Best when viewed with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

Timgad (Algeria)...Rogatinus Library

Date of Origin:"The date for building construction has been assigned to various dates during the third and early fourth centuries. The arguments seems to point to a mid-third century date."
source: Lora Lee Johnson, The Hellenistic and Roman Library: Studies Pertaining to Their Architectural Form, pp.35

Date of Destruction:In the 5th Century, the city was sacked by the Vandals before falling into decline. In 535 A.D. the Byzantine general Solomon found the city when he came to occupy it. In the following century, the city was briefly repopulated as a primarily Christian city before being sacked by Berbers in the 7th Century and being abandoned. The city disappeared from history until its excavation in 1881.
source: Wikipedia--accessed21oct10


Date Excavated: 1901
source: Lora Lee Johnson, The Hellenistic and Roman Library: Studies Pertaining to Their Architectural Form, pp. 22-23.

The Arch of Trajan in a late 19th century postcard.
The City

Timgad (Arabic: called  Thamugas or Thamugadi) was a Roman colonial town in North Africa founded by the Emperor Trajan around 100 A.D. The full name of the town was Colonia Marciana Ulpia Traiana Thamugadi. Trajan commemorated the city after his mother Marcia, father Marcus Ulpius Traianus and his eldest sister Ulpia Marciana. The ruins are noteworthy for representing one of the best extant examples of the grid plan as used in Roman city planning.

The ruins of the town are located in [upper northeast] Algeria, [close to the Mediterranean but not on the coast], about 35 km East of the modern town of Batna. The city was founded ex nihilo as a military colony, primarily as a bastion against the Berbers in the nearby Aures Mountains. It was originally populated largely by Parthian veterans of the Roman army who were granted lands in return for years in service.

Located at the intersection of six roads, the city was walled but not fortified. Originally designed for a population of around 15,000, the city quickly outgrew its original specifications and spilled beyond the orthogonal grid in a more loosely-organized fashion.

The original Roman grid plan is magnificently visible in the orthogonal design, highlighted by the decumanus maximus and the cardo lined by a partially-restored Corinthian colonnade. The cardo does not proceed completely through the town but instead terminates in a forum at the intersection with the decumanus.

At the west end of the decumanus rises a 12 m high triumphal arch, called Trajan's Arch, which was partially restored in 1900. The arch is principally of sandstone, and is of Corinthian order with three arches, the central one being 11' wide. The arch is also known as the Timgad Arch.

A 3,500-seat theater is in good condition and is used for contemporary productions. The other key buildings include four thermae, a library, and basilica.

The Capitoline Temple is dedicated to Jupiter and is approximately the same dimensions as the Pantheon in Rome. Nearby the capitol is a square church with a circular apse dating from the 7th Century AD. Southeast of the city is a large Byzantine citadel built in the later days of the city.

The city enjoyed a peaceful existence for the first several hundred years and became a center of Christian activity starting in the 3rd Century, and a Donatist center in the 4th Century.

In the 5th Century, the city was sacked by the Vandals before falling into decline. In 535 A.D. the Byzantine general Solomon found the city when he came to occupy it. In the following century, the city was briefly repopulated as a primarily Christian city before being sacked by Berbers in the 7th Century and being abandoned. The city disappeared from history until its excavation in 1881.

At the time of its founding, the area surrounding the city was a fertile agricultural area, about 1000 meters above sea level. The encroachment of the Sahara on the ruins was ironically the principal reason why the town is so well preserved. Because no new settlements were founded on the site after the 7th Century, the town was partially preserved under sand up to a depth of approximately one meter until it was excavated.

Timgad was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
source: Wikipedia--accessed21oct10
"The walled but unfortified city was laid out in the usual rigid Roman grid pattern. The extensive forum occupies the lower center, with the 3,500-seat open-air theater adjacent, while four major baths, a library, and the Capitoline Temple constitute the other key buildings. Substantial houses and shops filled most of the blocks inside the walled core; the extensive but casually laid-out 'suburbs' outside accommodated the rest of the population."
G. E. Kidder Smith. Looking at Architecture. p30.
Timgad was constructed as a bastion against the Berbers in the Aurès Mountains, by emperor Trajan in AD 100. The city was built after the best Roman plans, with shops, taverns and craftsmen selling from own stalls, as well as a forum almost in the centre, and a theatre just south of this.

The area where Timgad lies was earlier a fertile agricultural area, lying 1,000 metres above sea level, with plenty of water running down from the mountainous hinterland. But human exploitation has removed trees and soil, and the surroundings of Timgad is presently at the mercy of Sahara.

