Timgad - Encyclopedia

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TIMGAD, a ruined city 23 m. S.E. of Batna in the department of Constantine, Algeria. Timgad, the Thamugas of the Romans, was built on the lower slopes of the northern side of the Aures Mountains, and was situated at the intersection of six roads. It was traversed by two main streets, the Cardo Maximus running north and south, and the Decumanus Maximus east and west. The residential part of the town was on a lower level than the capitol and most of the other public buildings. The ruins of the capitol occupy a prominent position in the southwest of the city. Some of the columns of the façade (which are of the Corinthian order and 45 ft. high) have been re-erected. The dimensions of the capitol correspond with those of the Pantheon at Rome. Immediately north of the capitol are the remains of a large market; to the east are the ruins of the forum, basilica and theatre. The auditorium of the theatre, which held neatly 4000 persons, is complete. A little west of the theatre are baths, containing paved and mosaic floors in perfect preservation. Ruins of other and larger thermae are found in all four quarters of the city, those on the north being very extensive. Across the Decumanus Maximus just north-east of the market is the arch of Trajan - still erect, and restored in 1900. The arch is of the Corinthian order, and has three openings, the central one being ft. wide. Each façade has four fluted columns 19 ft. high. The chief material used in building the arch was sandstone. The fluted columns are of fine white limestone and smaller columns are of coloured marble. At the other (eastern) end of the street are the remains of another triumphal arch. West of the capitol are the ruins of a large church, a square building with circular apse, built in the 7th century. There are also remains of six other churches. About 400 yds. south of the city, the walls nearly entire, is a ruined citadel, a quadrangular building 360 ft. by 295 ft., with eight towers. It was built (or rebuilt) by the Byzantine army in the 6th century. Near the northern thermae is the house of the director of the excavations and a museum containing small objects found in the ruins.

Numerous inscriptions have been found on the ruins, and from them many events in the history of Thamugas have been learnt. In the year A.D. 100 the emperor Trajan gave orders to build a city on the site of a fortified post on the road between Theveste and Lambaesis. This city, called Colonia Marciana Trajana Thamugas (Marciana in honour of Trajan's sister) appears from the inscriptions to have been completed, as far as the principal buildings were concerned, in seventeen years. A legion of Parthian veterans was stationed in the newly founded city. From the time of its foundation to the 4th century Thamugas seems to have enjoyed a peaceful and prosperous existence. Numerous inscriptions testify to the manner of life of the citizens. In the 3rd century Thamugas became a centre of Christian activity, and in the next century espoused the cause of the Donatists. The city declined in importance after the Vandal invasion in the 5th century, and was found in a ruinous condition by the Byzantine general Solomon, who occupied it A.D. 535. It is believed that the Berbers from the neighbouring mountains destroyed the city, hoping thus to prevent it being used as a stronghold from which to harry them. Thamugas was, however, repeopled, and in the 7th century was a Christian city. After the defeat of Gregorius, governor of Africa, by the Arabs in 647, Thamugas passes from history. After centuries of neglect James Bruce, the African traveller, visited the spot (1765), made careful drawings of the monuments and deciphered some of the inscriptions. Bruce was followed, more than a century later (1875), by Sir R. Lambert Playfair, British consulgeneral at Algiers, and soon afterwards (1875-1876) Professor Masqueray published a report on the state of the ruins. Since 1881 Thamugas has been systematically explored, and the ruins excavated under the direction of the Service des monuments historiques. Among the objects discovered are a series of standard measures - five cavities hollowed out of a stone slab.

Seventeen miles west of Timgad, on the site of the Roman city Lambaesis, is Lambessa.

See G. Boeswillwald, R. Cagnat and A. Ballu, Timgad, une cite africaine sous l'empire romain; and A. Ballu, Guide illustre de Timgad (Paris, 1903).

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