Djémila or Cuicul as it was known back then,
was constructed by the Romans during reign of emperor Nerva (96 - 98 AD).
The site was chosen at the confluence of the two rivers. Djemila
is an extensive ancient Roman town that was added to a UNESCO World Heritage
Site List. Unlike many Roman cities in Europe, Djemila was largely abandoned
and hence it escaped a fate of vandalism by the local population. The city
was inhabited by farmers and wheat traders that sold grains to all corners
of the Roman Empire. In the ancient times Northern Algeria had much milder
climate, that was perfect for growing crops without a threat of a sudden
freeze. Residents of Djemila enjoyed their status as a major food supplier.
Two major streets, the Cardo Maximus
and the Decumanus Maximus, created the two highways around which the city
gradually grew. Initially the city was populated by the Roman army veterans who
got their share of land. During
reign of Caracalla New Forum was added to the city. In the 4th century AD
Christianity spread through out the city. Its presence is marked by
Baptistery as well as Christian Quarters situated in the South part of the
ruins at the entrance. In the 5th- 6th century AD the site was abandoned probably due to invasion of Vandals from Europe during The Great Migration.
The Arabs who conquered these lands did not rebuild the city, but they
certainly marveled at the wonder of the ancient engineering giving ruins its
today name of Djemila, which means "beautiful" in Arabic.
Logistics of getting there and back might
be tricky. Make sure you start yearly in the morning then the sun is low and
are the temperatures. Get a bus or a taxi driver. Personally I would suggest
a bus. You can pinch in with other tourists to make it safer and more
reliable trip. There are no hotels or motels in the village of Djemila
itself. The closest you will get to civilization is probably Setif situated
50 km southwest of the site.
Djemila Theatre used unique layout of the local terrain. Roman
engineers preferred not to waste much time and material so local theatre
was constructed on a side of a mountain, thus reducing the cost of any
Djemila Baptistery is one of the earliest Christian
churches in Djemila and the whole Roman Empire. It is hard to tell then did Christianity first appeared
in the city. Early Christians were persecuted for three centuries by the
Roman emperors. So little evidence have been left behind out of fear
they would be tortured or killed. However after Edict of Milan in 313 by
emperor Constantine Christianity became tolerated within borders of the
Roman Empire. Baptistery that was constructed in the fourth century AD
is a clear evidence that by the time Constantine became head ruler
Christianity was already well established in the city with many
prominent city elders among its followers.