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LAMBAESIS (Lambèse or Tazzoult) Algeria.

Eleven km SE of Batna and 140 km from Constantine, the settlement was the headquarters of the legate of the Third Augustan Legion from the 2d c. A.D. When the province of Numidia was officially created in 197-198, it became the capital. Its name is known from inscriptions, from secular texts (Antonine Itinerary, Julius Honorius), and from religious texts (the Hieronymian Martyrologist, the Acts of the Synod of Carthage in 256, and St. Cyprian). The town is built 622 m above sea level in the plain and on the spurs of the Djebel Asker. To the E a road went out towards Thamugadi, Mascula, and Theveste; to the N in the direction of Cirta; to the NW to Sitifis; and to the W and S to the Saharan regions. Two km to the NW was found the inscription recording excerpts of addresses delivered by the emperor Hadrian when he reviewed the troops in July 128. This camp is scarcely visible except by aerial photography. It has been wrongly called the “camp of the auxiliaries.” Probably it was a camp built by the soldiers for the imperial visit. We know now that an earlier camp, dating to A.D. 81, existed in the district called the civilian town, S of the modern built-up area. The N district was mainly occupied by the large camp (500 x 420 m). This camp was greatly damaged when in 1851 a penitentiary was built in the SW part; the village built later on was also constructed on the ruins.

Two streets, one running E-W, the other N-S, divided the large camp into four parts of unequal size. At the intersection is a rectangular building (36.6 x 23 m) called the praetorium. It forms a sort of quadruple arch of triumph. On the outside it is adorned with pilasters and Corinthian columns; it has large arched openings. South of this building extended a flagged court (65 x 37 m) surrounded on three sides by a portico onto which a series of rooms opened. To the S, a supporting wall circumscribes a basilica of Hellenistic type (52 x 30 m). This is divided into three naves by two colonnades of 12 columns each. The large S wall of the basilica is bounded by apses used for cult purposes. In addition, there are several cellars below ground.

Barracks and dwellings are placed along the streets. From the E gate of the camp a street passes under an arch with one bay, built under Commodus, and continues to the amphitheater. The tiers of seats have disappeared, but the major entryways and the foundations have survived, with a system of counterbalancing machinery for letting the beasts into the arena. The monument dates to A.D. 169 and was restored during the ten years following. Another street leaving the camp passed under an arch with three bays of the Severan period and went by the large baths with their vast public latrines. Continuing S one reaches, on one side, industrial buildings of late date and, on the other side, the camp of A.D. 81, remodeled at various times and only partially excavated. One continues on a long avenue bordered by square chapels, dedicated to various Latin and oriental deities, and each with an apse at the end. The avenue reaches a semicircular temple with two chapels beside it. This group of buildings was built in 162 and was consecrated to Aesculapius and Salus, as well as to Jupiter Valens and Silvanus. Behind and in the vicinity were swimming pools and baths, probably devoted to the care of the invalids who came to supplicate the deities. There was also a mithraeum with benches.

To the S, a capitol, enclosed by a rectangular porticoed court (mistakenly identified as a forum), was built around 246 and restored in 364-67. This temple is distinctive in having two instead of three cellae. To the E another temple is enclosed by a court which adjoins the court of the capitol. North of this temple are the so-called Chasseurs baths, named after the soldiers who began to excavate them. To the E are two monumental gates. The nearer one has three bays and is built in large part of reused inscriptions. The farther one, dating to the time of Commodus, has one bay and leads to the nearby market town of Verecunda. South of this district are the spring of Ain Drinn and the sanctuary of Neptune, god of springs. The dwellings of the ancient city are covered by the modern village and the gardens that extend from the camp to the district of the temples. Recent work has brought to light fine mosaics at several places. A small Byzantine fort was placed on a hillock about 700 m E of the modern village. The town was completely surrounded by cemeteries. The one on the hill overlooking the camp from the E was undoubtedly the largest. That necropolis covered more than 15 ha, and one can still see there two mausolea with second stories. The most famous is 3 km N of the large camp. It is the mausoleum of a prefect of the Third Legion and was built under Alexander Severus. As an inscription from 1849 testifies, the building was restored by the French army. A similar mausoleum is W of the village. To the S is a necropolis where one can still see rock-cut tombs.

