The archaeological site of Mactaris
lies beside the town of Makthar which is, so to
speak, a late offshoot, dating to the colonial
period, as attested by the few buildings (such
as the headquarters of the delegation) or houses
with red tiled pitched roofs.
Maktaris is the Latin transposition of the initial
place name Mktrm which indicates the Libyc origins
of the city, as do indeed, the large number of
funerary monuments dating to this civilisation
to be found on the site. This is about all that
has survived from that period in terms of monuments.
It seems that the foundation of the city itself
dates to the lst century BC, with the establishment
of Punic or Punic-Numidians who spread the culture
and the arts of Carthage in the region in a lasting
manner, so that the influence continued after
the arrival of the Romans in the early lst century.
Yet, most of the archaeological heritage, considered
one of the richest and finest of Tunisia dates
to the Roman period. The city’s apogee was
in the IInd and IIIrd centuries. Its decline began
in the IVth century and was precipitated by the
Vandal and Byzantine invasions.
A monumental gate, standing today at the entrance
of the modern town, welcomes visitors and on the
other side of the road, the site itself protected
by an enclosure. Within, all the monuments composing
a Roman city are to be found, most in a good state
of conservation: amphitheatre, baths (4 in all)
forum crowned by an imposing triumphal arch dedicated
to Trajan, temples, basilicas, crypts, mausoleums
and even…a Roman tax office!
A world on its own !