House of the Protomes (Maison des Protomés)


Africa Proconsularis
Africa proconsularis (Pleiades)

Province Description

The history of Roman Africa begins in 146 BC with the destruction of Carthage and the establishment of the province of Africa in the most fertile part of the Carthaginian Empire. The new province covered about 5000 square miles (17,172 square kilometers) of the northern part of modern Tunisia. A praetor governed the area from his headquarters at Utica. The Romans inherited a thriving agriculture developed by the Carthaginians. The climate was hospitable. Wheat and barley were the most important cereals; wine and olive oil were also produced and there were various fruit trees.


THUBURBO MAIUS (Henchir Kasbat), Tunisia
THUBURBO MAIUS (Henchir Kasbat), Tunisia (Pleiades)

Plan of Thuburbo Maius; CMT, Thuburbo Majus

Plan of Thuburbo Maius (CMT, Thuburbo Majus)

Location Description

The city occupies the slopes of a hill in a fertile grain producing area about 50 kilometers to the south of Tunis. Originally a settlement of mercenary soldiers after the fall of Carthage, it was raised to a municipium by Hadrian (117-138), and to a colony during the rein of Commodus (177-192). The chief public buildings and the most beautiful homes date from this period. After the crisis of the Empire during the third century, Thuburbo saw a rebirth in the fourth century; but as imperial authority declined the city became a mere village.


House of the Protomes (Maison des Protomés)


Garden Description

This very large house on the western edge of the site had two sectors, the Trifolium area and the Protomes area (Plan view, Fig. 1).

The Trifolium sector, was laid out around a peristyle garden (I-V) enclosed on four sides by a portico of 12 columns. The garden, 35 cm lower than the level of the portico, had a deep rectangular pool (1) and a semicircular basin (2, 3) placed at each end of the garden on the axis of the oecus (XI). Eight ceramic vases (8 cm in dia., 30 cm deep) embedded in the sides of the pool provided places for the fish to lay eggs and served as shady retreats for the fish. The pool and the basins were paved with mosaics. These have been mostly destroyed, but pieces of the bottom paving of the basin (3) show birds and a hare among cut branches of flowers.



Plan of the House of the Protomes

Fig. 1: Plan of the House of the Protomes (CMT, V. II, fasc.3, plan 4-5)


4th century CE


  • Ben Abed-Ben Khader, A., Corpus des Mosaïques de Tunisie, Thuburbo Majus, Les mosaïques de la région Ouest, V. II, fasc.3, INA, Tunis, 1987, pp. 27-60, plan 4-5. (worldcat)
  • Bullo, S., Ghedini, F., Amplissimae atque ornatissimae domus: l’edilizia residenziale nelle città della Tunisia romana, Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 2003, pp.245-248. (worldcat)






Wilhelmina F. Jashemski

Publication Date

21 Apr 2021