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THAMUGADI (Timgad) Algeria.

Colonia Marciana Trajana Thamugadi was built in A.D. 100 by Minucius Gallus, legate of the Third Legion which had been stationed since 81 at Lambaesis (Lambèse), 27 km farther W. The new city lay on the road going W-E from Lambaesis to Theveste (Tébessa) then NE to Ammaedara (Haïdra) and Carthage—the route the Roman army had followed to occupy the S region of the Maghrib. At this point it was crossed at right angles by a road coming from Cirta (Constantine) down to the Aurès mountains.

Created by the army for veterans, the original town was designed rather like a camp. It was surrounded by a more or less square enclosing wall, about 355 m on each side, and had two axes that crossed at right angles. The N axis, the cardo, climbed gradually until it reached the E-W decumanus. Here it met the N wall of the forum and had to continue S 70 m farther W. This latter section of the road can be seen in aerial photographs because of a peculiar pavement of blue limestone; the other streets are paved with sandstone.

The streets formed a regularly shaped grid of blocks 20 m square, six of them E of the cardo, just five to the W. As they went N, they continued on either side of the forum complex. Altogether there were 111 more or less equal blocks, some occupied by public buildings, baths or markets, others divided by walls into two or three individual houses. Leaving aside later modifications to the plan, the total number of colonists, assigned one lodging place each, may be assessed at roughly 200.

Over the four centuries of the colony's life, the surrounding wall was largely torn down; only part of it still stands on the N side; the rounded S-W corner was uncovered in the course of excavations. The original N and E gates are partially preserved, that of the W having been replaced by a monumental arch.

From its inception, the planners saw to it that the city would have all the monuments befitting its political status. For example, the theater, which was not begun until 160, has its parodoi aligned right along the axis of the cardo. This makes it seem extremely unlikely that Timgad was a military camp transformed into a city, as has been strongly maintained.

The rectangular forum is set apart N of the decumanus but reached by some axial steps. Colonnades surrounded it on all four sides. The open space is 50 x 43 m. Behind the N portico are a series of stalls, obviously shops, backed by more shops that are aligned along the decumanus. Some of these have columned entrances and may be small sanctuaries.

Below, to the E, is a public lavatory. The E side of the forum is flanked by a basilica measuring 28.50 x 15 m. To the N is an apse (not raised) set between two annexes, while to the S, in contrast, there is a raised tribunal decorated with columns; to the E are a row of offices.

The S side of the forum is occupied by a row of shops opening alternately on the square and the street which, behind the square, climbs toward the theater. Near the SW corner is a gate that opens onto this street. Here one finds a complex of buildings, possibly a police station, then the curia. The latter is divided in two by steps and a balustrade; at the rear is a raised platform that very likely was ornamented with statues. Farther N is a small temple, 8 m square, in front of which is not a flight of steps but a rostrum. On either side of this rostrum are plinths dedicated to the victories of Trajan to whom, as founder of the city, the temple was no doubt consecrated. Behind the temple was a little colonnaded garden and underneath the temple a room with a grille—very probably the treasury. Beyond, a decorated hall, somewhat similar to the curia, formed the NW corner.

The central piazza of the forum was filled with monuments of which only a few pedestals, fortunately inscribed, remain. Others have been found in the basilica. A number of divinities figure in the inscriptions, in particular Marsyas, who seems to have had a symbolic importance in the colonies; also most of the emperors, especially the Seven and Julian, and local notables, among them the young son of one of the colony's patrons and another patron renowned for his eloquence, P. Flavius Pudens Pomponianus, called Vocontius. A sundial was carved on the paving stones. Some of the inscriptions are engraved in script that foreshadows the cursive script of the Middle Ages.

