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Timgad, called Thamugas by the Romans, was a Roman colonial town in North Africa founded by the emperor Trajan around 100 A.D., probably as an encampment for the 3rd Augustinian Legion. The ruins demonstrate one of the best extant examples of the grid plan as used in Roman urban planning. Obviously a strong and affluent colony, Timgad would have served as an idyllic image of the grandeur of Rome on Numidian soil, and its stone-constructed buildings were frequently restored throughout the course of the Empire.

The streets were paved with large rectangular slabs of limestone, and the buildings were decorated with intricate mosaics, probably to offset the absence of marble decor. The city had a Forum and associated public buildings (the Basilica and Curia), several temples, a 3500-seat theatre, a market, 14 public baths, and a public library.

When Timgad was built, it was declared that only Roman citizens would be allowed to live there. Roman citizenship was granted to "any man completing 25 years of military service and his son". People wanting to benefit from comfortable living conditions and for the sake of their children willingly joined the army. Timgad was a city built for soldiers who gained citizenship by fighting for Rome. The reward for enduring a harsh military life was the prospect of leading an elegant life in Timgad. In the corner of the Public Square are the remains of some ancient graffiti which reads: "To hunt, bathe, play games and laugh. This is life!".[1]

Later, the city became a bishopric, and the Christian basilica and baptistry are still evident. The city was severely damaged after the Vandal invasion at the end of the 5th century, but saw a revival of activity after the Byzantine reconquest. In rebuilding the fortifications however, the Byzantines robbed a large amount of stone from the original Roman monuments. Following the Arab invasion, the city was again ruined and ceased to be inhabited after the 8th century. The remains were rediscovered buried beneath sand in 1881.

Being considered "an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; bear[ing] a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a civilization... which has disappeared" and as "an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history",[2] UNESCO listed the ruins as a World Heritage Site in 1982.

External links

  • UNESCO Site entry. Accessed 13 January 2008


  1. NHK World Heritage 100 Series UNESCO. Accessed 13 January 2008.
  2. The Criteria For Selection UNESCO. Accessed 13 January 2008.