previous next

HIPPO REGIUS (Annaba or Bône) Algeria.

First and foremost a seaport, this city of Proconsular Africa overlooks a deep, sheltered bay where from earliest times ships could put in. Confusion between Hippou Acra, its original name, and Hippo Zarytus (Bizerta) makes it difficult to interpret the oldest texts. Also, topographical study is complicated because alluvial deposits of the Seybouse, or Ubus, have changed the landscape. In 1935 the site of the Roman city was identified S of the Arab town, which was built nearer the cape, to the N, after Hippo was destroyed. The Roman and Early Christian city was excavated in part and at least some stages of its history revealed. However, nothing remains of the very earliest buildings of a town that has been described as “without doubt of Phoenician origin” (G. Camps).

The city that has been excavated lies in the plain between the vale of St. Augustine and the old coastline and was apparently not inhabited until 200 B.C. Even the famous cyclopean walls, which were believed to be of Punic origin, go back only to about 40 B.C. Wherever they have been uncovered, the early strata reveal light structures of rough brick, while those monuments that have been preserved can generally be attributed to the Roman period. Nevertheless, one may assume that a town already existed there before the Romans came and that Roman builders followed the earlier plan, not modifying it until later, for example, when the forum was laid out. This was a huge rectangular area 76 m long, around which city blocks were laid out more or less at right angles. Built under Vespasian for the proconsul C. Paccius Africanus, this forum had been preceded by another: the base of a statue with the name of the emperor Claudius has been found there, also a magnificent bronze trophy 2.5 m high, which has been linked with Caesar's decisive victory that brought about the suicide, at Hippo, of Metellus Scipio and his ally Juba I (46 B.C.). An Ionic capital found in the curia, similar to those of the Tomb of the Christian, points to a similar date—the middle of the 1st c. B.C. Even if no Punic or Numidian remains have been preserved, the city as excavated has nevertheless stood for nine centuries: both its plan and its monuments seem to date from various periods and to have gone through many modifications.

As one goes from W to E, the first monument is the theater, built against the St. Augustine hill. Measuring 100 m in width, it is perhaps the largest in Africa. All that is left of it are the eight lowest tiers; the orchestra, surrounded by a deep drain; part of the very long (40 m) stage with its proscenium decorated with reliefs, and part of the platform, flanked with two wide parascenia.

Nearby is the forum, which can be dated from an inscription carved in the paving stones: the dedication of C. Paccius Africanus. The forum is 76 x 42 m (that of Timgad is 50 m long), not including the porticos that lined three sides. To the S, it gave onto a smaller courtyard of indeterminate purpose. Beside the open square stood a series of monuments: a little temple to the W, then three aligned pedestals, one of them rectangular, the second with concave sides and supporting four columns, while the third most probably held a statue. Three small, indeterminate monuments are on the N side. Inscriptions indicate other statues, now disappeared. Besides the bronze trophy, which belonged to the old forum, such fragments as the head of a member of Augustus' family and a very fine head of Vespasian give an idea of the quality of these statues.

On the two long sides were porticos, the columns of which have been partially recovered, and behind these a series of small rooms some of which no doubt were shops while others held religious statues. To the W, the first room to the N is thought to be the curia.

To the N of the forum, beyond the E corner, is a fountain where roads coming from the N forked before skirting the square. The entrance was on the E side at the end of a long, almost straight road from which transverse roads ran off to right and left marking off unequal, irregular blocks, the whole forming a rough checkerboard pattern. Beyond the first blocks, to the N, is the market. It consists of a courtyard 15.88 m square with stalls on all sides and in the middle the remains of a small, circular temple. Then it widens into another rectangular courtyard paved with mosaics. According to an inscription, this dates from the reign of Valens and Valentinian (364-67). The square courtyard, of earlier date, apparently goes back to the 1st c. A.D.

Immediately to the E of the market is a large, irregularly shaped block of buildings that measures about 100 m diagonally. This is the so-called Christian quarter; its chief monument, which fills half the E section, is in fact a large basilica with three naves.

