1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lambessa

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LAMBESSA, the ancient Lambaesa, a village of Algeria, in the arrondissement of Batna and department of Constantine, 7 m. S.E. of Batna and 17 W. of Timgad. The modern village, the centre of an agricultural colony founded in 1848, is noteworthy for its great convict establishment (built about 1850). The remains of the Roman town, and more especially of the Roman camp, in spite of wanton vandalism, are among the most interesting ruins in northern Africa. They are now preserved by the Service des Monuments historiques and excavations have resulted in many interesting discoveries. The ruins are situated on the lower terraces of the Jebel Aures, and consist of triumphal arches (one to Septimius Severus, another to Commodus), temples, aqueducts, vestiges of an amphitheatre, baths and an immense quantity of masonry belonging to private houses. To the north and east lie extensive cemeteries with the stones standing in their original alignments; to the west is a similar area, from which, however, the stones have been largely removed for building the modern village. Of the temple of Aesculapius only one column is standing, though in the middle of the 19th century its façade was entire. The capitol or temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, which has been cleared of débris, has a portico with eight columns. On level ground about two-thirds of a mile from the centre of the ancient town stands the camp, its site now partly occupied by the penitentiary and its gardens. It measures 1640 ft. N. to S. by 1476 ft. E. to W., and in the middle rise the ruins of a building commonly called, but incorrectly, the praetorium. This noble building, which dates from A.D 268, is 92 ft. long by 66 ft. broad and 49 ft. high; its southern façade has a splendid peristyle half the height of the wall, consisting of a front row of massive Ionic columns and an engaged row of Corinthian pilasters. Behind this building (which was roofed), is a large court giving access to other buildings, one being the arsenal. In it have been found many thousands of projectiles. To the S.E. are the remains of the baths. The ruins of both city and camp have yielded many inscriptions (Renier edited 1500, and there are 4185 in the Corpus Inscr. Lat. vol. viii.); and, though a very large proportion are epitaphs of the barest kind, the more important pieces supply an outline of the history of the place. Over 2500 inscriptions relating to the camp have been deciphered. In a museum in the village are objects of antiquity discovered in the vicinity. Besides inscriptions, statues, &c., are some fine mosaics found in 1905 near the arch of Septimius Severus. The statues include those of Aesculapius and Hygieia, taken from the temple of Aesculapius.

Lambaesa was a military foundation. The camp of the third legion (Legio III. Augusta), to which it owes its origin, appears to have been established between A.D. 123 and 129, in the time of Hadrian, whose address to his soldiers was found inscribed on a pillar in a second camp to the west of the great camp still extant. By 166 mention is made of the decurions of a vicus, 10 curiae of which are known by name; and the vicus became a municipium probably at the time when it was made the capital of the newly founded province of Numidia. The legion was removed by Gordianus, but restored by Valerianus and Gallienus; and its final departure did not take place till after 392. The town soon afterwards declined. It never became the seat of a bishop, and no Christian inscriptions have been found among the ruins.

About 2 m. S. of Lambessa are the ruins of Markuna, the ancient Verecunda, including two triumphal arches.

See S. Gsell, Les Monuments antiques de l’Algérie (Paris, 1901) and L’Algérie dans l’antiquité (Algiers, 1903); L. Renier, Inscriptions romaines de l’Algérie (Paris, 1855); Gustav Wilmann, “Die röm. Lagerstadt Afrikas,” in Commentationes phil. in honorem Th. Mommseni (Berlin, 1877); Sir L. Playfair, Travels in the Footsteps of Bruce (London, 1877); A. Graham, Roman Africa (London, 1902).