Spolia in Fortifications: Turkey, Syria and North Africa



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Greece

Similar examples of spolia decoration exist in Greece – witness the Castle of the 40 Columns at Paphos, so called because of its granite shafts; this was destroyed by earthquake in 1222, and used henceforth for building stone297. Indeed, many Byzantine fortifications in Greece incorporate spolia: the east wall at Sparta, with column shafts and marble blocks arranged in a decorative attempt to imitate a Doric frieze; whilst at Aegina, decorative alternation of courses as well as ancient inscriptions, many of them upside down or sideways, were used to decorate the exterior.298, and the custom seems to have continued into the later Middle Ages, most notably on islands such as Sipanto, near Melos299, and especially on Paros, where much material remained above ground in the 18 century, but was frequently carted off. Pitton de Tournefort gives a full description of Parechia, the main town, and admires the spolia walls, noticing the column-shafts used en boutisse. But he is alarmed by the casual treatment accorded antiquities in his own day: the French, British and Venetians remove them, while the Greeks break them to make field-walls.th Other travellers describe both the spolia in the castle, and likewise deplore the bad treatment accorded to beautiful antique remains. Thus Charles Tompson visits the quarries, and goes thence to Parechia, remarking also on the destructive cruel Ignorance of the Greeks, noting that walls formerly were a Part of much nobler Structures,300 and describing the litter of antiquities which for some reason or another could not be loaded into boats - an index of the continuing spoliation: Several fine blocks of marble – fragments of columns, are lying close to the water’s edge, and seem to have been brought there by travellers, who for want of a proper purchase to get them on board, have not been able to carry them farther301.



The reuse of antique reliefs in a 15-century fortress: the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
The enthusiastic use of spolia continued in Turkey, not only amongst the Turks, but also amongst Europeans. The most important use of spolia for structure and decoration is of the large quantities of the building blocks and reliefs of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, by the Knights of Rhodes, although this reuse is too late fully to be considered hereth. Nevertheless, it is important because it offers the first semi-documented and datable reuse of Hellenistic relief sculpture by the Renaissance, and near to the source site as well. Hence it is worth mentioning here as a measure against which we may set earlier instances of reuse, such as on the Gate of Persecutions at Seljuk.
The Mausoleum was almost certainly largely intact and hence visible throughout much of the Middle Ages; and reuse by the Hospitallers is not in doubt – although it is likely that at first the original constructors of the castle, in 1404, did not know it was the Mausoleum, or even that there were spolia on site, since we are told that squared stones (a usual shorthand for spolia blocks) were taken there in ships for the construction302 when Bodrum (Halicarnassus) was captured. The Castle of St. Peter was built on a new site, some distance away, but its extension and repair meant hunting locally for spolia. The reuse and aesthetic display of Mausoleum reliefs (arguably not before 1494303), together with large quantities of building blocks, indicate that the Knights were interested in and knowledgeable about Antiquity and the prestige the display of its remains could offer to theirt endeavours. We may wish to believe that they probably knew precisely what it was that they were reusing, although there is no evidence for this beyond the tangential account of Michelozzi and Bonsignori, who visited Turkey in 1497/8, and who tended to go around attempting to square what they saw with what the ancient authors wrote. At Halicarnassus, following the ancient authors, they naturally expected to see the famous Mausoleum, where were to be seen the great ruin of the Mausoleum [...] and in this same place there is now the Castle of Saint Peter.304 Although there is some vagueness in the phraseology, it is possible that what they actually saw was the Mausoleum, or perhaps what they identified as the Mausoleum, namely the castle of S. Peter (as did Beaufort in 1818). For how would they have known what such a structure looked like?
