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SBEITLA (anc. Sufetula)

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Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 278 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SBEITLA (anc. Sufetula), a ruined city of Tunisia, 66 m. S.W. of Kairawan. Long buried beneath the sand, this is the most beautiful and extensive of the Roman cities in the regency. It stands at the foot of a hill by a river, here perennial, but at a short distance beyond lost in the sands. The chief ruin is a rectangular walled enclosure, 238 ft. by 198 ft., known as the Hieron, having three small and one large entrance. The great gateway is a fine monumental arch in fair preservation, with an inscription to Antoninus Pius. Facing the arch, within the Hieron, their rear walls forming one side of the enclosure, are three temples, connected with one another by arches, and forming one design. The length of the entire facade is 118 ft. The principal chamber of the central temple, which is of the Composite order, is 44 ft. long; those of the side temples, in the Corinthian style, are smaller. The walls of the middle temple are ornamented with engaged columns; those of the other buildings with pilasters. The porticos have fallen, and their broken monolithic columns, with fragments of cornices and other masonry, lie piled within the enclosure, which is still partly paved. (In 1901 a violent storm further damaged the temples and forced the gateway out of the perpendicular.) The other ruins include a triumphal arch of Constantine, a still serviceable bridge and a square keep or tower of late date. The early history of Sufetula is preserved only in certain inscriptions. Under Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius it appears to have been a flourishing city, the district, now desolate, being then very fertile and covered with forests of olives. It was partly rebuilt during the Byzantine occupation and became a centre of Christianity. At the time of the Arab invasion it was the capital of the exarch Gregorius, and outside its walls the battle was fought in which he was slain; his daughter, who is said by the Arab historians to have fought by the side of her father, became the wife of one of the Arab leaders. The invaders besieged, captured and sacked Sufetula, and it is not afterwards mentioned in history. It was not until the close of the 19th century that the ruins were thoroughly examined by French savants. See A. Graham, Roman Africa (London, 1902) ; Sir R. L. Playfair, Travels in the Footsteps of Bruce (London, 1877).
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