Today, Utica no longer exists, and its remains are located in Bizerte Governorate
– not on the coast where it once lay, but further inland because deforestation and agriculture upriver led to massive erosion and the Medjerda River silted over its original mouth.
Classical Latin: [ˈʊ.t̪ɪ.ka]
) is an unusual latinization
of the Punic
name ʿtq (𐤏𐤕𐤒
) or ʿtg (𐤏𐤕𐤂
These derived from Phoenician ˁAtiq
(ʿtq), cognate with Arabic ˁatiqah
) and Hebrew ˁatiq
, seen in the title of God, "Ancient of Days
"). These all mean "Old" and contrast the settlement with the later colony Carthage
, whose own name literally meant "New Town".
The latinization is a little unusual in that the Latin U more often transcribed the letter W (i.e., waw
) in Punic names.
The Greeks called it Ἰτύκη.
The exact founding date of Utica is a matter of controversy. Several classical authors date its foundation to around 1100 BC. The archaeological evidence, however, suggests a foundation no earlier than the eighth century BC. The inland settlement used Rusucmona ("Cape Eshmun
") on Cape Farina
to the northeast as its chief port, although continued silting has rendered the present-day settlement at Ghar el-Melh
a small farming community. Although Carthage was later founded about 40 km from Utica, records suggest "that until 540 BC Utica was still maintaining political and economic autonomy in relation to its powerful Carthaginian neighbor".
By the fourth century BC, Utica came under Punic control, but continued to exist as a privileged ally of Carthage.
Soon, commercial rivalry created problems between Carthage and Utica.
This relationship between Carthage and Utica began to disintegrate after the First Punic War
, with the outbreak of rebellion among mercenaries
who had not received compensation for their service to Carthage. Originally, Utica refused to participate in this rebellion, so that the Libu
forces led by Spendius and Matho laid siege to Utica and nearby Hippocritae
The Carthaginian generals Hanno
then came to Utica's defense, managing to raise the siege, but "the severest blow of all… was the defection of Hippacritae and Utica, the only two cities in Libya which had…bravely faced the present war…indeed they never had on any occasion given the least sign of hostility to Carthage."
Eventually, the forces of Carthage proved victorious, forcing Utica and Hippacritae to surrender after a short siege.
Utica again defied Carthage in the Third Punic War
, when it surrendered to Rome shortly before the breakout of war in 150 BC. After its victory, Rome rewarded Utica by granting it an expanse of territory stretching from Carthage to Hippo
As a result of the war, Rome created a new province of Africa
, and Utica became its capital, which meant that the governor's residence was there along with a small garrison. Over the following decades Utica also attracted Roman citizens who settled there to do business.
During the Roman Civil War
between the supporters of Pompey
, the remaining Pompeians, including Cato the Younger
, fled to Utica after being defeated at the Battle of Thapsus
in 46 BC. Caesar pursued them to Utica, meeting no resistance from the inhabitants. Cato, who was the leader of the Pompeians, ensured the escape of his fellow senators and anyone else who desired to leave, then committed suicide
, unwilling to accept the clemency of Caesar.
Displaying their fondness for Cato, "the people of Utica...called Cato their saviour and benefactor... And this they continued to do even when word was brought that Caesar was approaching. They decked his body in splendid fashion, gave it an illustrious escort, and buried it near the sea, where a statue of him now stands, sword in hand".
After his death, Cato was given the name of Uticensis, due to the place of his death as well as to his public glorification and burial by the citizens of Utica.
Utica obtained the formal status of a municipium
in 36 BC
and its inhabitants became members of the Quirina
The city was chosen by the Romans as the place where the governor of their new Africa Province
was resident, but the silting of the port (because of the Medjerda River
) damaged the importance of Utica.
During the reign of Augustus
, however, the seat of provincial government was moved to a since rebuilt Carthage, although Utica did not lose its status as one of the foremost cities in the province. When Hadrian
was emperor, Utica requested to become a full Roman colony, but this request was not granted until Septimius Severus
, a native of the Province of Africa, took the throne.
Already eclipsed by the preeminence of Carthage, Utica was faced with the progressive silting up of its port and consequent isolation in the midst of marshy lands. By converting its activity to further cultivation of its agricultural territory, it prolonged its life right up to the end of ancient times....Utica had been endowed from the first century B.C. with the Roman buildings essential to comfortable urban life: forum, temples, baths, amphitheater, circus, in addition to dwellings. Most of these structures were placed in the grid of an orthogonal plan which covered a large part of the city. -Marian Holland
In AD 439, the Vandals
captured Utica, in AD 534 the Byzantines
captured it once more. Finally the Arabs were responsible for its ultimate destruction around AD 700. "Excavations at the site have yielded two Punic cemeteries and Roman ruins, including baths and a villa with mosaics".
Diocese of Utica
Statue of Trajan from Utica ruins
Indeed, there are more than a dozen bishops documented in Utica. The first, Aurelius, intervened at the council held at Carthage in 256 AD by St. Cyprian to discuss the question of the "lapsi". Maurus, the second bishop, was accused of apostasy during the persecution of 303 AD. The third, Victorius, took part in the Council of Arles in 314 AD along with Cecilianus of Carthage; he is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology
on 23 August. Then the fourth, Quietus, assisted at the Council of Carthage (349)
proclaimed by Gratus.
With the Arab conquest, Utica was destroyed and disappeared even as an independent diocese. Only during the early Renaissance
Utica was again a diocese, when the Spanish Empire
conquered the region for some decades and Pedro del Campo was named bishop of the recreated Diocese of Utica in 1516 AD.
The site of the ruins of Utica is set on a low hill, composed of several Roman villas. Their walls still preserve decorative floor mosaics
. To the northwest of these villas is a Punic
necropolis, with Punic sarcophagi 20 feet (6.1 metres) below the Roman level.
Currently, the site is located about 30 km from Tunis
and 30 km from Bizerte
and near cities with four other historical sites:
- Zana: village two kilometers from the site and has some important monuments;
- Ghar El Melh : city located on a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea and welcoming several fortresses;
- El Alia : city which houses monuments Andalusian style;
- Metline : coastal town of Andalucian style.
1, Archaeological site of Utica, Tunisia
House Insula 2, Archaeological site of Utica, Tunisia
Plan of Utica, Tunisia (1862)
Fountain in the form of turtle
the ruins of Utica
Utica columns 3
Archaeological site of Utica, Tunisia
Fountain in the form of turtle 3
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