Situation and characteristicsThe site of ancient Ammaedara lies at a height of 900m/2,950ft near the Algerian frontier. The present frontier village of Haidra dates only from the end of the Second World War.HistoryThe Berber settlement of Ammaedara, strategically situated on the main roads between Carthage and Hadrumetum (Sousse) on the one hand and between Carthage and Theveste (Tébessa) on the other, was taken over by the Romans, who established a military camp here, later to develop into a considerable town.From the time of Augustus the famous Third Legion Augusta was stationed here to protect the frontiers of the province of Africa. In the reign of Vespasian the troops were moved farther west to Theveste, and Ammaedara became a colony of veterans under the style of Colonia Flavia Augusta Emerita Ammaedara.Ammaedara is recorded in Byzantine times as the see of a bishop, and the town was involved in the conflict with the Donatists. Around 540 a powerful Byzantine fortress was built. The reasons for the town's later decline are unknown. Because of its frontier situation there were recurrent plans to rebuild the fortress, and in 1840 the north wall was re-erected. Excavation of the site began in 1883 and has not yet been completed.AccessGP 17 (Le Kef-Kasserine). Turn off at the mining town of Kalaa Khasba (formerly called Kalaa Djerda) into GP 4, which leads west towards the Algerian frontier and in 18km/11mi comes to Haidra. Kalaa Khasba is the terminus of a railroad line from Tunis; irregular bus services from there to Haidra.
The road from Kalaa Khasba to Tébessa (in Algeria) cuts across the site of Haidra. Parallel to it is the decumanus, running from east to west. The cardo runs at right angles to it from north to south, crosses the Oued Haidra and continues in the direction of Thelepte. The tour of the site starts at its east end.
On the south side of the road through Haidra can be seen the remains of a once mighty Byzantine fortress built in the time of Justinian (527-565). The ground-plan was in the form of a parallelogram (200m/650ft by 110m/360ft), with four towers on the west side and one on the east side. The north side was rebuilt in 1840; the south side was swept away by the Oued Haidra in a flash flood some years ago. The Roman road from Carthage to Theveste ran along the north side of the fortress; on the south side was a bridge over the river carrying the road to Thala and Thelepte. Within the fortress are the remains of a small chapel with a raised apse, and at its northeast corner the remains of a building with windows, the Edifice à Fenêtres.
Arch of Septimius Severus
Northwest of the Basilica of Candidus in Haidra is the Arch of Septimius Severus (A.D. 195), which was later incorporated in the Byzantine fortress and as a result is well preserved. It stood on the decumanus, traces of which can be seen on the inner (west) side of the arch. On the other side of the road are the scanty remains of a free-standing theater (A.D. 299). Northeast of the theater stands a two-story mausoleum with a square base bearing a temple-like structure which has Corinthian pilasters on the corners.
Basilica of Melleus
North of the fortress in Haidra, beyond the modern road, can be found the principal church of Ammaedara, the Basilica of Melleus (late fourth century), the largest in the town (60m/200ft by 30m/100ft). Within the church the excavators found numerous tombs, including that of Bishop Melleus from whom it takes its name.Immediately east of the basilica is the Roman forum, and beyond this is a barely traceable building which may possibly have been a market.
Basilica of Candidus
To the south of the decumanus in Haidra is a three-aisled Christian basilica (fourth-seventh century) known as the Basilica of Candidus or the Martyrs' Basilica, built over an earlier burial-ground. The outer walls, in opus africanum, were later reinforced by an additional inner wall. The delicate pavement mosaics from this church are now in the Bardo Museum in Tunis.
Building of the Troughs
Northwest of the theater in Haidra is the Edifice à Auges (Building of the Troughs). The ground-plan is similar to that of a basilica; the troughs suggest that it may have been a collecting-point for foodstuffs or possibly a posting station. Immediately north of this building is a three-aisled Vandal basilica measuring 21m/70ft by 9m/30ft.
GP 17, which runs south to Kasserine through steppe country covered with esparto grass, passes the little town of Thala (pop. 4,000), situated at an altitude of 1,017m/3,337ft. At the entrance to the town, on both sides of the road, are scattered remains which may mark the site of Thala, mentioned by Sallust in his "Jugurthine War".