But could the superstructure of the Mausoleum still have been visible in the 15 century? If we accept the well-known account of the Commandant de la Tourette (who was in charge of the 1522 repairs to the Castle), the tomb chamber was actually discovered leading from a room containing much marble decoration and bas-reliefs. It went the way of the rest: having at first admired these works, and entertained their fancy with the singularity of the sculpture, they pulled it to pieces, and broke up the whole of it. The account makes it clear that the sappers were digging downwards for stone and not therefore dismantling any remaining superstructure; indeed, the characteristic grey- green stone of the foundation blocks also appears in the 1404 building (in all, to a calculated 6,000 cubic metres) - which surely means that parts (at least) of the superstructure had by then disappeared. The likelihood is therefore that, possibly after being severely damaged by earthquake, the Mausoleum was dismantled in two stages (1404, and again in 1523) by the Knights – symmetry, as it were, for the nearby Colossus of Rhodes, another of the Seven Wonders, also fallen in an earthquake, was carted off by the Arabs in the seventh century, apparently together with sculpta saxa.th However, because much of the surviving sculptural decoration from the Mausoleum also appeared in the castle walls, and placed so as to be as decorative as possible 305, it is possible to argue that the tomb stood almost complete before the first castle was begun: for the reliefs (in excellent condition, and therefore probably still in place) would have to be stripped before the builders could get at the structural blocks.
The Knights certainly appreciated the sculptured relief pieces of the tomb, for some of them were placed prominently in the walls of their castle - just as discovered antiquities were exhibited on city walls back home in Europe. They probably took others abroad with them. Thus the fragment no. 1023 now in the British Museum was found in a Turkish house on Rhodes, only a few hours’ sailing away, and possibly taken there before the Turkish conquest of 1522; It was probably cut for easy transport, carefully leaving intact the figure of an Amazon which it displays. Another piece, fragment 1022, reached Genoa, perhaps in the same manner. Sufficient sculptures remained visible later in the century to prompt the enterprising project of Fra’ Sabba da Castiglione to take the whole tomb to Italy, to beautify Mantua; unfortunately, the Turks got in the way. Sabba appears to have acted as the Cyriacus of his generation, importing two little heads of Amazons into Italy, and sending to Isabella d’Este sculptures from Kos, Naxos and Delos306.
But we should beware of suggesting that the Knights took over the Mausoleum sculpture wholesale, when all they reused was the reliefs. For the sculptural load of the structure was enormous, and the great majority of it has disappeared. Waywell307 estimates 5 statues in the chariot group, 56 or 72 lions at the base of the roof, 36 portrait statues between columns, 56 colossal statues in groups on upper step of podium, 72 heroic portraits on middle step of podium, and 88 life-size groups at the base - plus the reliefs. Their main interest was in the greenish squared blocks of the Mausoleum as building materials, few of which now remain on the Mausoleum site, but they also used some lions, and a Centaur frieze slab. Whilst acknowledging that The Amazon frieze slabs, which were on the outside as well as in the interior of the castle, must have created a unique and impressive gallery of classical sculptures, Luttrell sees no iconographical significance in their reuse, although surely we may at least accept their subject-matter as appropriate for a fortress.
But whatever the appearance of the Mausoleum in the Middle Ages, it seems certain is that even the very tradition of its site disappeared when the Knights evacuated the area. Why was this? If there is one litany of the antique well known to the Renaissance, it is the Seven Wonders of the World. So can we attribute the slow re-learning about the Mausoleum to the exclusory attitude of the Turks? This is in fact likely, once we accept that people did indeed believe (wrongly) that the Castle was the site of the Mausoleum - and the Castle being a military installation, was very difficult of access for non-Turks even to the end of the 18 century. Even Beaufort, who is very perceptive about antiquities, surmises that at Bodrum the Mausoleum occupied the land where the castle now stands but, like many others, could only admire the reliefs outside the castle, the interior being out of bounds because it was still a military installation. He believed Thevenot, in 1656, was the last to get inside.th

Spolia Churches and the Classical Past
Of course, not all re-use of spolia in Turkey was in fortifications; a large amount was in Byzantine churches, the majority of which are in advanced states of ruination. An exception, because of the veneration in which it continued to be held, was the church of S. Nicholas at Myra – Father Christmas’ church.
