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Baths were an essential component of the ancient urban landscape. Along with the forum and the shops they were part and parcel of the social life of the town. The baths all followed a typical plan. One entered through a vestibule, then proceeded to the changing room (apodytermium). Through the cold room (frigidarium) one passed into a warm room (tepidarium) and through it into the hot rooms (caldaria, laconica). Here one remained until a sweat had been worked up, which was scraped off with an instrument called a striglium. The bather then returned to the cold room, to rince himself off in the plunge baths and to relax. A palestra served for exercise and sports, which would take place before the baths.
Volubilis possesses four baths: the large baths of Gallienus, the baths of the Capitol, the northern baths and the baths of the House of the Cistern. These were all substantial buildings, destined for a large number of bathers. The hot rooms were heated by ovens from which hot air passed underneath the pavements and up through the walls through pipes made of hollow bricks. Brick pillars supported the floors of the hot rooms, creating spaces (hypocaust) for the circulation of the air.
The same techniques were used for the little bath to the southeast of the town built in the eighth century C.E. This structure is extremely important insofar as it demonstrates the technical continuity between the Roman period and the early Middle Ages. It is the only bath of this date in North Africa
58 oil-pressing complexes are known from Volubilis, distributed throughout the town. In general, a pressing complex comprises the following elements: a mill for crushing the olives, a press composed of a counterweight, a cross bar (prelum), a pulley the upright supports for the prelum, and a decantation basin. These structures are found within a clearly defined working space.
The presses of Volubilis use the same principle as the majority of the presses in the Roman Mediterranean. After crushing, the olive paste was loaded into woven baskets. These were then stacked in the centre of the press, and the prelum was cranked down on top of the stack with the aid of the pulley. The oil that ran out of the baskets was channelled into the decantation basin. Here water was added, and the oil that floated to the surface was ladled directly into amphorae. The decantation basins were periodically emptied through run off channels. We can see some development in the technology at Volubilis: the counterweights for the prelum seem to have shifted from a rectangular block to a cylindrical form around the beginning of the second century C.E. so as to increase their efficiency.
The uniform technology of the Volubilis oil complexes seems to testify to the cultural coherence of the community. There number, however, is striking, as is their integration into most of the largest houses. Oil was clearly one of the major sources of wealth for the town. The production of transport amphorae from the end of the second century B.C.E. demonstrates the early growth of the oil trade.
The religious stuctures of Volubilis are spread across the site and the chronological periods of its occupation. Some of these structures testify to a continuous evolution from the Mauretanian period onward. Six temples have been found: temple B, known as the temple of Saturn, temple C to the east of the tumulus, temple D in the monumental center, the twin temples of the western quarter and the Punic temple to the east of the Capitolium, and the Capitolium itself.
These structures show very different plans, and bear witness to a wide variety of inspirations, as well as to the individual styles of the local artisan tradition.
An aqueduct leading from a large spring to the northeast brought water for the town.
It was reconstructed a number of times, but its earliest phase may be dated to around 60-80 C.E.
Water from secondary channels fed the larger houses, the baths and the public fountains.
The Mauretanian rampart (GREEN) is seen for a short stretch of 77m. under the tumulus, and in its immediate vicinity. The visible sections are composed of foundations in cut stone, with an elevation in mud brick. The collapse of this upper section is clearly visible in the section cut into the tumulus by previous excavations.
(RED) An irregular polygon 2,613 metres long, the Roman rampart encloses 40 hectares. Built of rubble masonry faced with ashlars, it had 6 main gates flanked by towers and 24 other towers. Its construction dates from 168/169 C.E., during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who also built the city walls of Rome
(YELLOW) Oriented north-south, this rampart was constructedwith blocks reused from earlier constructions. It delimited the latertown, now reduced to the southeast slope of the hillside, separatingit from the early Roman town center which was now occupied by cemeteries.A recent excavation has demonstrated that it was built in the fifthor sixth century A.D
Baking and milling flour was one of the principle activities for which we have evidence at Volubiulis. This daily activity linked the city to its countryside, rich in cereal cultivation. By the 1980's sixteen baker's shops had been found in the city, along with around twenty mills and querns found scattered around the city. The grinding elements themselves present a variety of types and forms. They were cut from a volcanic stone found in the Middle Atlas, outside of the zone of Roman control.
