Sbeitla or Sufetula (Berber languages: Sbitla or Seftula, Arabic: سبيطلة About this soundSbaytlā) is a small town in west-central Tunisia. Nearby are the Roman ruins of Sufetula, containing the best preserved Roman forum temples in Tunisia. It was the entry point of the Muslim conquest of North Africa.
Sbeitla is the capital of the largest delegation in Kasserine Governorate with an area of 1133.5 km2. It is located in 33 km in the west of the governorate, and 264 km to Tunis. It has a population of 23,844 (2014 estimate). Sbeitla is mentioned in Noman Douglas’s Fountains in the Sand as being wooded by junipers and Aleppo pines as late as the 19th century, though he found them “bleak and bare” in the early 20th century.
The ancient site of Sufetula is, in part, integrated into the city of Sbeïtla which, nearly a millennium and a half later, succeeded it as one of the main towns of the Haute Steppe.
Although the toponym Sufetula indicates a much earlier foundation, the remains unearthed at the site do not date back to earlier than the 1st century AD.
The city seems to have known under Septimius Severus (2nd – 3rd century) an era of great prosperity which continued until under Diocletian (285 – 305). The main buildings still visible date from this period: houses, forum, temples, thermal baths, triumphal gate, theater, etc.
In the absence of inscriptions to inform us about the different stages of the city’s past, the discovery of late vestiges, from the Lower Empire or the Vandal and Byzantine periods, reflects a great vitality of the Christian community in these walls which became predominant on the eve of the Arab conquest, in 647, this ended Africa’s membership in the Christian world and signed its attachment to the Islamic empire, after the defeat Patrice Grégoire who reigned over a kingdom which had taken its distances from Constantinople and which had Sufetula as its capital instead of Carthage.
The Sufetula site is the first to feature dynamic lighting and comprehensive signage.