El JEM
This was the last archaeological site to be visited. El Jem is famous for its remarkable amphitheatre, only slightly smaller than the one in Rome and said to be in a better state of preservation. According to our guide it is 148 m. long and 427 m wide, the third largest amphitheatre in the Roman world and considerably larger than those at Arles, Nîmes and Verona (Plate 6.23). Its position in the present day is incongruous, situated as it is in the middle of a flat plain between Sousse and Sfax, at the end of a row of modern houses. It is the most impressive Roman monument in Africa and gives El Jem its importance and popularity in the summer months when it is used for music, both Arab and European, and festivals of various kinds.
El Jem also has a fine museum with excellent mosaics which can be visited in a much more peaceful atmosphere than in the Bardo museum at Carthage, which was already full of tourists in mid March, as well as workmen transferring the mosaics from the floors to the walls with the aid of loud and piercing electric drills.


There is no cipollino in the amphitheatre or in the museum, except just possibly some fragments in the floor of the Roman villa which has been transported and erected behind the museum, with its own garden, pool and courtyard, covering 3000 square metres (Plate 6.24).


There are in fact no imposing porticoes with rows of elegant cipollino columns. But near the ruins of the villas there are some columns and part columns which are quite clearly cipollino. There is one complete column measuring 1.97 m. /6.65 Rf in height and .48 m. /1.62 Rf in diameter, with a collar but no base (Plate 6.25). Another, broken, column with a break at the top measures 1.35 m. /4.56 Rf in height and .48 m. /1.62 Rf in diameter (Plate 6.26). Another incomplete column with badly broken top is 1.68 m. /5.67 Rf high and .43 m. /1.45 Rf in diameter (Plate 6.27). A very short column, or fragment of column, has a height of .82 m. /2.77 Rf and diameter of .37 m. /1.25 Rf with a small circular hole in the centre with .07 m. diameter (Plate 6.28). A very small fragment of a column is .74 m. /12.5 Rf high and .43 m. /1.45 Rf in diameter and is partially buried in the ground at the bottom (Plate 6.29). Where two paths meet is another fragment, 1.28 m. /4.05 Rf high .28 m. /.94 Rf in diameter which also has a round hole in the centre .07 m. /23 Rf in diameter (Plate 6.30).

Maps and Plates

Plate 6.23.jpg

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Plate 6.23 The Amphitheatre, El Jem.

Plate 6.24.jpg

Plate 6.24 Possible pieces of cipollino in the Roman Villa mosaic in the Museum, El Jem.

Plate 6.25.jpg

Plate 6.25 One complete cipollino column with a collar, near the ruins of the Villas, El Jem.

Plate 6.26.jpg

Plate 6.26 One incomplete cipollino column with a break at the top, near the ruins of the Villas, El Jem.

Plate 6.27.jpg

Plate 6.27 One cipollino column with a break at the top, near the ruins of the Villas, El Jem.

Plate 6.28.jpg

Plate 6.28 One short cipollino column with a small circular hole at the top, near the ruins of the Villas, El Jem.

Plate 6.29.jpg

Plate 6.29 One very short incomplete cipollino column, partly buried in the ground, near the ruins of the Villas, El Jem.

Plate 6.30.jpg

Plate 6.30 One incomplete cipollino column near the ruins of the Villas, where two paths meet, El Jem.