Tunisia | The Punic Wars

Ancient site of Carthage
Ancient site of Carthage
Ancient site of Carthage
Ancient site of Carthage
Carthage harbour
Carthage harbour
Sunrise over Carthage harbour
Sunrise over Carthage harbour
Ancient ruins of Dougga
Ancient ruins of Dougga
Ancient ruins of Dougga
Ancient ruins of Dougga
The ancient site of Thuburbo-Majus
The ancient site of Thuburbo-Majus
The ancient site of Thuburbo-Majus
The ancient site of Thuburbo-Majus
The Great Mosque, Kairouan
The Great Mosque, Kairouan
Inside the Great Mosque, Kairouan
Inside the Great Mosque, Kairouan
El-Dejm amphitheatre
El-Dejm amphitheatre
El-Dejm amphitheatre
El-Dejm amphitheatre

This a land where dramatic events shaped ancient history - the superpowers of Carthage and Rome clashed in three Punic Wars which determined the course of Western history. Lasting more than 100 years, the conflict ultimately resulted in the destruction of Carthage and assured Roman ascendancy. Join us to explore the ruins of the Roman era in the beautiful, verdant North African countryside. Travel from the ruins of Carthage itself to the magnificent Roman cities and monuments of Roman Tunisia: the amphitheatre at El Djem, the beautiful, remote site of Dougga and vast intricate mosaics. These all bring the world of Roman Africa vividly to life.

In 2020 we are able to return to Bulla Regia, with its characteristic underground houses. The site covers more than 60 hectares with its range of Berber, Roman and Numidian archaeological influences.

  • Explore the magnificent UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites of Dougga and Kairouan
  • Discover the beautifully preserved Phoenician site of Kerkouane
  • Marvel at the grand amphitheatre at El Djem, which boasts underground service rooms
  • Admire some of the best mosaics in the world at the Bardo, Sousse and El Djem museums
  • Discover the little-known sites of Bulla Regia, Mustis and Ain Tounga (in 2020)

Themes

  • Romans
  • Conflict

Practicalities

  • Low Single Supplement

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

Today, we arrive Tunis and check in to our hotel.
Hotel: El Mouradi Hotel Africa
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

This morning we begin with a visit to the famous Bardo Museum, situated in an old Beylical palace. It houses one of the most important collections of mosaics anywhere in the world Highlights include the Virgil Mosaic and the Odysseus Mosaic, as well as many depicting beast hunts. There is a wonderful collection of Carthaginian aftefacts and Paleochrisitian baptisteries. In the afternoon, we venture to the Byrsa Hill where we see the haunting remains of pre-Roman Carthage. After visiting the Byrsa Hill museum, we explore remains from Roman Carthage, when the city was the capital of Africa Proconsularis; in particular, we explore the Roman Antonine Baths, one of the largest in the whole of the Roman empire. Afterwards, we venture to the disquieting Salambo Tophet, a cemetery which contained the remains of children who were sacrificed to Tanit, after they were already dead, or, more likely, as live victims. We end the day with a visit to the Cothon, or harbour, testament to Carthage’s famous maritime might.
Hotel: El Mouradi Hotel Africa
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

Today we venture to the gorgeous Cap Bon peninsula, the point of Tunisia which is closest to Sicily. The morning will be spent at Kerkouane, a UNESCO World Heritage Site overlooking the sea. The extraordinary site of Kerkouane, was inhabited from the seventh to the third century BC and was abandoned after the First Punic War, making it the only purely Punic site in Africa. The highlight of this site are the houses which typically contain bath tubs waterproofed with a pinkish mortar. We will also see remains of Punic industry, as well as an enigmatic sanctuary. Afterwards, we will visit the site museum which has interesting remains from the nearby necropolis. We will have a picnic on site here before travelling to Nabeul, today famed for its ceramic but in antiquity a trading port founded by Cyrene. We are visiting the small museum, to see intriguing mosaics and to read about the production of garum in the area. 
Hotel: El Mouradi Hotel Africa
Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner

Day 4

Today we visit Dougga, one of the best preserved and famous ancient sites in North Africa, enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Located in the Tunisian hinterland, in a wonderfully fertile plan, ancient Thugga was a Numidian site, located on a hill top, in a defensible position. Evidence of its Numidian origin can be seen in its extensive circuit wall, as well as the magnificent Mausoleum of Ateban, located on the bottom of the hill and which can be seen from afar. That said, the site we  see today belongs to the prosperous period of the Roman empire, when Africa was the breadbasket of Rome. Walking down the winding streets, you will start out with a wonderfully preserved theatre, and meander down to the fantastic Capitolium, past walls hastily erected in the Byzantine period in order to protect the city against Arab invaders. Further down the hill, you will explore bath complexes, one complete with an intact latrine, houses and sanctuaries – all in the kind of peace no longer found on European sites. Dougga is truly one of the best Roman sites in the world and one you will never forget.
Hotel: El Mouradi Hotel Africa
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

We start the day with a visit to the impressive Zaghouan aqueduct, a monument to Roman engineering which carried water from Gebel Zaghouan all the way to Carthage, at a total of 132 kilometres. In total, including later additions, the aqueduct carried a total of between 17 and 32 million litres of water a day to Carthage. This morning, we will view the aqueduct in Oudhna, in one of its best preserved sections. Afterwards, we move on to the little known site of Oudhna which offers a plethora of monuments, including a sizeable cistern, a theatre, amphitheatre and basilica, complete with a crypt. Our last visit will be to Thburbo Majus, a delightful and little visited site which has even better photogenic remains. Originally Punic (though it has a characteristic Th sound associated with Numidian cities), the city was later re founded as a Roman veteran colony in the Augustan period. Here we will explore the forum, dominated by the Capitolium, before moving on to the Winter Baths and Summer Baths. In between the two, there is the well preserved Palaestra of Petronius, which belonged to the Summer Baths, and a memorable latrine. We walk up to view some temples with a Punic flavour: the Temple of Baalit and Temple of Caelestis, both Romanised names of Punic goddesses. We end the day with a visit to the impressive cistern and amphitheatre. 
Hotel: Las Kasbah Kairouan
Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner

Day 6

We start the day by exploring Tunisia’s most important religious city, namely Kairouan. Founded by the Umayyads in the seventh century AD, the city quickly became important as a centre of Islamic scholarship and as a pilgrimage site. We explore the city by foot, starting from our hotel, which used to be part of the city’s kasbah, or fortress. We walk to the Great Mosque of Kairouan, which was founded in AD 670, making it the oldest mosque in Africa, and one of the most important in the world. From the rather austere Aghlabid enclosure, we walk through the main gate, reserved from non-Muslim visitors, to the central courtyard in which there is a ninth century cistern. All around, you will see pillars and lintels which were reused from the Roman and Christian periods, linking this mosque to the antique period. We will gaze inside the prayer hall from the outside and note the ninth century mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca. We continue the day by considering the ninth century Aghlabid period, in which the city became one of the most prosperous in the Islamic world. We view one of the most splendid sites from the Aghlabid period, namely the Aghlabid pools, which pay testament to the wonderful water system constructed in the period. After lunch, we visit the museum of Sousse, which is located in the city’s twelfth century kasbah and has the second largest collection of mosaics in the world, after the Bardo. The earliest artefacts in the museum date from the city’s Punic period, when it was called Hadrumetus. The most splendid, however, date from the prosperous Roman period, when the citizens of Hadrumetum, made rich from trade, could afford the best mosaics in the Roman empire. Here we will see mosaics which testify to this maritime background, the most famous of which is the large mosaic of Neptune on his charity. We will also admire Paleochristian remains, notably the baptismal font found in Bqalta.
Hotel: Las Kasbah Kairouan
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

We have saved one of the most important archaeological sites in Tunisia for today, namely El Djem. Originally a Numidian city called Thysdrus, El Djem was particularly wealthy in the second century AD and into the late antique period when it was an olive oil production centre. On the back of this wealth, the city built several amphitheatres, the most important of which was built in the third century AD and is one of the largest in the empire. Alas, the city’s fortunes declined sharply after its citizens proclaimed Gordian I emperor in 238 AD and was sacked by soldiers loyal to the erstwhile emperor, Maximinus Thrax. The amphitheatre itself survived the siege but was later severely damaged in the seventh century AD when the Berber queen Kahina used it as a defence against Arab invaders. Today we explore one of the empire’s largest and best preserved amphitheatres – visible for miles. We will admire the arena area, climb up the seating area and finally descend into the service areas where animals and gladiators were kept and from where they were pulleyed up during performances. After the visits, we leave to either Hammamet or Tunis for our final night in Tunisia.
Hotel: The Sindbad (April), El Mouradi Hotel Africa (October)
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

After a leisurely breakfast, we make our way back to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.
Meals: Breakfast included

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

Today, we fly from London to Tunis and check-in to our hotel.

