About Bulla Regia
Bulla Regia is an incredible Ancient Roman archaeological site in Tunisia with a fascinating set of subterranean villas and other monuments.
Tunisia was annexed into the Roman Empire in approximately 46 BC, under Julius Caesar. Previously a Berber site, Bulla Regia flourished under the Romans who built a series of monuments and public buildings in the area, such as its amphitheatre.
Amongst the remains at Bulla Regia, there are its famous two-storey villas, with the lower storey located underground to protect its inhabitants from the elements. A further characteristic of these villas is the fact that many of them contain original Roman mosaics, still in situ.
Bulla Regia history
The Romans, led by the prestigious military strategist Scipio Africanus, won Bulla Regia in 203 BC during the Second Punic War. Although the territory was later recovered by the Numidian king Masinissa in 156 BC (making Bulla Regia his capital), the Romans assumed direct control in 46 BC when Julius Caesar made Bulla Regia a free city. Caesar’s decision was based on the city’s support or neutrality during the recent civil war.
Under Hadrian, Bulla Regia reached its peak as a Roman colony with full citizenship. However, the city lost its importance under the Byzantines. Local aristocrats extended their houses over public space, an example of which is the House of the Fisherman, adapted to link 2 homes and blocking off a street.
After an earthquake destroyed Bulla Regia, drifting sand protected the sites until they were excavated in 1906. The forum was dug out during the late 1940s, discovering the basilica with a Christian baptism font and a small amphitheatre.
Bulla Regia today
Today, Bulla Regia is an archaeological site with a small museum that provides a unique opportunity to walk into a Roman villa without using too much imagination. From above, the site does not look especially remarkable.
However, underground tours are available with experienced guides taking visitors around the restoration works, including mosaics and rooms that have been preserved beneath the surface for so long. Even the Roman drainage system has been restored to keep the house-remains from flooding.
Highlights of the site include the colossal Memmian Baths overlooking the entrance, as well as the Quartier des Maisons (villas quarter) and the impressive House of the Hunt, illustrating the lavish lifestyle of its former inhabitants.
Getting to Bulla Regia
From Tunis, the drive to Bulla Regia takes around 2 hours along the A3 and C59 and is the easiest way to get there (there is no public transport option). There is room for car parking at the site.