Even if Berbers and Arabs each have destroyed Timgad partly, most of the place have been saved by no new settlements on the spot, as well as sand covering it for centuries. A lot of Timgad is therefore in perfect condition. At least all that is below half a metre high. Some high constructions, like the theatre and Trajan's Arch still stand. The theatre is used for happenings even today.
source: LookLex Algeria
Click on image to enlarge

Algeria - released in 1969

Along the northern slope of the Aures, Timgad was created ex nihilo in 100 A.D. as a military colony by the Emperor Trajan. With its square enclosure and orthogonal design based on the cardo and the decumanus, the two perpendicular routes running through the city, it is an excellent example of Roman town planning.

source: Algeria
The Library

Restored Plan of the Library at Timgad

Inscription Below Probably Lintel Over Doorway
click on image to enlarge

Restored Elevation of Library at Timgad

click on image to enlarge
Restored Section of Library at Timgad
click on image to enlarge 

Upper left: Detail of Capital, looking up.
Upper right: Special Twisted Column before Large Central Niche in Semi-circular Room.
Lower left: General View of Library from North-East Angle.
Lower right: Stone bearing Inscription, probably over Main Doorway.
click on image to enlarge
source of images: Homer F. Pfeiffer, The Roman Library at Timgad, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Vol. 9 (1931) pp. 157-165
Excerpts from The Roman Library at Timgad

by Homer F. Pfeiffer

The discovery, almost simultaneous, of two libraries among the ruins of Roman provincial cities, one at Ephesus in Asia Minor, and one at Timgad in North Africa, awakened considerable interest among archaeologists, for they added very important data to the meagre information existing about provincial libraries.

The identification of the Library at Timgad, was acceptable, as it put an end to six years of speculation with regard to the purpose of this building. When excavated by the French in 1901, amid an entire city the remains of which are perhaps the best preserved of North Africa, its plan had no parallel among ancient structures, and there was no clue as to its function; although references had occurred in inscriptions to the founding of libraries and their cost, no certain remains of a Roman provincial library had thus been found. The building was successively designated as a shrine for the city's patron divinities, and as a Schola, that is to say a place of meeting and discussion; but finally in 1905, the missing fragments of an inscription were found, which definitely identified it as a public library, donated to the city by one of its wealthy citizens.

The presence of a library among the temples, baths and other public monuments gives us a deeper insight into the state of culture and the intellectual life of Roman North Africa. In the three or more generations that saw the growth of these communities from military outposts to flourishing, wealthy cities, they must have become, indeed, veritable smaller copies of their mother city, Rome.

Timgad,...the ancient Thamugadi, had been founded about 100 A. D. by order of the Emperor Trajan, under the name of Colonia Marciana Traiana Thamugadi. Its central part had been laid out in the usual checker-board form of a Roman camp, with its cardo and decumanus crossing at the Forum. 1 It had been settled by two hundred ex-legionaries and their families, each of which possessed a small square of land inside the city wall for a home, and a plot of ground outside, which they cultivated. It had grown and flourished, in the comparative security conferred by the proximity of a military camp, and the prosperity which all North Africa enjoyed at the middle of the second century, when the products of that fertile soil were carried away to feed the teeming populace of Rome. By this time the inhabitants had become more heterogeneous, and some families were wealthy and inlluential enough to build luxurious homes and to donate large sums for new and grander public monuments. The city grew far beyond its first meagre boundary. Spacious suburbs sprang up on every side, and the original forum and temples, adequate among the modest homes of the first settlers, were enlarged, or superseded by more magnificent structures.

The years 150 - 225 at Thamugadi, as at Thugga and other Northern African colonies constituted a period of intense building activity. This era saw the construction of the Theatre, the North Gate, the Public Market, many temples, and the Baths of the South and East. All thise were sumptuous monuments built at great expense, of rubble and brick with marble facings, embellished with colonnades, statues and inscriptions. The architecture was never very original; the whole city, which, instead of growing spontaneously, was laid out all at one stroke, always remained a little rigid. The architects, instead of adapting their buildings to local needs, were too willing to follow blindly the ancient Roman rules and precedents. All the buildings have the virtue of being not too florid, though they sometimes overdo this and are merely dry and uninteresting. They are usually just provincial copies of buildings such as were being designed in Rome at this same period.

The library,... however, which is the subject of the present restoration and discussion, departed sufficiently from precedent to make it impossible for archaeologists to identify it without documentary aid.

