House of the Dolphins (Maison des dauphins)


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.


THYSDRUS (El Jem) Tunisia
THYSDRUS (El Jem) Tunisia(Pleiades)

Location Description

Thysdrus is located on the western border of the Sahel at 60 km S of Hadrumetum on the road leading to Sfax. The development, from the end of the 2d c., of its olive plantations and its trade in oil made the fortune of the city.

The name appeared for the first time in the period of Caesar's African campaign when the city, at the time a small town, took side with the Pompeian and Juba against Ceasar. Towards the end of the 2d c. it became a municipium, competing with Hadrumetum for the second place in the province. The decline of Thysdrus began when, involved in a political crisis, the city choose the side of Gordian proconsul of Africa against the Emperor Maximianus. The joint effects of the political disgrace and the economic crisis, which resulted from it, brought an end to its development. By the end of the IVth century it was scarcely mentioned by the Catholic and Donatist bishops.

Among the most remarkable monuments of the ancient city are the best preserved large amphitheater in Africa, the small amphitheater located some 7.20 m to the S of the large one, the circus better visible on an aerial photography, the baths covering a surface of 2400 sq., and the residential district bounded on the S by a necropolis and to the E by a fine street.


House of the Dolphins (Maison des dauphins)


Garden Description

The vast house (3000-3500 m2) is laid out around a large peristyle garden (Plan view, Fig.1). The large sunken garden (X, 16 x 16.25 m) was enclosed by a low wall (0.70 m high) and had a large semicircular basin (dia. 3.10 m) between the fifth and the sixth column facing a reception room (XXV). A rectangular aedicula with four columns facing the oecus (XXXVII) extended in the garden on the W.

Two lararia (32 B, XXXV) open off of porticos XI and XIII respectively.


Fig. 1: House of the Dolphins.

Fig. 1: House of the Dolphins (CMT, plans 5-6)


Early 3rd century CE


  • Bullo, S., Ghedini, F., Amplissimae atque ornatissimae domus: l'edilizia residenziale nelle città della Tunisia romana, Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 2003,pp.309-312. (worldcat)
  • Dulière, C., Corpus des Mosaïques de Tunisie, Thysdrus, El Jem, Quartier Sud-Ouest, INA, Tunis, 1996, pp. 67-75, plans 5-6. (worldcat)

Pleiades ID





Wilhelmina F. Jashemski (WorldCat Identities: lccn-n80037970)
Amina-Aïcha Malek (ORCID: 0000-0002-1628-615X)

Publication date

21 Apr 2021