The best-preserved installations are that of the Pre-Roman Forum, the shop near the House of the Bronze Bust, those of the House of Flavius Germanus, and those of Insula 10.
Chahboun(M), Blé et boulangeries à Volubilis, mémoire de fin d'étude, INSAP, 1990-1991.
Luquet(A), 'Blé et meunerie & agrave; Volubilis',B.A.M, T.VI, 1966, p.p301-316.
Some time after the departure of the Roman administration from the southern half Mauretania Tingitana the population of Volubilis seems to have become concentrated on the eastern slope of the hill. This may have been due to the failure of the aqueduct, so that the inhabitants of the town would have depended on the Oued Khomane and wells for their water supply. Around the fifth century a new city wall was built, separating this area from the old city center. The walls enclose 18 ha. within the old Roman town. Outside were cemeteries, particularly in the area of the Arch of Triumph. Christian funerary inscriptions from this cemetery show that some of the population still spoke Latin, and used dates based on the foundation of the Roman province. According to medieval tradition, the conquering Oqba Ibn Nafi, having made peace with the Romano-Berber Julian at Tangiers, continued on to Walila, where he fought Berber tribes. There was an Abbasid ribat, and coins were struck with the name Walila. It is thus likely that when Idris arrived at the site in 788, a Romano-Berber population still occupied the site. Abbasid control of the city was hardly secure, for Idris was welcomed there by the tribe of the Awraba and its leader. However, we can be reasonably certain that the site was expanded and reorganized as his capital. The little baths excavated by Rosenberger and El Khayari clearly form part of this expansion. Their lack of any distinctive ‘Ummayad’ traits, and their apparent derivation from the baths of Roman North Africa, again imply a substantial continuity in the local population.
After the removal of the capital to Fez, occupation continued at Walila, still the capital of the little principality of Al awdiya. Al Bakri relates that exiles from Cordoba arrived there in 818 C.E.: their descendents were still on the site in his day. However, Al Idrissi refers to it as in ruins (Nuzhat al-Muštaq, I, 224).
Excavations currently underway are concentrated outside the northwest gate, (area E on the map), where the earliest Arab settlement is found, and in the centre of the Berber town (area A on the map). See Research.
The Arch of Triumph is situated according to the usual architectural layout. It is found in the decumanus maximus (the principle axis), at the junction of the northeast, central and western sectors of the city. It was erected sometime between December 216 and April 217 C.E. by the council of Volubilis in honour of the emperor Caracalla, who bestowed Roman citizenship on its inhabitants and exempted them from paying taxes.
Volubilis was visited in the XVIII century by the English travellers Boyd and J. Windus, and by the Austrian Von Augustin in 1830. They left drawings of the arch, which permitted its restoration between 1930 and 1934, although the restoration remains incomplete and there is some doubt about its details. At the start of the 1915 excavations the arch and the judiciary basilica were the only monuments still visible.
The two identical inscriptions found on its facades were reconstructed from fragments found scattered on the ground. The conception of the monument is typical of Roman triumphal arches of the third century. It is built in ashlars and has two rectangular pillars connected by a vault.
The rectangular forum has a surface area of 1300m2 and is situated in the centre of the monumental area, at the junction of the north and south sectors.
It is accessible via three gates. Enclosed and paved, this building represents the centre of the political, administrative and religious structures of the city. To its east stands the judiciary basilica with its eight arches;to its south is the capitol and the tribunal from which speeches were made; to its west is a series of shops (tabernae), while to the north-east is found a temple with four cellae, with its temenos surrounded by a portico. The forum wascluttered with all sorts of statues dedicated to emperors, magistrates and to elite men and women who had rendered some service to the town. Of these statues only the pedestals remain in situ.
The basilica (court of law and seat of the magistrates) lies on the eastern side of the forum.
This imposing building is 42.2m long and 22.3m wide. Its interior is divided into three parts, a central nave outlined to its north and south by an apse, and two lateral aisles framed by Corinthian columns.The design of Volubilis basilica resembles that of Leptis Magna in Libya, which dates from the Severan period. However, recent excavations suggest that it may have been built as early as the second half of the first century C.E.