Myra is a Roman site (now largely occupied by cold frames for tomatoes), and its port of Andriake is 2km distant; both sites still boast substantial antique remains, conspicuously the theatre in the former, and a huge and very well-preserved Hadrianic granary in the latter. The building of the church of S.Nicholas at Myra provides an early and significant example of the consistent, bulk reuse of spolia. The quantities employed are so large as to suggest a deliberate aesthetic campaign, since the church is largely of rubble construction, but antique blocks are employed to square up the corners, and the fittings and furnishings are almost completely antique (and some splendid column shafts lie in the couryard to the north). Door frames, cills, entablature blocks, columns, veneer, mosaic tessera- all are lifted wholesale from the ancient city, and cut down or packed in somewhat crudely to make them fit their new location. The only reason for this can be the prestige offered by the qualities and perhaps source of the marble used.
Such complete spolia churches are not rare in Turkey, There was little compunction there (or indeed in Greece308) about building a church directly onto a temple – see Uzancaburc309, Side, or Sardis. At Kadirli (ancient Flaviopolis), the blocks of Ala Camii began as a temple; the structure was then converted into a church with some rearrangment of the blocks and use of only part of the podium of the antique temple. The south entrance is a Roman door (perhaps from the temple); the north door has a Christian lintel but old jambs. The flanking west doors are antique and complete, whilst the larger central door (which retains its threshold) uses an antique lintel, and make-and-mend antique blocks roughly matched together to form jambs. Since the church sits square on the antique podium, and is arguably 100% spolia, are we entitled to conclude acclaim of the numen of the classical past, or simply convenience? Appearances certainly come into play, since the bossed masonry of the antique (temenos?) wall, reused for the church walls, has been turned around so that a suave outer face is presented to the outside wall – so was the bossed interior then plastered? The mosque does likewise, and adds some marble blocks for good measure.
But the rearrangement is minor at Kadirli compared to Aphrodisias, where the columns of the temple were actually moved in order to suit Christian ideas of layout. Cormack dates the conversion tentatively to the middle or late 5th century. He also notices the misplaced corner Ionic capital, thereby reflecting the massive scale of the Christian reworking, and strikes a very positive tone by emphasising the engineering skills displayed, and suggesting that reuse underlinesnot con tinuity, but rather the triumph of Christianity over paganism.310 At Antalya we find the same –temple-church-mosque transition, with high-quality Byzantine capitals, in the church of the Panaghia,311 as we have already seen.
The range of spolia available for such church-building in the early Middle Ages was immense, but :it would be perfectly possible to build a spolia church of the size and sumptuousness of N Nicholas at Myra even today. For example, 20km from Silifke, on the road to Uzancaburc, are the inhabited villages of Ovaqcik and Tekkadin, both on the sites of antique cities. At Tekkadin, the village sits mainly on the necropolis, and many of the antique houses, as one walks through the city on the antique selce, stand to three metres and more: I counted sixteen sets of door jambs plus lintels. Distance from the sea (and poorish communications – unsealed road from Tekkadin to the Uzancaburc turning) has ensured this site’s survival. But the vogue for marble doorframes is very long-lasting, as El-Bekri, writing in the 11 century, noted for Carthage and Tunisth, retailing a word-play in the process: Les portes de toutes les maisons sont encadrees de beau marbre; chaque montant est d'un seule morceau; un troisieme morceau, place sur les deux autres, forme le linteau. De la vient le dicton La Tunis, les portes de maisons sont en marbre (ROKHAM), mais a l'interieur tout est couvert de suie (SOKHAM). This may have been a common practice, since Edrisi notes the use of complete sets of spolia door furniture throughout the city of Constantine, in Algeria.
(The use of spolia in mosques and other Islamic religious buildings lies beyond the scope of this paper, but it is a rich subject. Some structures, such as the Alaeddin Medresesi at Korkuteli, the antique Isinda, reuse classical spolia with taste and discretion312, as does the extremely sumptuous Eljas Bey Mosque at Miletus, built from a wide choice of spolia313; hence it is common to find some Islamic decoration derived from classical friezes, especially maeander motifs314, and especially by the Seljuks.)

