maandag 22 december 2014




This is the capital of the country Algeria. It is a Phoenician/Punic foundation with the name:

’ y k s m = isle of the owls. In Hebrew that is the name KOS. The Greeks named it Ikosion. Ptolemeus (IV 2,2): ’Iκόσιον. The Romans named it Icosium. Avienus (Ora Mar.428) mentions the town as insula noctilucae = isle of the full moon. In the Arabic language: al-Gaza‘ir / Gazira = isles. This has to do with the fact, that there were several islands in front of the shore, who are now part of the modern harbour. There is a Greek legend concerning the twenty companions (εικοσι) of Herakles/Melqart, who would have founded the town (Solinus XXV 17). P.Scylax mentions in the 4th century BC “the island of Akion, a city and a harbour” after he has mentioned Hebdomus at Rusuccuru. Akion can be a reference to ’Iy-kosim (It.Ant.) on the east coast of Sicily, close to Naxos and that was called Acium in Roman times (Solinus XXV 17).  If this a right connection, than the Naxian sailors came already in the 6th century BC at ’ y k s m and saw the resemblance with Icosion and Akion.


Phoenician/Punic period:

The combination of isles and a promontory is a typical situation for a Phoenician settlement is the statement of S.Gsell. From the Phoenician period we can’t present however no finding at all.


From the Punic period there is more:

- G.Doublet found a neo-punic stele (Musée d’Alger, Paris, 1890, p.67). In the museum of Algiers one can admire a stele with the so-called sign of Tanit. If this is the same as Doublet has found, I don’t know. Another stele comes from the 2nd-3rd century AD dedicated to African Saturn. The Punic stele has a triangular front, a niche and an arcade supported by two columns with Aeolian capitals. In the garden Marengo a sarcophagus of stone came from a cellar in daylight (l 2,39m, h 0,82m). Furthermore findings of an amulet (Anubis) and a golden jewel.


Numidian period:

- 158 punic coins of lead and bronze (c.150-50 BC) -> IGCH 2303 with the name  ’ y k s m and the image of Melqart. Also some coins with the head of a woman (Isis?).

- In a well or pit they have found pottery of black varnish from the 3rd-2nd century BC in the harbour quarter of Algiers. Here we find coins of Cleopatra VII and Cleopatra Selene. Then Juba II governs over Mauretania. A Berber revolt by Tacfarinas damaged the town.


Roman period:

Plinius (NH III,19+V 2,20) mentions a colony of veterans in the period of the Mauretanian kingdom of Juba II and mentions also a deportation: “Further along the coast (from SE Spain) one finds the river Tader, the exempted municipality Ilici and the named golf after that municipality. In this city the inhabitants of Icosium are housed.” The population of Icosium was removed by the Romans and instead it became a colony for 3000 veterans in 29 BC. Vespasianus (69-79 AD) gives the town the Latin law.

There are Roman cemeteries at Bab-el-Oued and Bab Azoun. Blofeld says there are also Roman ruins on the banks of the Savus (Haratob), southeast of Algiers and he thinks this is more the probable site of (Roman) Icosium than Algiers itself. Berbrugger however finds a Roman road at the Rue de la Marine near the port. A lot of Roman findings were made in Algiers:

- inscriptions of Ptolemeus and Lucius Caecilius Agilis

- urn from Calpurnius Martialis, son of Imilis

- stele of a horseman

- cippe of Aconia Lucilla

- mosaics from amongst others the cathedral

- stel of marble from Lucius Ennius Caii

- graves

- columbarium with 19 niches

- lamps of Caius Clodius Successes

- in the necropolis of the Kursaal: inscription of Titus Flavius Sextus of the IIIrd legion. He served 26 years

- pottery

- thermae under the church Notre Dame-des-Victoires

- stele Saturn with the name of Anna Sullae

- inscription Mithras

Christian period:

Christianity started to be worshipped in the late 2nd century AD and in the early 4th century Ad was that the main religion of the local Romanised Berbers. In 419 AD the bishop Icositanus represented Mauretania Caesariensis in Carthage.


In 430 AD the town was conquered by the Vandals, but already in 442 AD an agreement was made between the Roman empire and the Vandals, that the Romans were allowed to occupy Icosium. A century later the town was conquered by the Byzantines. The Arab conquest came in the late 7th century AD. They destroyed the town and reduced it to a small village.



PECS p.403-404: Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, Princeton, 1976, R.Stillwel and others (ed).

Gsell, HAAN II p.159-160: Histoire Ancienne de l’Afrique du Nord.

J.Cantineau – L.Leschi, Monnaies puniques d’Alger, CRAI 1941, p.263-272.

M.Le Glay, A la recherche d’Icosium, AntAfr 2 (1968) p.7-52 : Antiquités Africaines, Paris.

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