Among the sights of the city were the great public baths presented by Marcus Aurelius. There were lecture halls, schools of rhetoric, philosophy, medicine, and law; Carthage ranked only after Athens and Alexandria as a university town. Here Apuleius and Tertullian came to study everything, and Saint Augustine marveled at the pranks and immorality of the students, whose favorite philanthropy was to break into a lecture room and dismiss both the professor and his class.
Carthage was the capital of the province called “Africa,” now eastern Tunisia. South of it commerce bedecked the eastern coast with cities whose ancient wealth was reviving after twelve centuries when war struck them in our time: Hadrumetum (Sousse), Leptis Minor, Thapsus, and Tacapae (Gabes). Farther cast on the Mediterranean lay a district named Tripolis from its federation of three cities: Oea (Tripoli), founded by the Phoenicians in 900 B.C., Sabrata, and Leptis Magna (Lebda).
In this last city the Emperor Septimius Severus was born (A.D. 146); he rewarded it with a basilica and municipal bath whose ruins astonish the traveler or warrior today. Paved roads busy with camel caravans connected these ports with the towns of the interior: Sufetula, now a tiny village with the remains of a great Roman temple; Thysdrus (El Djem), which had an amphitheater seating 60,000; and Thugga (Dougga), whose ruined theater attests, by its graceful Corinthian columns, the wealth and taste of its citizens.
North of Carthage was her ancient mother and implacable rival, Utica (Utique). We catch a hint of its Roman opulence when we learn that in 46 B.C. 300 Roman bankers and wholesalers had branch offices there. Its territory reached northward to Hippo Diarrhytus, now Bizerte; thence a road led along the coast westward to Hippo Regius (Bone), soon to be Augustine’s episcopal see. South and inland lay Cirta (Constantine), capital of the province of Numidia. Westward lay Thamugadi (Timgad), almost as well preserved as Pompeii, with paved and colonnaded streets, covered drains, an elegant arch, a forum, senate house, basilica, temples, baths, theater, library, and many private homes. On the pavement of the forum is a checkerboard engraved with the words, Venari, lavari, ludere, ridere, boc est vivere – “to hunt, bathe, play, and laugh, this is to live.”
Thamugadi was founded about A.D. 117 by the Third Legion, sole guard of the African provinces. About 123 the legion took up more permanent headquarters a few miles to the west, and raised the city of Lambaesis (Lambese).
The soldiers married and settled there, and lived in their homes more than in the camp; but even their praetorium was a stately and ornate edifice, whose baths were as fine as any in Africa. Outside the camp they helped to build a capitol, temples, triumphal arches, and an amphitheater where struggle and death might mitigate the monotony of their peaceful lives. That a single legion could protect all north Africa from the marauding tribes of the interior was made possible by a network of roads, military in purpose but commercial in result, binding Carthage with the Atlantic, and the Sahara with the Mediterranean.