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CILLIUM (Kasserine) Tunisia.

On the great highway from Gafsa toward the N, 40 km W of Sbeitla, Kasserine is fortunate in rather rich soil and provision of water and in its strategic location at the opening between the two great mountain ranges, Semmama and Chambi, which block all the region from E to W. This gap, controlled by Cillium in antiquity, permits passage between the south, an arid zone amenable to nomadism, and the north, both grain-producing and rich in pasture.

Since ancient times, this region has belonged to great tribes of nomads: Mussulmen and Fraxii. It was to conquer them that Rome sent her troops, which after victory settled down in this strategic location. This explains the great number of epitaphs of legionaries bearing the name of the Flavii found in this town, for Cillium must have been precisely that Flavian settlement created after the pacification of the tribes. Provided with municipal status and connected with the colony of Thelepte, it was elevated in its turn to the rank of colonia probably in the 3d c.

The ruins of the ancient town essentially cover a plateau which extends down to the wadi Derb. The modern village, extending from the other side of the wadi, has thus preserved the majority of the archaeological site. Little excavation has been done, but the interest of extant monuments suffices to class the site among the most important of the region. Among those monuments are two great mausolea: the one, of the Petronii, in part destroyed; and the other, of the Flavii, which bears a long inscription in verse. The triumphal arch with one bay, dating from the 3d c., restored in the 4th, has a dedication which gives the ancient name of the town. The great dam on the wadi Derb, a long, thick, winding barrier, probably served for irrigation of the plain. There are also a fortress and small Byzantine forts among buildings of the earlier era still poorly identified.

The most important excavation on the site revealed the theater, traces of which, discovered at the end of the 19th c., had been lost. It is an edifice of average proportions, situated on the edge of the town plateau and against the flank which goes down to the wadi; inundations have preserved it in large part; the cavea and the platform have also been found; the proscenium and the scaena wall have been destroyed, probably by stone robbers. Despite the absence of inscriptions and the scarcity of decoration (only a corbel and a theater mask of terracotta have been found), the edifice was probably built at the end of the 1st c. A.D. to commemorate the founding of the municipium.

On the summit of the plateau, excavation uncovered a flat, paved space with a base in the center carrying a dedication consecrated to Jupiter and Ceres. It marked the location of a temple. A group of houses with peristyles, paved with mosaics, stood 100 in W of the arch. Several of these, remarkable for their decor and their arrangement, have also been excavated but remain unpublished. Certain of the mosaics have been transported to the Bardo Museum in Tunis.

Numerous inscriptions, especially epitaphs and stelae, have been discovered and marked. In 1958-60, during the construction of a tourist hotel, an important necropolis was laid waste.


H. Desparmet, “Le theâtre de Cillium,” Karthago 15 (1969-70) 13-66PI.


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