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ALTAVA (Ouled Mimoun) Algeria.

On Route Nationale 7, 33 km E of Tlemcen, rises the little plateau of Hadjar Roum, “the Roman stones.” Here, on the military road that defined the S end of the mountain chains of central Algeria, from Rapidum to Numerus Syrorum (Marnia), a military camp was built under Septimius Severus; the position commanded one of the crossroads of migrating Nomads. It was thus linked to the E with the garrisons of Lucu, Ala Miliaria, and Cohors Breucorum, and to the W with those of Pomaria and Numerus Syrorum; to the N, one road led to Albulae (Aïn Temouchent) and to Portus Magnus (Bettioua, ex-St. Leu); to the NE, a road led via Aquae Sirenses (Bou Hanifia) and Mina (Relizane) to the great road over the plain of Chelif. The ruins have suffered much in the building of the modern village and the construction of the railroad crossing the camp, which measured ca. 400 x 300 m. The infrequent excavations on the site have exposed only confused ruins, late and rebuilt. In fact, the interest of Altava depends on the important series of inscriptions, almost all funerary, discovered by farmers working among the necropoleis which surround the ancient town on all sides. Except for two fragments embedded in the walls of the modern village, and three inscriptions preserved in the Tlemcen Museum, all of these monuments are today in the Oran Museum. The oldest inscriptions, from the period of Septimius Severus, show that the camp served as a garrison for the second cavalry wing of the Thracians and the cohort IV of Sardinians. The epigraphical collection consists primarily of a series of dated epitaphs dating from 302 to 599; the importance of such a series for the study of linguistics and epigraphy, is readily conceivable.

Of particular note is a Christian basilica, still to be excavated, erected after 309 on the tomb of the martyr Januarius. The great majority of the epitaphs are Christian; their decoration runs from simple palm branches flanking a rosette to a complex system of arches enclosing Christian symbols. The formulae show in the 6th c. a fashion for expressions like “crudelis uixi” or, to designate the tomb, “domus aeternalis.” One may note in the same period a unique style of lettering. Methodical excavations would greatly enrich our knowledge of this site.


S. Gsell, Atlas archéologique de l'Algérie (1911) 31, no. 68; Pouthier, “Evolution municipale d'Altava,” MélRome (1956) 205-45; J. Marcillet-Jaubert, Les inscriptions d'Altaua (1968)PM.


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