The basilica is built on top of earlier monuments— a house decorated with mosaics, at the axis of the nave, and farther E a large cistern that, like the rest of the church, was later covered over with tombs. The oldest elements are some tub-shaped cisterns found deep down under the W wall; similar cisterns have been excavated at Constantine and Cherchel, in pre-Roman strata. The church has outlying buildings to the E. The baptistery has a number of rooms with mosaic floors in secular designs—muses, cherubs gathering grapes. Earlier, these rooms belonged to a peristyle house that was later made into an entrance to the basilica. A group of workshops were later added to the N section of the complex; they extended to the courtyard. The dates are uncertain. The basilica may possibly date from the end of the 4th c.

To the E, across the street, is a section of the city that seems to have been gradually retrieved from the sea. Its huge walls, mentioned above, with their drafted construction, were clearly designed to protect the buildings from storms. At the same time they served to strengthen the soil, which was damp and frequently flooded.

The oldest of these walls predate the 1st c. A.D. Beyond them were villas that have numerous layers of mosaic floors, suggesting successive invasions. In the last period these villas were joined along their facades by a long corridor. This very probably had a gallery looking out over the sea and gave unity to the ensemble.

Farther N and a little W, though still parallel to the sea, is a building incorrectly called “the basilica with five naves.” It is a patio with concentric colonnades, erected over earlier buildings.

Continuing N, the street reaches the Platea Vetus. This marble-paved courtyard bears the remains of a temple dating from the early years of the 1st c. Behind the square rise the great N baths, still majestic. Apparently built in the Severan era, they held a number of religious statues and inscribed pedestals. The lower floors and the hydraulic and heating installations are well preserved.

Finally, an area S of the Gharf el Artran hill, where the museum is, has been partially excavated. Among the finds are a curious multi-storied house, built against the hill, and a huge platform showing the same impressive masonry technique as the great W walls. It bears an inscription to the Dii Consentes. Other baths—the S baths—have also been excavated. They closely resemble the great baths of Djemila. A dedication to Julia Domna has also been found here. Toward the W some more, smaller baths have been discovered. One hall is decorated with a large, beautiful mosaic showing a labyrinth with a bust of the Minotaur in the center.

A large surface area has been set aside for research and still remains to be excavated. But the discoveries made up to now are very significant. To these should be added the richness of the statues, mainly those of the baths and forum; the quality of the mosaics, which range from the 2d to the 5th c. A.D.; and the importance of the many inscriptions. Captured by the Vandals in 431, when its bishop Augustine had just died there, and laid waste by the Arabs, the city was used as a cemetery in mediaeval times. It is strewn with coffin tombs laid on the ancient floors. Fortunately, the site was not covered over by the modern town.


A. Ravoisié, Exploration scientifique de l'Algérie pendant les années 1840-42 (1846); A. Papier, Lettres sur Hippone (1887); S. Gsell, Monuments antiques de l'Algérie (1901); Atlas archéologique de l'Algérie IX (1902); F. G. de Pachtère, “Les nouvelles fouilles d'Hippone,” MélRome 31 (1911) 328; E. Marec, “Les nouvelles fouilles d'Hippone,” Bulletin de l'Académie d'Hippone 36 (1925-30); Hippone-la-Royale (1954); Monuments chrétiens d'Hippone (1958); O. Perler, “L'eglise principale et les autres sanctuaires chrétiens d'Hippone la Royale d'après les textes de saint Augustin,” Revue des études augustiniennes 1 (1955) 299; “La découverte des monuments chrétiens d'Hippone,” Rev. d'Hist. eccl. suisse 54 (1960) 177; H. Masson, “La basilique chrétienne d'Hippone d'après les dernières fouilles,” Revue des études augustiniennes 6 (1960) 109; EAA 2 (1959); J. P. Morel, “Céramiques d'Hippone,” Bulletin d'archcéologie algérienne 1 (1962-65) 107; “Recherches stratigraphiques à Hippone,” ibid. III (1968) 35; see also Bulletin de l'Acadéimie d'Hippone; Libyca 1 (1953) to 8 (1960) (articles by E. Marec and annual résumés).


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: