History of Constantine, the city of bridges

This article is also available in: Italiano

Constantine, the 3rd largest city in Algeria and one of the most historic, so much so that it has long been the capital of Numidia with the name of Cirta

Cirta, the capital of Numidia

Originally founded as a Phoenician colony, the city acquired the name of “Cirta” once it became the capital of the Kingdom of Numidia. Over time the latter will develop a very particular relationship with Rome, first seen as an enemy and then as an interesting opportunity. The relationship began in fact with the “Battle of Cirta” in 203 BC, a decisive battle in the Second Punic War, which took place shortly before the even more famous “Battle of Zama”, which allowed the Romans to establish themselves as commercial and military partners of exception, without, however, arriving at the actual conquest yet. In 118 BC King Micipsa, faithful ally of Rome, died, deciding shortly before dividing Numidia in order to give a kingdom to his two sons, Iempsale and Aderbale, and to his nephew, Giugurta, who had distinguished himself for great military skills. The latter, however, soon killed the first and put the second to flight, who took refuge from his Roman allies while his cousin put Cirta on fire, thus leading to the outbreak of the Giugurtine Wars; at their end the Kingdom of Numidia will be partly absorbed by Rome but this city and its eastern part will lose their autonomy only in 46 BC. with the arrival of Julius Caesar.


Following this event, Publio Sittio Nocerino and his men, the Sittiani, also arriving from Campania, arrived here. Their arrival will be absolutely decisive for the development of Latin culture in Africa, as, thanks also to them, Cirta soon became the real center of the Roman world on this continent. With the outbreak of the Roman Civil War of 306, the city became one of the places that were most closely linked to Constantine the Great; precisely for this reason it will be destroyed by the troops loyal to Maxentius, and then built by the emperor himself with the name of Constantine. The settlement was then conquered by the Vandals in 430 and then passed into the hands of the Byzantines from 534 to 697.


Starting from the eighth century, Constantine will pass under the Arab rule; initially, however, the city failed to shine due to the many conflicts that had passed through it over the course of a few years. The recovery will come with the rise of the Almohad and Hafside dynasty, which strengthened and enriched it more than ever, creating contacts and trade routes even with Pisa, Genoa and Venice.


From 1529 it passed under Ottoman control, managing to reach one of its heights of beauty with Salah Bey, Bey of Constantine from 1771 to 1792, the last years of glory before the French arrival. In fact, starting from 1826, the transalpines arrived here giving the locals a hard time until 1837, the year in which the region finally fell into the hands of Paris. In 1880, in Constantine, the doctor Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran discovered the causes of malaria, winning the 1907 Nobel Prize for medicine. While never being at the center of the clashes like Algiers, Constantine and its region made an important contribution in freeing Algeria from the French yoke, an event that officially materialized on March 19, 1962.

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