Although it is poorly organized, the museum in the village is extremely rich. The visitor will remark statues of Aesculapius and Hygieia, as well as a fine head of the child Commodus. There are mosaics with geometric and floral designs. Another, depicting Venus and her retinue on the sea, was signed by a Greek artist, Aspasios. There is also a Dionysiac mosaic. A fragment depicting a female figure at a spring is of very unusual workmanship. Flat tints were used to render the foliage in the style of fresco painting. Above all, the museum contains an exceptional epigraphic collection. In spite of the lack of systematic excavations at the site, the inscriptions permit one to understand Lambaesis' history and are an important contribution to the history of Roman institutions.

The history of the Third Augustan Legion, appearing in the inscriptions preserved in the epigraphic garden, provides information on changes in the recruitment of soldiers. Oriental predominance in Hadrian's time gave way, little by little, to African elements from the Proconsular province and Numidia, until these provided all the legionaries. Inscriptions tell us of the campaigns in which the legion took part. Others inform us of the reestablishment of the legion at Lambaesis in 257, after it was condemned and disbanded for its support of the emperor Maximian against the Gordians in 238. The punishment was put into effect by the chiseling away of the name of the legion. Other texts elucidate numerous obscure aspects of the army and its hierarchy. The rules of an association of noncommissioned officers have shed new light on military social life. This text was inscribed in hemicycles flanked by pilasters. In the middle, after a dedication to the reigning emperors, the establishment of a schola and of a college is indicated; there follow the rules of the association. The founding members are listed on the pilasters. This foreshadows the mutual security increasingly sought from the time of Septimius Severus on. Inscriptions also tell us what divinities were worshiped at Lambaesis, not merely the deities of the official Pantheon (the Capitoline trinity, Janus, Mars, Mercury, Aesculapius and Salus, Apollo, Diana, Pluto, Neptune, Ceres, Venus, or Hercules), but also (apart from the deified abstractions) foreign gods (Jupiter Depulsor, Dolichenus, or Heliopolitanus, Isis, Serapis, Liber and Libera, Cybele, Iorhobol, Malagbel, Medauros, or Mithra) and the African gods (the dii Mauri, Caelestis, Africa, and above all Saturn). A series of stelae found in different parts of the ruins and kept at the museum show how important Saturn must have been in African surroundings. The rarity of Christian remains is notable: a piece of an inscription, some Christian symbols, a sarcophagus depicting the Good Shepherd. It is to be hoped that one day the monuments known only from inscriptions (Temple of Jupiter Dolichenus, septizonium, nymphaeum, market, curia, various aqueducts) will actually be found.

Certain monuments from Lambaesis, first kept at the Louvre, are now deposited in Algiers: the monument of Hadrian's speech and the rules for the college of the legionary non-coins. At the Algiers Museum are a bronze statuette of the Child with the Eaglet, a bronze inkwell with a silver inlay depicting a retinue of Bacchus, and a cast of an inscription on the main square at Bougie (Saldae). In this text an engineer of the legion proudly tells how he set up and brought to fruition the project of piercing a mountain in order to bring water to Saldae as ordered by the governor procurator of Mauretania Caesariensis. The work began in 137 and ended in 152. Other monuments were included in the wall of the penitentiary and are no longer visible.


S. Gsell, Atlas archeéologique de l'Algérie (1911) 27, nos. 222-24M; Cagnat, Musée de Lambèse (1895)P; L. Leschi, Algérie antique (1952) 88-101P; M. Leglay, Saturne Africain. Monuments (1966) II 80-113 and pls. XXIII-XXIVP; M. Janon, “Recherches à Lambèse,” Antiquités Africaines 7 (1973) 193-254MP.


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