Thugga is the best preserved Roman city in Africa. In a setting of great scenic beauty, surrounded by pastureland and olive-groves, the remains are prominently situated on a plateau on the edge of the Monts de Téboursouk, steeply scarped on the north side but sloping gently down on the south side to the valley of the Oued Khalled. Nearby is the spring of Ain Mizeh, which is still in use.
The access road to Dougga ends at the entrance to the site, where visitors buy their tickets and are offered the services of a guide. When engaging a guide, care should be taken to agree the fee in advance. The following description takes the form of a tour of the site, which can be undertaken without a guide.
The Theater in Dougga, built into the hillside in the usual Roman fashion, was erected in A.D. 168/169 at the expense of a wealthy citizen of the town. It has a diameter of 120m/395ft. The three tiers of seating in the semicircular cavea, with 19 rows in each, rise to a height of 15m/50ft, with an arched corridor running round the top, and could accommodate 3,500 spectators. At the foot of the cavea were seats for guests of honor. A low wall, the pulpitum, with numerous niches for marble statues separated the auditorium from the stage. The fine view into the valley, over the whole area of the ancient city and down to the Numidian mausoleum, which present-day visitors enjoy from the top rows of seating was originally closed off by a high stage wall, now represented only by a few columns; originally it consisted of three superimposed rows of columns with a flight of steps in front of them. The theater was used for performances of comedies and pantomimes. A doorway on the stage leads into a hall with Corinthian columns, the foyer of the theater. Here there is an inscription naming the generous founder of the theater and describing its amenities. In the basement of the stage building were property stores and other store-rooms. Above the theater, to the north, are the Temple of Saturn (the columns of which are a landmark visible from the access road), the Victoria Church and a pagan cemetery.
Mausoleum of Ateban
The Mausoleum of Ateban in Dougga, in the valley, is the only surviving Numidian/Punic structure in Tunisia. (Another was recently discovered at Sabratha in Libya.) The monument was almost completely destroyed in 1842, when the British consul in Tunis extracted from it a bilingual inscription on the facade. It was rebuilt by a French archeologist in 1910. The three-story monument, 21m/69ft high, was built about the middle of the A.D. second century for Ateban, a contemporary of Masinissa, son of Jepmatath and grandson of Palu. The bilingual inscription in Punic and Numidian (now in the British Museum) made it possible to decipher the Libyan script devised by the Numidians - an early form of the Tifinagh script which is still used by the Touareg of the Sahara. The form of the monument with its relief decoration shows Hellenistic and Egyptian influences. A six-stepped substructure supports a square plinth with pilasters topped by Aeolic capitals at the corners. The tomb chamber was entered through two windows which were closed by stone panels. Above this are three steps bearing the second story, which is articulated by fluted Ionic semi-columns. A further three steps lead up to the third story, at the corners of which stood equestrian statues. The final stage is a pyramidal roof. From here a road runs past the House of Gorgo to the Baths of Licinius.
On the paved road running east of Dougga are a number of villas, once sumptuously appointed, which are named after the mosaics found in them (now in the Bardo National Museum in Tunis). Built in the mid third century A.D., they were laid out on a plan commonly found in North Africa. A doorway in the windowless wall facing the street led into a vestibule, beyond which were the main rooms in the house, preceded by porticoes. In large houses the rooms looked out into a garden; in smaller ones they were built round an inner courtyard or patio (peristyle). In summer the cooler rooms in the basement were used, in winter the upper floors. This method of construction, found also in Bulla Regia, was particularly well suited to the sloping site of Dougga. The house known from its inscription as "Omnia tibi felicia" ("May all good fortune be yours"), with rooms laid out round a small peristyle, may have been the municipal brothel. Opposite it is the House of Dionysus and Odysseus, one of the best preserved villas in Dougga. Beyond this are the House of the Labyrinth and the House of the Three Masks. Farther south is the House of the Trifolium (so called from its clover-leaf plan), thought to have been the largest private house in the town, of which only the lower rooms survive.