[The inscription(see photos above) discovered in 1905]...left no doubt that the building was a library, given to his native city by one Julius Quintianus Flavius Rogatianus at the cost of four hundred thousand sesterces, about $16,000. No further information is available concerning this donor, so that we can not ascertain the exact date of the erection of the library.

The plan of the library is somewhat crude; the design is deficient in architectual composition, and the problem of vaulting the semicircular room was solved very naively. Yet the building shows plainly that the architect recognized his requirements and met them in a straightforward, logical manner, combining his elements economically in the space available at the site.

The building,- occupying a rectangle eighty-one feet (m. 24.69) long by seventy-seven feet (m. 23.47) wide, consists of a large semicircular room, Ranked by two secondary rectangular rooms, and preceded by a U-shaped colonnaded portico surrounding three sides of an open court facing the Cardo. The portico is flanked in turn by two long, narrow rooms at each side.

The large vaulted hall combined the functions of stack room, reading room, and perhaps lecture room, in the sense that a teacher would bring into it several pupils at a time to consult the manuscripts, and discuss their contents on the spot.There were no distinctive school buildings in the African colonies; the teachers, paid in part by the authorities, taught in booths near the forum, in porticoes, or in private houses. The books or manuscript rolls were kept in wooden cases set in rectangular niches around the walls . The two rooms flanking this semicircular hall were probably stack rooms, and the four smaller rooms on either side of the portico, probably reading rooms.

The bookcases (armaria) would probably have been complete, with sides, back and doors, for at Ephesus... remains of a shallow marble moulding like a door frame were found at the bases of the niches, which would leave the interior of the niches clean cut to receive such a piece of wooden cabinet work. These cases contained shelves often divided into pigeonholes (loculamenta, joruli, nidi) in which the rolls were placed horizontally to show the end to which the title was attached.... Above the bookcases we restore bronze medallions containing relief busts of authors. This, whether in bronze or in other material, was a usual decoration for Hellenistic and Roman libraries, which many inscriptions allude. Often a bust of an author was placed near the collection of his works.

The room was probably lighted by a large window in the east wall. This library faces east, following the traditional rule of VITRUVIUS (vi, 4, 1): Cubicula et bybliothecae ad orientem spectare debent; usus enim matutinum postulat lumen, item in bybliothecis libr non putresent. nam quaecumque ad meridiem et occidentem spectant, ab tineis et umore libri vitiantur, quod venti umidi advenientes procreant eas et alunt infundentesque umidos spiritus pallore volumina corrumpunt.

(In the translation of M. H. MORCAN, Cambridge, Mass., 1914:) "Bedrooms and libraries ought to have an eastern exposure, because their purposes require the morning light. and also because books in such libraries will not decay. In libraries with southern exposures the books are ruined by worms and dampness, because damp winds come up. which breed and nourish the worms, and destroy the books with mould. by spreading their damp breath over them.

The Library at Timgad, considered as an example of the city's architecture, is not particularly remarkable. Its chief interest is historical, and lies in the fact that the presence of a fully developed library system in the community indicates a high standard of learning and culture at least in this African city.
source: Homer F. Pfeiffer, The Roman Library at Timgad, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Vol. 9 (1931) pp. 157-165

The library at Timgad is located along the eastern side of the cardio maximus, a short distance north of the forum. It occupies an entire insula which measures 24.69 m long by 23.47 m wide.

The plan of the library consists of a central apsidal room flanked by a rectangular room on either side. In front of these rooms there is a U-shaped portico which is flanked by two smaller rectangular rooms on each side.

Entrance to the library from the cardo maximus is provided by a flight of steps that leads to the courtyard. From the courtyard one can proceed to the portico and the various rooms. The courtyard is paved with white limestone slabs. It is surrounded on three sides by twelve corinthian columns belonging to the portico.

Protective measures against dampness have been suggested in two different ways, Makowiecka believes that the three air pockets behind the apsidal wall are related in function to the corridors at Ephesus and provide insulation for the books against dampness. On the other hand Pfeiffer in describing the main room's metal gateway says that it will allow circulation of air which will aid the preservation of the books. He also explains that a tight door is not possible due to the engaged columns and that the portico in front would prevent rain from entering.
source: Lora Lee Johnson, The Hellenistic and Roman Library: Studies Pertaining to Their Architectural Form,
Source of interest:
The Military Occupation of North Africa in the Late Republic and Early Empire through the reign of Hadrian (A.D. 138)
Back to Previous Level