(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
) 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