El Djem

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
El Djem قصر الجمّ
The town seen from the ruins
The town seen from the ruins
El Djem قصر الجمّ is located in Tunisia
El Djem قصر الجمّ
El Djem قصر الجمّ
Location in Tunisia
Coordinates: 35°18′N 10°43′E / 35.300°N 10.717°E / 35.300; 10.717
Country Flag of Tunisia.svg Tunisia
Governorate Mahdia Governorate
Population (2004)
 • Total 18,302
Time zone CET (UTC1)

El Djem (Arabic: قصر الجمّ; Latin Thysdrus) is a town in Mahdia Governorate, Tunisia, population 18,302 (2004 census). It is home to some of the most impressive Roman remains in Africa.

History[edit]

El Djem in the morning

The city was built, like almost all Roman settlements in Tunisia, on former Punic settlements. In a less arid climate than today's, Thysdrus, which became part of the Roman province of Byzacena, prospered especially in the 2nd century, when it became an important center of olive oil manufacturing for export. It was the seat of a Christian bishopric, which is included in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees.[1]

By the early 3rd century AD, when the amphitheater was built, Thysdrus rivaled Hadrumetum (modern Sousse) as the second city of Roman North Africa, after Carthage. However, following the abortive revolt that began there in 238 AD, and Gordian I's suicide in his villa near Carthage, Roman troops loyal to the Emperor Maximinus Thrax destroyed the city. It never really recovered.

The amphitheater was used for filming some of the scenes from the 1979 Monty Python film Life of Brian and was also used for filming some of the scenes from the Academy Award (Oscar) winning film Gladiator.

Sights[edit]

Amphitheatre[edit]

El Djem rising from its modern town
Amphitheatre entrance

El Djem is famous for its amphitheater, often incorrectly called a Colosseum (roughly translated from Latin as 'that thing by the Colossus'), which is capable of seating 35,000 spectators. Only the Flavian Amphitheater in Rome (about 50,000 spectators) and the ruined theatre of Capua are larger. The amphitheatre at El Djem was built by the Romans under proconsul Gordian, who was acclaimed Emperor at Thysdrus, around 238 and was probably[citation needed] mainly used for gladiator shows and chariot races (like in Ben-Hur). Many tourists come here to see what it was like to be inside what was once a place where lions and people met their fate. Much of it is crumbled but the essence of it still remains. It is also possible that construction of the amphitheatre was never finished.

Until the 17th century it remained more or less whole. From then on its stones were used for building the nearby village of El Djem and transported to the Great Mosque in Kairouan, and at a tense moment during struggles with the Ottomans, the Turks used cannons to flush rebels out of the amphitheatre.

The ruins of the amphitheatre were declared a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Others[edit]

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Amphitheatre of El Jem
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
El Djem: the amphitheatre of Thysdrus
Type Cultural
Criteria iv, vi
Reference 38
UNESCO region Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 1979 (3rd Session)

Drifting sand is preserving the market city of Thysdrus and the refined suburban villas that once surrounded it. The amphiteatre occupies archaeologists' attention: no digging required. Some floor mosaics have been found and published, but field archaeology has scarcely been attempted.

In the world of writing materials, Thysdrus lay in the Empire of Papyrus, which preserves remarkably well if kept as dry as at El Djem..

World War II[edit]

During World War II a major military airfield was located near El Djem, used first by the German Luftwaffe. It was attacked on numerous occasions and later used by the United States Army Air Forces Twelfth Air Force as a transport field. There are few, if any, remains of the airfield today with the land being returned to agricultural uses outside of the city.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013, ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 992

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°18′N 10°43′E / 35.300°N 10.717°E / 35.300; 10.717