On the Gulf of Boughrara
opposite the island of Jerba, 30 km NE of Medenine and
E of the road leading to Jerba through Ajim. The ruins
are spread out on the foothills going down to the coast,
with hills to N and S of them and the road on the hinterland side.
The importance of the site is due both to its size—almost 50 ha—and to the extent and significance of the
area excavated. Its fame also owes much to Constans'
remarkable monograph on the history and archaeology
of the site, but, it has been virtually abandoned since the
original excavations except for a few sporadic restorations.
Gigthis was one of the most flourishing emporia of the
Syrtic gulf. Its foundation was probably Phoenician, the
city's position enabling it to trade with both Greece and
Egypt. Under Numidian rule after the fall of Carthage,
Gigthis then probably declined. On becoming Roman
with the creation of Proconsular Africa, it prospered for
a time, mainly because of the olive groves in the hinterland and trade with Ostia, the port of Rome. This economic progress encouraged political development. The
political and administrative center of gravity of a
Numidian tribe of the “natio” of the Chinithi, Gigthis
was at first a civitas peregrina. It was promoted to the
rank of municipium by Antoninus Pius after those of its
distinguished citizens who had acquired individual Roman
citizenship were permitted by the emperor to grant their
city the ius Latii. This enabled the most deserving of its
members to become Roman citizens and opened the way
for all its members to be Latinized. This prosperous
period was marked by an extension of the city plan and
architecture, as is shown by the traces that remain today. Nevertheless, owing to its origins and its position
on Syrtis Magna, Gigthis always retained the stamp of
Carthage as well as its links with the East through Egypt
and Libya. This influence was felt not only in the Alexandrine religious cults, strictly speaking, but also in architecture, decoration, and especially in Carthaginian traditions.
The forum stands on a hill near the shore beneath the
Temple of Isis and Serapis. Measuring 60.6 x 38.5 m, it
is oriented WSW-ENE, like the first general orientation
of the city, and has a large paved esplanade (32 x 23.5
m) surrounded on three sides by a spacious portico 7 m
wide with a Corinthian colonnade (19 x 11 columns). A
whole series of buildings and annexes open onto the portico. Two more large buildings flank the SW and NW
corners of the forum, on the side facing the principal
temple. They are arranged symmetrically on either side
of the entrance, which is continued along an axial street.
One of the buildings is dedicated to Liber Pater, the
other apparently is a civil basilica.
The forum is, therefore, complete in design and provided with the customary appurtenances. Some statues
and dedications that adorned it tell its history. Begun
under Hadrian, it was completed at the beginning of
Marcus Aurelius' reign and embellished under the Seven,
remaining in use up to the end of the Empire. Certain
outlying buildings were rebuilt and a few structures, in
particular the two large ones on the W side, were made
into private houses.
The capitol stands W of the forum on a podium 3.3 m
high. Hexastyle, prostyle, and pseudo-peripteral, it is of
the Corinthian order (12 fluted columns of gray-green
marble) and is reached by a monumental staircase
divided into two flights of steps. It is built of large limestone blocks with bands of opus africanum and faced
with painted stucco. A colossal head of Zeus Serapis that
belonged to a religious statue was found in the cella,
making it possible to identify the temple, not at all as the
usual sort of capitol but as that of the Alexandrian god.
Many other fragments of sculpture and bas-relief, frequently of stucco, have been found in the temple. The
temple wing, which opens onto the N portico, consists
of an alignment of rooms and sanctuaries, several of
which have been identified either from their plan or by
the inscriptions and objects found inside them.
Proceeding from the NE corner, one first comes upon
a Sanctuary of Hercules (3.7 x 5 m), identified by a
head of a statue found there. It is built of ashlar painted
with stucco. Next is an unidentified temple, built of large
blocks on a podium 2.4 x 3 m. According to an inscription it was built under Hadrian. A Sanctuary of Concordia Panthea comes next, identified from a statue of
the goddess and an epigraphic frieze, then on the other
side of the gate a Sanctuary of Apollo, dedicated in 162-64. Next is a fountain with its reservoir and several large
rooms whose function is undetermined. On the other S
side is a large paved room, the only structure occupying
the SW corner of the portico. A head of Augustus was
found there (now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris),
which enables us to identify the sanctuary as that of the
cult of the gens Augusta; beside this is the Temple of
Liber Pater, built under Marcus Aurelius. It stands in
the middle of a large court (23.5 x 14.7 m) surrounded
on three sides by a portico 3.5 m wide, which it dominates. The cella (10 x 10.5 m) has a naos and pronaos.
