Timgad was a Roman colonial town in modern day North African country, Algeria, founded by the Emperor Trajan around AD 100. The full name of the town was Colonia Marciana Ulpia Traiana Thamugadi. Trajan commemorated the city after his mother Marcia, eldest sister Ulpia Marciana, and father Marcus Ulpius Traianus. The site is one of the best example of the Roman grid planning and most interestingly, the plan is extant till date/
The settlement of Timgad, then known as Thamugas, if called, a garrison would not be wrong as it was built as a military colony by the emperor Trajan as it was built as a military colony to function as a bastion against the Berbers in the nearby Aures Mountains
Inhabitants and Planning
The African people, who would serve in the Roman army, for twenty-five years, would have a home in the base. An interesting point to note about the ruins of Timgad is that all of the homes built there were similar in size, a sign of equality amongst Rome’s citizens. The original settlement was a perfect square, spanning an area measuring 355 square metres, residing almost 15.000 residents but the city soon outgrew the number and for the next 300 years, kept on growing.
Timgad has versatile typologies, representing the different stages which it went through as it was built in intervals and went under restorations at different stages during the reign of the empire. As the Trajan Arch was built in mid 2nd century, the Eastern gate in 146, and the Western gate under Marcus-Aurelius. While, the streets were with large rectangular limestone slabs and, as attested by the 14 baths which still may be seen today, particular attention was paid to the disposition of public conveniences
The city was forgotten until it was excavated from under the sand in 1881 by French archaeologists.
Timgad is sometimes called the Pompeii of North Africa because of the extensive remains of the Roman city founded here.
The importance of the site can be felt by a fact that since 1982, Timgad has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Spring is the best time to visit the ruins as Algeria is a very hot place to be in.
Archaeologists who unearthed Timgad’s remains were amused by a Latin inscription found at the forum. It reads: “Hunting, bathing, playing, laughing—that’s living!”
On the western side of Timgad are the ruins of an impressive basilica with a baptistery, or baptism pool. This is a silent reminder that by the fourth century C.E., the city had become a stronghold of the Donatists—a “Christian” group that broke with the Roman church. The Donatists did not approve of the interference of Roman emperors in church affairs. They saw themselves as a ‘pure church,’ separated from the world.
What to See
Timgad doesn’t appeal the visitors just due to its grid plan but there is too much more to see like:-
A magnificent entertainment sire of Timgad was a 3,500-capacity theatre.
A series of fourteen bath complexes are yet another example of a good sense of Roman town planning.
The Library at Timgad was a gift to the Roman people by Julius Quintianus Flavius Rogatianus. Its architect and design is not, what makes it special but it is of a great historical importance as it shows the presence of a fully developed library system in this Roman city, indicating a high standard of learning and culture.
Arch of Trajan
This arch was built in 114 A.D. to commemorate the completion of the Via Trianna, but, more importantly, served the great purpose of glorifying the emperor, Trajan. One of the most common themes found on the arch is the Roman Empire’s need to expand. Almost all of the reliefs were tied into the concept of how the Roman Empire would continue to grow to encompass all of Italy, and eventually the Mediterranean.
A temple has been found at the site of ruins, dedicated to Jupiter that is of approximately the same dimensions as the Pantheon in Rome.
End, Resurrection and End
Timgad was destroyed in 430 as a result of Vandal invasion but the city took a new breath in the 6th century under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian as a fortress was built outside the original town and many blocks from earlier Roman buildings were reused but the city fell to an Arab invasion in the 7th century and was finally abandoned by the 8th century.