zaterdag 27 december 2014





Nowadays Tipaza lies c.63 km west of Algiers on the coast of Algeria. This distance can be done by the Phoenician ships, but it would have been hard labour. A port of call in the middle of this distance would be convenient. Near Zeralda at the mouth of the wadi Mazafran can have been a suitable solution.

The site of Tipaza offers an excellent anchorage for ancient coastal sailing and the Phoenician-Punic presence is attested there as early as the 6th century BC.

We are not really spoiled with Phoenician and Punic finds in the settlements views so far. But Tipasa is very different. Half a library seems to be written about Tipasa. Is that due to the by coincidence many successful excavations, or was there just a big difference in importance between Tipasa and all previous settlements to the east, with the exception of Hippo Regius?


The name:

ṭ p ‘t n (punic), tipasa (latin).

The Punic name occurs on coins (Müller 3.53). It could mean in Phoenician: passage.

The toponym seems to be Libyco-Berber, like all the Maghribine place names in Thi-, Ti-, Tha-, Ta-  and it was probably written: ṭ p ‘ t n, just like the Punic name of Tipasa.

The Latin name Tipasa is mentioned in Itin.Ant.15, Ammian.Marc.XXIX 5,17, Iul.Hon.699, Plinius V.220.

Teffesad (arab) means: badly damaged.


The Phoenician/Punic period.

There is evidence of the existence of a Phoenician/Punic settlement already in the 6th century BC. This settlement was situated west of the old harbor, as was proposed by M.Baradez (1960-62). Here we find a Punic wall around the deep (5-6m) harbor and relics on the nearby isles. In the harbor there is a great cave from the 6th century BC. Maybe an earthquake and/or a tsunami have played here a role. From the 4th and 3rd century BC there are two necropoli assignable with many Ionian and Attic material. One of them lies to the west on a cape and the other to the east of the settlement, also on a cape. No Punic document is available, but on the contrary many (neo-)punic memory-stones. On a distance of 1.5 km there is another small Phoenician/Punic settlement assignable from the 5th-2nd century BC.  Punic Tipasa had relations with Iberia, the Greek world and Italy. The later Roman town has covered most of the Punic relics, but they are still recognizable.


The Mauretania/Numidia period:

This period started at Tipasa by the end of the 3rd century BC under Syphax and Masinissa. In this time we see also the reigns of Bochus II and later Juba II. They are already vassal-kings of the Roman empire. Juba II is married to Cleopatra Selene (daughter of Cleopatra and Antonius). She calls herself Bassilissa. Maybe a nearby mausoleum could one assign to her. It is now falsely named after the Christian women. Pomponius Mela (I,30) mentions a mausoleum of the royal family in this area. By the end of this period Tipasa has to deal with the uprising of Tacfarinas. In 39 AD the son of Juba II is murdered by the emperor Caligula in Lyon and from that time Tipasa belonged to the Roman empire.


The Roman period:

Emperor Claudius gives the town the title Tipasa municipium iuris Latini in 46 BC  according to Plinius (NH V 2.20). Punic live survived however, because to the east of the town near the basilica St.Salsa at Koudiat Zarour J.Baradez found a little open air offering place with anepigraphic steles, altars for offering and vases with relics of nurned victimes. This sanctuary can be dated to 1st – 2nd century AD. Punic cellars to the east of the port came from the same period. Architectural aspects are still punic. A neo-Punic grave (1st century AD) with 150 objects for the offering (knife, ax, cleaver, scissors) were brought to the daylight. This must have been the grave of a priest for the offering (komer).

In 145-150 AD Tipasa becomes the Colonia Aelia Tipasensis. In the 2nd century AD the town had already an extensive circumference of 2.3 km in length. The walls are 1.60m wide and 7-9m high and have rectangular towers. Saturn is known from the late 2nd century AD and that implicates once again that there must have been a sanctuary of Baal Hammon.

1st half of the 3rd century AD: epitaph of Rasina secunda.

1st half of the 4th century AD: Schisma of the Donatists. During Julianus Apostatus (362-363) two Donatist bishops excercise terror with prosecutions. In 371 AD Salsa seems to have saved Tipasa from the rebel Firmus. There are more legends about Salsa. One of them says, that she was a young woman, who throws a snake idol into the sea. The outrageous crowd stoned her and she was casted into the sea as well. But her body comes back from the sea and she is buried in a chapel on a hill above the harbor. Are there more persons with the name Salsa. There has been found a sarcophagus of Fabia Salsa (also a woman), who reached the age of 63 years. The coins found under her cippus show that they come from the time of Constant the Great (begin 4th century AD). We are acquainted with an inscription from Corduba (4th century AD) with the text: praesis prov.Caes.ordini Tipasensium tabulam patronatus optulit (CIL II 2110).


The Vandal period.

In 430/429 AD Tipasa belonged to the Vandal empire. In 455 AD it was forced to pull down at least a part of the walls. By the end of the 5th century AD the Vandals under Huneric introduced the Arrianic religion. In 484 AD we hear of an episcopus Tipasitanus = Reparatus. The secretary of Cyrilla replaces the Catholic bishop Reparatus. The population flees over the sea to Spain. In 523 AD however the Vandal Hilderic allows the restoration of Catholicism.

In the 5th century AD the sarcophagus of Saint Salsa and the adjoining altar is decorated by Polentius.


The Byzantine period.

This period begins in 534 AD. The Byzantines restore the basilica and improve the defense of the town. After this period came the Arab invasion. Tipasa was completely destroyed.


The early excavations:

In 1892 M.l’Abbé Saint-Gérand in Tipasa. See: CRAI 36th year no.2 p.111-114. He finds a lot of Latin inscriptions mostly in the basilica of Alexander rector (=bishop). Some of them concerns about the building of the basilica.

M.Cintas begins here with scientific excavations, followed by M.Baradez around the harbor (1960-62) and M.Lancel (1964-1968). Cintas: Notes sur les fouilles récentes de Tipasa, CRAI 36th year. 1892. p.242. In the west a Christian necropolis was found in which a chapel with 9 graves of “justi priores” just before bishop Alexander.



Impossible to mention all of it. Some important sources:

- Maisons à peristyle. Rebuffat 1969 : villa Fresco’s. c.150-160 AD.

- J.Baradez. Nouvelles fouilles de Tipasa: survivance du culte de Baal et de Tanit au Ier siècle de l’ère chrétienne. Libyca 5 (1957) p.221-276.

- S.Lancel – M.Bouchenaki, Tipasa de Maurétanie. Alger 1971.

P.Cintas. Fouilles puniques à Tipasa, Alger 1949, Revue Africaine 92 (1948) p.263-323.

Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical sites, princeton, 1976 p.925-926.

M.M.Morciano, Tipasa d’Algeria: un esempio di pianificazione antica in: L’Africa Romana X. Sassari 1994. p.403-418.


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