Thysdrus's huge amphitheater
Thysdrus was a Carthaginian town and Roman colony near present-day El Djem, Tunisia. Under the Romans, it was the center of olive oil production in the provinces of Africa and Byzacena and was quite prosperous. The surviving amphitheater is a World Heritage Site.
The Punic name of the town was ŠṬPŠR (𐤔𐤈𐤐𐤔𐤓). The Latin name Thysdrus has Berber roots.
Thysdrus began as a small Carthaginian and Berber village.
Following the Punic Wars, it was refounded as a Roman town BC. Punic culture remained long predominant, with the city minting bronze coins as late as Augustus with Punic inscriptions. Some bore Astarte's head obverse and a lyre reverse; others bore "Poseidon"'s head obverse and a capricorn reverse.and probably received some of Julius Caesar's veterans as settlers in 45
Roman Africa was less arid than modern Tunisia, and Thysdrus and the surrounding lands in Byzacena were an important center of olive oil production and export. Its greatest importance occurred under the Severan dynasty in the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries. Septimius Severus was a native of Roman Africa and bestowed a great deal of imperial favor upon it. He raised Thysdrus to municipality status (Latin : municipium) with partial Roman citizenship.
By the early 3rd century when its huge amphitheater was built, Thysdrus rivaled Hadrumetum (present-day Sousse) as the second city of Roman North Africa, after Carthage (near present-day Tunis). The city had even a huge racetrack (circus), nearly as large as the Circus Maximus at Rome and capable of accommodating about 30,000 spectators.
In AD 238, Thysdrus was at the center of a struggle to control the Roman Empire. After Maximinus Thrax killed Emperor Alexander Severus at Moguntiacum in Germania Inferior and assumed the throne, his oppressive rule resulted in universal discontent. Maximinus's procurator in Africa, in particular, sought to extract the maximum level of taxation and fines possible, including falsifying charges against the local aristocracy. A riot among the 50,000 Thysdrians ended with the death of the procurator, after which they turned to Gordian and demanded that he accept the dangerous honor of the imperial throne. After protesting that he was too old for the position, he eventually yielded to the popular clamor of the Thysdrians and assumed both the purple and the epithet Africanus ("the African") on March 22. According to Edward Gibbon:
An iniquitous sentence had been pronounced against some opulent youths of [Africa], the execution of which would have stripped them of far the greater part of their patrimony. (…) A respite of three days, obtained with difficulty from the rapacious treasurer, was employed in collecting from their estates a great number of slaves and peasants blindly devoted to the commands of their lords, and armed with the rustic weapons of clubs and axes. The leaders of the conspiracy, as they were admitted to the audience of the procurator, stabbed him with the daggers concealed under their garments, and, by the assistance of their tumultuary train, seized on the town of Thysdrus, and erected the standard of rebellion against the sovereign of the Roman empire. (...) Gordianus, their proconsul, and the object of their choice [as emperor], refused, with unfeigned reluctance, the dangerous honour, and begged with tears that they should suffer him to terminate in peace a long and innocent life, without staining his feeble age with civil blood. Their menaces compelled him to accept the Imperial purple, his only refuge indeed against the jealous cruelty of Maximin (...).
Due to his advanced age, he insisted that his son M. Antonius Gordianus be acclaimed as his coruler.A few days later, Gordian entered the city of Carthage with the overwhelming support of the population and local political leaders. Meanwhile, in Rome, Maximinus's praetorian prefect was assassinated and the rebellion seemed to be successful. Gordian in the meantime had sent an embassy to Rome under the leadership of P. Licinius Valerianus to obtain the Senate's support for his rebellion.
The senate confirmed the new emperor on 2 April and many of the provinces gladly sided with Gordian.
Opposition would come from the neighboring province of Numidia. II, at the head of a militia army of untrained soldiers mostly from Thysdrus and surroundings, lost the Battle of Carthage and was killed. Gordian took his own life in his villa near Carthage by hanging himself with his belt. The Gordians had "reigned" only thirty-six days.Its governor Capelianus, a loyal supporter of Maximinus and a stalwart opponent of Gordian, renewed his alliance to the emperor and invaded the province of Africa with the only legion stationed in the region and other veteran units. Gordian
Following this abortive revolt, Capelianus's troops sacked Thysdrus. Thysdrus was subsequently raised to the level of a colony (colonia) by Gordian III in AD 244. It was the seat of a Christian diocese, which is included in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees. All the same, it never really recovered.
