Tipasa – Roman Heritage in Algeria

Algeria is an ancient country with many fascinating historical attractions. The ancient Phoenician town of Tipasa is one such attraction. Situated on the coast of Algeria, this ancient town was once brimming with inhabitants. Today, it seldom receives much attention but is a noteworthy attraction in Algeria.

Tipasa, also spelt ‘Tipaza’, has changed much over the centuries. The ancient Phoenician town, which once bustled with trade and merchants, was later converted into a Roman military colony by Emperor Claudius. Later the colony was able to receive municipium status. Thus, Tipasa in Algeria became a thriving Roman colony and, no doubt, it was during this period that most of the stunning architectural ruins found here were built. The city was built on a series of three small hills which overlooked the sea and gave the inhabitants an almost perfect view.

Today the ruins of two massive churches – the Great Basilica and the Basilica Alexander – can be found on the westernmost hill surrounded by massive coffin-filled tombs. A third large church – the Basilica of St Salsa – can be found on the eastern hill where it is accompanied by two cemeteries, roman baths, a stunning amphitheater, which is still in excellent condition, a theatre and a nymphaeum – which may have been simply a pleasure house of fountains or it may have been a place dedicated to nymph-like creatures of roman lore. The central hill was where the majority of the houses stood but today there are no traces left of what must have been a bustling network of residences.

At the foot of the easternmost hill you will see the remains of an ancient harbor – one that was likely built by the Phoenicians who first settled here. The stone and mosaic covered coffins in the cemeteries and the many buildings dedicated to entertainment and leisure as well as the city’s status all indicates that Tipasa was once a very wealthy city. In about 484 CE, the Vandal King Huneric decided to send an Arian bishop to the city. Tipasa was meant to be a Christian city but only a few of the city’s inhabitants had embraced the new religion. As a result, a large percentage of the inhabitants of Tipasa fled to Spain to avoid the cruel persecution that awaited them at the hands of the Arian bishop. Those that remained were persecuted and killed. It would seem that this was end of Tipasa, for the city disappears from the history books shortly afterwards. In 1857, a modern town of the same name was founded nearby and it later became the capital of the Tipasa Wilaya.

Today this small modern town is known mainly for its stunning sandy beach and the Tipaza long wave transmitter broadcasting facility. However, one might easily feel that the true treasure of Tipasa is the stunning Roman ruins which lie only a short distance away.