Museum and Roman ruins of Djemila

It belongs to the UNIVERSAL INHERITANCE (UNESCO) since 1982


Formerly opulent Roman city sheltered nearly 10.000 inhabitants. Located on the high plains of Setif, between the littoral Atlas and Aures, the area was used of olive grove and attic with corn to the Romans.

Built into 98, Cuicul, today Djemila increases at the 3rd century, under the reign of the Caracalla Emperor. At the 4th century, the city obtained a Christian Basilica.

The Romaine penetration of the Site was undoubtedly done by North, in the last years of the 1st century under the emperor NERVA, it is only later (2nd century Ap J-C) which the high Setifian plains were occupied. All the conditions on which base the foundation of a city were met: abundance of water, presence of a career for the extraction of the stone, postpones fertile country, strategic place etc… the current site is located in edge of a prehistoric zone, the site of AIN LAHNECHE having delivered one of oldest civilizations lethic (human industry of the spheroids to facets at dawn of quaternary, approximately a million years ago. After having been a simple military garrison, the old city inhabited by veterans of the legions, was cosmopolitan as of the beginning, because the inscriptions found at the time of the excavations carried out between 1910 and 1957 reveal various origins (of Rome, Hippone, Cirta, Carthage and even of the surroundings of the Danube). The premitive city was ordered on both sides principal cardo which made function of axis and around a central forum, true center of the political life encumbered of pedestal honorary on which the effigies of the divinities rose, the emperors and important characters of the province. The Forum was surrounded by public buildings such as: the quarry where the town council (assembly of Decurions) met. Capitole, temple with triple sanctuary where one adored as in Capitole of Rome, Jupiter, Junon and Minerve. Another temple dedicated to the ground mother Tellius Genetrix or Venus Genetrix, a legal basilica where the businesses were treated and where one judged the lawsuits, a market finally with its court with colonnades, its hexagonal house and its 18 shops, formed by stone tables whose sections and supports are decorated reliefs, a third temple rose in the Southern part of the primitive colony between the forum and the enclosure, one supposes that it was devoted to the Worship of protective God: March (since the city was inhabited by veterans). In addition to all these public buildings; this old district contains very roomy and richly decorated particular houses mosaics, such as: the house known as of Europe, composed of 18 parts, the house known as of Amphitrite, the house of the Ass vaiquor (Asinus-Nica) and the house of Castorius made up of 27 parts. The inhabitants of Cuicul dant the number increased (10.000 to 12.000) offered the luxury of a theater which could conenir to 3.000 spectators, this last was built with 150 meters beyond the ramparts about year 160 of our era. 25 years after, under the reign of the convenient emperor, a beautiful establishment of thermal baths of approximately 2.600 m2 was built with 200 meters apart from the southern door on the prolongation of the grans Cardo. Thus, a whole southernmost suburb was built, and centers it urban activity tended to move towards the South. The clearing of the grounds indicated that architectural rise went ruins preferably representing the last phase of the antiquity, but which was not the least. The Christian period left monuments of a capital interest: Two churches with paved crypts all of beautiful mosaics, a rich person bestiary and inscriptions a small vault a baptistry in the shape of rotunda accompanied by baths a vast whole of leisures and buildings of which a part has to be used for housing of the bishop and clergy. Up to 476, an inscription indicates that the city had remained under the Roman authority. Until year 553 the activity, although extremely decreased, continued after a fashion as attests it certain mosaics with the museum escaping any traditional dating. The city founded under the Nerva emperor into 96 or 97 close J.C as well as Setifis disappeared about the 6th century under very fuzzy conditions. It appears to be systematically plundered then destroyed after being given up by its inhabitants. Others claim that it disappeared or strongly touched by the earthquake which the area of Setif into 519 struck, and others finally propose the assumption of a fire caused by Donatistes and the Berberes tribes mentioned as of the 3rd century thus providing the only unquestionable data on the populations autochtones however detectable that and there through the many texts epigraphic exhumed at the time of the excavations which made hardly art objets exceptional, apart from the splendid pagan mosaics or paleochristian which milked mythological legends and with a flowering of reasons as rich as varied reflecting ingeniousness and the perfect assimilation of the classic art by the local craftsmen within the framework of a still long-lived mediterranity.