To the south of the basilica stands the capitol, a temple dedicated to the Roman Capitoline triad, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
It is composed of a single cella reached by thirteen steps. Four other chapels complete the complex, of which one was dedicated to the goddess Venus. The temple was reconstructed in 218 C.E. by Macrinus, as is indicated by aninscription found in 1924. The temple's porticos were restored in 1955. In 1962, restoration work started again under thedirection of A. Luquet; the stairs were restored (only three steps remained out of the original thirteen), and the walls of the cella as well as the architectural elements (column drums, bases and capitals) were restored.
The house was named because of the discovery of a gold coin. It occupies 1691 square meters and comprises both a private house and a commercial complex.
The plan of this house is exceptional for Volubilis. It is lacking shops on the front, and at the center is a small courtyard with a central basin, lacking the columns of a peristyle. To the east, an enfilade of three roomsprobably served as storage space or warehousing.
The house covers around 992 square meters. At the center of its peristyle is found a trefoil pool. A baker's shop is found on the northwest side of the building.
The name of the house comes from the statue representing a marble Bacchus, discovered inside it. It occupies 1106 square meters, and comprises two separate apartments, one built around a large peristyle and the other around a small 'atriolum', or secondary peristyle. There is also a baker's shop.
A sundial discovered in 1934 gives its name to the house, which measures 1059 square metres. It is composed of a sector open to the public, with a more private section to the southwest. There is also a storage room, a small bath complex, and latrines.
The name of the house comes from a bronze bust of the Mauretanian king Juba II found inside. However, the bust may have originally come from the house of Venus. The building covers 1406 square meters, between the cardines IV and V south.
The front of the house is decorated with large pilasters, while the south wall abuts the city wall. At the center of the large (1235 m2) house is a peristyle decorated with a pool. A separate apartment occupies the southern part of the building.
The house owes its name to a basement level covered by a vault. On ground level the house has a peristyle surrounded by reception rooms, with an oil press to the rear.
This name of this house comes from the semi-columns which decorated the large exedra opening onto the street. Inside, bedrooms and reception rooms surround the peristyle. An oil press is found in the western part of the building.
Occupying 1065 m2 the house is distinguished by having two oil presses. It opens onto both the decumanus maximus and the southern cardo.
A sundial discovered in 1934 gives its name to the house, which measures 1059 square metres. It is composed of a sector open to the public, with a more private section to the southwest. There is also a storage room, a smallbath complex, and latrines.
The name of the house comes from the statue representing a marble Bacchus, discovered inside it. It occupies 1106 square meters, and comprises two separate apartments, one built around a large peristyle and the other around a small ‘atriolum', or secondary peristyle. There is also a baker's shop.
The name comes from a gold ring found in the house. The building is flanked by roads on all four sides, and has both a private and a commercial sector, comprising an oil press, shops and underground rooms.
The House of the procession of Venus lies in the northeast quarter of Volubilis, on the southern side of the secondary decumanus. Its name derives from the mosaic showing the Venus and her attendants emerging from the waves, discovered in the dining room (triclinium) and currently on display in the museum of Tangiers.
With a total area of 1,200m2, the house is one of the most sumptuous of the city. It is decorated with many mosaic pavements, both geometric and figured, including Diana surprised in her bath, Hylas kidnapped by the nymphs, Bacchus and the four seasons, dolphins, and a parody of a race in the circus. In one of the rooms of the private quarter was found a bronze bust of Cato still on its pedestal. The bust of the Mauretanian king Juba II was probably originally on the symmetrical pedestal in the next room.
The house comprised an entrance vestibule giving onto the street, a bath complex with a separate street entrance, a colonnaded peristyle, two grand reception rooms, a secondary peristyle with a fountain off which opened a series of small reception rooms, and a number of bedrooms.
Recent archaeological research has established that the first house on the site was built in the second half of the first century A.D., while the majority of the mosaics and the bath complex date to the second century. However, three important mosaics, the Hylas, the bath of Diana and the chariot race date to the fourth century AD, and show that rich and cultivated people still lived in the town in that period.
The building opens onto the southern part of the main decumanus through a portico, from which its name comes. It has all the standard rooms of a Roman peristyle house : vestibule, triclinium, a small open courtyard and shops.
The name of the house comes from an inscription on which is found the word 'Disciplinae', or Discipline. The house is composed of a vast courtyard, around which are found a number of rooms. To the north and south shops open onto the streets.
