In 1765, when Scottish explorer James Bruce discovered an ancient city partly buried in the sands of the Algerian desert. He did not realize that he was actually standing above the ruins of the largest Roman Empire settlement ever built in North Africa — the ancient city of Thamugadi, now called Timgad.
The ruins of Timgad offer us a glimpse of ancient Roman urban planning at its height with its precise design and modern grid plan. Located on the slopes of Aures Massif in what is now known as Algeria, it was built nearly 2,000 years ago by the Roman Emperor Trajan.
The city was originally designed as a perfect square, 355 meters long on each side. The angled design was highlighted by the decumanus maximus (east-west oriented street) and the cardo (north-south-oriented street) lined by a Corinthian colonnade.
The city’s original design was a perfect square, 355 meters long on each side.
The ancient city ruins can be found in Algeria.
When the Romans extended their rule over North Africa during the first century, they founded Timgad for retired Parthian veterans of the Roman army in return for their years of service. It was originally intended for a population of 15,000, but it soon outgrew beyond the original grid. The extension was looser, but still followed an organized manner. For the next 300 years, the city quadrupled from its original ground plan.
It quickly expanded four times its original ground plan over a span of 300 years.
It became a center of Christian activity in the 4th century.
The ancient city thrived during the second and third century, serving as an image of the grandeur of Rome on African soil. It also became a center of Christian activity and a Donatist center in the 4th century.
However, the city was sacked by the Vandals during the 5th century causing its decline. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian revived it in the 6th century, building a fortress outside the town. The Arabs invaded the city in the 7th century which led to its complete downfall and abandonment.
Marketplace with elegant colonnades and stalls.
The city was completely abandoned in the 7th century due to Arab invasion.
After the Arab invasion, Timgad laid under the sand of the Sahara for years exceptionally well-preserved. The Colonia Marciana Traiana Thamugadi , complete name of Timgad, was unearthed by explorers in 1881 and was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1982. The 12 meter-high Arch of Trajan still proudly stands at the west end of the decumanus maximus. You can also find the remains of a temple dedicated to Jupiter, large Byzantine citadel, 3,500-seat theater, library, basilica and four bath houses.
The 3,500 seat-theater was built for the entertainment of Timgad’s citizens.
The Arch of Trajan still proudly stands today.
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