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Subject: Algeria, Phoenicia, Lucien Guiguet, Mastigas, Auzia
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Cherchell Zoo
شرشال oiuo
Cherchell's fountain place
Cherchell's fountain place
Location of Cherchell in the Tipaza Province
Location of Cherchell in the Tipaza Province
Cherchell Zoo is located in Algeria
Cherchell Zoo
Cherchell Zoo
Location of Cherchell in the Tipaza Province
Country Algeria
Province Tipaza
District Cherchell
The port of Cherchell
Cherchell bay with Mont Chenoua in the background
Road to the neighborhood of Tizirine

Cherchell (older Cherchel, Arabic: شرشال‎) is a seaport town in the Province of Tipaza, Algeria, 55 miles west of Algiers. It is the district seat of Cherchell District. In 1998 it had a population of 24,400.[1]

Ancient history

The Phoenicians of Carthage settled at Cherchell in the 4th century BC and named the town Iol or Jol. The town became a part of the kingdom of Numidia under Jugurtha, who died in 104 BC. The town became very significant to the Berber monarchy and generals of Numidia. The Berber Kings Bocchus I and Bocchus II lived there, as occasionally did other Kings of Numidia. Iol was situated in an area called Mauretania, which was a part of the Numidian kingdom.

The last Numidian king Juba II and his wife, the Greek Ptolemaic princess Cleopatra Selene II were forced to flee the other part of Numidian kingdom because the local population disapproved of their king being too Romanized, which caused civil unrest between 26 and 20 BC. Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus had intervened in the situation and divided the Numidian Kingdom into two. One half of the kingdom became a part of the Roman province of Africa Nova. Western Numidia and Mauretania (the second half of the kingdom) became one kingdom. Iol was renamed Caesarea or Caesarea of Mauretania, in honor of the emperor. Caesarea would become the capital of the Roman client kingdom of Mauretania. The kingdom of Mauretania became one of the important client kingdoms in the Roman Empire, and their monarchs were one of the most loyal client monarchs that served Rome.

Juba and Cleopatra did not just rename their new capital, but rebuilt the town in fine Roman style on a large, lavish and expensive scale. The construction and sculptural projects in Caesarea and throughout the kingdom were built on a rich mixture of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman architectural styles. The monarchs are buried in their mausoleum, the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania which can still be seen. The seaport capital and its kingdom flourished during this period with most of the population being of Greek and Phoenician origin with a minority of Berbers. It remained a significant power center under Numidian rule with a Greco-Roman civilization as a veneer, until 40 AD, when its last monarch Ptolemy of Mauretania was murdered on a visit to Rome. The murder of Ptolemy set in motion a series of reactions resulting in a devastating war with Rome.

In 44 after a four-year bloody revolt, the capital was captured and Roman Emperor Claudius divided the Mauretanian kingdom into two provinces. The province of which Caesarea became the capital was called Mauretania Caesariensis. The city itself was settled with Roman soldiers and was given the rank of a colonia, and so was also called Colonia Claudia Caesarea.

In later centuries, the Roman population expanded, as did the Berber population, resulting in a mixed Greco-Phoenician, Berber, and Roman population. The city featured a hippodrome, amphitheatre, basilica, numerous Greek temples, and Roman civic buildings. During this heyday, the city had its own school of philosophy, academy, and library. As a significant city of the Roman Empire it had trading contacts across the Roman world.

Subsequently, the town was the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Macrinus and Greek grammarian Priscian. Additionally, the city also featured a small but growing population of converted Christians and was noted for the religious debates and tumolts which featured the hostility of Roman public religion toward Christians. Caesarea thus has its own martyred Catholic saint, Marciana (her feastday is on 9 January). This virgin martyr was accused of vandalizing a statue of the goddess Diana. After being tortured, Marciana was gored by a bull and mauled by a leopard in the amphitheatre at Caesarea. By the 4th century, the conversion of the population from pagan to Christian beliefs resulted in nearly half of the population being Christianized.

Apart from some bishops who may have been of the church in Caesarea and whose names are engraved in inscriptions that have been unearthed, the first bishop whose name is preserved in extant written documents is Fortunatus, who took part in the Council of Arles of 314, which condemned Donatism. A letter of Symmachus mentions a bishop named Clemens in about 371/372 or 380. The town became a Donatist centre and at the joint Conference of Carthage in 411, was represented both by the Donatist Emeritus and by the Catholic Deuterius. Augustine of Hippo has left an account of his public confrontation with Emeritus at Caesarea in the autmn of 418, after which Emeritus was exiled. The last bishop of Caesarea whose name is known from written documents was Apocorius, one of Catholic bishops whom Huneric summoned to Carthage in 484 and then sent into exile. An early 8th-century Notitia Episcopatuum still included this see.[2][3] No longer a residential bishopric, Caesarea in Mauretania is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[4]

In the 5th century, the city remained an extremely loyalist power for the Roman Empire. Additionally, the city's elite held considerable control of international trade. Although the city had been in a state of stagnation for over a hundred years and had even lost population as most cities in the Roman Empire, it still remained much as it had been since establishment. Consequently, the Roman Empire relied on much of its North African dominion for essential food stuffs, luxury goods, and a not insignificant number of elite rulers.

