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THAMUSIDA (Sidi Ali ben Ahmed) Morocco.

A Roman city in the province of Mauretania Tingitana, situated on the road from Tingi to Sala and mentioned by Ptolemy, the Antonine Itinerary and the Geographer of Ravenna. Its identification with the ruins of Sidi Ali ben Ahmed, which cover ca. 15 ha on the left bank of the wadi Sebou—the amnis Sububus of Pliny (HN 5.5) 10 km upstream from Kenitra—seems certain even though no inscription has yet come to light to provide irrefutable confirmation. Sporadic excavations beginning in 1932, followed by more systematic exploration in recent years, have made it possible both to clarify the city's history and to uncover a certain number of monuments, generally very badly damaged.

About the middle of the 2d c. B.C. a small indigenous settlement grew up on the flattish hillock of Sidi Ali ben Ahmed that rises some 12 m above the river, out of danger of floods. From the first half of the next century the inhabitants were engaged in continuous contact with Cadiz, southern Spain, and the Mediterranean basin. However, the earliest traces of construction found up to now seem not to predate the Augustan period, and before Rome annexed Mauretania the settlement seems to have been only moderately active. After that it took advantage of the fact that the wadi Sebou was navigable; since the effects of the tide were felt even at that point, the river could be reached by most ships in antiquity. Under the Flavians Thamusida acted as garrison for a detachment of soldiers and must already have had the appearance of a city. Several monuments date from this period, in fact: a temple with a triple cella known as the “temple à bossage” alongside the wadi, only the foundations of which unfortunately now remain, together with the first stage of the River Baths and several groups of houses. At the beginning of the 2d c. A.D. the city was redesigned on an orthogonal plan and enlarged. The forum has not been located, and the orientation of the streets is still conjectural at this stage of excavation. However, the majority of the monuments that have been uncovered date from this period: in the E quarter, a small square rustic temple in the Punic tradition, possibly dedicated to a Venus-Astarte with, in front of it, a flight of steps flanked by two columns; along the banks of the river, a sanctuary of the African type consisting of three cellae opening onto a porticoed courtyard, and a third temple, now razed, with a single cella and a wide pronaos. The last two temples were built in the second half of the century. The River Baths, for their part, were continually enlarged and modified, finally covering an area of about 3,000 sq m. They consisted of two juxtaposed buildings, probably the larger for men and the smaller for women. Lastly, even though only one large peristyled domus of a common Tingitanian type—the House with the Stone Floor—has been excavated so far, others can be discerned, and several insulae have also been found to contain smaller dwellings with rooms laid out on an irregular plan. The presence of a fish-salting works, shops, an ironworks, and a huge rectangular building, apparently a warehouse, are evidence of considerable economic activity, and this in turn is confirmed by pottery finds.

Under Marcus Aurelius a large camp (165.85 x 138.78 m) was built along the SE boundary of the settlement. Its size suggests that the camp was large enough to house a military cohort or cavalry wing, and stamped bricks provide evidence that it in fact did so. The camp rampart, which had 14 inside towers and four gates flanked by rectangular projecting towers, has been located along its entire length. The praetorium, too, has been completely cleared: it consists of a rectangular porticoed courtyard with rooms along three sides; one of the rooms, in the axis of the W side, was built on a polium with a flight of steps in front of it. In the Severan period a hall of basilical plan was built on the N section of the praetorium, projecting into the courtyard.

The city is encircled by a wall having projecting semicircular towers, which cuts through some of the buildings and is supported against each end of the W rampart of the camp. The wall apparently dates from Commodus' reign. Thus protected, Thamusida in the 3d c. continued to be active and, apparently, prosperous. It was abandoned suddenly, at the same time as the camp, probably after it was decided to evacuate the site between 274 and 280. A few huts still remained on the site, then even these were abandoned at a date well before the Arab conquest.

Among the few inscriptions found are two fragments of military diplomas, an indication that veterans lived there. Other finds are of slight importance: aside from fragments of equestrian statues, a few small bronzes of mediocre quality and a small statue of a barbarian prisoner (probably from a trophy) found in the camp.


J.-P. Callu et al., Thamusida, fouilles du Service des Antiquités du Maroc, I, 1965 (École Française de Rome, Mélanges d'Archéologie et d'Histoire Suppléments, 2; 1965); R. Rebuffat & G. Hallier, Thamusida, fouilles du Service des Antiquités du Maroc, II (1970).


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    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.5
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