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MENINX (El Kantara) Tunisia.

On the tip of the island of Jerba, facing the mainland, it lies on the Syrtic gulf, on whose shore each successive culture set up an emporium. The growth of the site was favored by vigorous trading between the interior of the region and the eastern Mediterranean; also, like all the cities in this area, it came under Eastern and Hellenistic influence. Its position enabled it to profit from these widespread contacts; but its prosperity (attested by Pliny) came strictly from the richness of the island which it dominated and from the ancient causeway linking it with the continent and the famed purple industry. Vibius Gallus and Volisius were proclaimed emperor there in 251.

Situated in the SW part of the island on a bay formed by the point of Castille Fort to the E and that of Tabella to the W, the vast ruins form mounds of wavy sand strewn along the shoreline over an area 2.5 km x 300-700 m. Excavated at the start of the French occupation and then sporadically until 1943, the site is abandoned today and threatened by encroaching tourism on the island. Those sections or monuments that have been uncovered (none completely) are left to the erosion of the elements or human depredation.

The causeway linking the island and the mainland across an arm of the sea was built in the Roman period and rebuilt in recent years. This chain of land touches the island midway along a bend in the coastline to the N, where the city with its warehouses and markets first starts to spread out. A large esplanade 70 m from the shore, presumed to be the forum, was very soon explored. Several pillars of reddish stone were found, carved with Victories and Barbarians; some of them were removed either to the Louvre or, on two occasions, to the Bardo Museum in Tunis. These sculptures presumably belonged to a monumental colonnade (of which 12 bases were excavated as well as a statue identical to another discovered previously), suggesting that a monument of a rare Hellenistic type once stood on that spot.

In 1881 excavations of the same monument uncovered six columns of pink white-veined marble, aligned and ringed with a second colonnade of green marble, as well as a large Corinthian frieze fragment of the same marble taken to belong to the frieze of the monument. A great basilica with three mosaic-paved naves, long known by its cruciform baptistery in the Bardo, was incompletely excavated in 1901. Another, smaller basilica, 400 m from the mosque, was discovered and partially excavated.

Some baths were explored in 1900, and a few inscriptions found. The buildings were paved with mosaics.

In 1942 more baths, situated NE of the city 500 m from the forum, were excavated and a room was disclosed with a frieze depicting scenes. Several other monuments and remains have been noted without being studied, or excavated without being identified. The many cisterns and hydraulic installations should also be added to this list.

Excavations, and especially the open trench dug along the shore, have laid bare a great number of houses with rough-cast rooms, some paved with mosaics. One mosaic covered an area of 10 x 3 m and terminated in a semi-circular apse; another with a design of four plumed horses was found inside the French military camp when it was being set up. Still another mosaic, representing a nereid, formed the floor of an indeterminate building near the shore close by the borj. Another house had walls covered with paintings. A five-room building excavated in 1934 disclosed an inscription now preserved in the Bardo.

The necropolis lies 1500 m NW of the city, near a great basilica. In it was a large funerary vault cut in the tufa; it was excavated in 1941. Lastly, there is an amphitheater near the city.


P. Gauckler, “Fouilles en Tunisie,” RA (1901) 403; P. M. Duval, “Recherches archéologiques à Meninx,” CRAI (1942) 221-24.


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