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SALA (Rabat) Morocco.

Ancient city of W Mauretania, 88 km NE of Casablanca. Its ruins have been located SE of Rabat in the Merinid ribat at Chellah and just beside it. Frequently mentioned by the ancient writers from Pomponius Mela to the Notitia Dignitatum, its name is confirmed by inscriptions found during excavation.

The city lay some 4 km from the sea, on the left bank of the wadi Bou Regreg—Pliny's flumen Salat (HN 5.9). It rose in successive levels from an ancient abandoned loop of the river, where the port probably was situated, up to the top of the Chellah hill. Potsherds found in the levels underlying the Capitolium of the Roman period suggest that the site was visited at least occasionally in the 7th-6th c. by the Phoenicians who sailed along the Moroccan coasts at that time. However, the earliest structures that have been found do not appear to antedate the 1st c. B.C. In this period Sala minted its own bronze coinage, which had a neo-Punic legend; and the pottery, which is abundant, shows that the city enjoyed vigorous trade with the Mediterranean, Cadiz and S Spain being its leading partners.

The great number of monuments, which are considered, quite reasonably, to be contemporary with the reign of Juba II (d. ca. A.D. 23), bear witness to the city's prosperity: a public square dominated by a sanctuary with five cellae fronted by a common portico (Temple A); two more temples (B and C) built one above the other between this agora and the Capitolium, the second one set on a three-stepped podium edged by a portico-staircase; farther S, underneath the Roman decumanus maximus, what is taken to be a fourth sanctuary, which matches Temple A in plan. Added to these are several public monuments of doubtful identification that have been located near the agora, SW and N of the Capitolium. They are generally well built, and in many of them the mediocrity of the local soft stone is hidden beneath a decoration of stucco or imported Italian or Greek marble facing. A few sculptures of high quality have been found in the course of excavating these buildings, including two large statues of Greek marble, one of which represents Ptolemy of Mauretania.

After Mauretania was annexed, the city was gradually rebuilt almost in its entirety, probably in the second half of the 1st c. A.D.: it is not known whether, like Tamuda or Lixus, Sala suffered in the disorders that followed the death of Ptolemy. Most of the ancient monuments were razed and banked up, although some were preserved and integrated into the new city plan. This was carried out on either side of a major decumanus linking the port with the high city. A forum 750 m square, enlarged with strong supporting walls containing tabernae, took the place of the old Mauretanian agora while, however, retaining Temple A to the NE. Behind the forum the street widens into a square lined with shops and a number of buildings, including one that is presumed to be the curia; another may possibly be a basilica. The latter is closed to the W by a three-bay arch, only the bases of which remain. To the N a wide terrace supported by shop vaults runs 5-6 m above the decumanus. A paved esplanade has been uncovered here, surrounded on three sides by porticos that frame a rectangular temple fronted by an altar. It is clear, both from its dedication and from the fragments of a colossal statue of Jupiter, that this monument is the Capitolium. The N side of this complex is bordered by a secondary decumanus which also passes in front of a series of shops dating from the Mauretanian era. Behind the shops can be seen another row of Roman buildings and the remains of a colonnade. Some baths have been uncovered on the S side, down from the decumanus maximus and the forum. The largest of these lies S of the arch, others near the modern gardens.

Outside the Merinid wall the decumanus maximus has been excavated to the E, and traces of several secondary roads have been found along with some buildings as yet unidentified. Remains of paving stones and wall alignments found at the level where the old wadi flowed also suggest that some large buildings stood here. To the W, on the other hand, the city does not seem to have extended much beyond the excavated area. There was a workers' quarter beyond the Capitolium, but the abrupt slope with the main ribat gate on top of it is not considered to have been built in the Roman period. Nevertheless, outside the surrounding wall, traces have been found of a military camp that can be seen in aerial photographs but was recently covered over by a cemetery; the ala II Syrorum was quartered here in the middle of the 2d c. A.D. One of the unit's prefects, Sulpicius Felix, was honored in 144 by a statue with an inscription on the base setting forth the composition of the ordo of the municipium of Sala and the text of a decree made in its favor, which honored it for having protected the city and restored peace.

About 10 km to the S Sala was protected by a fossatum and a wall that had probably been put up in this period between the sea and the wadi Bou Regreg. Thus the city apparently survived intact the troubles that beset the province in the second half of the century. In contrast to the other cities of S Tingitania, Sala was not abandoned under the Tetrarchy and retained a Roman garrison, mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum. Aside from pottery, only rare remains are attributable to this late period: an inscription dedicated to Constantine, discovered at the forum; a monument decorated with a mosaic of the Christian period, and a few tombs; yet the city essentially still kept its former appearance. During the 4th c. the Capitolium and forum were abandoned and turned into public dumps. From that time on Sala was merely a large village, surviving up to the Arab conquest and maintaining, if sporadically, its contacts with the Byzantines of S Spain and Ceuta. In the 11th c. the geographer El Bekri saw nothing but ruins on the site, and the importance of these, and their neglected state, was to impress El Idrisi in the next century.

The necropoleis encircled the city from E to W from the Hassan Tower to the Bab Zaer gate. Excavations carried out between that and Chellah in 1918 and 1966 uncovered close to 500 tombs, including several mausoleums and burial plots. They were found to contain a great quantity of grave gifts, proving that the site was in continuous use from the beginning of the 1st c. B.C. to the end of the 2d A.D. A few later tombs date from the 4th c.


L. Chatelain, Le Maroc des Romains (1944) 81-100; M. Euzennat et al. “Chroniques,” Bulletin d'Archéologie Marocaine 2 (1957) 218-23MPI; 4 (1960) 550-53MPI; 5 (1964) 363-67; 6 (1966) 546-50; 7 (1967) 659-62; L. Harmand, “Observations sur l'inscription de Sala,” Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire offerts à André Piganiol, III (1966) 1211-20; J. Boube, “Fouilles archéologiques à Sala,” Hespéris-Tamuda 7 (1966) 23-32.


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