(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
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
79-113; M. Leglay, “Reliefs, stèles et inscriptions de
63 (1951) 53-91; BAC
152-54; Saturne Africain. Monuments
(1966) II 310-12.