Ancient City of Thugga (World Heritage)

Thugga is one of the most important Roman ruined cities in North Africa. It includes the remains of the former capital of the Numidic Empire, which merged with a Roman veterans’ settlement in the first century under Tiberius. The 21 m high mausoleum is one of the remains from the Numidian period. The most important testimonies from Roman times include the place of the wind rose with mosaics, the Capitol, the Temple of Mercury and the triumphal arch of Severus Alexander.

Ancient city of Thugga: facts

Official title: Ruins of the ancient city of Thugga
Cultural monument: Ground plan of the »Tunisian Pompeii« adapted to the mountainous profile; situated on a 570 m high plateau above the Oued-Khalled plain; exposed provincial capital with approx. 8000 residents; Field of ruins with a theater for up to 3500 visitors, with the Windrose Square, the Capitol, the Temple of Mercury, the Ain Dora Baths, the Triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus, the Odeion, the Temple of Liberta, the Baths of Licinius and the Libyan-Punic mausoleum, the only surviving Punic building in Tunisia according to directoryaah
Continent: Africa
Country: Tunisia
Location: southwest of Teboursouk and Tunis, in the immediate vicinity of the village of Dougga
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: ancient Thugga, the former capital of the Numidic Empire and one of the most impressive Roman ruins in North Africa

Ancient City of Thugga: History

310 BC Chr. Mention of the Thugga settlement (»steep rock«)
46 BC Chr. Part of Africa Nova
14-37 under Tiberius (42 BC to 37 AD), actually Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus, merging of the Numidier settlement with the Roman veterans settlement
166-69 Construction of the Capitol
180-92 Construction of the Temple of Mercury
205 Thugga becomes a Municipium
260-68 under the government of Gallienus Publius Licinius Egnatius ascent to Colonia (261)
1899 first excavations
1908-10 Restoration of the Libyan-Punic mausoleum

Roman luxury in North Africa

“Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” – “Incidentally, I am of the opinion that Carthage must be destroyed.” This call by the Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato to destroy his unwelcome competitor, presented to the Senate over and over again, faded away after each of his speeches not unheard. After the Third Punic War, the Romans had achieved their goal in 146 BC.

Soon the branches in Provincia Africa stretched from the Mediterranean to the edge of the desert; some remained insignificant military posts, others matured into prosperous cities that were not looked upon without envy at home. This also included today’s Dougga, originally a place called Thugga, settled far from the coast by the Numidians, which only came under Roman rule with the creation of the Africa Nova province.

The new masters, on the other hand, were extremely tolerant. The Numidian influence persisted in the city for a long time. Private initiative and free trade brought Thugga considerable wealth, which found its expression in magnificent buildings donated by wealthy citizens. The heyday, when the city grew to 25,000 residents, lasted barely two centuries. Then Thugga was drawn into the vortex of the decline of Roman world domination.

The destruction in the course of history by the Vandals, Byzantines and Islamic conquerors was fortunately limited, so that today a rarely well-preserved ancient city complex awaits the visitor, which offers many surprises. The theater, founded by the Marcius family in the second century AD, still fulfills its purpose today, and at the annual theater festival the galleries fill up to the last seat. The »landmark«, which catches the eye from afar, is the towering Capitol Temple, which, as usual, dominates the complex of the forum, the political center of the time. The Marcius family also provided the financial means for the construction of the sanctuary, which was consecrated to the gods Minerva, Juno and Jupiter, as the name in the frieze shows.

An interesting detail that is easily ignored in the truest sense of the word is the compass rose, which is carved into the paving at his feet and bears the names of the winds in twelve segments, which to us seem strange; Septenerio, Euraquilo or Leuconotus can be read there in Latin letters. It is a sign that back then, in times without steam and electronics, much more attention was paid to the forces of nature than today. The square of the compass rose is joined to the south by the market, the focal point of economic activities in which slaves also changed hands. It is therefore certainly no coincidence that Mercury, the god of trade, held his protective hand over the ensemble from the temple to the north.

Influential citizens displayed their wealth not only in public buildings, but also in their private villas with splendid luxury. For example in the “House of Stairs”, which stretches down the slope in several levels from the market square, or in the “House of the Cupbearers”, which owes its name to a magnificent floor mosaic that is now kept in the Museum of Tunis. Sensual pleasures were by no means alien to the Romans of the African province: Public bathing facilities were a matter of course and equipped with underfloor heating, hot and cold bathing rooms and a fitness center. In the steam, people were open to gossip and gossip. The latrines also reveal a tendency to socialize: up to twelve people could do their “business” together in a cozy atmosphere. The “House of the Trifolium” just around the corner is likely to have been the red light district. Archaeologists have identified two entrances, one public for the bachelors and one hidden for the married visitors!

Ancient City of Thugga (World Heritage)

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