Remnants of Roman History in the City of Guelma
The city of Guelma is located in a fertile region surrounded by the Maouna, Houara and Dbegh Mountains. Watered by the Seybouse River which flows over a distance of around 120 miles from Medjez Amar in the northwestern part of Guelma Province to the Mediterranean Sea near Annaba, the area around Guelma is prime agricultural land. Visitors to this busy Algerian city will find a number of attractions to enjoy, including nearby the nearby hot springs of Hammam Ouled Ali and Hammam Debagh which are well positioned to cater for tourists, while history enthusiasts find the various archeological sites in the city to be of great interest.
Although there is evidence of human settlement in the area going back to early prehistory, it was the Phoenicians who first established Guelma as a town, naming it ‘Malaca’. The area was later occupied by the Romans, who renamed it ‘Calama’. The Romans left a lasting architectural legacy in Guelma and visitors today can view the spectacular Roman theater of Guelma and the Roman baths which stand as a reminder of the city’s ancient history.
Other historic landmarks include the archeological garden of Guelma where a number of monuments from various archeological sites, such as Thibilis and M’daourouch, are located. A statue of the Roman mythological goddess Diana the Huntress, found in the early 20th century at Khamissa, is one of the notable sculptures displayed in the archeological gardens, as is the two meter tall statue of Fortune and a statue of a Roman woman draped in a cloak.
Following the conquest of Algeria by Islamists, Guelma (or Calama at the time) was abandoned and only regained its status as a formal settlement with the French invasion of Algeria. The settlement became a city on 20 January 1846 and soon developed around the ancient Roman ruins. The citizens of Guelma suffered a great deal during the massacre of Sétif and Guelma which took place on 8 May 1945, an event which proved to be a turning point in relations between Algeria and the French. Following the independence of the country, resident Jews and European settlers left, and the local church and synagogue were transformed into mosques.