Underground Luxury at Bulla Regia

Less than an hour north of Dougga is Bulla Regia. Signs at the site informed us that “Regia” means royal, which we could already divine from our acquaintance with Romance languages. What we’d really like to know is what “Bulla” means. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Although it lacks the sheer size and impressiveness of Dougga, Bulla Regia has its own attractions. For instance, on the way to the theater we caught sight of another headless emperor. It was too obvious of a photo op to not take advantage. Here is Axa posing as a Roman empress.

Bulla Regia also had its share of wildlife. Axa was thrilled to find several toads of varying sizes, as well as a couple of visible wasp nests. Goats and sheep aren’t technically “wild,” but they’re always fun to see. All over the monuments, tree trunks, and any other relatively smooth, hard surface, we found these snails gathered in groups.

Bulla Regia is notable for the beautiful mosaics that have been found there, many of which we had already seen at the Bardo Museum. There are still quite a few mosaics left in situ, though. Some of these are located in the underground Roman villas. Apparently, the Romans were as inspired as George Lucas by the troglodyte dwellings in southern Tunisia. They built their own underground houses in grand Roman style, with Corinthian columns, mosaic floors, and dramatic open-air courtyards. When we went down the stairs to enter one, we found that it was closed with a large wrought-iron gate. Undeterred, Axa, Raj and I slipped under the gate. Tony got halfway through, but had to turn back, even though Axa and Raj, like the sparrows in Peter Rabbit, “implored him to exert himself.” Here we are, just after having done the deed, slightly abashed, but highly pleased.

I believe it’s necessary to visit Bulla Regia during the summertime to appreciate the true genius of these North African Romans. It was a very hot day, and of course there aren’t many trees planted around archaeological digs. We were sweaty and exhausted by the time we’d hiked around Dougga and then Bulla Regia. So slipping into the cool dimness of these underground villas was delightful. Since a picture wouldn’t really do it justice, I took a video, in which you can witness our daring escapade:

I felt quite audacious and intrepid for having snuck into the underground villa. Until a tour guide showed up ten minutes later and prosaically unlocked that same wrought-iron gate so a tour group could file through. Oh, well.

The underground dwellings are amazingly preserved. I think there hasn’t been much recycling of stones down there. Up on the surface, though, was another story. Do you recognize any stones in this picture that might be set wrong-way up?

After having our fill of Roman ruins, we headed out to the coastal city of Tabarka for shawarma and family home evening against a beautiful sunset.

Now, back to work!

2 thoughts on “Underground Luxury at Bulla Regia

  • June 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm
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    What beautiful pictures! I “found” you through your AmbleRamble comment on languages. My dd is 4 and we will be starting AOyear0 in just a few weeks.(I’m planning out for year round:) Thanks for the great tips on your language post. We live in central FL. so Spanish is on our list{{{grin}}} Do you teach more than one language at a time?
    your newest follower:)
    Denise

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