Behind the forum is the theater, its cavea facing W. Although it has been largely rebuilt, its scaenae frons has completely disappeared. The theater was believed to be cut in the hillside; in fact, recent research has shown that the N section of the cavea rested on concentric arches. Crowning it was a semicircular colonnade and on the hill behind that are several anonymous temples. One of these had a peribolus around it; and joined to it, though on a lower plane, was a semicircular annex, also for religious purposes, which was built at the same time as the cavea. It is somewhat rare for a Roman theater to be so closely linked with a place of worship.

Tucked between the N facade of the basilica and the decumanus is a charming house, the so-called Maison des Jardinières, which is linked to the forum by a hidden gate. Built in the space reserved for official buildings, it is clearly an official residence. Perhaps it was here that the legate of the legion, who acted as governor of the province of Numidia, was received when he visited the colony.

Still to the N of the decumanus, the second block E of this house is taken up by a market. Original in design, it is made up of two small semicircular courtyards surrounded by colonnades that intersect behind an outer building. This latter consists of a row of stalls. Other shops surround the two semicircles. The market is joined to a row of shops that may be said to form the facade of the forum along the decumanus. The sidewalk facing it is especially wide, and the area is a continuation of the colony s commercial center.

Most of the other blocks are taken up by houses. On the N cardo and the decumanus these are set behind porticos that are connected to the houses and do not conform to an over-all city plan. One is reminded of the regulations Nero laid down for Rome after the fire of A.D. 64. The other streets are paved with stone and have no sidewalks. No typical house plan is apparent. Generally there is a paved courtyard with a portico on one side or more, and a moderate-sized triclinium opening on the courtyard, along with other rooms. Some houses had two stories; others had shops. The best designed houses are those of later date; nevertheless, the earlier ones sometimes boasted elaborate mosaics.

The bath buildings—14 have been located—take up sometimes just one block, sometimes two. As may be expected, they are of simple design although consisting of frigidarium, tepidarium, and caldarium. Some of the baths may have been laid out at the very beginning of the colony. On the other hand, one of the most remarkable city monuments, a library set on the N cardo, apparently dates from the 4th c. It was housed sumptuously in a semicircular room with recesses, separated by columns, for the scroll-cases; in the axis was a statue of Minerva.

The city as thus conceived all at once became too small. Its plan did not allow for extension. Besides the forum temple and the theater temple, there were a few small sanctuaries in the S section of the city, but they were hardly monumental. If, as one is led to assume, the forum temple was consecrated to Trajan or Trajan's victories, the city had no Capitol and there was no room to build one. Thus, almost at the same time as the theater was built, about 160, construction began SW of the city on an immense peribolus, larger than the forum, which served as a frame for an imposing temple. This temple had not been planned for originally, as the city was oriented according to surveyors' charts at its foundation and the Capitol was erected along a different axis, no doubt for religious reasons.

The temple podium is 53 x 23 m; it stands back to back with the W wall of the city. Very tall, it was supported on vaults and ringed with columns 14 m high. This brought it up to the level of the nearby hills, on which were a few small sanctuaries. The capitals of the temple, which are 1.55 m high, are Corinthian and conform strictly to contemporary Roman style. Still majestic in spite of damage, such a monument is certainly out of proportion with the original city, tightly packed as it is inside its enclosing wall.

In fact, 50 years after its foundation, the city had already burst its bonds. New monumental gates had been built, at least to the E and W, under the Antonines; these marked the new city limits: 100 m wider to the E, almost 400 m to the W.

The new town did not conform in any way to the grid system of the earlier one. In laying out Trajan's city at a crossroads, the planners had not taken into account the direction of the roads that met there. At the W exit of the city in particular, the road going toward Lambaesis formed an extremely sharp angle with the decumanus. It was the same with the road going E toward Mascula and that going S to the mountains. Thus the suburb that grew up round the colony spread untidily in these directions without any thought being given to continuing the original grid: there were no more right-angled roads or regular blocks. Also, the suburban roads tend to follow the level of the terrain in the fashion of spontaneous town growth. The peculiar siting of the Capitol and its surrounding wall naturally heightened the relative disorder; outside the wall only a few monuments—the nearest ones—were built according to the original orientation. Among these are the N baths and, to the W, the first two monuments of the street turned avenue—the Temple of the Spirit of the Colony to the N and the Market of Sertius to the S. The temple, in particular, is built along the old axes; a typical tetrastyle temple, it has in front of it a courtyard that follows the same orientation on three sides but on its S side is, as it were, cut into by the oblique road.

