahet, J.-F. Salles (eds.), Nécropoles et Pouvoir. Idéologies, pratiques et interprétations. Actes du colloque « Théories de la nécropole antique » (Lyon 21-25 Janvier 1995), Travaux de la Maison de l’Orient Méditerranéen, 27, Lyon 1998, pp. 229-241.
  • Daszewski 2007: W.A. Daszewski, Marina el-Alamein, in E. Laskowska-Kusztal (ed.), Seventy years of Polish archaeology in Egypt, Warsaw 2007, pp. 145-158.
  • Daszewski 2011: W.A. Daszewski, Graeco-Roman town and necropolis in Marina el-Alamein, “Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean”, XX (Research 2008), 2011, pp. 421-456.
  • Daszewski 2012: W.A. Daszewski, Child burials of the Roman period in the necropolis of Marina el-Alamein, Egypt, in M.-D- Nenna (ed.), L'enfant et la mort dans l'Antiquité. II, Types de tombes et traitement du corps des enfants dans l'antiquité gréco-romaine, Alexandrie 2012, pp. 283-292.
  • Daszewski et alii 1990: W.A. Daszewski, G. Majcherek, Z. Sztetyłło, I. Zych, Excavations at Marina el-Alamein, in MDAIK 46, 1990, pp. 15-51.
  • Łajtar 2001: A. Łajtar, Two architectural terms: σκούτλωσις and στιάς in an inscription from Marina el-Alamein (with an appendix: Inscription on a frying-pan), in JJP 31, 2001, pp. 59–66.
  • Łajtar 2003: A. Łajtar, The inscription from Marina el-Alamein commemorating the σκούτλωσις of στιβάδες. An addendum, in JJP 33, 2003, pp. 177-180.
  • Łajtar 2005: A. Łajtar, Four inscriptions from Marina El Alamein, in JJP 35, 2005, pp. 99-108.
  • Luzyniecka 1997: E. Luzyniecka, Architecture of the early Christian basilica in Marina el Alamein, in Architectus 1-2, 1997, pp. 47-57.
  • Medeksza et alii 2006: S. Medeksza et alii, Marina El-Alamein. Conservation and Restoration Work in 2006, in Polish archaeology in the Mediterranean, 18, 2006 (2008), pp. 69-82.
  • Medeksza, Czerner 2003: S. Medeksza, R. Czerner, Rescuing Marina el-Alamein: a Graeco-Roman town in Egypt, in Minerva 14, 3, 2003, pp. 20-23.
  • Medeksza, Czerner, Bakowska 2015: S. Medeksza, R. Czerner, G. Bakowska Forms and decoration of Graeco-Roman houses from Marina El-Alamein, in P. Kousoulis, N. Lazaridis (eds.), Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Egyptologists (University of the Aegean, Rhodes, 22-29 May 2008), Leuven 2015, pp. 1739-1758.
  • Zych et alii 2006: I. Zych, Marina El-Alamein. Site Presentation Project (Arce/Eap). Preliminary Archaeological Report, in Polish archaeology in the Mediterranean, 18, 2006 (2008), pp. 83-100.