Bulla Regia archaeological site Tunisia Travel Guide

Bulla Regia Archaeological Site

The archaeological site of Bulla Regia is located a few kilometers north of the city of Jendouba, in the northwest of the country, it is one of the main stages of cultural tourism in this region. The remains it presents bear witness to more than 17 centuries of the history of an agglomeration founded by the Numidians at the end of the 6th century BC at the latest and which quickly became a royal residence. Autonomous at the beginning of the Roman period, it was erected as a municipality under the Flavians and as a Roman colony under the Emperor Hadrian (117-138). At the end of the 5th century, its inhabitants were judged as bad Christians by Augustine.

Its archaeological remains which extend over more than 60 ha, offer the visitor testimonies of the protohistoric period (dolmen and hanout) and Numidian (urban planning, levels of habitat, ceramics and numismatics, epigraphy, etc.), and above all, from the Roman period (forum, temples, market, show monuments, public baths, hydraulic monuments, necropolises, etc.) and early Christian (churches). But what makes the site famous are its patrician residences decorated with very beautiful pavements of figured mosaics and, above all, an underground floor, which is to date without example in ancient domestic architecture.

Bulla (the) Royal. The name seems somewhat pompous compared to the real place occupied by this city in history, but it is justified by the fact that Bulla was, in the second century BC, the capital of a Numidian principality resulting from the dismemberment of the kingdom of Massinissa, hereditary enemy of the Romans who would have ended up beating him.

The foundation of Bulla goes back much earlier than this time, as evidenced by the megaliths and dolmens scattered on the site. Similarly, scant vestiges of the Punic period attest to the influence of the Carthaginian metropolis on the way of life of a predominantly Numidian population. But it was the Roman occupation that bequeathed us most of the remains which, today, extend over several dozen hectares.

We find in Bulla Regia all the components of the ancient Roman city: temples, forum, public baths, theater, etc. Some of these monuments, such as the baths erected in the second century, are of imposing size. But the greatest originality of the site is presented in the form of multi-storey villas: a level on the surface of the ground, today fairly leveled but of which remain very beautiful shreds of mosaic pavements, and a level in the basement, frequented in summer to fight against the scorching heat that rages here at this time of year; and this has earned us the heritage of almost intact residences with superb mosaic pavements, including the dazzling painting of the Amphitrite carried by a marine centaur, Neptune and two winged geniuses.

The archaeological site of Bulla Regia is still three-quarters buried, yet the elements that have been uncovered really justify going to see them.

The visit generally begins with the baths of Julia Memmia, with interesting mosaics; they were part of a rich patrician villa, to which the name of its owner was given. Although we can imagine the overall layout, the whole is much less well preserved than the theater to the east, which is quite modest in size, but most of the bleachers are intact. It is located behind a large square, near a temple dedicated to Isis.

Returning towards the western part, above the thermal baths, we begin the circuit towards the north, and we pass the ruins of buildings from various periods: a small Byzantine fortress, two Christian basilicas of the intermediate period (Ve- sixth centuries).

It is at the level of the necropolis that we discover the most original part of the site: underground villas, built by the Romans, not in order to protect themselves, but to take advantage of the coolness of the earth.

Opposite the site: a rest area with amenities and a small site museum currently being redeveloped and which contains some of the finds made on site and intelligently sheds light on some aspects of Numidian civilization.

Bulla Regia in images

Bulla Regia in video

The archaeological site of Bulla Regia on the map