The Continuing Usefulness of Spolia, I: The French in Algeria from 1830
Les Arabes ne travaillent en fait de fortifications ni pour élever ni pour détruire, ce n’est ni dans leurs idées ni dans leurs habitudes; ils ne comprennent pas l’avantage d’une position fortifiée dans laquelle pour rien au monde ils ne voudraient s’enfermer. Enfin faute des outils necessaires la destruction du fort très important que j’avais élevé devenait impossible de leur part pendant la durée de l’expédition315
In spite of incursions and trading by Turks, English, French and Spanish, the French were the first since Justinian seriously to contemplate the conquest, occupation and colonisation of large tracts of North Africa, which was sufficiently unknown in the early 19 century for there to be an Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa (which publish Burckhardt's Travels in Syria). Contemplated at least as early as 1802th, unfortunately the whole affair was badly planned, and in some respects not planned at all. Military leaders, unsure of their ultimate objectives, and far too thinly spread, did their work against a barrage of continual sniping from Paris. Whilst the settled Arabs were often friendly, the wild, tribal Kabyles continued to fight, and in a fashion to which the French were not accustomed - so that we find six pages of a 15-page Notice sur les montagnes Kabyles entre Collo et Bougie316 dedicated to explaining why the very lack of roads was un puissant moyen de défense pour les tribus dans leur inimitié réciproque, and then enumerating the mere tracks the French would need to use to get near to them. Again, they had to cope with a difficult climate, lack of water, very poor communications, and many health problems. The expedition consumed enormous resources, because they had to take or build everything they needed - ovens, mills, hospitals, abbatoirs, bridges, barracks, machinery. Help from the Roman remains and infrastructure was welcome not least because their use and restoration saved money, time and human resources. As one Engineer Captain remarked in 1837 in semi-apology for allowing archaeology to bulk so large in a military report, strategy had been little changed by weaponry, and an appreciation of the sites occupied by the Roman army was very useful.317 Indeed, the French felt fellowship with their antique predecessors because they were fighting the same enemy on the same ground, and much in the same manner using the same infrastructure.
Napoleon’s famous comment to his troops at the Pyramids about history looking down upon them sounded grand, and there were similar parallels made in North Africa which were inevitable, but both desirable and invidious. The French were the new Romans, or so they believed, and using Roman forts, roads, bridges, way-stations. Such parallels were desirable because France, like Rome, was an Empire, and needed room to expand, tgaking over from the declining Turkish Empire. The Ministry of War was kept informed of the re-use of Roman forts, roads and town walls during the conquest, and evidently approved318. Soldiers wrote local histories, and these are preserved in the archives319. But comparisons with the antique past were also invidious because of the hugely different time-scale involved, the lack of military colonisation, and the complete absence of the citizenship setup which the Romans used to buy and promote security320. But, like the Romans again, the French believed that the past could teach them for the future. Capitaine C. Martin, for example, wrote an Histoire de la subdivision de Sétif321 for the General Inspection of 1852, and noted that he had done so (and wished that other subdivisions would follow suit) in order that officers would have the facts before their eyes, de s'emparer du passé de la subdivision pour concourir au progrès du présent.
For the French, there were no Middle Ages in North Africa – nothing of interest to them between the Romans and Byzantines on the one hand, and the present day on the other322. They believed that the North Africans were not fortress-builders or really city-dwellers, although they did in fact reuse Byzantine fortresses, concentrated new fortress-building on the more vulnerable coastline323, at the same time as developing a prosperous civilization324. This same fairy-tale quality of freshness and survival also impressed El Bekri when he visited El Mogheira, near Bone, where solid monuments still stood firm, and churches preserved their marble revetments, as if the workmen had only just left. Eight hundred years later, the French would make use of these ample Roman remains, which they needed because (unlike the Kabyles) they fought in a manner that required roads, canals, anchorages and fortresses. Conveniently, the French took over the Roman infrastructure, even if parts of some roads needed re-routing because French artillery could not manage the steep Roman slopes. Also, they quickly realised that the spread of ruins meant settlement patterns much more intense (and hence better communications and water supply) than in the 19 centuryth, And therefore great possibilities for development. (Had they studied their own archives, they would have known that the same conclusion had been reached over a century previously.325) They were surprised to find themselves using Roman roads for their transport, but were in fact following in a long tradition: when Musa ibn Nusayr invaded Spain in 711/713, he did so on the Roman roads – and, indeed, there are Roman roads in Spain known to us only from Arab authors.326 And the Spanish in North Africa in the 16 century were well aware of such roads, and remarked upon themth. Hence it is not surprising to find in Spain327 the same horizons of reuse as in France or Italy. Again Leo Africanus identifies such roads from their characteristics, which he recognises from his travels in Italy328.
