Ancient Phoenicia

Settling North Africa: Utica
By Ethan Gelber with the BikeAbout team

The first true colony in North Africa was probably at Utica in North Africa, now inland and north of Tunis (Tunisia). Soon after Utica, Carthage was founded. The Carthaginians then appear to have spread throughout the Western Mediterranean, setting up satellite settlements in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Balearic Islands, and southern Spain. Carthage's active role in securing the Phoenician foothold in the region turned it into the center of western Phoenicia, and eventually the whole"empire."

Traditionally thought to have been established around 110 BC, modern evidence suggests that Utica was probably in the 8th or 7th century BC. It then became an important Punic city until the fall of Carthage (the Punic capital) in the 2nd century BC, when the Roman conquerors made it their provincial capital.

Originally a seaport located near the mouth of the Majardah (formerly known as Bagradas) River, Utica has over the years the watched the Mediterranean recede a few kilometers leaving a long stretch of land between the city and the coast.

The site now consists mostly of the ruins from the Roman era. The walls of many of the houses are standing, the sewer system looks as if it is still working, and some of the mosaics are in an excellent state of preservation.

The most interesting (and spooky) part of the site - and the only Punic remnant - is the burial ground just outside of the walls of the settlement. Some of the tombs - for people who had died over 20 centuries ago - are still entirely intact.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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