The city was originally founded by the Carthaginians as a trading post and was first permanently settled in the 4th century BC. It was part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and became the westernmost of the ancient “three cities” of Roman Tripolis. Sabratha had a modest natural harbour that was improved by the Romans, and served as an outlet for the trans-Saharan caravan route through Ghadames.
The city of Sabratha was partially or wholly reconstructed by the Italians in the early 20th century, and Mussolini even gave speeches from the ancient theatre. Today it includes several temples and remains of roman villas and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.