The fit, in terms of attitudes to the ancient monuments, between the Western mediaeval situation and that of the French in Algeria, is not of course ideal, but gives us the best idea we can gain of what might have happened in earlier centuries (much helped by the truly monumental scale of the French 19 century army paperwork). There are three stages: military, the campaign for early colonization, and then civil growth.
First, the military stage. From 1830, there are signs of systematic scavenging for spolia. The military generally looked with a kind eye on the Roman remains of the country, because these were their meal ticket, and a very present help in trouble: against marauding bands of mounted Arabs, they needed Roman roads to move their artillery; Roman bridgesth for the torrential streams, Byzantine forts (built usually on top of Roman ones) for security and signalling (and the French made a bee-line for these, in spite of disadvantages329). They made straight rebuilds of late antique enceintes, as at Bougie330; or simply made good as at Setif.331 Roman cisterns and fountains332 served to supply the troops in the brutal climate; and, above all, the evidence of abundant Roman occupation in areas now semi-desertified was used to convince Paris and themselves that it was all worthwhile. (The French were still studying Roman hydraulics in 1964, with exactly the same aims in view333.) But military occupation always entailed destruction. At Bougie, for example, an early account remarks on the losses the town has endured to secure q field of fire for the reduced enceinte - and because of ce penchant pour la destruction que l'on rencontre chez presque tous nos soldats.
Why were they there? Not for war, but for peace: c’est une marche des légions romaines a travers l’Afrique; c’est la civilisation qui vient policer les barbares334 – indeed, cette croisade de la civilisation contre la barbarie335. The indigenous population was a problem, and believed to be in need of regeneration, which colonisation would achieve by providing a moral and civilising example.336 They were the new Centurions; Rome had, indeed, returned to Africa (as the Italians were to proclaim a century later337); and they invaded Algeria with copies of the ancient historians in their knapsacks, some of these specially produced for the troops, and to be read in leisure moments in garrison or bivouac. Typical of the genre is Dureau de la Malle, L’Algerie: Histoire des guerres des Romains, des Byzantins et des Vandales, (Paris 1852), and subtitled Manuel Algerien. It gets straight to the point on the first page: Examen des moyens employes par les Romains pour la conquete et la soumission de l’Afrique Septentrionale, and then after ten pages moves on to Sallust Jugurtha. Such handbooks generally ignored the fact (later to be admitted) that the original Romanisation of North Africa hovered between a myth and a complete failure. The context in which they fought, their paragone, was a Roman context – and the Romans took 240 years to conquer Africa. A spin-off from the common classical education of soldier and politician is that it is abnormal, but not unknown, in the midst of letters from the Governor-General back to the Minister of War to find descriptions of antiquities, apparently for purely scholarly reasons, together with transcribed inscriptions338. Thus Lieut. Desmarets' Itineraire de Medina a Bathna, of 1 October 1846, dwells on the ruins at Baghai, notes Peysonnel's identification of them in 1724, but malgre toutes les recherches que j'ai faites il m'a ete impossible de decouvrir aucune inscription, pourtant, comme la 3e Legion commande par August, etait etablie a Tebessa, on serait tente de croire que les villes et les postes qui couvrent le pays, etaient sous son commandement339. At Bougie, excavations as early as 1836 (only three years after the occupation of the site) discovered an inscription which allowed the antique site to be identified340. And E. de Neveu, in his Renseignemens statistiques sur la ville d'El Kantara has one page of the fifteen-page report dedicated to Historique: Concordance des itinéraires anciens avec l'emplacement des ruines actuelles, whilst concluding his accompanying letter to the Duc d'Aumale with the message conveyed by the omnipresence of the Roman remains: Héritier de leur pouvoir, qui sait si la Providence n'a pas permis que les ruines de leurs établissements restassent à la surface du sol pour nous servir de jalons et nous indiquer sans recherches pénibles et souvent inutiles les lieux ou d'un seul bond nous devons nous poser nous-memes pour travailler à l'oeuvre civilisatrice qu'elle nous a donné mission d'accomplir dans ce Pays?341 The parallel question was still being asked in 1856: Pourquoi …cette contrée, entre nos mains, ne deviendrait-elle pour nous ce qu'elle fut jadis pour nos devanciers?342
Inland the ruins remained in great quantity, whilst almost everything had vanished along the coasts. Thus a Historique de Djidjeli (undated, perhaps 1842) has a substantial section on Roman roads, admires the enormous stone kerbs which some of them boasted; but deplores how in that area so many have degraded, and been replaced by frequently impassable tracks.
