Roman for the Day
If the quality and beauty of Djémila’s two-thousand-year-old ruins are anything to go by, life would’ve been pretty good here for its Roman citizens. Okay, less so for their slaves kidnapped from the likes of Nubia and beyond, or indeed any Christians if lions were anywhere near the amphitheatre. But walking around Djémila set my mind racing, imagining what an average day of hedonism would look like here.
I definitely wouldn’t have minded waking up in one of its luxurious spacious villas watching the sunrise over the mountains. You’ve only got to look at the on-site museum’s collection of lavish mosaics depicting the likes of hunting and pagan worship to realise there was money in Djémila.
After breakfast I would’ve popped down the mighty cardo-Maximus, its flagon paving still sturdy, for a bit of shopping. The enclosed marketplace of Cosinius, where measuring tables remain today, would’ve been piled high with grains and fish from the local river, with olive oil and wine in abundance. Thereafter I’d mosey over to the huge forum to catch up with the gossip and perhaps observe a sacrifice to Jupiter or Minerva at the Capitolium altar, which is engraved with a pig and a ram as detailed as the day they were sculpted.
Spiritual duty would come a-calling too at the dynastic temple of Emperor Severus, which still stands proudly and magnificently today flanked by unbowed Corinthian columns. Although I confess, worship would represent expediency on my part as I wouldn’t want to fall foul of the violent-tempered Severus nor his siblicidal son, Caracalla.
Thereafter, my day would surrender itself to self-gratification. Perhaps a Homerian epic at the semi-circular theatre capable of hosting 3000 citizens. Or maybe luxuriating at the Grand Baths built around 183 where today you can still see the well-preserved hypocaust heating system and marvel in the museum at its mosaic of Venus. Failing that I might visit friends at the House of Bacchus – once the most magnificent villa in Djémila. Its mosaic featuring wine, combat, and sex, wreaks of hedonism. Such were the days of debauchery and finery during the glorious centuries of Roman rule in the Algerian Maghreb.