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Timgad*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Aerial view of the Timgad archaeological area.
State Party  Algeria
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv
Reference 194
Region** Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 1982  (6th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Coordinates: 35°29′06″N 6°28′08″E / 35.485°N 6.469°E / 35.485; 6.469 Timgad (Arabic: تيمقاد‎, called Thamugas or Thamugadi by the Romans) was a Roman colonial town in North Africa founded by the Emperor Trajan around 100 A.D. The full name of the town was Colonia Marciana Ulpia Traiana Thamugadi. Trajan commemorated the city after his mother Marcia, father Marcus Ulpius Traianus and his eldest sister Ulpia Marciana. The ruins are noteworthy for representing one of the best extant examples of the grid plan as used in Roman city planning.

The ruins of the town are located in modern-day Algeria, about 35 km from the town of Batna. The city was founded ex nihilo as a military colony, primarily as a bastion against the Berbers in the nearby Aures Mountains. It was originally populated largely by Parthian veterans of the Roman army who were granted lands in return for years in service.

Located at the intersection of six roads, the city was walled but not fortified. Originally designed for a population of around 15,000, the city quickly outgrew its original specifications and spilled beyond the orthogonal grid in a more loosely-organized fashion.

The original Roman grid plan is magnificently visible in the orthogonal design, highlighted by the decumanus maximus and the cardo lined by a partially-restored Corinthian colonnade. The cardo does not proceed completely through the town but instead terminates in a forum at the intersection with the decumanus.

At the west end of the decumanus rises a 12 m high triumphal arch, called Trajan's Arch, which was partially restored in 1900. The arch is principally of sandstone, and is of Corinthian order with three arches, the central one being 11' wide. The arch is also known as the Timgad Arch.

A 3,500-seat theater is in good condition and is used for contemporary productions. The other key buildings include four thermae, a library, and basilica.

The Capitoline Temple is dedicated to Jupiter and is approximately the same dimensions as the Pantheon in Rome. Nearby the capitol is a square church with a circular apse dating from the 7th Century AD. Southeast of the city is a large Byzantine citadel built in the later days of the city.

The Arch of Trajan in a late 19th century postcard.

The city enjoyed a peaceful existence for the first several hundred years and became a center of Christian activity starting in the 3rd Century, and a Donatist center in the 4th Century.

In the 5th Century, the city was sacked by the Vandals before falling into decline. In 535 A.D. the Byzantine general Solomon found the city when he came to occupy it. In the following century, the city was briefly repopulated as a primarily Christian city before being sacked by Berbers in the 7th Century and being abandoned. The city disappeared from history until its excavation in 1881.

At the time of its founding, the area surrounding the city was a fertile agricultural area, about 1000 meters above sea level. The encroachment of the Sahara on the ruins was ironically the principal reason why the town is so well preserved. Because no new settlements were founded on the site after the 7th Century, the town was partially preserved under sand up to a depth of approximately one meter until it was excavated.

Timgad was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

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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