Rome Journal

Andrew moves to Italy. Hilarity ensues.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

taking the sbeitla

This set of photos is from Sbeitla, yet another of the sites that's an hour or two away from Le Kef. This one I actually visited from Kairouan- it's not too far from there, either.

Sbeïtla is a beautiful site, and very well maintained, with gardens and a great visitor center. The Tunisians have clearly made the decision to invest in the site... do I need mention that there wasn't anybody else when I was there? Too bad, because it's terrific.

It's the spot where the Byzantine army first met up with the Muslims in the West. (You can guess how that went.) Anyway, it's a great place for getting a sense of what life in North Africa was like under the Byzantines. Mainly, it was somewhat... less than pleasant; "nasty, brutish and short" comes to mind. Evidence for this sense comes from the fortified houses on the site that look like bunkers: thick walls, cramped quarters. They also built a ton of churches, most of which haven't survived too well; the main draw are the remains of the classical city.

Here's the arch of Diocletian, at one entrance of the city. I really dig the columns- it's surprising that they managed to last so long without getting nicked for some mosque:

The forum complex, seen from a ways off. At some point, somebody put a wall around the forum- I presume that this was another example of late antique things falling apart:

The Byzantines went so far as to build a new bath complex in the city (bless their little hearts); here's a detail of one of the mosaics there:

The fish motif is a constant in Roman baths, but I kind of like these particular fish. They're a little cartoony, but I think they're kind of charming.


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