Between the Place de la Rose des Vents and the Forum in Dougga, on a high base, stands the Capitol, a temple dedicated to the Capitoline triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Built in A.D. 166 or 167, it is one of the finest and best preserved Roman temples in North Africa. A monumental staircase leads up to the portico in front of the cella. All but one of the six Corinthian columns of the portico (four in front and two on the sides) are limestone monoliths. An inscription on the architrave gives the names of the donors of the temple and contains a dedication to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. The badly weathered carving on the pediment depicts a man being carried upward by an eagle, perhaps symbolizing the deification of the Emperor Antoninus Pius. In the rear wall of the cella, which is almost square (13m/43ft by 14m/46ft), are three niches for statues of gods - a semicircular one in the middle for Jupiter, flanked by square niches for Juno and Minerva. In the basement of the temple was an aisled crypt, which may have been used as a church. Here the excavators found the white marble head of the cult statue of Jupiter.
Baths of Licinius
The Baths of Licinius, or Winter Baths in Dougga, were built about 260 and rebuilt in the fourth century. So far as the sloping site permitted they were laid out on the usual symmetrical plan. On the north side was the almost exactly square entrance hall, surrounded by a colonnade of twelve columns supporting a "tube vault" of the kind found at Bulla Regia. The walls were faced with marble and the floor was decorated with a mosaic. A small vestibule led into the richly decorated frigidarium (cold room) in the center of the complex. Diametrically opposite the entrance hall was the palaestra, also surrounded by a colonnade. From the frigidarium the bather entered the tepidarium (warm bath) to the north and beyond this the caldarium (hot bath), heated by an under-floor hypocaust. Other rooms included a latrine and the sudatorium (sweat bath).
Mustis lies 12km/7.5mi southwest of Dougga on GP 5 (Medjez el Bab to Le Kef). Marius is believed to have settled native veterans here at the end of the second century B.C., after his victory over Jugurtha. Lying on the trade route between Carthage and Theveste (Tébessa), the town prospered and was raised (probably by Caesar) to the status of a municipium. There were triumphal arches at both ends of the town; the one at the east end is well preserved.The tour of the site begins at the remains of a temple of Apollo, adjoining which is a temple of Ceres. A paved road leads to the scanty remains of a Roman house. Beyond this is an oil press, and to the east the remains of a temple of Pluto. Opposite the foundations of a three-aisled Byzantine basilica are the ruins of a Byzantine fortress, built with stones from Roman structures.
Temple of Juno Caelestis
On the way back to the starting-point of the tour of the site of Dougga we pass the Temple of Juno Caelestis, the Roman equivalent of the Punic goddess Tanit. Its semicircular layout recalls the crescent moon which was the commonest symbol for Tanit. Built between 222 and 235 by Julius Gabinius and his wife Julia Gabinia Venusta, the peripteral temple is surrounded by a semicircular portico which itself is enclosed by a semicircular wall. The basin for ritual purification lay between the ring wall and a subsidiary building to the east of the temple precinct. On the north side of the temple is an apse, constructed when it was converted into a church. Below the temple are the Exedra of Juno Regina, a small oratory and the Columbarium of the Remii, a Roman family tomb of the A.D. second/third century.
Temple of Saturn
The magnificently situated Temple of Saturn in Dougga was built in A.D. 195 on the site of a pre-Roman temple of Baal (a few ash-urns and funerary stelae from which were found by the excavators). At the east end is a vestibule with four Corinthian columns; the inner courtyard is surrounded on three sides by a Corinthian portico; and at the west end are three cellae. In a cistern under the courtyard was found the head of the cult statue of Saturn, which presumably stood in the central cella (it is now in the Bardo National Museum in Tunis). The cella on the south side has preserved part of its stucco-covered vaulting. Below the temple is a hypogeum, an underground burial-place entered by a flight of seven steps, originally in a pagan cemetery.
Baths of the Cyclopes
Adjoining the House of the Trifolium in Dougga is the complex of buildings known as the Baths of the Cyclopes, with vaulted rooms in the basement. On the south side of the complex are the baths proper, in the frigidarium of which was a mosaic of the Cyclopes (now, like the others, in the Bardo National Museum). A feature of the baths is the well preserved public latrine (entered from a side street), with twelve seats on a horseshoe-shaped bench and a drainage system feeding into the town's main drain.
To the west of the Capital in Dougga is the Forum, laid out between A.D. 14 and 37, which is of modest size (38.5m/126ft long by 24m/79ft wide). It was originally surrounded on three sides by porticoes of red-veined marble columns with Corinthian capitals of white marble. Opening off it were a number of public buildings. In the sixth century the Forum, the Capitol and the Temple of Saturn were all incorporated in a Byzantine fortress with two added towers, built with stone taken from surrounding buildings.
