Dougga Roman Ruins Tunisia

dggrnsThe extent of the Roman Empire was quite amazing. You can still see the remnants of Roman civilisation over much of Europe, even as far as Scotland, and all around the Mediterranean, especially in North Africa, where many settlements were established.

One of the great enemies of Rome was Carthage. The Carthaginian general Hannibal famously crossed the Alps with troops and elephants to both surprise and win battles against the Romans. Ancient Carthage was located in modern day Tunisia, so it is not surprising that Rome would want to establish cities near Carthage to put pressure on their rival.

The Romans built the city of Dougga in Northern Tunisia, not far from Carthage. The new city was built on the remains of Thugga, which had already been a Numidian town for at least six centuries. It was a strategically-important site, being perched on top of a summit at a height of 571 metres, affording it both great views of the surrounding countryside and an imposing impediment to attack.

These days Dougga is considered to be the best preserved of the Roman cities in North Africa. One of the reasons for the town remaining in such good condition is that it has a rural aspect so was not overbuilt by later civilisations, and because it was abandoned after the Romans lost power.

The site covers 75 hectares, and the buildings are still quite impressive.

Although some of the ruins at Dougga have been restored, most of the best examples of statuary and mosaics have been moved to the Bardo Museum in the capital, Tunis.

Whilst most of the buildings are from the Roman era, some do pre-date them to Numidian times. One of the best examples of this architecture is the Numidian Mausoleum, a tomb which has a tower that is 21 metres high.

Some of the public buildings are quite impressive and include the Triumphal Arches which date back to the third century and the Forum which was the centre of government in Dougga.

The Romans, as was their habit, built a system of cisterns and aqueducts for the carriage and storage of water. There are also several bathhouses that are still in reasonable condition.

The Roman religion was quite complex and there are temples built to honour various gods, with about 20 temples being identified so far.

Romans loved their entertainment and the theatre, which is still pretty much intact, is occasionally used for productions even today.

Dougga is about 100 kilometres from Tunis, and the town of Teboursouk is just 10 kms away, but there is not much accommodation in the town. Most visitors take a tour or hire a car in Tunis for a full day journey.

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