First the residence
of Numidian princes, then an oppidum liberum in the
reign of Augustus, the town probably became a municipium under Vespasian and a colony under Hadrian.
The abundance of grain in its territory and its strategic
position for trade resulted in economic prosperity. A ferment of romanization contributed to its political importance since some of its notables were to be close
associates of emperors.
The forum was excavated in 1949-52. On an area
bordered on four sides by porticos lie public and religious buildings and on the W side the capitol, prostyle,
of which only the stylobate is extant. On the opposite
side, a hall with a double apse is paved with geometric
mosaics, much deteriorated. On the N side, the Temple
of Apollo has a small court encompassed by a portico
and opens on the forum. This temple seems probably to
have been in existence in the reign of Tiberius, while
the rest of the forum probably dates from the era of
the elevation of the town to the rank of colony.
A monumental entrance which gave access to the
forum, noted by the first investigators, was destroyed
at the end of the 19th c. Important statues of the cult
were found in the Temple of Apollo and its environs,
now on display at the Bardo Museum in Tunis. Their
removal in the ancient period and the reappearance of
honorary dedications on the forum bear witness to a
renewal of municipal activity in the 4th c. after the
long period of decline following the troubled era of
the Late Empire.
The domestic architecture is one of the singularities
of Bulla Regia. Some houses have a complete underground story conceived as a first floor, which no doubt
remained comfortable in the excessive heat of the summer.
Several of these houses, conceived according to the
same principle but with some variations in the plan,
have been discovered and excavated. The House of
the Hunt, excavated in 1904, has a central court surrounded by a portico supported by eight columns and a
square chamber covered with a groin vault made of
tubes of terracotta.
The House of Fish was excavated in 1910, as well as
the House of Amphitrite or Neptune. The latter comprised a hall vaulted also and paved by a mosaic representing the crowning of Venus.
In 1942 three new houses of the same kind were uncovered in the neighborhood of the House of the Hunt.
In the third, situated 100 m to the N of the baths, some
rooms were vaulted and paved with well-preserved
mosaics; a treasure of 70 Byzantine pieces of gold was
discovered there, showing that the house had been occupied right up to that period.
Certain walls of the Great Baths, those of the frigidarium, are still standing to an imposing height as well
as certain rooms of the basement level, of which the
groined vaults are still intact.
The street on which the entry to the baths opens leads
to the theater. This, built in the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, was uncovered in 1960-61. In
one of its annexes a group of several statues was found,
among them—in an exceptional state of preservation—two of Ceres, today on exhibit in the Bardo Museum.
In addition to this theater, the 1960-61 excavations
have resulted in bringing to light in this sector an ensemble of rather well-preserved public buildings, still
unpublished: around the two great open squares bordered
by monumental porticos, one of which is in a semicircle,
are numerous halls, rectangular or basilical, several temples, one with a triple cella, and also a sanctuary of Isis
next to the theater. On the other side of the street are
more public baths.
A vast pagan necropolis, situated to the W, was explored in 1889-90, and several inscriptions were found.
Among recognizable monuments in the areas not excavated are the Byzantine fortress, a series of large
parallel cisterns along the road, and to the SW an
A. Merlin, Forum et Temples de Bulla
(1908); P. Quoniam in CRAI
, 1965), pp. 185-87P
; Kotula in
79 (1967) 207.