The veterans settlement, laid out like a checkerboard by the Romans, was buried under sand for centuries. The remains such as thermal baths, library, Trajan’s Arch and amphitheater illustrate the typical Roman city architecture in North Africa around 100 AD.
Roman ruins of Timgad: facts
|Official title:||Roman ruins of Timgad|
|Cultural monument||City complex of Colonia Marciana Trajana Thamugadi on a chessboard ground plan with an original size of 367×325 m, preserved under sand drifts for centuries, with buildings such as the Great and Small Nordtherme (80×60 m), the library, the triumphal arch (2nd cent.), the Basilica of the Donatists, the Temple of the Genii, the House of the Hermaphrodite, the market, the 50×30 m paved square of the forum, the 8×8.5 m public latrines at the Decumanus Maximus and the 112×67 m Byzantine fortress the time of the Emperor Justitian; significant mosaics in the museum of Timgad, among others. depicting Neptune driving his chariot and Venus on a sea centaur|
|location||Timgad, on the northern slope of the Aurès, east of Lambèse|
|meaning||the former Roman veterans’ settlement of Thamugadi as a remarkable example of Roman urban architecture in North Africa|
Roman ruins of Timgad: history
|100||Established on the orders of Emperor Trajan|
|161-69||Construction of the theater south of the forum for up to 4000 spectators|
|311-429||schismatic movement of Donatism in Numidia|
|397||Council of Donatists convened by Bishop Optatus|
|429-430||Vandals conquered North Africa|
|539||Construction of the Byzantine fortress|
|6th century||Destruction by Berbers and Vandals|
|1767||Rediscovery by the English traveler James Bruce|
|1880||Beginning of the excavations|
“Hunting, bathing, playing, laughing – that is life”
“We need to explain where this city got its water from,” wrote Professor Masqueray in 1876 in an expedition report from eastern Algeria to Governor General Chancy in Algiers according to agooddir. He had just visited the well-preserved ruins of Thamugad – today’s Timgad – founded by Emperor Trajan in the year 100 AD. And they just didn’t want to fit into the completely dry Aurès mountains for him.
A military base in this inhospitable area at an altitude of 1000 meters, Masqueray would have seen that, but Timgad only became that under the Byzantines, when the Romans had long since left the place. A civil city in full bloom, without barracks and fortification walls, which had grown up in the times of peace in the southern part of the Roman Empire, that didn’t make sense to the professor.
In the first row of Timgad, built in a slightly terraced area, is the forum, the center of political life “the pearl of archeology in North Africa,” as the French colonial rulers were soon to call the ruins. In the second row stood the temple dedicated to God Mercury, in the third the basilica. Following the general Roman town plan, two main streets crossed the city: one from north to south, the second at right angles from east to west.
Long rows of columns indicate where lawyers, craftsmen and traders once offered their services to the citizens in covered commercial galleries. Three large markets supplied the population with food. One of the richest citizens of the city, Markus Plotius Faustus Sertorius, had the most beautiful one built. The right-angled courtyard provided space for three shops in its porticoes on each side. An adjoining, semicircular courtyard accommodated nine more shops.
The theater, built in the 2nd century, was an important center of cultural life. Although its ruins served as a quarry for the Byzantine conquerors after the fall of Roman Timgad, the building has been so well preserved that events can still be held on the semicircular stage. In the 4th century, the establishment of a public library enriched the city’s cultural life. The semicircular building, for which the patron, Julius Qintianus Flavius Rogatus, donated 400,000 sesterces, once contained thousands of books in its large, column-supported hall, which have long since crumbled to dust. There are still a number of obscene scratches on some of the pillars and the line for a board game.
The water, which Masqueray could not find at first, obviously played an important role in Roman Timgad. The rich town houses had the basin in the inner courtyard, which was common in the Roman Empire. Only a few, like the villa of the wealthy Markus Plotius Faustus Sertorius with over 2000 square meters of floor space, still give an idea of luxury life, as they had their own thermal baths. Three large public bathing establishments with plunge pools and underfloor heating mimicked similar facilities in Rome and Carthage.
“Timgad is just as Roman as the Italian cities,” said Professor Masqueray at the end of his expedition. And as the crowning glory of his work, he also solved the riddle about the water. “The city is located in a place where all the rain that falls in the surrounding mountains converges and can be collected in dams and distributed from there.” Times. The most important of these are located next to the temple and not far from the triumphal arch east of the forum. The Timgad region was then, unlike today, not a northern extension of the Sahara, but a “green paradise” with dense forests and fertile soils. It was the residents of the area themselves, of all people, who destroyed their livelihoods. The uncontrolled deforestation made the soil susceptible to erosion and eventually washed away. The microclimate that once prevailed in the vast valley of Timgad was forever mixed up and the desert was able to continue its northward migration. “Hunting, bathing, playing, laughing – this is life” as an inscription on the latrines is nothing more than a reminder of carefree days during the Roman Empire.