previous next

THUGGA Tunisia.

A city 100 km W of Tunis, 7 km from Terboursouk. Its ruins are spread out on the plateau and steep hillside, dominating the broad valley of the Ouadi Khaled with the high road from Tunis to Le Kef crossing it below. Established at a very early date in an area between the coastal region (continuously held by Carthage) and the great plains of the Numidian hinterland, Thugga lies at the center of a rich agricultural territory that was a Numidian dependency but came under strong Carthaginian influence. It was one of the chief cities of the region, probably even a residence of the Numidian kings from just after the third Punic war until the territory was annexed in 46 B.C. and came into the orbit of Rome. With the creation of Africa Nova, its evolution and growth were merged with the general history of the province and empire.

Along with the indigenous civitas, whose inhabitants continued to be administered by ancient local institutions, there was a pagus of Roman citizens governed in Roman fashion. When first created, this pagus was dependent on Carthage until its economic development, the social improvement of its inhabitants, and its political evolution enabled the metropolis gradually to relax its protection and finally to relinquish it altogether. Romanization was profound and progressive. Several members acquired Roman citizenship, some having brilliant careers in the Empire. Nevertheless, it was not until the beginning of the 3d c., in 205, that the city became Municipium Thuggense, and in 261 Colonia Licinia Septima Aurelia Alexandriana Thuggenses.

Evidence of this individual and collective betterment exists not only in stone inscriptions but in the profusion of monuments whose remains have given the city its fame. Set up on a defensive site, the city had to adapt itself to a difficult terrain. The narrow, winding streets edged with massed blocks of buildings present a tiered architectural arrangement with the most striking monuments rising from it at the most favored points.

One of the most remarkable of these monuments is the Capitolium, which stands out from far off amidst all these remains. Dedicated to the Capitoline Triad in 166-67, it consists of a cella (13 x 14 m) preceded by a portico of four monolithic columns, which are 8 m high and have Corinthian capitals supporting an architraved frieze. The frieze, which bears the dedication to the Triad for the salvation of the emperors Marcus Aurelius and L. Verus, supports a pediment whose tympanum has a decoration of the imperial apotheosis, represented by the eagle carrying off a human figure. The cella stands on a podium with a tripartite crypt in front of the facade of the podium is a monumental stairway leading to a small piazza, a continuation of another. On either side of the temple this piazza connects with a moderate-sized esplanade; to the E, it connects with the so-called Square of the Wind Rose, to the W, with the forum. The paving of the piazza, which measures 24 by 38.50 m, is now gone and its surface buckled; formerly it was surrounded by a portico with buildings opening onto it. The erection of a small fort in this quarter during the Byzantine period caused many monuments to be overturned and destroyed; evidence of their existence is provided by the architectural and epigraphical fragments reused later here and there in the walls.

On the other side, the Square of the Wind Rose (so-called from compass rose cut into the paving) is lined with a portico whose E side, opposite the temple, is semicircular. To the N stands the Temple of Mercury with its rectangular cella flanked by two exedrae. To the E, behind the semicircular portico, is the Temple of Fortune with the Temple of Augustan Piety alongside it, while a market extends along the S side. This is a large courtyard bordered on its two long sides by a series of small shops, and terminating at the S in a large exedra that probably held a statue of Mercury. The forum area dates mainly from the second half of the 2d c. Lower down is a residential quarter, two of the houses, the House of the Cupbearers and the House of the Stairs, being the most characteristic.

Below this level is a complex of private houses, some of which were found to contain remarkable mosaics of Dionysos, Ulysses, a Maze, and Three Masks; most are now in the Bardo Museum. In the midst of these houses stand the Licinian Baths, their great mass dominating the entire hillside. Large embankments made a fairly regular plan possible. All sections are quite complete, including the palaestra opposite the great entrance hall.

Nearby, to the E, are the temples of Concordia, Frugifer, and Liber Pater. The latter, which is the largest, has a great square area surrounded by porticos, and on its N side a great central cella flanked by two lateral cellae. Down from it, to the S, can be seen the seats of a small, somewhat irregularly shaped theater. Its proximity to the Temple of Liber Pater suggests that it may have been used to celebrate divine mysteries.

Lower still is another quarter, not yet completely excavated. The beautiful house called the House of the Trifolium is the most noteworthy structure. A great stairway leads to a peristyle, a central garden surrounded by a portico with a mosaic floor. Wings containing the living quarters are aligned on the S and W sides. The W rooms are particularly remarkable: a vaulted, trefoil-shaped room with three apses, its architecture still well preserved, was connected to the rear of a rectangular oecus with three doorways opening onto the gallery; a mosaic depicts circus games. Opposite, a semicircular pool projects into the garden.

Close by this house, to the E, still in the same group of houses in this section, are the Cyclops Baths, so named from the design of the mosaic floor in the frigidarium. Still farther E is the Temple of Pluto, whose sanctuary stood on a podium ringed with a peribolos. Close by the House of the Duck and the House of the Seasons is the triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus, set astride a street leading down the hill.

Still farther down, almost on the edge of the site and in the middle of an olive grove, is a Libyo-Punic tower mausoleum (21 m high), the only great monument of the Carthaginian period still standing. Built around the end of the 3d c. or the beginning of the 2d for a Numidian prince in Massinissa's reign, it is composed of large stones. It is exceptionally interesting both for its architecture and its decoration, architectural as well as sculptural, which is full of religious references. Its three stories, rising from a plinth of five steps, are topped with a pyramidon, the upper corners of which are decorated with equestrian statues. Overturned in the middle of the 19th c. during the recovery of the bilingual (Libyan and Carthaginian) inscription now in the British Museum, it has been restored.

The main theater on the top of the plateau is remarkably well preserved. Its cavea is backed against the hillside and the seats, arranged in a semicircle, are closed off at the top by a portico (now destroyed). The columns of the scenae frons have been set upright again, but the back wall of the stage is gone, so that from the stage one has a fine panorama of the plain below. The dedication, several fragments of which have been found, shows that the monument was built in 168 or 169 under Antoninus Pius by P. Marcus Quadratus.

Beyond the theater, almost outside the city limits, stood the Temple of Saturn. Erected on a spur at the edge of the plateau, it dominated the whole valley below; some of the columns of the portico are still standing. A vast area, preceded by a long outer portico, was lined with a gallery on the inside of the other three sides, and at the rear opened onto three frontally aligned cellae. To the W in the interior of the plateau is the Temple of Caelestis, which stands in the middle of an olive grove. The sanctuary, which is peripteral (6 x 8 Corinthian columns), stands on a podium preceded by a flight of steps, in the middle of a large semicircular enclosure with a portico, also circular, around it. In front of the sanctuary is a broad paved esplanade built into the temple precinct, each side of which has two lateral doorways with porches in front of them.

Some well-preserved cisterns are to be seen toward the upper reaches of the site. Mosaics and other finds are chiefly at the Bardo in Tunis.


C. Poinssot, Les ruines de Dougga (1958) with biblio.; id., “Immurita Perticae Carthaginiensis,” CRAI (1962) 55-76.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: