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