La Malga Cisterns - History and Facts | History Hit

La Malga Cisterns

Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia

Amazingly well preserved ancient storage tanks, these cisterns supplied water to the ancient city of Carthage and, though slightly off the beaten track, are well worth a visit.

Image Credit: Wikimedia: Pradigue / CC

About La Malga Cisterns

La Malga Cisterns are vast ancient storage tanks used to supply water to the ancient city of Carthage.

An aqueduct system, the Zaghouan Aqueduct, ran for over 100km to bring water to the ancient metropolis, and the Malga Cisterns were used to store the water that then ran through the city and was used to supply the Antonine Baths.

Converted for other uses such as stable blocks after the fall of Rome, the Malga Cisterns have survived remarkably well and are certainly one of the more interesting Roman sites to explore.

La Malga Cisterns features as one of our Top Visitor Attractions of Tunisia.

History of La Malga Cisterns

The cisterns are located on the north side of the ancient Roman city of Tunis, Tunisia. They were the largest cisterns of Carthage, and today are some of the best-preserved Roman cisterns.

There were likely at least 24 cisterns in a single line, each with a length of 130 paces and a width of 26 paces. They were relied upon to supply water for the vast bath complex of Antoninus, with the water flowing from the cisterns to the baths through underground pipes. More widely, they were vital for providing water for Carthage as the most important city of Africa Proconsulare during the High Empire.

The original cistern complex was nearly 1km long and was fed by a huge aqueduct which carried mountain spring water from Zaghouan.

From the Middle Ages, the cisterns were used as makeshift houses, stables, barns, or cellars by the local population. This continued until the twentieth century, which delayed archaeological investigation of the site.

In 2012, the Tunisian government proposed that the whole Zaghouan-Carthage Roman hydraulic complex – of which the cisterns are a part – should be classified as a world heritage site.

La Malga Cisterns today

Today, there is an active project to conserve and restore the site, and to develop a museum space devoted to it.

Nearby, visitors can enjoy a number of other important archaeological sites, such as the cemetery of the officials, the villa of Scorpianus, and some mausoleums – one of which has been re-constructed in a special room of the Bardo National Museum.

Getting to La Malga Cisterns

From the centre of Tunis, the cisterns are reachable in around 20 minutes by car via the N9 road. The site is reachable by foot the same way, though takes over three hours so is only recommended for the most intrepid explorer.