Thus, in the waning days of the Empire it became a target of the Vandals and their expedition to bring down their Imperial opponents. A Vandal army and fleet burnt the town and fortified many of its old magnificent Roman era buildings into Vandal citadels. Although this devastation was significant, the Vandal era saw restoration of much of the damage, an expansion in the size of the population, and the creation of a vibrant Romanized Germanic community.

The city's port meanwhile served as a base for some of the Vandal fleet which continued to reign supreme in the western seas. In turn, the city saw its economic fortunes revive as Vandal merchants cornered the market on shipping. However, much of this wealth was of necessity channelled toward military developments, as the Vandals were forced to defend their conquest against both Byzantine and Berber attacks.

After several decades of war with the Eastern Roman Emperor, the Vandal Kingdom of Africa was ground down and the city was recaptured under the Byzantine Empire's Emperor Justinian I. The Emperor kept the walls strong but tore down the Vandal citadels, restored the old Roman buildings and returned to the city to a traditional post of Byzantine civilization. However, the vibrant Germanic community which had brought new economic development to the area was ruthlessly suppressed. Although the majority of its population was left unscathed, its economic power was ruined and its place as an aristorcracy was overthrown with new Byzantine courtiers.

Post-Roman history

However, the unintended consequences of the Byzantine's wars and suppression of the Vandals left much of the coast without the strong military abilities of the Vandal nobility and their armies. As a result, Berber raids and settlements, which had been checked by the Vandals returned once more. Additionally, under the stratified and centralized economic practices of the Empire, many of the small freeholding farmers both of Vandal and Roman origin lost economic opportunities which left them prey to more powerful rich landlords, and the whole system decayed. Eventually, powerful armies of Arabs under the banner of Islam ultimately swept through the city, which became increasingly acculturated toward Berbers and Arabs. By the 10th century, the city's name had transformed in the local dialect from a Latin to a Berber and ultimately into the Arabicized name of for Caesarea, Sharshal. Finally, following reconquest by Europeans in the 19th century the city name was changed to Cherchell which is the French spelling of the contemporary Arabic/Berber name of the town.

In the city's remaining Byzantine history, it went into slow decline in which the city's remaining Roman and what remained of the semi-Romanized Vandal elite held a stratified position over the growing numbers of Berbers it allowed to settle in return for cheap labor. However, this reduced the economic status of small freeholders and urban dwellers, especially what remained of the Vandal population who provided most of the local military forces. Furthermore, the increasing use of Berber workers replaced the declining quasi-Roman population of free peasants. By the 8th century, the city and surrounding area lacked both a strong urban core of free citizens, or a rural population of freeholding farmers, nor did it support a competent defense.

Over a period of fifteen years, successive waves of Arab armies into Byzantine North African territory (including what is now Algeria) wore down the smaller and less motivated Imperial armies, until finally, Moslem tribesmen lay siege to the city of Caesarea. Despite being resupplied by Byzantine fleets, the small Byzantine ruling class and its dependents were eventually overwhelmed by Islamic forces. Much of the Byzantine nobility and its civil service fled to other parts of the Empire, while what remained of the Roman and semi-Roman population accepted Islamic supremacy in return for protected status.

For two generations, what remained of the quasi-Roman population and Berbers launched several revolts often in conjunction with reinforcements from the Empire. Islamic forces duly crushed these revolts. After several revolts by Berbers and what remained of the Roman and tiny Vandal populations, Arab Moslems tore down much of the city's defenses and recycled its crumbling Roman buildings. The city, already little more than a relic of its former glory, was now surrounded by a camp of Moslem warriors and their retinue. Additionally, joined by growing numbers of Arab tribesmen, most of the town was converted forcibly or otherwise over the following two centuries.

Nonetheless, later Berbo-Islamic rule was more tolerant and respectful of its Greco-Roman Christian past and endeavored to rebuild aspects of the towns former civilization. For the following few centuries, the city remained a power center of Arabs and Berbers with a small but significant population of semi-Roman Christians. During this period, several attempts at reconquest were made by Europeans, who under various nationalities such as Spanish, French, or Norman managed to hold the city off and on for a few generations before being pushed out again by Moslems. Notable of these in providing material for historical review, especially of what remained of its Roman and Byzantine infrastructure and population was the Norman Kingdom of Africa.

Eventually, Ottoman Turks managed to successfully reconquer the city from Spanish occupation in the 16th century, using the city primarily as a fortified port. In 1520, Hayreddin Barbarossa captured the town and annexed the Algerian Pashalic. His elder brother Oruç Reis built a fort over the town. Under Turkish occupation, the city's importance as a port and fort led to it being inhabited by Moslems of many nationalities, some engaging in privateering and piracy on the Mediterranean.

