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ACHOLLA (Henchir Botria) Tunisia.

Forty-five km N of Sfax, some 10 km S of Cape Kaboudia. The abandoned site, spread along the seashore, is identified by an inscription found there in 1947. This town is mentioned several times in ancient sources. Presumably founded by the Maltese, it later came under Carthaginian rule. It took sides with Rome in the third Punic war. This won it the status of a free city, and at the time of the civil war it joined Caesar. It became a municipium under Hadrian. The town soon experienced a period of great prosperity, essentially because of the cultivation of olive trees and its commerce by both land and sea routes. The quality and richness of its mosaics bear witness to this prosperity.

Of the pre-Roman era only a sanctuary is known, presumably the tophet, partially excavated in 1937. Largescale excavations, undertaken between 1947 and 1955, revealed only Roman remains.

About 800 m from the sea the Baths of Trajan, of which there remains a frigidarium with a double apse, was paved with a remarkable mosaic representing the Triumph of Bacchus and the Dionysiac cycle, now in the Bardo Museum at Tunis.

South of the town, the incomplete excavation as well as the deterioration of the Baths of the Marine Revel, constructed of very fragile material, permitted the decipherment only of the general plan. The mosaics alone have survived.

Apart from these two public buildings, several villas have been excavated. The Villa of the Head of Oceanus, situated 50 km E of the baths, included some rooms paved in mosaic of which one represented the seasons. Another with painted walls was decorated with a satyr and nymphs with an Eros and panther. A head of Oceanus decorated a semicircular fountain.

In the Villa of the Triumph of Neptune, excavated in 1954, a portico of a peristyle had three semicircular fountains paved with marine scenes in mosaic. Opposite was a room also paved with a fine mosaic representing a Bacchic troop of revelers and a Triumph of Neptune. The House of Asinius Rufinus was also arranged around a peristyle. The rooms opened on galleries, one of which was paved with a mosaic showing Herakles and his Labors. In one of these rooms an inscription was found, mentioning the cursus honorum of Asinius Rufinus, native senator of Acholla, who built (or probably bought) the villa in A.D. 184, the year Commodus named him consul. The cycle of Herakles in mosaic commemorates the kinship of the emperor with the divine hero. In the Villa with the Red Columns, one room of which is decorated with still-life paintings, excavation has not been completed. In all these edifices, ingenuity and finesse in plan and decoration are coupled with mediocrity of construction: walls of unbaked brick raised on a masonry foundation coated with stucco and paint.

A public square paved with flagstones is situated nearly at the center of the site. Bordered on the E by the Baths of Trajan, on the N by the house of Asinius Rufinus; it is identified as the forum, but it has not been completely excavated.

From the Christian period, a baptistery with double apse survives and several tombs, the epitaphs of which were in mosaic.


BAC (1928) 86-88; (1938) 151; (1946-47) 300-6, 381; (1954) 113-15; G. Picard in CRAI (1947) 557-62; (1953) 322; Etudes d'archéologie classiques, Nancy 2 (1959) 75-95MPI; Antiquités Africaines 2 (1968) 95-151MPI.


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