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Coordinates: 35°24′N 8°07′E / 35.4°N 8.117°E / 35.4; 8.117

Tébessa is located in Algeria
Coordinates: 35°24′N 8°7′E / 35.4°N 8.117°E / 35.4; 8.117
Country  Algeria
Province Tébessa Province
Population (1998)
 - Total 161, 440
Time zone West Africa Time (UTC+1)

Tébessa (Arabic: تبسة Chaoui: Tébessa in Tifinagh.svg) is the capital city of Tébessa Province, Algeria, 20 kilometers west from the border with Tunisia. Nearby is also a phosphate mine. The city is famous for the traditional Algerian carpets in the region, and is home to over 161,440 people.



Tebessa was first a Numidian town, then, an outpost of Carthage in the 7th century AD. In 146 CE it became part of the Roman Empire and was known as Theveste (Hekatompyle in Greek).

During the 1st century CE, the Legio III Augusta resided there before being transferred to Lambaesis. It was made a colonia probably under Trajan.

There is mention of a council held there by the Donatists. Among its saints were St Lucius, its bishop, who in 256 assisted at the Council of Carthage and died as a martyr two years later; St Maximilianus, martyred 12 March 295; St Crispina, martyred 5 December 304. Some of its bishops are known: Romulus in 349; Urbicus in 411; Felix exiled by the Vandals in 484; Palladius mentioned in an inscription.

During the 4th and 5th century AD Theveste was a centre of Manichaeism as well. In June 1918 a codex of 26 leaves written in Latin by Manichaeans was discovered in a cave near the city. A month later Henri Omont found the missing initial 13 leaves. The whole book is now known as the Tebessa codex and it is kept in Cologne. It has been edited by Markus Stein (Bonn).

It was rebuilt by the patrician Solomon at the beginning of the reign of Justinian I, and he built a tomb there which still exists. Under the Ottoman Empire, Theveste had a garrison of Janizaries. Tebessa is very rich in ancient monuments, among them being a triumphal arch of Caracalla, a temple, a Christian basilica of the 4th century. At the time of Trajan, it was a flourishing city with c. 30,000 inhabitants.

In the 7th century AD, after the Arab invasion of the region, Theveste lost its importance. Later, during in 16th century, the Ottomans established a small military garrison there.

In 1851 it has been occupied by the French. Under the name of Tebessa it became the capital of a canton, then an arrondissement of the départment of Constantine in Algeria, later, it became capital of an arrondissement in the department of Bône, now (1974) it is capital of a province of its own, bearing the same name.


Main sights


  • Gate of Caracalla, a Roman triumphal arch (214 AD).
  • Roman theatre
  • Temple of Minerva (early 3rd century AD), with walls decorated by mosaics.
  • Amphitheatre (4th century AD)
  • Remains of the basilica of St. Crispinus (4th century AD), one of the biggest in Africa. It has also chapels, baptism urns, catacombs and gardens.
  • Byzantine walls (6th century), popularly known as "Solomon's Walls" and flanked by thirteen square towers.
  • Archaeological museum.


Tébessa is connected by road and rail with the other parts of both Algeria and Tunisia. It is served by Tébessa Airport for air transport.

External links


  • Stein (M.) (ed.) Manichaica Latina 3.1. Codex Thevestinus (Papyrologica Coloniensia volume 27/3.1.) Paderborn, Munich, Vienna and Zurich: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2004, Pp. xx + 328; Stein (M.) (ed.) Manichaica Latina 3.2. Codex Thevestinus (Papyrologica Coloniensia volume 27/3.2.) Paderborn, Munich, Vienna and Zurich: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2006, Pp. vi + 81, ills.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TEBESSA (the Roman Theveste), a town of Algeria in the department of Constantine, 146 m. S.E. of Bona by rail and 12 m. W. of the Tunisian frontier, on a plateau 2 9 50 ft. above the sea. Pop. (1906) 5722. The modern town, which is within the walls of the Byzantine citadel, boasts nothing of interest save a church built out of the ancient ruins. The Byzantine walls, pierced by three gates, are in tolerable preservation. They are strengthened by numerous square towers. One of the gates is formed by the quadrifrontal arch of Caracalla, a rare form of construction. The arch, erected about A.D. 212, is in good preservation. A pair of monolithic columns, disengaged, flank each facade. An inscription on the frieze gives the history of its construction; it was built by two brothers as a condition of inheriting the property of a third brother. The most important ruins are those of the great basilica. This building, one of the finest Roman monuments in Algeria, bears evidence of having been built at various epochs; the earlier portions probably date from not later than the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. The basilica was partially destroyed by the Berbers in the 5th century, and was rebuilt in A.D. 535 by the Byzantine general Solomon, who surrounded it with a wall about 25 feet high, still standing. The main building, consisting of a nave with apsidal end and two aisles,. was approached through a peristyle, which was surrounded by an arcade. Many of the columns of the basilica have fallen, but the bases of all are in their original positions. A quatrefoil chapel on the east side of the basilica is a Byzantine addition. The tessellated pavement which covers the basilica proper is in almost perfect condition. It is kept covered, for purposes of preservation, by a layer of earth. Next the basilica (and within the same enclosing walls) are the ruins of the forum, converted into a monastery in the 4th or 5th century, and regarded by Sir R. Lambert Playfair as the oldest known example of the monasteria clericorum. The whole of the basilica and its dependencies have been cleared and are kept in order by the Service des Monuments historiques, the principal work having been accomplished by Heron de Villefosse. Noteworthy among the buildings within the ancient citadel is a small tetrastyle temple, variously ascribed to Jupiter and Minerva, the portico supported by six monolithic columns of cippolino, four being in front. After the French occupation in 1842, the building was used successively as a soap factory, a prison, a canteen, a parish church, and, lastly, as a museum.

Theveste was founded towards the close of the 1st century A.D. In the succeeding century it was connected with Carthage by a great highway. In the 5th century, under Vandal dominion, it declined in importance. Refounded by the Byzantines in the 6th century, the city disappeared from history at the time of the Arab conquest of the country in the 7th century. In the 16th century the Turks placed a small garrison of janissaries in the place, but Tebessa continued to be but a small village until the establishment of French rule.

Nine miles from Tebessa are the extensive phosphate quarries of Jebel Dyr, where is also an interesting megalithic village. See Sir R. Lambert Playfair, Handbook for Travellers in Algeria and Tunis (London, 18 95), pp. 2 33-4 0, Guides-Joanne, Algerie et Tunisie (Paris, 1906).

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