In the early years, there was a tendency, therefore, to make good what the Romans had left, to admire what the Romans had done, and to plan to do likewise – plans, even, to take members of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres along on the reconnaissances, much as had happened earlier, to produce the Description de l’Egypte.343 A powerful factor was cost: it cost the French 18.75 million francs for 1834 and 1835 alone, so it is not surprising that committee advice was to secure positions against native attacks, and put off les ouvrages de fortification régulière for the future.344 - henced the prominence allotted to refurbishing Roman enceintes. There were also plenty of military who enjoyed antiquities, and enthusiastically set about the task of recording and collecting them together, as at Milianah345. Ironically, the French lived a more straightened existence than their Roman models; and therefore, just as with late Roman enceintes, the French ones are aften much smaller than their predecessors, and built with stones from the bigger brother, as at Tebessa346, at Setif, where the French forces would eventually fill the Roman enceinte347, at Medeah, where the spolia are re-used for extending the enceinte348, at Bougie349, or at Tlemcen350. The very best, such as the triumphal arch at Setif, was projected by the Duc d’Orleans for Paris, when the area was conquered in 1838.It was to have been erected in Paris, but transport difficulties made this impossible. Similar to thededications on the Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, its inscription would have read L’Armee d’Afrique a la France.351
This first stage of French occupation is elastic in date, depending on the area of the country, and the date of its conquest. In the province of Constantine, for example, Lieut Demesmay in 1847 can still judge352 the site of the old Roman fort at K'sour as worthy of reoccupation, with good wood and water, and plenty of building stone. At El Kantara itself, the bridge is Roman, is solid enough for artillery, and needs only a little work on the parapet. At Setif, praised for its fine and abundant water, they will search for more Roman water conduits as the population grows.353 At Bougie, Lieut. Sarrette observes that antique prosperity has left its traces which are still to be discerned on the once-beautiful gardens of the plain, and the canals which fed them.354
The second stage was the developmental building stage, when the Roman monuments began to suffer serious damage. Given the enormous costs of quarrying, in investment and manpower, Roman walls and ruins were simply too convenient to leave alone, because they were so thick and high that they could provide materials for whole cities. What is more, the Engineers soon began to consider fortification against European powers, rather than simply defence against the local Arabs. Captain de Neveu's assertion that Constantine was fine comme une ville d'Afrique placée au milieu de populations qui ne possèdent pas d'artillerie, but not against European weaponry,355 is typical, and spelled the death through insufficiency of surviving Byzantine or vandal enceintes. Above the voices of those who believed that establishment in Africa was impossible because of cultural differences, others pointed to the once-rich, now semi-desertified territories, and planned experimental farms356. Yet others pointed to the waste of money on military operations, including building, pointing to the need for true centuriation357 on the Roman model: Si depuis huit ans vous aviez depense en colonisation militaire la moitie de ce que vous ont coute vos troupes en Afrique, vos travaux de fortifications, vos expeditions ruineuses et steriles, vous aviez deja une vaste province a vous et bien a vous358. In a country with transportation problems and labour shortages, re-using Roman remains was the obvious course of action, as at Guelma in the early 1840s, when a reconnaissance finds at Mda-Ouroch some 28 hectares of ruins, including a temple, and a small fort built over a theatre: son assiette conviendrait parfaitement a l’établissement d’une ville Européenne. Les matériaux propres aux constructions tels que pierres de taille, moellons, pierre à chaux, y sont très abondants - and with the Roman road from Carthage to Sirta passing close by.359 And at Setif, in the 1840s, planting colons was thought possible only because of the protection afforded by the Roman fort and its materials, which now begin to get reused as spolia at an increasing rate.360 Such exploitation of the remains was systematic for several decades, until better counsels prevailed. For example, the materials of the Roman baths at Guelma were being used to repair the walls, and it was projected to incorporate them in the enceinte361 (a familiar echo of late antique walls!) following an 1845 recommendation to use the line of the Roman enceinte as much as possible, don’t les fondations aumoins serviront, et produiront une économie en donnant plus de solidité aux nouvelles constructions, with the Roman towers to be used as silos362.
