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1. Underground quarries

2. Numidian Altar & Roman Temple

3. Forum and Basilica

4. Theatre

5. Roman bridge

6. Baths

7. Aqueduct

8. Prison camps

9. Amphitheatre

10. Museum


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City of Marble Mountain

Chemtou, Tunisia

Chemtou, Tunisia

Chemtou, Tunisia

Chemtou is the site of the Numidian, later Roman city of Simitthu, or Simithas. Simitthu was famous for its marble, which has a lively play of orange, red, yellow and pink colours.
Although there had been an important Numidan settlement here, with a temple on top of the mountain, it was the Romans who turned it into a wealthy city. It spread around the mountain, with the free men living to the west, and the prisoners who worked the quarries to the east. All Roman functions were established here, and the forum and basilica are in good condition. The theatre is most interesting with its underground quarters. The amphitheatre warrants a visit mainly because it was built for the prisoners, reflected in the poor building materials. The baths and the bridge are partially destroyed, and you will see better of both other places. The Numidian Altar and Roman Temple is quite disappointing, but their location offers a superb view over large parts of Chemtou and the surrounding landscape.
The transportation of the marble is no less impressive, although nothing here illustrates it. It was originally transported on the river Medjerda to Utica. The river Medjerda carried to my surprise plenty of water when I visited one day in June. But this was during Roman times gradually silted, and eventually in 129 CE a paved road had to be built crossing the mountain to Tabarka, from where it could be transported by ships to the rest of the Roman Empire.
Entrance to all of the site is free, but there is an entrance fee to the museum.
Chemtou, Tunisia

By Tore Kjeilen