Toward the end of the century, under Septimius Severus, the wall itself must have been pulled down, at least to the S and W. The place where it had been, with its inner boulevard and sloping ground, was taken up by houses built systematically to fill the open space completely without extending the streets of the inside grid. The gate was also demolished and replaced by a fine triumphal arch marking the junction of the decumanus and the new avenue.

This beautiful arch has been restored. It has three openings corresponding to the decumanus and its sidewalks. On top of the two side arches, which are lower, were tall niches decorated with statues. The facade was framed with columns supporting an entablature that arched above the niches, which in turn were flanked by colonnades. Over all was a high cornice. This noble monument welcomed visitors to the Numidian capital and expressed the new splendor of the colony.

At the foot of it a rich citizen, M. Plotius Faustus Sertius, built a large market at his own expense. It had a forecourt that extended to the avenue; the facade was colonnaded, and through it one reached a rectangular courtyard with porticos on all sides and a fountain in the middle. To the S was a huge roofed exedra fronted by a row of columns, much taller, set on three steps. These columns carried arches. At the back of the exedra were seven radiating stalls, six along the entrance wall.

Around this market is a sizable open space that stretches to the N and S, between the exedra and the enclosing wall, and from there to the Capitol. Here, very probably, was an open-air market. One may perhaps add to this commercial complex the avenue of Lambaesis, as it was first reorganized, probably at the same time. It is 350 x 21 m, 6.5 m of the width being highway, the rest broad colonnaded sidewalks. This magnificent street climbs in an almost straight line from the new gate to the arch; it has a grandeur striking in a city that was after all of only secondary importance.

At the beginning of the 4th c. the city acquired other monuments that were adapted to the new scale. The spacious N bath, which measures 80 x 65 m, is arranged symmetrically. Two sets of large rooms led out, on either side of a common entrance hall, to a caldarium, also common to both. The construction is of brick and is particularly workmanlike and robust. The decoration has unfortunately disappeared.

In complete contrast to this traditional symmetry is the extraordinary freedom of plan of the S baths. As one leaves the city, on this side, the N cardo slants E as it climbs up to a draw between the hills. It is joined by the other great avenue which follows the wall and then skirts the peribolus of the Capitol. The triangle thus formed was filled with stalls. Farther E, in the obtuse angle of the decumanus, some baths were built, less spacious than those of the N but quite original. Furnaces and hypocausts are particularly well preserved.

On the site, of the wall that was torn down at the SW corner of Trajan's city are its two grandest houses—that of Sertius, the donor of the marketplace, and another called the Hermaphrodite after a mosaic found there.

To the description of the city as it was in the 3d c. should be added another temple which was located 350 m S of the S baths underneath an immense Byzantine fortress. Consecrated to the water divinities, it had at the entrance a large pool, then three separate cellae joined by terraces and stairs. The cellae were richly decorated with a number of works of art. The heads of statues of Serapis-Aesculapius and Dea Africa have been found. A third god is unknown. According to an inscription, Caracalla enriched this sanctuary, in particular by adding some colonnaded gardens, which have been found N of the fortress. This complex was designed to sanctify a spring, since disappeared—the Aqua Septimiana Felix. This spring had medicinal properties, no doubt appreciated by Septimius Severus when he passed through. The source contributed to the city's water supply along with another one (known today as the Aïn Morri) and to the recovery of marsh waters accomplished by means of the filters of an Aqua Paludensis.

