donderdag 30 augustus 2012

Tunisia, Dougga / Thugga

Before the Roman annexation of Numidia, the town of Thugga, built on an elevated site overlooking a fertile plain, was the capital of an important Libyco-Punic state. It flourished under Roman and Byzantine rule, but declined in the Islamic period. The impressive ruins that are visible today give some idea of the resources of a small Roman town on the fringes of the empire.



The archaeological site of Dougga is the best-preserved example in North Africa of the rise, development, and daily life over more than 17 centuries of an indigenous Numidian city. Many of its monuments are unique of their type and bear witness to the harmonious synthesis of several cultures - Numidian, Punic, Hellenistic, and Roman - making it an exceptional site. The important epigraphic collection from Dougga, comprising over 2,000 Libyan, Punic, Greek and Roman inscriptions, has made a decisive contribution to the decipherment of the Libyan language and to knowledge of the social and municipal life of the Numidians and Roman colonial policy and municipal organization in its provinces.
Thugga is thought on the basis of recent excavations of an early necropolis on the northern edge of the site to have been founded before the 5th century BC. In the early 2nd century BC the Numidian Massimissa made it one of his capitals. In 46 BC Julius Caesar annexed eastern Numidia as the Roman province of Africa Nova, and Thugga became a Roman town. Then during the reign of Augustus the town was formally composed of two legally distinct communities: a shifting indigenous population who were governed according to their traditional systems, and a community of Roman citizens belonging to the Roman colonia of Carthage, who lived according to the Roman way.
Although small, its inhabitants never having exceeded 5,000, it flourished from its rural economy based on its rich and fertile territorium. Its prosperity seems to have continued throughout the 4th century, judging by the considerable amount of restoration and rehabilitation attested by numerous inscriptions, but urban life declined in the 5th century. The re-establishment of Byzantine rule (533-698) saw Thugga assigned a minor role in the political and economic life of the region. Little is known of the town in the Islamic period, beyond the erection of the simple Mosque of Sidi Sahbi.
The original Numidian settlement was built on a steep hillside, in the centre of a very fertile region. Thugga possesses a remarkable assemblage of public buildings - temples and sanctuaries, forum, public baths, theatre, amphitheatre, circus, market, public cisterns and fountains, etc. Private life is also well represented by large and small houses, shops, and mausolea.
The small rectangular forum, which is surrounded by a marble colonnade, is crossed by part of the later Byzantine fortifications. On one side of it is the capitolium, dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, one of the finest buildings of its type in North Africa. The theatre is small and is of standard Roman form. The scenae frons (stage) was originally floored with mosaic. Among the many temples is that dedicated to Juno Caelestis (the Punic goddess Tanit), built around 230. The temple of Saturn, on the edge of the town in the area of the pre-Roman settlement, is located on the site of an older sanctuary dedicated to Baal. There are two triumphal arches: that of Septimius Severus is much degraded, but the Arch of Severus Alexander still stands to a substantial height. The well-preserved 3rd-century Licinian bath is an excellent example of this type of municipal facility.
One of the most significant monuments in Thugga is the Lybico-Punic mausoleum in the southern part of the town, but it was reconstructed in 1908-10. This is the only major monument of Punic architecture still surviving in Tunisia.
In 1961 the Tunisian Government relocated all but two families of the remaining inhabitants of the archaeological site to a new village, Dougga-al-Jadida.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Historical Description

According to Diodorus Siculus, writing at the end of the 4th century BC, Thugga was a city of a ''fine size." It is thought to have been founded, in the centre of a very fertile region, before the 5th century BC, on the basis of recent excavations of an early necropolis on the northern edge of the site. When he conquered the region in the early 2nd century BC, the Numidian Massinissa made it one of his capitals, and it shared in the expansion and prosperity of the kingdom (and also some of its political tribulations during the Punic Wars) under his successors, becoming the centre of the Libyco-Punic culture.
After his defeat of Juba I at the battle of Thapsus in 46 BC Julius Caesar annexed eastern Numidia as the Roman province of Africa Nova, and Thugga became a Roman town. For two and a half centuries, starting in the reign of Augustus (27-14 BC), the town was formally composed of two legally distinct communities: a shifting indigenous population who were governed according to their traditional systems, and a community of Roman citizens belonging to the Roman colonia of Carthage, who lived according to the Roman way.
The Roman influence was quick to make its impact on the nature of the town. Whilst it retained what was essentially a Numidian urban fabric, Thugga acquired a typically Roman monumental appearance. Although small, its inhabitants never having exceeded five thousand, it flourished from its rural economy based on its rich and fertile territorium, especially in the boom years for the North African economy in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and so the quality of the public buildings was high, as was that of the private houses. It should be emphasized, however, that Thugga was in the Roman period never more than a prosperous country market town.
Under the Severan emperors (193-235) Thugga was raised to the status of municipium, and Gallienus elevated it to the highest level of provincial town, that of colonia in 261. It had also become the seat of a bishopric in the 3rd century. Its prosperity seems to have continued, albeit at a lower level, throughout the 4th century, judging by the considerable amount of restoration and rehabilitation attested by numerous inscriptions, but urban life declined in the 5th century.
The re-establishment of Byzantine rule (533-698) saw Thugga assigned a minor role in the political and economic life of the region. The forum and capitolium were enclosed during his period by a wall, for the building of \\hich some of the important public buildings were robbed of their decorative and structural elements.
Little is known of the town in the Islamic period, beyond the fact that it continued to be inhabited for a considerable period, as demonstrated by the erection of the simple Mosque of Sidi Sahbi, to the east of the capitolium, in the 14th century. It is hoped that further excavations will throw more light on the eventual abandonment of his once thriving city.

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