Volubilis covers more than 10 centuries of history: from the 2nd century BC until the foundation of Fès in the late 8th century AD. It survived until the Merinid period in the 14th century.
Volubilis’ first settlement dates back to the 2nd century BC. During this time, a college of suffete magistrates managed municipal affairs. Its area, surrounded probably by a wall that didn’t enclose the entire city, was estimated to be twelve hectares. Unfortunately, the remains of this period have been destroyed or interred.
After the assassination of King Ptolemy, ordered by Emperor Caligula, and the consequent annexation of the Kingdom of Mauretania to the Roman Empire in 42 AD, Volubilis’ status was elevated to a municipality. Moreover, from the second half of the 1st century AD, it underwent a major urban extension. Under the emperor Marcus Aurelius (168-169 AD) a city wall was built which enclosed an area of forty hectares. Under the Severe dynasty (2nd -3rd century AD), the area was redeveloped and the monumental Triumphal Arch was erected in honor of Emperor Caracalla and his mother in recognition of their exemption from severe taxes and for granting Roman citizenship to the inhabitants of Volubilis.
In 285 AD the Roman government and army evacuated Volubilis. Its inhabitants withdrew towards west to defend their city. Some stone inscriptions, dated between 599 and 655 AD and found in the vicinity of the Triumphal Arch, testify to the Christianization of the population.
Before the arrival of Idriss 1,st Volubilis and its surrounding region were already converted to Islam,as arab chronicles and pre-Idrissid coins show.
Idriss 1st, descendant of Ali Al-Hassan, found shelter in Maghreb al-Aqsa (nowadays Morocco), in Walila, where the chief of the Aourabas tribe welcomed and proclaimed him as chief of the believers. From there, he chose to extend his domain by building the city of Fès, just before his assassination in 175 of the hegira (Muslim calendar)/791 AD. Walila wasn’t immediately abandoned; on the contrary in 818 AD, it welcomed refugees from the riot in the Cordoue suburb, known as the Rabédis. According to El Bakri, Walila was still a cluster of small villages during the 11th century, and it was able to survive just until the Merinid period.