After exploring the Punic ruins of Carthage, we are curious to also explore the Roman history of this North African city. The Romans destroyed the Phoenician city in 146BCE, at the end of the Third Punic War, and made sure in every possible way that it would never emerge as a power again. They then realised the strategic importance of the city, and decided to rebuild the city. We had already seen on Byrsa Hill that they actually filled the ruins with sand, and built their houses and temples right on top. At Byrsa Hill, there are platforms with columns, many statues (all without head), and the ruins of the judiciary basilica, among other things, to see. We find a collection of statues, stelae, and carved pieces of marble behind the museum walls - unfortunately, the museum itself is closed.
After spending three hours at Byrsa Hill, and realising that there is much more to explore, we decide to hire a taxi, which takes us to the Roman amphitheatre: an oval structure, but not much is left of it. When the Vandals destroyed Carthage, they did a good job here. Next, we drop by the tophet, the Punic cemetery, and the Magon quarter of Carthage, before arriving at the Antoninus Baths. They are located on a large terrain, and we explore several ruins of temples, Punic graves, and other buildings, before heading out to the baths. They are the largest Roman baths ever built in Africa, and among the three largest built in the Roman Empire. Indeed, they are vast. We walk the ruins, see the various parts of where the Romans once came to relax: the caldarium, the frigidarium, the palestra, and other parts. The more we walk around, the more we realise how massive these baths were.
From the Baths of Antoninus, we head to the Roman villas, apparently a suburb of Roman Carthage, where only the foundations of the houses are still visible. We climb a hill that offers good views over the surrounding area where a mosque can be seen, and also discover some mosaics on the floor. Our next stop is the Roman theatre, which comes as a disappointment, as much of it is reconstructed, and the stage has modern structures towering above the ruins. We head to the water cisterns, which turn out to be much more interesting. Coincidence or not, an older guy shows up, and starts explaining us what we see here. The aqueduct apparently is the end of a more than 130km long system that transports water from the mountains to Carthage. The cisterns are all still covered, and are a massive water storage system. Once again, we realise and admire the knowledge and skills of the Romans.
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