Another smaller sanctuary is situated to the N of the town, 400 m from the great baths. A temple dedicated to Saturn, it was doubtless very old but was rebuilt at a later date. It was the favored center of indigenous religion; near it have been found a large number of stelae, dedicated to the god, which retain the traditional local style of sculpture. These stelae show how, in a colony of veterans, traditional religious practices persisted and a faith was kept alive in the midst of imported Roman cults.

In the 4th c. Christianity was introduced alongside the pagan cults, but is hard to tell when the latter were abandoned. At that time the African church was torn by the Donatist schism, and it is not surprising to find two sets of Christian buildings at Timgad, both cathedral-like, one situated behind the Capitol, the other near the NW corner of the original city. The first is the Donatist center: it has a huge basilica fronted by an atrium, with a baptistery that appears to be linked to some small baths. In the nave is a tomb, specially venerated. To the E is a chapel, oriented in the normal direction for prayer. Surrounding the church are a number of annexes—apsidal halls, a triclinium, and a house with an inscription bearing the name of bishop Optatus, who was the leader of the sect at the end of the 4th c. The other basilica is not so large but has a baptistery and a wide colonnaded courtyard, this time behind the church. Its link with the orthodox community is merely hypothetical.

Other churches have been uncovered, one on the Lambaesis road at some distance from the city gate; one right inside Trajan's city, built on top of a private house but containing a baptistery; and others behind the Capitol and, to the S, in cemeteries. However, these date from the Byzantine reoccupation.

When the Byzantines occupied it Timgad had been pillaged and partly destroyed at the end of the 5th c. by an attack of raiders from the Aurès mountains. The Byzantine general Solomon took advantage of these ruins to assemble the materials necessary to build an enormous stone citadel, which has been completely excavated. It is a rectangular structure 112 x 67 m, whose 2.5 m thick walls still stand over 15 m high. Square towers are set at the corners and in the middle of the wall faces, one of which, to the N, is divided by the entrance gate. The walls are built of blocks that are reused, simply placed one on top of another with coursed facings. Inside were barracks, two or perhaps three stories high. In the W section, around the pool of the old temple, the walls stand on the Roman surface, paved in opus testaceum. Here are what no doubt was the praetorium, set between baths of a type far removed from the Roman model, and an unmistakably Byzantine chapel, vaulted and built of brick.

A few hundred meters S of the fort some very large Christian cemeteries have been uncovered, with sarcophagi and monumental tombs, but chiefly tombs under roof tiles. Two chapels have been found there, one of which was built in the time of Gregory the patrician (641-47) at the end of the Byzantine period. A few pagan necropoleis have been found along the Lambaesis road.

Timgad is noteworthy for the quality of its works of art. Apart from the many stelae, so full of life, devoted to Saturn, there are few statues. Those that have been found are religious images and portraits of noble ladies—local imitations of Roman models, which have a peculiar appeal. The mosaics, of which an inventory has just been published, are exceptionally significant. Besides pavements with geometric designs or, more rarely, with figures, there is an astonishing profusion of plant designs—highly original developments of acanthus leaf motifs, with scroll patterns forming colored surfaces. The colors are often extremely delicate, the shadings very precise.


A. Ballu, Les ruines de Timgad, antique Thamugadi (1897), with supplements of 1903 and 1911; E. Boeswillwald, R. Cagnat, A. Ballu, Timgad. Une cité africaine sous l'empire romain (1891-1905); S. Gsell, Les monuments antiques de l'Algérie (1901) I & II; Atlas archéologique de l'Algérie (1908) 27, no. 225; M. Christofle, Rapports sur les travaux des fouilles et des consolidations effectués par le Service des Monuments historiques de l'Algérie (1930, 1935, 1938); L. Leschi, Etudes d'égraphie, d'archéologie et d'histoire africaines (1957) passim; S. Germain, Les mosaïques de Timgad (1969). Guides: C. Courtois, Timgad, antique Thamugadi (1951); J. Lassus, Visite à Timgad (1969); see also Bulletin archéologique du Comité, Revue Africaine, Libyca, and C. Saumagne in Revue Tunisienne.


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