Hotel: El Mouradi Hotel Africa
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

This morning we begin with a visit to the famous Bardo Museum, which houses one of the most important collections of mosaics anywhere in the world. In the afternoon, we explore Carthage, starting at the Byrsa Hill to see the haunting remains of pre-Roman Carthage. We will then explore remains from Roman Carthage including the Roman Antonine Baths, one of the largest in the whole of the Roman empire. Afterwards, we visit the disquieting Salambo Tophet, a cemetery which contained the remains of children sacrificed to Tanit. We end the day at the Cothon, or harbour, testament to Carthage’s famous maritime might.

Hotel: El Mouradi Hotel Africa
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

Today we explore the sites on the beautiful Cap Bon peninsula. The morning will be spent visiting the extraordinary site of Kerkouane, the only purely Punic site in Africa. Here we see houses which typically contain bath tubs waterproofed with a pinkish mortar. Also evident are remains of Punic industry, as well as an enigmatic sanctuary. We then travel to the coastal town of Nabeul, where we visit the small museum, which has intriguing mosaics and evidence of the garum production in the area.

Hotel: El Mouradi Hotel Africa
Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner

Day 4

Today we visit Dougga, one of the best-preserved and famous ancient sites in North Africa. We will start with the wonderfully preserved theatre, and meander down through the winding streets to the famous Capitolium, past walls hastily erected in the Byzantine period in order to protect the city against Arab invaders. Further down the hill, you will explore bath complexes, houses and sanctuaries – all in the kind of peace no longer found on European sites. Dougga is truly one of the best Roman sites in the world and one you will never forget.

Hotel: Hotel Thugga
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

Today we visit sites which have been newly included in the itinerary this year. We start off with the Numidian city of Bulla Regia, made the Numidian capital by Massinissa. Here we explore a bath complex, as well as a series of houses, replete with mosaics, which have underground rooms, offering their elite owners protection from the African heat. These houses include the impressive House of the Hunt and the House of Amphitrite. We continue with visits to two little-known and largely unexcavated sites, Mustis and Ain Tounga, both of which offer glimpses of the wealth of Africa Proconsularis, as well as the traumatic last years of Byzantine rule.

Hotel: Hotel Thugga
Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner

Day 6

We start the day with a visit to Thuburbo Majus, a delightful site with photogenic remains. Here we will explore the forum, before moving on to two bath complexes and the well-preserved Palaestra of Petronius, ending up at two temples with a Punic flavour, the Temple of Baalit and Temple of Caelestis. In the afternoon, we travel to Kairouan, Tunisia’s most important religious city, founded by the Umayyads in the seventh century AD.

Hotel: Las Kasbah Kairouan
Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner

Day 7

We travel to Sousse to visit its excellent museum, which is located in the city’s twelfth century kasbah and has the second largest collection of mosaics in the world, after the Bardo. After lunch, we return to Kairouan, where we will walk to the Great Mosque of Kairouan, which has a plethora of reused Roman pillars and lintels and explore the city’s medina.

Hotel: Las Kasbah Kairouan
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

Today we travel to El Djem, ancient Thysdrus. Here we will explore one of the Roman empire’s largest and best-preserved amphitheatres, climbing up the seating area and descending into the service areas where animals and gladiators were kept. We continue to the museum of El Jem, which has a wonderful collection of mosaics, as well as in situ houses, which provide glimpses of the city’s wealth.

Hotel: Las Kasbah Kairouan
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to Tunis airport for our return flight to the UK.

Meals: Breakfast included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - Most meals included
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels

Travel Information

Joining the Tour

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2020 Tour Details

Tue 3rd Mar - Wed 11th Mar

Available

$2,600

without flights

sgl supp: $290

TUN20A

Led By: Tony O'Connor

Tue 7th Apr - Wed 15th Apr

Call for Availability

$2,600

without flights

sgl supp: $290

TUN20B

Led By: Farès K Moussa

Tue 3rd Nov - Wed 11th Nov

Available

$2,600

without flights

sgl supp: $290

TUN20C

Led By: Dr Eireann Marshall

Wed 11th Nov - Thu 19th Nov

Available

$2,600

without flights

sgl supp: $290

TUN20D

Led By: Dr Eireann Marshall

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