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Utica, Africa

UTICA, AFRICA, a city of ancient Africa on the sinus Ulicensis, 1 55 m. N.W. of Carthage and Tunis, on the route from Carthage to Hippo Diarrhytus (Bizerta) and Hippo Regius (Bona). The modern marabout of Sidi Bu Shater, at the foot of Jebel Menzel el Gul, occupies the site of the ruins of Utica, which in ancient times stood at the mouth of the Bagradas (Mejerda). The mouth of the river is now 12 m. to the north, owing to alluvial deposits, and the level of the ancient town is covered with lowlying meadows, pools of water and marshes. The name Utica is of uncertain origin; the coins give the form :nx (Atag, Atig); it is therefore with justification that Movers, Tissot and other scholars have suggested a form Kp-ny (Aliqa) meaning " the ancient " or " the magnificent," or Stalio nautarum (Movers, Die Phonizier, ii. and part, p. 512; Olshausen in Rheinisches Museum, 1853, p. 329; Tissot, Geogr. comp. de Vane. prov. d'Afrique, ii. p. 58). The Greeks transliterated the Punic name as TTIIKTJ, OUTIKT;, OVT'LKO. and the Romans by Utica. According to tradition, Utica was one of the oldest Phoenician settlements on the African coast, founded three centuries before Carthage. It soon acquired importance as a commercial centre, and was only partially eclipsed by Carthage itself, of which it was always jealous, though it had to submit to its authority. It is mentioned in the commercial treaty of 348 B.C. between Rome and Carthage (Polyb. iii. 24). Agathocles easily captured it in his expedition to Africa in 310. It remained faithful to Caesar during the First Punic War (Polyb. i. 82), but soon withdrew its support in view of the revolt of the Mercenaries. In the Third Punic War it declared for the Romans (Livy, Epit. xlix.; Polyb. xxxvi. i; Appian viii. 75). After the destruction of Carthage it received the rank of a civitas libera with an accession of territory (Appian viii. 135; C.I.L. i. 200; Caesar, De bell, civ. ii. 36; A. Audollent, Carthage romaine, p. 30). Having become the city of an administration of the new Roman province up to the time of the rebuilding of Carthage, it played an important part in the wars at the end of the Republic. After the battle of Thapsus in 46 Cato shut himself up in Utica for the final struggle against Caesar, and there committed suicide. Augustus gave the town the rank of municipium with full civic rights (Dio Cass. xlix. 16; Pliny, Hist. not. v. 4, 24); its inhabitants were enrolled in the Quirinal tribe (municipium Julium U license}. Under Hadrian it became a colonia romana, with the title Colonia Julia Aelia Hadriana Augusta, Utica (Aul. Cell. Noct. Attic, xiii. 4; C.I.L. viii. 1181 and 1183).

Septimius Severus conferred upon it the I us Halicum (Digest. 50. 15; 8. n).

We find evidence of the African Church at Utica as early as at Carthage; it was the seat of a bishop and had its martyrs from the 3rd century onwards. But its harbour was beginning to silt; the Stadiasmus Maris Magni (cxxvi.) states that already it was no longer a harbour but merely an anchorage. It was captured by Genseric and the Vandals in 439, reconquered by the Byzantines in 534, and finally, in 698, it fell into the hands of the Arabs and was depopulated. The last inhabitants were driven away by fever after the 8th century.

The ruins of the left bank of the Mejerda are often visited by travellers, but very little is left above the level of the ground. In 1869 A. Daux, the French engineer, explored them and made some important investigations. He was able to distinguish the fortifications, the acropolis, the quays of the commercial harbour and also of the military harbour or Cothon. Conjectural attempts have been made to identify the remains of large buildings with a temple of Apollo, the municipal Curia, the Arsenal and the Palace. The only certain identification, however, is that of the ruins of the amphitheatre, which was capable of holding 20,000 spectators, of the theatre, the baths, the reservoirs and the aqueduct which brought drinking water to the city. Subsequently there was found a Punic cemetery dating from the 5th century B.C. (Delattre, Comptes-rendus de I'Acad. des Inscrip. et Belles Lettres, 1906, p. 60). A number of coins have been found with Punic legends with the name Utica and heads of the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux. For the Roman period the coins have Latin legends and heads of Livia and Tiberius; they have also the names of the pro-consuls of the African province and of the local Duumvirs.

AUTHORITIES. H6risson, Relation d'une mission arcUologique en Tunisie (1881); Sainte-Marie, Mission a Carthage (1884); Revue archeologique (1881 and 1882); A. Daux in Le Tour du Monde (1872) (views of the ruins); a mo^ic of Utica is in the British Museum: Graeco-Roman Sculpture, ii. p. 86; A. Daux, Recherches sur forigine et I' emplacement des emporia pheniciens dans le Zeugis et le Byzacium (1869); Ch. Tissot, Geographie comparee de la province romaine d'Afrique (1888), ii. pp. 57 et seq. ; Lud. M tiller, Numismatique de I'ancienne Afrique, ii. p. 159. (E. B.*)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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