(Ebba Ksour) Tunisia.
Situated in W Tunisia, on the Sra Ouartene, a high plateau
between the two grain-growing plains of the Zouarines and
the Thala. The ancient city was at the confluence of the
Oum-el-Abid and Médeina, at the outlet of the Fej el
Tamar, the only natural way onto the road from Le Kef
to Theveste. The fact that its history goes far back in
antiquity was proved by the discovery of several pre-Roman documents, one of which, a Neo-Carthaginian
inscription now in the Louvre, mentions a Sanctuary of
A city of Berger tradition, it came under the influence
of Carthage; under the Roman Empire it remained an
indigenous civitas until it was raised to the status of a
municipium by Hadrian: municipium aelium hadrianum
augustum althiburitanum. Only later was it granted the
ius Italicum. The town, long since abandoned in favor of
Ebba-Ksour, an agricultural center in the plain, lay outside the main route of circulation from Le Kef to the S;
thus its most important ruins have been largely preserved.
Thanks to 18th c. travelers and to a few sporadic excavations we have some knowledge of the city's history.
The forum (44.6 x 37.15 m over-all) is a paved esplanade (23.35 x 30.8 m) surrounded by a portico with
10 x 12 columns raised on a step 6.9 m wide. On the
NW side of the portico there is a row of aediculae, some
religious in function: a statue of Minerva was found in
one. To the SW is the capitol, separated from the forum
by a small square closed to the W by a Hadrianic triumphal arch (now destroyed). Part of the facade is still
intact, to a considerable height. Built of large blocks, it
was Corinthian, prostyle, and tetrastyle. It had a central
cella (8 x 7.5 m), two smaller cellae flanking it, and a
pronaos on a stylobate 3 m high that was reached by a
broad staircase. A low enclosing wall surrounded the
temple. During the excavation of 1912, some fragments
were found of the dedication that complemented those
documents noted above, making it possible to identify
the capitol with certainty and to date it to 185-191. The
white marble head of a statue, probably of Juno, was also
A second temple stood on the other side of the forum
to the NE, opposite the capitol. All that remains of it is
the podium and some architectural fragments. Also
Corinthian, it was tetrastyle. The cella was ringed with
a wall giving onto two lateral corridors on the sides.
According to an inscription found nearby, it apparently
dates from 145. At the E corner of the forum, near this
temple, is a complex of buildings, the most noteworthy
of which is a house with a peristyle of 16 columns set up
on dados carved with various motifs. The floors of the
four porticos are paved with geometric mosaics that vary
in design from one bay to the next. Opening onto these
galleries were rooms of a NE wing and a large room,
possibly a triclinium, where apparently a geometric
mosaic, now at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, was discovered.
On the SE side of the public square, SW of the house
just mentioned, is another, quite different quarter. Among
somewhat confused remains, the most interesting structure is a building (10 x 7 m) which probably was a factory. It consists of a rotunda, two courtyards whose walls
hold several series of niches, and some ground-level
basins that were installed at a later date. A monumental
fountain 4 m square stands S of this area, at the end of
a paved street that continues the esplanade between the
capitol and the forum. It is constructed of large blocks.
On each of two of its sides a niche is framed by large
pilasters above a molded stylobate with a basin. In the
course of excavating this sector many inscriptions were
found that originally came from the forum and elsewhere
and were reused.
Outside this excavated city center are some other monuments which, although not excavated, are notable for
their size. First among these is a theater. Its cavea (57.5
m in diameter) is ringed with a wall, several of whose
arcades are still standing among many fallen blocks.
According to an inscription, it apparently was built before A.D. 172. On the other side at the entrance to the
site is a fairly well-preserved triumphal arch, standing
in the fields. An inscription on its entablature dates it
from the 4th-5th c. Its arcade is 11.25 m long and has an
arch 7 x 5.25 m. Finally, on the outskirts of the city and
on the hilltops can be seen a few mausolea; that called
Ksar Ben Hannoun, to the W, has a cella 3.2 x 2.5 m
with an inscription on the entablature.
Three other private buildings that have been uncovered add to the interest of the site: A large villa, the
House of the Muses, stands on the right bank to the W.
Its rooms and apartments, arranged around a peristyle,
are noteworthy for their many and varied mosaic floors.
Two rooms are important: the triclinium, which has a
mosaic floor of sea scenes (badly damaged) and the
apsed exedra at right angles to it, whose floor has a design of the muses (also damaged). The peristyle is paved
with geometric mosaics.
Another house, the House of the Fishing Scene, stands
on the other side of the wadi Oum el Abid, on the left
bank fairly close to the capitol. The rooms, badly damaged, are arranged around a peristyle paved with
mosaics. One of the rooms has two symmetrical apses at
each end and is paved with a mosaic representing a fishing scene with the head of Oceanus depicted at either
end. The floor of an adjacent room has two panels of
The Asklepeia monument, so-called after the mosaic
inscription in the axial room, whose function is still undetermined, is remarkable for the originality of its plan,
the harmony of its architectural arrangement, and the
quality of its mosaic floors. Strictly symmetrical in plan,
the monument has a long gallery terminating at either
end in two corner turrets. The facade has several windows on either side of an impressive entrance on axis.
This corridor opens onto a large square room flanked on
either side by a basin with a horseshoe-shaped passageway running around it, making a sort of atrium tuscanicum. This great vestibule gives onto a peristyle equipped
with a complete hydraulic system. Framing both sides of
this peristyle are two large symmetrical oeci along with
their adjoining rooms. The main wing, to the NE at the
rear, consists of a series of rooms arranged symmetrically
on either side of the Asclepeia room located in the axis,
opposite the principal entrance. All these rooms were
paved with beautiful mosaics.
A. Merlin, “Forum et maisons d'Althiburos,” Notes et Documents
, VI (1913).