Republic of Tunisia
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The ancient site of GIGTHI is located at the bottom of the Gulf of BouGhrara in South-eastern Tunisia. It is 27 Kms North-east of Medenine, the capital city of the governorate, and 20 km South of the village of JORF, from where the island of Jerba can be reached by the Ajim ferries.


The history of this site merges with that of the Little Syrte, the ancient Syrtis minor (the current gulf of Gabes). This area was controlled by the Carthaginians whose presence in Gigthi is revealed by a tophet (open-air Punic sanctuary) which is situated at the foot of the southern cliffs of the ancient city. This sanctuary has delivered about ten steles representing iconographic components reminiscentof the Punic world: the so-called Tanit sign, palms, triangles...

-Following the defeat of Carthage by the Romans at Zama in 202 BC, literary sources inform us that the Numidian king Massinissa invaded the region of the Emporia(a group of Phoenician trading posts)of Little Syrte known for its wealth.

In 46 BC, following the victory of Julius Caesar over his rival Pompey in Thapsus, Little Syrte came under Roman rule. Administratively speaking, it came under the authority of Africa nova, then Africa Proconsularis. Its attachment to the latter province lasted more than three centuries. At the beginning of the 4thcentury, BC Gigthi was attached to the new province of Tripolitania, which was created in 303.

After the defeat of the Numidian tribal leaderTacfarinas (in 24 AD), Rome consolidated its hold on the south of Tunisia. In Gigthi, the first urban development dates back to the Julio-Claudian dynasty (27 BC-14 AD). This is evidenced by the architectural elements discovered on the site, which date back to the triumvirate or proto-Augustan period.

After obtaining the status ofmunicipium, Gigthi was given an ordo decurionum (town council) responsible for the daily management of the Gigthenses. The city was endowed with impressive public monuments: a forum, a capitol, temples, thermal baths, a market, a port,streets, etc. The generosity of its high-status and wealthy individuals was demonstrated above all by the ancient practice of evergetism (do good deeds). Suffice it to recall, by way of example, M. IuliusMandus, who dedicated a temple to Liber Pater (at the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius).

The economic importance of Gigthi is verified by the increased role of its port in the cross-Saharan trade, and by the "boom" of the olive-growing activities. Remains of oil mills have been found near the farms especially along the ancient Tacape- Zitha road through Gigthi, which proves that surplus oil was exported through its port.

In the 2nd and 3rdcenturies, Gigthi's influence spread beyond the Syrtes. Its name is mentioned in the main geographical sources: Epichos (thePseudo Scylax, I, 37); Gigthi or Gigthis (Geography of Ptolemy, IV, 3); Gigti(Table of Peutinger, VI, 6); Gitimunicipium (Antonine Itinerary, 60, 1).

In this site, the presence of Christianity is revealed by two Christian inscriptions: the first relates to a Christian man named Catulinus; the second is a monogram cross emblem with the alpha and omega. Another document i.e. the "List of the Episcopal See of Tripolitania" indicates that Gigthi was the seat of a bishop. At the Carthage Conference in 411, the Christian community of the city was represented by the Catholic bishop Catulinus.

After the capture of Carthage in 439 by the Vandals,the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III (425-455) lost control over the Roman provinces of Africa following the treaty of 442. But his sovereignty over Tripolitania was not undiminished. In 533, the Byzantines succeeded in conquering North Africa following the surrender of the Vandal King at Tricamarum(south of Carthage) to the troops of the Byzantine general Belisarius.

The campaign of Belisarius had allowed the Byzantines to subdue the Proconsular province, while for the other provinces, including Tripolitania, their domination was precarious because peace always depended on relations between the new conquerors and the powerful tribe of the Laguatan (the Louata) who always threatened the cities of the Tripolitan coast, including Gigthi. But the Byzantines finally succeeded in confining them to their territory around Ghirza in the west.

At the end of the Arab-Muslim conquest, Gigthi's influence diminished to the benefit of other cities of the region such as Jerba and Gabes. At the beginning of the 14thcentury, the Hafsid chronicler Abu Abdallah Ettijjéni visited Gigthi, known at the time asTajjaght, and left us a beautiful description of its remains: "the ruins that can be seen in this town are as numerous as the remains of the old buildings are still considerable and imposing".


The most important monument is certainly the forum which has a large esplanade paved with large slabs, surrounded on three sides by a portico. On the west side, this square is dominated by the capitol, which rises on a podium. To the south of the capitol there is a temple probably dedicated to the Genius of Augustus, and to the north stands a monument that would be the Curia.

The northern portico opens on places of worship dedicated to the Roman divinities, HerculeConcordia, and Apollo, and at the north-western corner of the esplanade is the aerarium or the municipal safe.

The eastern portico opens on the left towards the temple of Liber Pater and on the right towards the Basilica (hall of justice) with three parallel naves, galleries, and a tribune at the back, then towards a large undefined temple, near which stands a small sanctuary dedicated to Aesculapius, the god of medicine.

From this temple, we head towards the ancient port. Situated 150 meters east of the forum, the harbour had a pier ending with a rounded, hardly visible pier.

On the southern portico opens a temple probably dedicated to Augustus, it adjoins the southern gate of the forum, which allows us to access the insulae. They are houses built on both sides of the street leading to the forum. Opposite the insulae are the baths of the center, which are adjacent. Each thermal complex comprised the three rooms required for bathinga caldarium (hot room), a tepidarium (warm room), and a frigidarium (cold room). These bathhouses used three wells, three cisterns, and six furnaces to heat the water.

To the south-west of the forum is the macellum (market), which features a vestibule giving access to a courtyard lined with a portico that opens onto five shops arranged in a hemicycle. To the south of the macellum is a series of shops with numerous troughs that open directly onto the ancient road that now forms the bed of the El Hissian wadi.

About twenty meters north of the forum is a vast monument with a central courtyard with rooms opening onto it. Nearby, there is a wheat mill catillus. 300 meters south-west of the market stands the temple of Mercury, which includes a central sanctuary with a cellahousing the statue of Mercury.

To the west of the city, the Gigthenses erected the most significant monument of the city in terms of extent: the Palestra Baths. They form a rectangle which contains in its northern part the palestra and to the west a group of rooms which make up the baths: two symmetrical frigidaria, caldaria built on hypocausts, bathtubs, a conisterium, a room where wrestlers sprinkle themselves with sand.

In addition to the main monuments mentioned, there is a Byzantine fort to the north and two necropolises to the north and west. On the southern cliffs was built a beautiful villa composed of a peristyle of 20 columns, and a set of rooms surrounded by a corridor paved with a beautiful mosaic.



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