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UTICA (Utique) Tunisia.

An important site established on a former promontory, today overlooking an alluvial plain, Utica is accessible by a short road leaving the village of Zana, 33 km along the route from Tunis to Bizerta. The location of this town was not, as it is today, in the midst of spacious lands but on the shore at the foot of a gulf, which the Medjerda has gradually filled up with its alluvium.

Being at the opening of a rich hinterland as well as a port at the center of the Mediterranean, it was one of the oldest and most celebrated Phoenician settlements. Even when Carthage outstripped it as the metropolis of a vast maritime empire and subsequently as the capital of a great imperial province, Utica remained for a long time second only to it. With the fall of Carthage in 146 B.C., Utica became the capital of the newly created province of Africa, would become the residence of the governor, with a garrison for Roman troops, and the center of a strong group of Roman citizens. Both rich and powerful, these men were called to play a crucial role in certain episodes of the civil war which led to the setting up of the empire. With the triumph of Caesar and the renaissance of Carthage, Utica's role was about to decline under the empire. In 36 B.C. it became a municipium, enrolled in the tribe of Quirina, and a colony under Hadrian. Already eclipsed by the preeminence of Carthage, Utica was faced with the progressive silting up of its port and consequent isolation in the midst of marshy lands. By converting its activity to further cultivation of its agricultural territory, it prolonged its life right up to the end of ancient times.

Utica had been endowed from the 2d c. B.C. with the buildings essential to comfortable urban life: forum, temples, baths, amphitheater, circus, in addition to dwellings. Most of these structures were placed in the grid of an orthogonal plan which covered a large part of the city.

Adequate in the beginning, during the Republican period, many of these buildings were replaced in the Imperial epoch by others larger and more luxurious. This explains the existence of two theaters for example, the one fitted into the side of the hill, the other built in open country. Enormous cisterns were constructed, fed by an aqueduct. Still extant on the summit of the acropolis overlooking the town, is a quadrangular edifice habitually referred to as “the citadel,” which could perhaps be simply a water tower. For various reasons, properly scientific archaeological research came very late, between 1948 and 1958, and is now active again. Such research has contributed a great deal to improving the knowledge of a city of which the history had already survived in literary texts. Monuments brought to light in the course of recent excavation are cited below.

The great baths were established to the W at the foot of the hill on a small eminence in the center of a depression that is often taken for a circular Punic harbor surrounding the admiral's palace. Uncovered in 1949-51 their surface covers more than 26,000 sq. m. The rooms are symmetrically arranged according to an axial plan.

Situated to the NE at the foot of the acropolis is a sector excavated between 1948 and 1958. All this part is enclosed in a city grid. The main axis is a monumental avenue bordered with porticos supported by an imposing colonnade on which shops open from either side.

On the S side of this avenue a residential district was established covering in part a Punic necropolis, which became the object of numerous researches; some discoveries of Punic and Hellenistic objects were made there. One complete insula (86.8 x 39.6 m) divided into 12 lots was uncovered where six houses of unequal size were counted—including The Treasure, The Cascade, The Decorated Capitals, The Hunt. These dwellings, constructed at the end of the 2d c. B.C., were long inhabited and incessantly altered and restored as the town developed and its population increased.

The House of the Cascade, the largest of this small block, was entered through a gate with two folding doors on the decumanus. A U-shaped corridor permitted access to the peristyle, around which the house was built. A large reception hall with triclinium paved in multicolor opus sectile stood between two small rooms provided with basins with fountains; on the offset side was another smaller reception hall; in the other wings were simple chambers opening on the garden, ornamented with a pool with a jet of water.

The House of the Hunt next to it followed the classic plan of houses with a peristyle; it included a large garden surrounded by a portico. During alterations, several rooms were divided into two parts. Some of the floors of these rooms, belonging to different periods of the house, were paved with mosaics. The most important—which gave its name to the house—is that of the hunt.

The House of the Historiated Capitals, adjacent on the E to the House of the Cascade, is oblong in plan, including on only one side a peristyle square on which opened a series of three rooms. This house included a second-story portico with capitals as fine as those of the main floor representing human figures. West of the House of the Cascade, the House of the Treasure, so named because of the finding of a coin hoard, had a complete peristyle with triclinium with a three-part entrance. Not much of it is still extant.

On the other side, N of the great avenue, the lower part of the town, traditionally but falsely called the Isle, shows numerous remains. Owing to the quality of their construction material, they have undergone an intensive exploitation by stone robbers and have been reduced in places to the foundations.

In 1957 a large rectangular plaza was brought to light bordering the portico of the principal street. Its length has not been fully uncovered. It was surrounded by a large portico paved with marble of which there remains only the imprint of the laying on the concrete. A very large quantity of marble chips coming from the work of the quarrymen and the finding of numerous statues suggest that this was the forum—probably of the imperial epoch. The remains of a temple on a podium and of numerous houses, large and rich but despoiled of their decor and their materials, have also been uncovered.


G. Ville in RE 9 (1962) col. 1869; A. Lézine, Utique (1970)PI; A. Alexander & M. Ennaifer, Corpus des mosaiques de Tunisie, (1973).


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