It was during the third stage that very serious problems began for the ancient monuments, and laws became necessary to protect them. The frequently disparaged363 French colons practised large-scale robbing and lime-making, probably because they knew no better, and because spolia were better and cheaper than quarrying and transport. The depradations are amply documented, not least by the laws enacted to try and stop it. By 1845 important monuments had been lost: Ce mot de barbarie que nous prodiguons aux arabes, on pouvait dans l’avenir nous le renvoyer avec juste raison, à nous qui faisons profession d’etre une nation lettrée, et qui avons plus détruits en dix ans de monuments antiques que les arabes en deux siècles. 364 People who should have known better were targetting yet more365. Problems subsisted into this century, with the Navy Engineer at Algiers pointing out in 1908 the need to demolish the Porte des Lions (a classified site) to build barracks for sailors366, and the refrain without archaeological value being overused as an alibi for destruction367. There were similar problems in Tunisia, as we gather from Saladin’s excellent census of 1886368. And just as Caylus’ Recueil d’Antiquités in 18-century France depended for many of its discoveries on the work of the Ponts et Chaussees, so colonisation in Algeria acted as a kind of vacuum-cleaner for the archaeologists, revealing and (if they were quick enough) preserving antiquities.th As for the thirst for antiquities and marble in France, this simply continued, with Paris calling for antiquities just as she had earlier done from the monuments of Provence, and then from all around the Mediterranean (brought back on Royal ships), whether for building materials, or for stocking museums. But attitudes did not generally improve with time, as Ginther observes for Setif. After quoting what the 1872 French Commission would do to building for the colons at Bordj-el-Arreridj, namely that les ruines de la ville romaine pourraient donner des matériaux tout préparés, he concludes quite correctly that Partout, donc, ou une ville européenne s'est batie sur l'emplacement de la ville antique, les trouvailles archéologiques sont rares et tiennent du miracle. Such depradations were partly counter-balanced by serious attempts to map and catalogue the monuments, frequently by as well as with the help of the French military. An illustrious name here is that of Colonel Carbuccia, who was instrumental in the systematic recording of material in the province of Batna369. His identification with his Roman predecessors strikes a romantic tone: out on campaign, and coming across a ruined tomb monument to a Roman centurion, he had his troops rebuild it, and then passed them in review in honour of their antique comrade.
To pose the question about the influence of the Roman monuments of North Africa on the French is to suspect that the conquest of Algeria simply could not have taken place (or would have done so enormously more slowly) had the Roman infrastructure not been in place (just as it may be argued that General Roy’s work for the Ordnance Survey had military spin-offs for the pacification of Scotland, because he studied Roman techniques). Here again, in comparison with the Middle Ages in the West, and the Roman monuments, time is telescoped, so that we might imagine that one day Justinian left, and the next the French arrived. Undoubtedly, also, the sense of fraternity with their Roman forbears (as evinced by Carbuccia) was strongly felt thanks to the classical education of French officers, who had been brought up on the military tactics of the Romans, and had handbooks in their knapsacks giving the ancient authors and making explicit parallels with the modern situation: the French invasion was therefore easy to present as the triumph of a great Empire over native tribes - of civilization over barbarism, and a benison, not a rape. Were the French unusual in the interest they took in the monuments of Algeria? Because they were the only ones to attempt the occupation of the interior, the question cannot fully be answered; but along the coasts, there is evidence that the Spanish took little interest in the past. At Bougie, for example, the French found plenty of granite and marble columns and capitals, some of them lying above ground370, which the Spanish might easily have appropriated, but instead apparently ignored.
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