Lost in the middle of the mountains, isolated from any civilization or almost, Djemila appeared brutally with the hollow of a valley. The arid nudity of the mountains which surrounded it struck imagination. There was no tree and the ground seemed not to bear any fruit. My Father explained me whereas the forest existed time of the Romans, but that with the abandonment of this place by its population, gradually it disappeared, destroyed by the herds of the shepherds who forwarded by there and whose goats ate the final buds of the trees and also by the autochtones themselves which made canes to help them in their long tour. Djemila was formerly surrounded by forests, of elms mainly and as one day a guard of the ruins of Dougga in Tunisia said to me: “… one could go from Dougga to Djemila, in the shade”!!! There were also vines, witnesses of a life which had to be rich and intense.

A little history

Between the so remote period of civilization capsienne and the foundation of Djemila whose name was Cuicul, one is unaware of completely what occurred. It is only under the reign of Nerva into 96-98 of our era that were create the first cities Sitifis (Setif), Cuicul (Djemila) and perhaps of other small agglomerations. Djemila was especially a colony of veterans, colony called “Nervienne” (what proves well its foundation by the Nerva emperor) but about the middle of IIème century appeared people come from Cirta (Constantine) and Carthage. Built first of all inside a polygonal enclosure it comprises streets traced with regularity parallel to laying out itself a great paved way, while other transverse streets are recut. In the center of the city is the forum, the capitole, the legal basilica and the market.

Laid out on a rocky outcrop in the valley, it has an obvious defense. Then very quickly the city overflowed of its first enclosure and did not cease changing. The place known as of “Severe” was one of most important works the, with the arc of Caracalla and a fountain which was high for the restoration of water conveyance in the city. The rich person families who lived Cuicul, competed to add to their landscape of the profane buildings and the Christian basilicas since Christianity was established there for a long time, and the baptistry dating from the end of IVème century proves it well to us still. Circular building its hexagonal swimming pool decorated with mosaics accomodated the catechumen to receive the baptism there. The thickness of the walls is impressive and the vaults were restored. Beside the baptistry two large basilicas are whose ground was decorated with mosaics which one knows that they were offered by generous givers. According to Paul-Albert Février, they can be dated from the end from IVème century or beginning from 5th.

Thus in Cuicul, one found, forum, furnace bridges of sacrifices, basilicas, houses with peristyle, thermal baths, theatre, it is there all the composition of a true Roman city. But isn't it also African? It is established according to a regular semi town planning and adapted to the ground. [Opposite a “urceus”, carved on the side face of a furnace bridge of sacrifices]  What is rather original compared to the towns of Rome. Its inhabitants were not really Romans. It was rested by elements of the army and these elements came from all the areas of the Mediterranean world, of Europe, of Asia and Africa, although the names of its inhabitants all were almost romanisés. The walk in the ruins of Djemila is long and fertile in discoveries. It is easy there to imagine the life of its inhabitants, their occupations, their distractions. The markets are opened and comprise still the stalls of the merchants. One can “enter” the houses, and see their common parts or particular rooms of them. One “sees” crowd on the forum, or penetrating in the temple, the tanks passing under the arc of Caracalla… One sees there even the sewers organized so well. The theatre superb, is leaned with the hill. The simple question which arises then is of knowing why these ruins? How this civilization disappeared?

Cuicul remained under the Roman authority until the end of the 5th century. In 533, to the Council of Constantinople had been invited, the bishop of Cuicul and this presence shows that the city recognizes this authority; the Byzantine soldiers had already sometimes happened to take possession of it. And this date of 533 is the last which one knows of the history of Cuicul. It is certain that the life did not stop from one day to another in the city but small with the inhabitants deserted the place which was left with its slow death.

The Museum

it are composed of three rooms in R.D.C is established in the south of the space excavated in a thicket of trees. After crossed garden (concise) where inscriptions and many architectonic elements are arranged which were discovered in Djemila, one penetrates in the museum itself enlightened by glazed lanterns whose walls and ground are decorated mosaics discovered in certain buildings of the city and put back with the museum. There is of all the kinds, since the simple geometrical carpet with reason until the great composition whose execution is characterized by a smoothness and a harmony of colors allotting to work a value symbolic system and artistic of a universal dimension. The windows contain many usual objects, movable, crockery, ustensils, jewels and varied works of art. A beautiful bronze collection, pagan and Christian lamps, illustrated stuccos and many other very important archaeological documents for the study of the Cuiculitaine company, and by extension to discover and compare our last very rich in lessons while crétiquant these classified treasures inheritance of humanity in the economic sector to the image of the close countries. Photographic library of the mosaics Photographic library of the ruins.