This is one of the large houses at the northern end of the Northeast quarter. It is built around a small peristyle with a central pool. Shops are found on both of its facades, while a secondary apartment with heated rooms is found to the north east of the peristyle.
The house of the wild beasts derives its name from a mosaic which decorated one of the rooms opening onto the peristyle. It contains a separate, secondary apartment. Along the facade are found shops.
Inside this house was found a domestic altar bearing the name of the proprietor, T. Flavius Germanus. Around the peristyle were disposed bedrooms and a large reception room. Shops (taberna) are found on both facades of the building.
This large house covers 1840 square meters. Its rooms open onto a peristyle with a cistern. The southwest corner of the house is built over a bath building which appears to be the oldest in Volubilis.
The name of this house comes from a bronze statue of a rider discovered in 1918 and now in Rabat. The building is square, covering 1700 m2, and is built around a peristyle, with a subsidiary private reception area to thenorth of the house. The economic activities of the house are suggested by an oil pressing complex and a number of shops opening onto the road.
Occupying an area of 890m2, the house was built on two levels in order to adapt to the slope. Recent excavations by Aomar Akerraz have shown that its abandonment was signalled by the installation of a paleochristian necropolis.
The name of the house derives from the bronze statue of a dog found in the peristyle and currently in the archaeological museum at Rabat. The peristyle of this house had a fountain basin, and was surrounded by reception rooms and bedrooms.
The name of these baths comes from an inscription found inside the building, dedicated to the emperor Gallienus. These public baths cover around 1330 square meters, and are composed of the usual bathing rooms, an exercise room, a changing room and latrines.
This seems to be the oldest religious structure in Volubilis. It is composed of a vast open courtyard in the middle of which is found a square altar in tufo.
With the exception of the altar itself, the complex was hidden and profaned by the construction of an oven and other structures in the middle of the first century C.E..
Situated by itself on the left bank of the oued Fertassa, temple B comprises a temenos delimited by four porticos. To the north and the south are underground chambers, serving as storage for the chapels on the north, west and south sides. Archaeological research currently underway has revealed more than eight hundred stele, a the only such series in Mauretania Tingitana. These anepigraphic stele represent figures in different attitudes: salutating, offering, listening and praying are typical of sanctuaries dedicated to the god Saturn, whose worship replaced that of the Punic Baal Hammon.
Built over the pre-Roman city wall, the sanctuary is composed of a shallow vestibule, a little temple with its cella built onto a raised podium, and a three-sided portico built along the surrounding wall. An independent water supply was assured by a well to the southeast, just outside the temple.
Lying to the northwest of the forum, the sanctuary was modified many times in its history. In its first phase, the monument was composed of two oblong cellae which can be dated to the Mauretanian period. The last phase of its life, probably dating to the Severan period, was characterized by the construction of four cellae proceded by a pronaos oriented north-south, and accessible from the forum.
These twin temples are situated on the western edge of the Mauretanian city. Like temple A, they are constructed of local limestone and are oriented east-west, which were reached by stairs.
The most important public fountain at Volubilis, both in size and in position. It is situated at the center of the town, the principal outlet of the aqueduct. From it lead a series of channels that supplied the buildings in the area. To the north of the fountain lie public latrines.
The milling area is found in the northwest corner of the building. There was an annular mill in basalt and a grinding stone in grey limestone. The oven is largely destroyed. To the east of the bakers' three paved rooms probably served as granaries or storage areas.
The milling area occupies a large room near the House of the bronze bust. There were three mills of different types (annular, cubic and domestic) made of basalt and placed in three corners of the room. There were also two querns. The rectangular oven is found in the fourth corner : the heating platform was constructed with bricks.
Situated to the west of the pre-Roman forum, this shop contained two mills, two limestone kneading basins and an oven. The mills compose two elements, an annular base with a central cone, and a grinding stone in the form of a double cone, which covered the central cone of the base. Grain was poured into the upper element, which was turned by donkeys.
The oven was found in the northeast corner of the room; it consisted of a rectangular platform constructed on a masonry base. Its surface was covered with refractory tiles. Annexes to the bakers consisted of granaries and shops for the sale of bread.
The installation is part of an artisan complex that occupied the building. There was a single annular mill, and a cubic kneading trough in grey limestone. The oven was built in the center of the room, and had a floor of refractory tiles.