Some 74 km
SSW of Hippo Regius, at the foot of the Mahouna massif which dominates the valley of the Seybouse River,
the town occupied the site of modern Guelma and extended farther to the NE. Perhaps it was of Phoenician
origin since Punic influence there has been pervasive.
Efforts to identify Calama with the town of Suthul,
cited by Sallust, have proved fruitless; no doubt Jugurtha
defeated the Romans nearby. Calama belonged to the
Proconsular province and was a municipium under Trajan; presumably that emperor gave the statute to the
town; its inhabitants were included in the Papirian gens.
Calama is not mentioned in Pliny, Ptolemy, the Antonine Itinerary
, or the Peutinger Table
. The town was
still a municipium at the death of Septimius Severus
and is referred to as a colony in numerous 3d and 4th c.
inscriptions. There was a Christian community at the
time of Diocletian's persecution. Calama fell to Genseric in A.D. 437 but was restored by count Paulus under
the orders of the patrician Solomon. It became one of
the fortress towns of Byzantine Numidia and subsequently began to decline. Mentioned again in the 12th c.,
at the time of the French conquest (1836) it was no
more than a collection of rude dwellings. Then the
remains were still considerable; excavations and efforts
at restoration were undertaken.
It is difficult to reconstruct the plan and general appearance of the site. The only important monuments
known are the theater and the public baths. The theater
was built in the first or second year of the 3d c. A.D.
through the generosity of a certain Annia Aelia Restituta, who spent 400,000 sesterces on it. It was restored,
indeed virtually rebuilt, from 1902 to 1918, after having
served as a quarry. It is on a slope and measures 58.05 m
in width. It was built of a rubble core revetted with
ashlar. The tiers of seats had virtually all disappeared;
they must have numbered 10 in the lower zone and 12
in the second. The orchestra was paved in marble. Behind the stage, which was flanked by two rectangular
chambers, a portico with columns formed a facade.
The public baths were built of rubble and revetted
with ashlar and brick. They may date as early as the
2d c. A.D. Only one large rectangular chamber (22 x
14 m), undoubtedly the tepidarium, can be described;
it gave onto other rooms and onto the exterior by 11
passages. These baths were included within the Byzantine fortress, no doubt built on an earlier enclosure and
defended by 13 towers. It measured 278 x 219 m.
The existence of a forum is attested by a single inscription. Likewise one can cite the remains of arcades,
a small shrine dedicated to Neptune, cisterns and, outside the town, a Christian church. In 1953 a hoard of
7,499 coins was discovered; virtually all of them came
from the mint at Rome; the most recent dated to the
beginning of A.D. 257. Presumably the hoard was buried
because of local disturbances. Most of the ancient objects recovered at Calama and from the region are preserved in the Guelma Museum.
A.H.A. Delamare, Exploration scientifique de l'Algérie. Archéologie
Ravoisié, Exploration scientifique de l'Algérie pendant
les années 1840 à 1849
II 19-36, pls. 22-38I
; S. Gsell, Les monuments antiques de l'Algérie
(1901) I 194-97 et
; Atlas archéologique de l'Algérie
(1904) 9, no. 146MP
; Texte explicatif des planches de A.H.A. Delamare
(1912) 153-73; L. Leschi, Algérie antique
; G. Souville, “Les collections de Guelma (Note sur la
constitution d'un musée régional en Algérie),” Actes 79e Congr. nat Soc. savantes, Archéol
. (1954, 1957) 285-89; R. Turcan, Le trésor de Guelma. Etude historique et