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Report 1992: Tunisia - the North and the Roman Sites

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 25 of 30: Roman Sites - Thuburbo Majus

photo by MAW

Capitol with the House of the Trussed Animals in the foreground

Thuburbo Majus is close to Tunis and a 'must see' for most visitors. Coach tours don’t spend long at the site, so if you are by yourselves it is possible to avoid them and head for the less busy areas of the site.

It is a delightful place and at the end of March was covered in very lush vegetation with banks of yellow daisies, purple borage, mallow, red campion, white stock, vetches and many others I couldn't put a name to. Later in the year after the flowers have died down it may not be as attractive.

This was originally a Punic town which paid dues to Rome after the conquest of Carthage. Emperor Augustus founded a colony of veterans here in 27BC who helped control the area and movement of goods and people between the plain and along the coast. The town was in the centre of a very fertile area producing grain, fruit and olives.

The capitol building dominates the site with the remains of colonnades silhouetted against the sky, reached by a flight of steps. Walls were built with large upright stones to provide strength and support with smaller stones between them, a style known as Opus Africanum. In front is a large paved forum. Off it is the Temple of Mercury with eight columns arranged in a circle, an unusual arrangement probably reflecting the Punic origin of the town. We could see the remains of stalls in the market place.

There are remains of paved roadways with buildings along them, many still with the remains of mosaics. These retain the original Punic layout rather than the rigid grid pattern of Roman towns. The Palestra of Petronius still has columns with carved entablature above. This was used for games and gymnastic activities and is next to the summer baths which were roped off when we visited.

We found the remains of the Byzantine church behind the summer baths with the remains of a baptismal fountain.

There is plenty of information in the guide books and Internet so is easy to find your way round without a guide.

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