Opposite it across the street is another building—traces
of its three parallel naves can be seen today—identified
as the civil basilica. As large as the monument just mentioned, in the Byzantine period it was made into private
houses. Other structures are grouped along the S side.
Among them is a great temple (not identified) that has a
rectangular court (20 x 8.3 m) surrounded on three sides
by a portico 4.3 m wide (6 x 9 Ionic columns) which is
dominated on the W side by a cella, of which only the
foundations remain. The sculptured head of an unidentified god was found there. On the S side of this temple is
an open courtyard, possibly a public square (6.3 x 12 m),
ringed with a portico 2.25 x 3 m wide (4 x 6 Doric columns). Nearby are some badly ruined houses. Next is
the Temple of Aesculapius, 7 x 4 m, built of large blocks.
Then there is another small square near the harbor. Next
comes a jetty (17 x 140 m) which terminates in a
rounded, colonnaded mole. It dates from the first half of
the 2d c.
The baths in the center of the city comprise two
groups of buildings, with rooms paved with mosaics. The
baths and palaestra to the W are situated 200 m W of
the forum. This complex is made up of two elements
covering a vast rectangle (104 x 66 m) oriented ENE-SSW. The luxurious complex consists of the baths on one
side, and on the other a vast circular courtyard, inside an
area 66 m square, which has been taken to be the palaestra. These buildings were put up during the period of
feverish urban construction in the 2d c., then were presumably abandoned at a fairly early date.
The market is 150 m SE of the forum. Oriented in the
same direction as the forum, it measures 19 x 32 m and
consists of a courtyard surrounded by a portico with
stalls aligned around it. First built on a rectangular plan,
it was thereafter partly redesigned as a semicircular series
of stalls. In the middle is an aedicula with a fountain.
Behind the market is a complex of structures with
mosaic floors. One of them, fortified on the outside and
containing a series of troughs, was designed as a fortified
farm. In view of its position in the city it may be an
inn. Two other houses with troughs and mosaics have
been noted in this sector.
The Byzantine citadel stands on the cliff to the N. It
measures 60 m square and has square bastions in the
middle of the E and W walls. The approach to the interior was staggered. During the excavation three inscriptions were discovered, one of them in Greek. Excavations
in the same sector, still unfinished, have revealed more
structures from the Roman period that were fortified in
the Byzantine period. One of these had rooms with
mosaic floors and included some private baths.
The Temple of Mercury stood on a hill at the SW end
of the site. Its plan consisted of a peribolus 34.5 x 22 m
built of a masonry of large stones, with a portico (7 x 7
columns) on three sides surrounding an esplanade. In
the middle of the esplanade stood the cella of the temple. It had a pronaos 1.15 x 2.6 m fronted by two columns and a naos 2.6 m square. Behind was a wing consisting of several rooms and chapels. In front, to the W,
the facade is preceded by a porch. The temple, which was
identified by an inscription and a statue of a god, is now
at the Bardo Museum in Tunis. It was built at the end
of the 2d c. A.D. Its decoration consisted of veneers of
polychrome marble, stucco, and bas-reliefs.
A huge suburban villa overlooking the beach to the S
was found to have a second story, from which fragments
of mosaic flooring remain. It was laid out around a peristyle of 20 stuccoed columns onto which the rooms
opened. These had mosaic floors and walls decorated
with painted stuccos and various bas-reliefs, among them
a satyr's head now in the Bardo Museum.
A necropolis was discovered to the N-NW of Gigthis,
W of the palaestra, when route 108 was being laid from
Medenine to Boughrara. A great many tombs were excavated as a result, and were found to contain an abundance of grave gifts including some glass vases. Three
streets oriented NNW-SSE were also uncovered at that
time. While work was continued on the same road, another grave vault was discovered 200 m W of the tombs
previously excavated. Its grave gifts are now preserved
at the Bardo Museum. Also, 250 m NW of this vault, a
group of houses was found belonging to the suburb NW
of Gigthis. They were designed on a uniform plan: a
double main section on either side of a courtyard. Still
farther along the road, a semirural dwelling was uncovered. It had a sandy floor paved with mosaics, also some
L. A. Constans, “Gigthis,” NouvArch