Welcome to Rome Across Europe! We love Roman Architecture. How could you not?
So RAE is going through the list of monuments each week, and adding some extra information for you.
Today we bring you the Arch of Caracalla at Djemila!
The Arch of Caracalla is a Roman Arcus Triumphalis from the beginning of the 3rd Century, located at Djémila in Algeria. The arch was erected in AD 216 in honor of the Emperor Caracalla, his mother Julia Domna and his deceased father Septimius Severus.
The arch, with a single span (fornix) reaches a height of 41 ft, a width on 38.1 ft and a depth of 12.8 ft. It was placed on the road leading to Sétif, about 31.1 mi to the south-west, and constituted the entrance to the city’s Foro Severus.
On both sides of the span, on the pylons, are niches, each framed by a pair of Corinthian columns on pedestals, with smooth drums, detached from the wall. Each pair of columns supports an entablature, which is surmounted in turn by a small aedicula, with a pediment, reaching to the top of the Attic.
On top of the Attic, 3 bases remain, which originally supported statues of the members of the Imperial Family.
Known under its antique name Cuicul, Djémila is an establishment of an ancient Roman colonia founded during the reign of Nerva (96 – 98 AD). The Roman town occupied a singular defensive position. Cuicul is one of the flowers of Roman architecture in what was the Africa Proconsularis.
Cuicul was remarkably adapted to the constraints of the mountainous site. On a rocky spur at an altitude of 2953 ft, the fort was spread between the wadi Guergour and the wadi Betame, a pair of mountain torrents.
Around the beginning of the 3rd Century, it expanded beyond its ramparts with the creation of the Septimius Severus Temple, the Arch of Caracalla, the market and the civil basilica. The site has also been marked by Christianity in the form of several cult buildings: a cathedral, a church and its baptistery are considered among the biggest of the Paleo-Christian period.
In 1839, Prince Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans saw the arch during an expedition and planned to have it transported to Paris. He intended to have it erected with the inscription “L’Armée d’Afrique à la France” (The African Army, to France).
After his death, in 1842, the project, which was almost ready to be carried out, was abandoned.
The arch, together with the rest of the archaeological site of Djémila, has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1982. It also comprises an impressive collection of mosaics, illustrating mythological tales and scenes of daily life.
Now fenced in, the site contains all the elements necessary to express the classic formula of Roman urban planning. There are gates located at each end of the Cardo Maximus; in the center, is the Forum surrounded by buildings essential to the functioning of public life: the Capitoleum, the Curia, a civil basilica and the Basilica Julia.
We hope you enjoyed this journey outside of Europe and appreciate granting us the latitude for at least staying within the Imperium Rōmānum.
Please join us again soon to see what we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Fevrier, Paul . Notes sur le développement urbain en Afrique du Nord. Les exemples comparés de Djemila et de Sétif”, in Cahiers d’archéologie. 1964.
Romanelli, Pietro . Gemila. Enciclopedia dell’arte antica (1960).
De Maria, Silvio. Arco onorario e trionfale. Enciclopedia dell’arte antica. 1994.
52 Ancient Roman Monuments. Touropia.com.