Banasa was an ancient city of the province of Mauretania Tingitana in modern-day Morocco, situated on the road from Tingis to Sala. Its ruins are located on the southern bank of the river Sebou which Pliny (5.5) described as “Sububus magnificus et nauigabilis” (a fine river available for navigation). Banasa was one of the three coloniae in Mauretania Tingitana founded by the emperor Augustus between 33 and 27 BC for veterans of the battle of Actium.
Coordinates: 34° 36′ 6″ N, 6° 6′ 56″ W
The site appears to have been occupied as early as the 4th century BC by pottery workers whose activities continued until the 1st century BC. The Banasa potters produced characteristic painted wares inspired by the Phoenician, Greek and Ibero-Punic models that were exported widely in the region. A Mauretanian village of some size stood there in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, and it was on this site that Augustus established the veterans’ colony Iulia Valentia Banasa.
At the start of the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Banasa became Colonia Aurelia Banasa. In AD 285, the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana was reduced to the territories located north of the Lixus and Banasa was abandoned.
The archaeological excavations undertaken between 1933 and 1956 exposed the remains of the Roman era. The uncovered buildings include a forum flanked to the north by a rectangular basilica, a temple with seven cellae, public baths, a macellum, and streets in a regular pattern. Shops, oil-making installations and several bakeries have also been uncovered. Many of the buildings date from the early 3rd century AD. Beautiful mosaics decorated the buildings, now shown at the Rabat Archaeological Museum.
The epigraphical documents found at Banasa are exceptionally rich, the bronze inscriptions being especially noteworthy. An important legal text, the Tabula Banasitana (see image here), dating from the period of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, was unearthed in 1957 in the East Baths complex. This inscribed bronze plaque, now in the Museum of Antiquities in Rabat, deals with the conferment of citizenship under Marcus Aurelius on 6 July AD 177; at his own request, Iulianus, a princeps of the Zegrensi tribe, and his family are granted Roman citizenship for extraordinary service (maxima merita), without prejudice to his tribal rights (salvo iure gentis). Another bronze inscription from Banasa deals with the edict of Caracalla, exempting the inhabitants of Banasa from taxes in AD 216.