The former Cuicul, founded under Emperor Nerva as a Roman garrison and veteran settlement in the 1st century AD, documents the expansion and strategic urban planning of the Roman Empire in North Africa. Remains of the forum with the triumphal arch of Caracalla, the main street as well as administrative and private houses with unique mosaics are worth seeing.
Roman ruins of Djemila: facts
|Official title:||Roman ruins of Djemila|
|Cultural monument:||the Roman Cuicul (Djémila), former veterans’ settlement and “guard post” on the connection route to Carthage on a narrow hill; Place of the “New Forum” with the famous Triumphal Arch of Caracalla and the Temple of the “Gens Septimia” as well as the column-lined Cardo, a main street leading to the north, as well as the house of Asinus Nika and the “Old Forum” beyond the fragmentary Decumanus Court basilica, a capitolium, a curia (town hall), the 21×27 m meat and food market donated by Lucianus Cosinius Primus, the old thermal baths from the 2nd century, the 2600 m² large thermal baths, the “house of Bacchus” as well as the Christian quarter with a three-aisled basilica and circular domed baptistery from the 4th century.|
|Country:||Algeria, see directoryaah|
|Location:||Djémila, on the edge of the Little Kabylia, west of Constantine|
|Meaning:||an impressive example of Roman town planning adapted to the hilly North African landscape|
Roman ruins of Djemila: history
|96/97||as a place of residence for veterans of the III. Legion Augusta founded|
|193-211||Reign of Septimius Severus|
|211-17||Reign of Caracalla, Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus|
|216||Construction of the Triumphal Arch of Caracalla|
|229||Consecration of the Temple of Gens Septimia in honor of the Emperor Septimius Severus and the Septimier family|
|364-67||Construction of the apsidic hall as a market|
|553||Participation of the Bishop of Cuicul in the Council of Constantinople confirmed in the Council report|
|1839||the Count of Orléans with his expeditionary troops in Djémila|
|1909||Beginning of the excavation of the preserved sacred and administrative buildings|
Serious rival to Pompeii
When the first European traveler to the Maghreb, Thomas Shaw, stood in front of the ruins of Djémila in 1727, he thought he was in Roman Gemellae. In an “extensive field of ruins, in the midst of a wonderful landscape of mountains and valleys,” the English geologist discovered “beautiful ancient remains, including an old city gate and an amphitheater.” Ballu: Shaw had mixed up everything that could only be mixed up. It was not a city gate, but a Roman triumphal arch. And the supposed amphitheater was an urban stage. Besides, phonetics had played a trick on Shaw.
“The excavations are promising. Pompeii will soon have another great rival, ”wrote Albert Ballu in 1921 in his report on the well-preserved ruined city in Little Kabylia. The triangle of the mouth of two deeply dug gorges – in the northwest of the Oued Guergour and in the east of the Oued Bétame – created its strategic location. From there, the Roman veterans, who founded a colony in a small Berber village under Emperor Nerva and Emperor Trajan, could easily cross the roads from Citra (now Constantine) to Sitifis (Sétif) and those from the port of Igilgilis (Jijel) to the administrative center of the Numandia, Lambaesis (Tazzoul Lambèse), guard. The favorable location promoted trade. The fertile soil attracted additional residents, so the city grew considerably. Until the end of the 2nd
The simple houses of the veterans gave way to the lavish villas of the rich oligarchy. Cobbled streets, wells, sewers – the city soon had the infrastructure that was common in the Roman Empire. A theater was built next to the forum and the Capitol, the stage adorned with niches and columns can still be admired today. The triumphal arch has towered over the city’s most important street since 216.
High up on a hill is the most important temple of pre-Christian times, which was dedicated to the Gens Septimia, an African dynasty whose family members already held high offices in Rome during the time of Emperor Trajan. A monumental staircase leads up to the well-preserved columned structure – testimony to the faithful devotion of the Romanized Africans turned into stone.
During the reign of Valentinian I, who at the beginning of the second half of the 4th century directed the fortunes of Rome together with his brother Valens, the Christian community, which defied the persecution for decades, built the last important building in the city, the basilica. The crypt, apse and remains of the columns that separate the 16-meter-long main nave from two side aisles have been preserved to this day. The geometric floor mosaic in shades of blue and green bears witness to the city’s last bloom, which was forgotten in the 5th century after it was conquered by the vandals.
A few centuries later, the mighty walls of the former Roman barracks were once again to serve the fight against the rebellious Berbers. On May 15, 1839, the French army occupied Djémila. One of the landmarks of the lost Cuicul, the triumphal arch, almost fell victim to the glory of the commander of the 1st Division of the Expeditionary Corps, the Count of Orléans. The plan to use it to decorate a “square in honor of the French army in Africa” aroused great interest from the count’s brother, the “citizen king” Louis Philippe. Three years later, when everything was ready for the transfer, the father of the idea died unexpectedly.