Around 695, the Romano-Berber queen Kahina destroyed most of the olive trees of the Thysdrus area in her final attempt to stop the Arab invasion. She made her final stand at the amphitheater, but was defeated.
Similar to the Colosseum of Rome and to the theatre of Bosra, the amphitheatre was turned into a fortress where local tribes tried to check the Arab invasion of the region after the Byzantines had been defeated at Sufetula in 647. In 670 the Arabs founded Kairouan, forty miles north of Thysdrus, and made it the capital of the country. This fact, associated with the arrival of Arab nomadic tribes which led to the abandonment of farming, caused the decline of Thysdrus.
In the next centuries, Thysdrus largely disappeared from the record, with a worsening arid climate apparently damaging its olive oil production. By the 10th century, many of Thysdrus's buildings had been dismantled for use in construction at Kairouan. In the 19th century, French colonizers found only a small village named El Djem, with a few hundred inhabitants living around the remains of the amphitheater and barely eking out enough production from their farms to survive.
The Amphitheatre of El Jem was built around AD 238 and it is one of the best preserved stone Roman ruins in the world. It was named a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Thysdrus's bishops attended the councils of 393, 411, and 641. The Donatist schism had a hold in the city around 411.
Severus Alexander was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235 and the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222. His own assassination marked the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century—nearly 50 years of civil wars, foreign invasion, and collapse of the monetary economy.
The 230s decade ran from January 1, 230, to December 31, 239.
Year 238 (CCXXXVIII) was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Pius and Pontianus. The denomination 238 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.
Leptis or Lepcis Magna, also known by other names in antiquity, was a prominent city of the Carthaginian Empire and Roman Libya at the mouth of the Wadi Lebdam in the Mediterranean.
Gordian III was Roman Emperor from 238 AD to 244 AD. At the age of 13, he became the youngest sole legal Roman emperor throughout the existence of the united Roman Empire. Gordian was the son of Antonia Gordiana and an unknown Roman Senator who died before 238. Antonia Gordiana was the daughter of Emperor Gordian I and younger sister of Emperor Gordian II. Very little is known of his early life before his acclamation. Gordian had assumed the name of his maternal grandfather in 238 AD.
Gordian I was Roman Emperor for 21 days with his son Gordian II in 238, the Year of the Six Emperors. Caught up in a rebellion against the Emperor Maximinus Thrax, he was defeated by forces loyal to Maximinus, and he committed suicide after the death of his son.
Gordian II was Roman Emperor for 21 days with his father Gordian I in 238, the Year of the Six Emperors. Seeking to overthrow Emperor Maximinus Thrax, he died in battle outside Carthage. Since he died before his father, Gordian II had the shortest reign of any Roman Emperor in the whole of the Empire's history, at 21 days.
Philip I, also known commonly as the Arab, was Roman Emperor from February 244 to September 249. He was born in Aurantis, Arabia, in a city situated in modern-day Syria. He went on to become a major figure in the Roman Empire. After the death of Gordian III in February 244, Philip, who had been Praetorian prefect, achieved power. He quickly negotiated peace with the Persian Sassanid Empire and returned to Rome to be confirmed by the senate. During his reign, the city of Rome celebrated its millennium. He also introduced the Actia-Dusaria Festivities in Bostra, capital of Arabia. Dusaria is Dushara, the main Nabataean deity.
Balbinus was Roman Emperor with Pupienus for three months in 238, the Year of the Six Emperors.
Pupienus was Roman Emperor with Balbinus for three months in 238, during the Year of the Six Emperors. The sources for this period are scant, and thus knowledge of the emperor is limited. In most contemporary texts Pupienus is referred to by his cognomen "Maximus" rather than by his second nomen Pupienus.
