KEF, more correctly El-Kef (the Rock), a town of Tunisia, 125 m. by rail S.S.W. of the capital, and 75 m. S.E. of Bona in Algeria. It occupies the site of the Roman colony of Sicca Veneria, and is built on the steep slope of a rock in a mountainous region through which flows the Mellegue, an affluent of the Mejerda. Situated at the intersection of main routes from the west and south, Kef occupies a position of strategic importance. Though distant some 22 m. from the Algerian frontier it was practically a border post, and its walls and citadel were kept in a state of defence by the Tunisians. The town with its half-dozen mosques and tortuous, dirty streets, is still partly walled. The southern part of the wall has however been destroyed by the French, and the remainder is being left to decay. Beyond the part of the wall destroyed is the French quarter. The kasbah, or citadel, occupies a rocky eminence on the west side of the town. It was built, or rebuilt, by the Turks, the material being Roman. It has been restored by the French, who maintain a garrison here.
The Roman remains include fragments of a large temple dedicated to Hercules, and of the baths. The ancient cisterns remain, but are empty, being used as part of the barracks. The town is however supplied by water from the same spring which filled the cisterns. The Christian cemetery is on the site of a basilica. There are ruins of another Christian basilica, excavated by the French, the apse being intact and the narthex serving as a church. Many stones with Roman inscriptions are built into the walls of Arab houses. The modern town is much smaller than the Roman colony. Pop. about 6000, including about 100 Europeans (chiefly Maltese).
The Roman colony of Sicca Veneria appears from the character of its worshipof Venus (Val. Max. ii. 6, 15)10 have been a Phoenician settlement. It was afterwards a Numidian stronghold, and under the Caesars became a fashionable residential city and one of the chief centres of Christianity in North Africa. The Christian apologist Arnobius the Elder lived here.
See H. Barth, Die Kustenlander des Mittelmeeres (1849); Corpus Inscript. Lat. , vol. viii. ; Sombrun in Bull, de la soc. de gfog. de Bordeaux (1878). Also Cardinal Newman's Callista: a Sketch of the Third Century (1856), for a " reconstruction " of the manner of lite of the early Christians and their oppressors.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)