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JEBEL OUST or Bab Khaled Tunisia.

The site is situated halfway between Tunis and Zaghouan, on the road that runs along the foot of the mountain of the same name. Occupying a spur on the NE side of the mountain, it dominates the surrounding valley. The reason for the settlement and for the various appurtenances of this ancient watering place, not yet identified, is to be found in the healing qualities of its hot spring. The bath complex is well preserved. It consists essentially of a great rectangular hall surrounded by columns (still standing) and a circular room with a pool ringed by 10 columns, six of which still had their capitals when excavations were begun in 1907. The baths were made up of rooms and pools (a third one is rectangular) designed for bathing, as well as their annexes, designed for healing and lodging.

The spring that fed the baths flowed at the bottom of a grotto designed before the baths were erected. Above it is a tripartite building for worship, dedicated to the healing gods. Heads of statues of Aesculapius and Hygiea were found there in the Christian era when the sanctuary was taken over as a baptistery of a church with three naves surrounded by a necropolis.

The bath building itself was occupied for a long period, as can be seen from the many examples of rebuilding and enlargements of the architecture, construction, and decoration; changes are especially apparent in the mosaic floors. A stylistic study of the mosaics enabled the excavator to set up a chronology beginning in the middle of the 2d c. and resuming, after a gap in the 5th c., in the Byzantine period. Essentially local, the design of these mosaics is geometric or floral, and polychrome. The only floor decorated with figures is one with square emblemata, four of which contain busts of the seasons. Some statues, in particular of Aesculapius, Mercury, and Hygiea, and a small bust of Mercury, have been found as well as some architectural fragments, including Tuscan capitals.

Aside from these main buildings, a number of hydraulic monuments were scattered over the site. Among them were two large reservoirs on the hillside. Almost identical (30 x 30 m), they were joined together by a conduit.

Three hundred m E, down river, is a complex of public cisterns. These consisted of a series of seven rectangular compartments built of rubble and measuring 4.5 m x 12 m, extended thereafter to a length of 20 m. In front of them is a large basin 30 m square which served to pipe off the waters. It was fed by water collected on the hillside slopes.

A little sanctuary, noted for its remains, now at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, was discovered on the side of a hill overlooking the ruins. Excavations in 1907 uncovered a paved vestibule as well as some small rooms paved with white mosaic with a design of red crosses throughout (IMT 464). A small stela was found with an inscription which, when deciphered, made it possible to identify the sanctuary as that of Mercury Silvanus. The excavators also noted a number of potters' kilns. The sherds from these filled a whole quarter of the city.


M. Fendri, “Evolution chronologique et stylistique d'un ensemble de mosaiques dans la station thermale de Jebel-Oust,” Mosaique greco-romaine (1963) 157-73.


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