Herodian or Herodianus of Syria, sometimes referred to as "Herodian of Antioch", was a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colourful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus in eight books covering the years 180 to 238. His work is not entirely reliable although his relatively unbiased account of Elagabalus is more useful than that of Cassius Dio. He was a Greek who appears to have lived for a considerable period of time in Rome, but possibly without holding any public office. From his extant work, we gather that he was still living at an advanced age during the reign of Gordianus III, who ascended the throne in 238. Beyond this, nothing is known of his life.
El Djem or El Jem is a town in Mahdia Governorate, Tunisia. Its population was 21,576 during the 2014 census. It is home to some of the most impressive Roman remains in Africa, particularly the world-famous "Amphitheater of El Jem".
The Battle of Carthage was fought in 238 AD between a Roman army loyal to Emperor Maximinus Thrax and the forces of Emperors Gordian I and Gordian II.
The Year of the Six Emperors was the year 238 AD, during which six people were recognized as emperors of Rome.
The history of Roman-era Tunisia begins with the history of the Roman Africa Province. Rome took control of Carthage after the Third Punic War (149–146). There was a period of Berber kings allied with Rome. Lands surrounding Carthage were annexed and reorganized, and the city of Carthage rebuilt, becoming the third city of the Empire. A long period of prosperity ensued; a cosmopolitan culture evolved. Trade quickened, the fields yielded their fruits. Settlers from across the Empire migrated here, forming a Latin-speaking ethnic mix. The Carthaginian society made up of native Phoenician-speaking Libyans (Berbers) and Phoenicians, as well as Berber-speaking Libyans, was becoming gradually romanized, some native Libyans like Apuleius and Septimus Severus became great figures of the Roman empire. Christianity became gradually spread among the Northwest Africans, offering to the Roman Catholicism three of its Popes, as well as Augustine of Hippo. During the eclipse of the Roman Empire, several prominent Libyans revolted. A generation later the Vandals, a Germanic tribe, arrived in Tunisia with the help of the Maurii and reigned over the Roman province for nearly a century. Several Libyan (Berbers) revolts occurred during the reign of the Vandals in the former Roman Africa, some detached themselves and established self-rule at the periphery. The Byzantine Empire eventually recaptured the area from the Vandals into its dominion in 534, which endured until the Islamic conquest, completed in 705. Then came the final undoing of ancient Carthage.
Maximinus Thrax was Roman emperor from 235 to 238.
Capelianus was a Roman governor of the province of Numidia in the 3rd century, and commander of the army that defeated and killed Gordian II in 238, the Year of the Six Emperors.
Roman colonies in Berber Africa are the cities —populated by Roman citizens— created in Berber North Africa by the Roman Empire, mainly in the period between the reigns of Augustus and Trajan. These colonies were created in the area—now called Tamazgha by the Berbers—located between Morocco and Libyan Tripolitania.
The Gordian dynasty, sometimes known as the Gordianic dynasty, was short-lived, ruling the Roman Empire from 238–244 AD. The dynasty achieved the throne in 238 AD, after Gordian I and his son Gordian II rose up against Emperor Maximinus Thrax and were proclaimed co-emperors by the Roman Senate. Gordian II was killed by the governor of Numidia, Capillianus and Gordian I killed himself shortly after, either 21 or 36 days after he was declared emperor. On 22 April 238, Pupienus and Balbinus, who were not of the Gordian dynasty, were declared co-emperors but the Senate was forced to make Gordian III a third co-emperor on 27 May 238, due to the demands of the Roman people. Maximinus attempted to invade Italy but he was killed by his own soldiers when his army became frustrated. After this, the Praetorian Guard killed Pupienus and Balbinus, leaving Gordian III as the sole emperor. Gordian III ruled until 244 AD when he was either killed after his betrayal by Philip the Arab, killed by Philip the Arab or killed at the Battle of Misiche; with his death, the dynasty was ended and Philip the Arab became emperor.
Roman-Africans are the ancient Northwest African populations of Roman North Africa that had a Romanized culture and used to speak their own variety of Latin as a result. They existed mostly from the Roman conquest in the antiquity until their language gradually faded out after the Arab conquest of North Africa in the Early Middle Ages.