Ruined City of Tipasa (World Heritage)

The former Phoenician and later Roman trading hub on the Mediterranean coast combines Phoenician, Roman, early Christian and Byzantine elements in its cityscape, which reflect the eventful history of the city. The remains of a mausoleum, the main street, a theater and an amphitheater, temples and villas as well as the remains of the large early Christian, nine-aisled basilica are worth seeing.

Ruined city of Tipasa: facts

Official title: Tipasa ruined city
Cultural monument former Phoenician trading post and Roman Colonia, among others. with Kbor Er-Roumia, a mausoleum in the form of a tumulus with a diameter of 60 m and a height of 34 m, also known as the “grave of the Christian”, probably the family grave of the Numidian ruler Juba II, also with the 200 m long, well-preserved Decumanus, the main street that once ran from Icosium to Caesarea, with the small theater and the nymphaeum with fountains and water features, the Roman amphitheater, the »Villa of the Frescoes«, the New Temple and the Anonymous Temple, the Judicial Basilica (3rd Century), the Great Basilica (52×42 m), the burial chapel for Alexander, Bishop of Tipasa, and the three-aisled pillar basilica of St. Salsa
continent Africa
country Algeria
location Tipasa, on the Mediterranean coast west of Algiers and the Oued Nador
appointment 1982
meaning a unique architecture of Phoenician, Roman, early Christian and Byzantine origins

Tipasa Ruined City: History

7th century BC Chr. Phoenician trading city
84-46 BC Chr. King Juba I.
25 BC Chr. his son, Juba II, who was brought up in Rome, becomes king of Mauritania
1st century under Emperor Claudius status of a Colonia
1./2. Century Christian city of the dead
430 under the influence of Arian vandals
534 Expulsion of the Vandals from North Africa by Justitian’s general Belisarius, gradual loss of importance and decline of Tipasa
1847 Rows of seats in the small theater removed
1854 Settlement of French settlers

Christian traces in North Africa

The story of the Tipasa excavation is the story of its amateur archaeologists. No sooner had the French settlers conquered the region around the western Algerian coastal town in 1854 than the first enthusiastic letters from the new landowners were received by the “Revue Africaine”, the journal of the Société Historique Algerienne. A certain Monsieur Gentilhomme sent a floor plan of the ruins of a Christian church. His neighbor Demonchy reported inscriptions in the apse of another house of prayer. Most active was a Monsieur Tremeaux. A Roman fountain, mosaics, sarcophagi and countless inscriptions, every month he reported new finds to Algiers. “I have deposited it in my garden, where you can view it on your next visit,” he proudly invited the historians from the capital. The Société did not take the fact that important information about the exact location of the find was lost when doing this kind of thing. Instead, “Revue Africaine” reported happily in 1867 about the “opening of a small, local museum by M. Tremeaux”.

Despite the amateurish approach, it is precisely thanks to the work of these pioneers in Tipasa that the image that had prevailed about the ruins of the city changed suddenly. The remains of the building were more than the remains of a secondary Phoenician trading post. What was open before the eyes of the beholder at other sites in Algeria, such as Djémila and Timgad, was waiting to be rediscovered in Tipasa – largely buried under sand and earth: a city that the Romans found after the conquest of the region in the 1st century AD Century and the subsequent establishment of the province of Mauritania Cesarea not only gradually imprinted their unmistakable style, but also set new standards in many ways.

The city on the Mediterranean coast called some of the most remarkable buildings of the empire its own under Emperor Claudius. In addition to the forum and the Capitol, the architects had come up with something special to set a monument to their skills: the amphitheater built in the 3rd century only resembles the many others that can be found in the Mediterranean region at first glance. In contrast to them, the oval Tipasa arena in Tipasa was located in a building with a rectangular outer shape. The approximately 3,000 spectators were therefore not housed around, but on four grandstands.

The Great Basilica, erected on a hill by the sea, is still the largest Christian building erected on Algerian soil to this day. The prayer house from the 4th century with its 13 meter long nave is evidence of the gradual spread of Christianity in North Africa according to a2zdirectory. The burial chapel, named after the bishop Alexander who was buried in it, has an unusual trapezoidal floor plan, presumably to adapt it to the rocky terrain, which did not allow the construction of a conventional apse. Finally, on one of the highest hills in the city, between the remains of Punic walls that testify to the pre-Roman lords of the place, the Christian cemetery and the Church of Holy Salsa are located. The main nave of the best preserved ruin in the city had two galleries, the access stairs of which can still be admired today.

The old Tipasa was forgotten when the Oued Nador, the river on which it was built, washed up so much sand that the bay became unusable for shipping. Today, after the rediscovery of the Roman Colonia, it will not reveal much of what it once had to offer. A not inconsiderable part of the Roman city complex is buried under the modern part of the city, which was founded by the French settlers who were responsible for the first excavations.

Ruined City of Tipasa (World Heritage)