(Le Kef) Tunisia.
the S flank of Mt. Dyr, built high up, between 850 and
750 m, on a spur of the rock from which it draws its
present name. It dominates the surrounding rich plains
and controls the crossroads of the important artery
which, coming from Carthage, divides to the W toward
Constantine and to the SW toward Tebessa. A stronghold from the time of the independence of the Numidian
princes, then a colony—among the first—under the Romans, a town with a bishop at the time of the triumph
of the church, a Byzantine fortress, it has survived to
the present in its role of metropolis of this region.
One of the oldest references to it in ancient sources
is Sallust's statement that the day after its defeat by
Rome, Carthage exiled to Sicca the mercenaries who
revolted. There is also a reference to the city's providing wheat for the victorious Marius. It is possible
that when Nova Africa was created, Sicca was for a
brief time its capital. The city is also known for having
introduced the cult of Sicilian Venus Erycina. Apart
from the unknown or destroyed remains, deeply buried
under the present town, the following are the largest
buildings or those integrated in the surviving structures.
Outside the town: a small amphitheater and a theater
situated near the Casbah; several sections of town walls
fortified in the Byzantine era. The most important group
is made up of a large hexagonal hall preceded by a
double portico and forming part of important baths
which have recently come to light. They were probably
fed by the gigantic group of cisterns made up of 12
rooms with barrel vaults, remarkably preserved, which
were served by springs coming from the mountain.
Three other monuments: the basilica of Ksar el
Ghoula, with mosaic-paved naves, partially explored in
1882; Dar el Kous, another basilica built in the grand
style, utilized the component parts of what was probably
a pagan temple. The apse 6 m wide is standing; the three
naves are preceded by an atrium communicating by
three doorways. The whole was paved with mosaic. It has
been uncovered since the end of the 19th c. The present
grand mosque of Le Kef, an edifice of great magnificence, is well preserved. It comprises a vast vaulted apse
with vaulted rooms adjoining on each side, the lateral
walls of which were indented by regular niches. This
group of rooms opened on a peristyle court which, in
the Arab period, was completely covered with vaults
and a cupola, and converted into a prayer ioom. It has
recently been restored.
Some chance discoveries without precise context may
be mentioned: a very extensive mosaic representing a
scene in the amphitheater, as well as numerous statues
and inscriptions which became the primary acquisitions
of the Bardo Museum in Tunis.
P. Quoniam in Karthago
3 (1952) 157-65.