Beyond the Arch of Severus in Dougga can be seen the Ain el Hammam cistern, with five basins, each 33m/108ft long by 5m/16ft high, with a total capacity of 6,000 cubic meters/1.3million gallons of water. 150m/165yds north is the Ain Mizeh cistern, with seven basins and a total capacity of 9,000 cubic meters/2million gallons. From here water - brought in an aqueduct from a spring 12km/7.5mi west of the town - was distributed to the town's baths and fountains and to some private houses.
On the south side of the Place de la Rose in Dougga is the Market (Macellum), probably built in the A.D. first century and converted into a meat market at the end of the second century. It was largely destroyed during the construction of the Byzantine fortress in the sixth century. On the east side of the square are two dwelling-houses, the House of the Cupbearers (named after a mosaic found in the basement and now in the Bardo Museum in Tunis) and the House of the Steps.
Place de la Rose des Vents
Just beyond the Temple of Augusta in Dougga lies the Place de la Rose des Vents, a square with a semicircular east end, paved with limestone slabs and surrounded by colonnades, which was built around A.D. 190 as an extension to the forum. It takes its name from the "rose of the winds" incised in the paving in the third century, with the names of the twelve winds (Septentrio, Aquilo, Euraquilo, Vulturnus, Eurus, Leuconotus, Auster, Libonotus, Africus, Favonius, Argestes and Circius).
Temple of Pietas Augusta
Returning to the Theater in Dougga from the Victoria Church, follow a paved street running southwest, lined by the remains of shops and houses. Rainwater was carried off by gutters in the middle of the street connecting with underground drains. The street leads to the little semicircular temple of Pietas Augusta (second century A.D.), of which there remain two columns with Corinthian capitals. Beyond this are the substructure of a temple of Fortuna and a small mosque.
Immediately east is of the Temple of Saturn in Dougga is the Victoria Church, a small aisled building with remains of mosaics. In a crypt below the raised presbytery was found a sarcophagus bearing the inscription "Victoria". This little church with its irregular ground-plan was built in the fifth century A.D. with stone from the Temple of Saturn.
Arch of Septimius Severus
The Arch of Septimius Severus (5m/16ft wide) in Dougga was erected in A.D. 205 to mark the town's promotion to the status of municipium, which carried with it the right to its own constitution, administration and civic law. The arch leads into the road from Carthage to Theveste (Tébessa).
Temple of Concord
Beyond the main entrance to the baths in Dougga are the temples of Concord, Frugifer (Pluto) and Liber Pater (Dionysus/Bacchus), built between A.D. 128 and 138 by wealthy citizens of the town. At the southeast corner can be seen a small theater, originally roofed, which was unfortunately obstructed by a later town wall.
Arch of Severus Alexander
Northwest of the Forum in Dougga is the Arch of Severus Alexander, known in Arabic as Bab er Roumia (Gate of the Christian Woman). It was erected about 223-235, probably to celebrate the granting of further privileges to the city.
Beyond the Temple of Minerva in Dougga is the 170m/185yd long Circus, constructed in A.D. 204 in a natural hollow in the ground. Although it has been excavated, there is little to see.
Dar el Acheb
Southwest of the Temple of Tellus in Dougga is a building known as Dar el Acheb, thought to be a temple built in A.D. 164-166, with a rectangular doorway leading into a walled courtyard.
Temple of Mercury
On the north side of the Place de la Rose in Dougga is the Temple of Mercury, dedicated to the god of trade. A ten- columned portico leads into the sanctuary, with three cellae - perhaps pointing to the worship of an African trinity of gods.
Temple of Minerva
Little is left of the Temple of Minerva, built in Dougga between A.D. 138 and 161, or of the nearby pre-Roman town walls. Also in this area are a number of Roman tombs and prehistoric dolmens.
Temple of Tellus
Below the Forum in Dougga is a temple (probably built in A.D. 261) dedicated to Tellus, a fertility goddess.In three niches in the cella wall can be seen statues of Tellus, Pluto and Ceres.
At the southwest corner of the site of Dougga, near the Ain Doura spring, are the so-called Summer Baths.