Timgad, located to the north of the massif of the Aurès in a mountainous site of great beauty, 480 km south-east of Algiers and 110 km to the south of Constantine, is a consummate example of a Roman military colony created ex nihilo.
The Colonia Marciana Traiana Thamugadi was founded in 100 A.D. by Trajan, probably as an encampment for the 3rd Augustan Legion which, thereafter, was quartered at Lambaesis. Its plan, laid out with great precision, illustrates Roman urban planning at its height.
By the middle of the 2nd century, the rapid growth of the city had ruptured the narrow confines of its original foundation. Timgad spread beyond the perimeters of its ramparts and several major public buildings are built in the new quarters: Capitolium, temples, markets and baths. Most of these buildings date from the Severan period when the city enjoyed its Golden Age, also attested by immense private residences.
Looking into the history of the area, it is easy to understand why the Romans chose to build Timgad here. There was more than enough water flowing to the city from the mountains and the fertile land gave farmers large landscapes to work on. But as the centuries passed, the land was exploited, trees were removed and the water soon dried up, leaving Timgad to rest amidst the sands of the unforgiving Sahara. The theatre is still sometimes used today, and significant features that rise up above the sand include the Corinthian colonnade, Trajan’s Arch (triumphal arch), Capitoline Temple, basilica and library. The city was completely abandoned by the seventh century, and was rediscovered in 1881. Visiting Timgad is a wonderful opportunity to explore the influence of the Roman Empire on Algeria, and the magnificent historical wonders they left behind.
It is worth mentioning that Timgad was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
Algeria.com + unesco.org
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