In reply, European navies and especially the French Navy and the Knights Hospitaller (self-proclaimed descendants of the Crusaders) laid siege to the city and occasionally captured it for limited periods of time. For a century in the 1600s and for a brief period in the 1700s the city either was under Spanish or Hospitallar control. During this period a number of palaces were built, but the overwhelming edifice of Hayreddin Barbarossa's citadel, was considered too militarily valuable to destroy and uncover the previous ancient buildings of old Caesarea.

In 1738, a terrible earthquake shook the town and left the town defenses damaged.

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars and Revolutions of the early 19th century, the French under both British, American, and other European powers were encouraged to attack and destroy the Barbary Pirates. From 1836 to 1840 various allied navies, but mostly French hunted down the Barbary pirates and conquered the Barbary ports while threatening the Ottoman Empire with war if it intervened. In 1840, the French after a significant siege captured and occupied the town. The French lynched the Barbary Pirates including the local pasha for Crimes against the laws of nations.{fact}

In turn, many ancient statues and buildings were either restored and left in Cherchell, or taken to museums in Algiers, Algeria or Paris, France for further study. However, not all building projects were successful in uncovering and restoring the ancient town. The Roman amphitheatre was considered mostly unsalvageable and unnecessary to rebuilt. Its dress stones were used to the build a new French fort and barracks. Materials from the Hippodrome were used to build a new church. The steps of the Hippodrome were partly destroyed by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie in a search for the tomb of Saint Marciana.

French occupation also brought new European settlement, to join the city's long-established communities of semi-Arabized Christians of local origin and old European merchant families, in addition to Berbers and Arab Muslims. Under French rule, European and Christians became a majority of the population again until World War II.

In the immediate years before World War Two, losses to the French national population from World War One, and a declining birthrate in general among Europeans kept further colonial settlement to a trickle. Arab and Berber populations started seeing an increase in growth. French-Algerian colonial officials and landowners encouraged larger numbers of surrounding Berber tribesmen to move into the surrounding region to work the farms and groves cheaply. In turn, more and more Berbers and Arabs moved into the city seeking employment. By 1930 the combined Berbo-Arab Algerian population represented nearly 40% of the city's population.

The changing demographics within the city were disguised by the large numbers of French military personnel based there and the numbers of European tourists visiting the what had become known as the Algerian Riviera. Additionally, during World War II, Cherchell, with its libraries, cafes, restaurants, and hotels served as a base for the United States Army and Allied War effort, hosting a summit conference between the US and UK in October 1942.

The end of the war with its departure of Allied forces and a reduction of French naval personnel due to rebasing saw an actual decline in Europeans living in the city. Additionally, the general austerity of the post-war years dried up the tourism industry and caused financial stagnation and losses to the local Franco-Algerian community. In 1952, a census recorded that the Frenco-Algerian population had declined to 50% of the popupation.

For the remaining 1950's Cherchell was only slightly caught up by the Algerian War of Independence. With its large proportion of Europeans, French control and influence was strong enough to discourage all but the most daring attacks by anti-French insurgents. By 1966, after independence from the French, Cherchell had lost nearly half of its population and all of its Franco-Algerian population.

Cherchell has continued to grow post-independence, recovering to peak colonial-era population by the 1980s. Cherchell currently has industries in marble, plaster quarries and iron mines. The town trades in oils, tobacco and earthenware. Additionally, the ancient cistern first developed by Juba and Cleopatra Selene II was restored and expanded under recent French rule and still supplies water to the town.

Although the Algerian Riveria ended with the war, Cherchell is still a popular tourist places in Algeria. Cherchell has various splendid temples and monuments from the Punic, Numidian and Roman periods, and the works of art found there, including statues of Neptune and Venus, are now in the Museum of Antiquities in Algiers. The former Roman port is no longer in commercial use and has been partly filled by alluvial deposits and has been affected by earthquakes. The former local mosque of the Hundred Columns contains 89 columns of diorite. This remarkable building now serves as a hospital. The local museum displays some of the finest ancient Greek and Roman antiquities found in Africa. Cherchell is the birthplace of writer and movie director Assia Djebar.

Historical population

Year Population[1]
1901 9,000
1926 11,900
1931 12,700
1936 12,700
1954 16,900
1966 11,700
1987 18,700
1998 24,400

See also


  1. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  2. ^ Joseph Mesnage, L'Afrique chrétienne, Paris 1912, pp. 447–450
  3. ^ Charles Courtois, v. Césarée de Maurétanie, in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. XII, Paris 1953, coll. 203-206
  4. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 867
  • 2002 Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia.
  • Children's Britannica - Volume 1, Abbey to Arabs, Algeria
  • S. Pétridès (1908). "Caesarea Mauretaniae".  
  • "Cherchell".  

External links

  • Various ancient ruins of Cherchell:
    • A Roman ruin
    • An ancient theater
    • A Roman aqueduct near Cherchell
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