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RAPIDUM (Sour Djouab) Algeria.

A Roman camp of the Mauretanian limes, 165 km S of Algiers. Beside the camp founded by Hadrian, there developed a town, which became a municipium in the 3d c. Taken and destroyed by rebels in the middle of the 3d c., Rapidum was rebuilt by Diocletian.

According to the excavations (1927 and from 1948 to 1953), there are two distinct parts to Rapidum: the camp and the town. The camp is rectangular with rounded corners. It dates to 122 (CIL VIII, 20833). The enceinte is made of two ashlar walls enclosing interior rubble fill. It is reinforced by towers standing on either side of the four gates, one on each side of the camp. The praetorium is located at the intersection of the decumanus and the cardo. It measures 28 x 24.5 m and, in accordance with the classic plan, has three parts: an entry in the form of a double gate, opening to the praetorian way to the E; a court (14.5 x 12.5 m), bordered on the N and S by three square rooms, possibly armamentaria; and to the W a large transverse room (23.40 x 5.75 m) with a tribunal at the N end. Five rooms open on this hall, all scholae, except for the middle one, which ended in an apse and must have been a chapel for the standards. Some meters S of the praetorium, a huge building may have served as a stable. Close by and to the S stands another large building, presumably the commander's residence (27 x 19.5 m); small private baths and seven rooms are arranged around a court. The rest of the camp was occupied by barracks and standard baths. Of note is a curious relief depicting the salutatio, encased in the W gate.

The town, contiguous to the camp on the S side (but not on the W), is itself surrounded by ramparts, built in 167 (CIL VIII, 20834, 20835). Of ashlar, it was restored under Diocletian with materials which sometimes came from wrecked buildings. Two gates fortified with towers open to the E and W. To the NE four-cornered bastions on the outside reinforce the ramparts.

Built on a sloping plateau, swept by the winds, at the end of the great plain of the Beni Slimane, the town covers 15 ha. Two walls running N-S and E-W, of very mediocre quality and probably of late date, rather curiously divide the town into three districts. They are connected by two gates opening in these poorly built walls. The forum has not been located. In the N and S districts one can still see the plan of the streets, oil presses, remains of corn mills, and some houses. Two rather large dwellings are built according to the classic plan, centered on an interior court with wells. In the E district, large columns, cut stone, and pieces of colossal statues of Jupiter and Minerva suggest the existence of a capitol. There also undoubtedly was a temple to Ceres.

Two conduits brought water, one from the S, the other from a spring located 2.5 km to the E. There were at least two necropoleis. The main one, to the W of the town, has produced mausolea, stone sarcophagi, urns, stelae with reliefs and inscriptions, and funerary mensae. Tombs have also been found to the N of the town.

On the plateau of Trab Amara one km NE of Rapidum beyond the wadi Baghla, there stood a temple dedicated to Saturn and to Caelestis. No trace of the building remains except for votive stelae. Finally, at Aïn Tamda, some kilometers W of Rapidum, a group of Christian buildings (church and monastery) has been excavated. The influence of Syrian Christian architecture has been discerned.


S. Gsell, Atlas archéologique de l'Algérie (1911) 14, no. 90; W. Seston, “Le secteur de Rapidum sur le limes de Maurétanie Césarienne d'après les fouilles de 1927,” MélRome 45 (1928) 150-83; “Le monastère d'Aïn Tamda et les origines de l'architecture monastique en Afrique du Nord,” MélRome 51 (1934) 79-113; M. Leglay, “Reliefs, stèles et inscriptions de Rapidum,” MélRome 63 (1951) 53-91; BAC (1954) 152-54; Saturne Africain. Monuments (1966) II 310-12.


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