formerly Sufetula, is situated in the mid-west of Tunisia about
260Km from Carthage.
It is one of the best preserved ancient sites and is considered
as a must when travelling between the North and the South. Human
settlements there date back to antiquity, at least in the immediate
surroundings of the city where many snaileries (8th century) have
been discovered. But the creation of the city itself, encouraged
by the existence of natural sources, quarries and plateaus, which
current research dates back to the second half of the first century
AD under the Flavian dynasty, probably at the same time as Cillium
(Kasserine 35km away) or Ammaedara (Haïdara 110Km away)
The economy of the region, and in particular that of Sufetula, was
essentially based on olive production, which remains the case even
today, in addition to ceramics. It is probably this that allowed
the city to prosper and as a consequence resulted in the construction
of various public monuments sometimes restored by patrons (public
With the spread of Christianity, Sufetula like the majority of large
African cities became the headquarters of a dioceses no later than
the III rd century. We have found out the names of many bishops
through the minutes of the councils which gathered in various African
cities, one of the most famous being that which the emperor Honorius
summoned in 411AD to forbid the giving of donations.
During the Vandal occupation (439-533), the region became, from
this moment onwards, part of a Royal kingdom however there is a
lack of real archaeological evidence on this period except for a
few ancient inscriptions.
Lastly, with the Byzantine retaking of the
region by emperor Justinian in 533AD, Sufetula became one of, if
not the, headquarters for the Byzantine staff. The Patrician Gregorius
who, in the beginning of the 7th century , declared his independence
from the emperor, chose this city, it seems, as a place of residence.
It is during this period that a number of edifices were fortified
to counter the threat of the Berber tribes and the much more powerful
Muslim armies of Tripolitania in the South.. It is here, Sbeïtla,
or nearby, that the first battles between the Byzantines and the
Muslims occurred. Battles which saw, in 647, the victory of the
new religion , thus turning a new page in the history of Tunisia
in particular and that of north Africa in general. This turned a
new page in history for Tunisia and in particular the North of Africa
as a whole. Recent research proves that this site continued to be
occupied during the first few centuries of Islam.