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"Iol" redirects here. For other uses, see IOL (disambiguation).
For the British village formerly called Cherchell, see Churchill, Oxfordshire.
Cherchell's fountain place
Cherchell's fountain place
Location of Cherchell in the Tipaza Province
Location of Cherchell in the Tipaza Province
Cherchell is located in Algeria
Location of Cherchell in the Tipaza Province
Coordinates: 36°36′36″N 2°11′48″E / 36.61000°N 2.19667°E / 36.61000; 2.19667Coordinates: 36°36′36″N 2°11′48″E / 36.61000°N 2.19667°E / 36.61000; 2.19667
Country Algeria
Province Tipaza
District Cherchell
The port of Cherchell
Cherchell bay with Mont Chenoua in the background
Road to the neighborhood of Tizirine

Cherchell (older Cherchel, Arabic: شرشال‎) is a seaport town in the Province of Tipaza, Algeria, 55 miles west of Algiers. It is the district seat of Cherchell District. In 1998 it had a population of 24,400.[1]

Ancient history[edit]

Main article: Caesarea Mauretaniae

The Phoenicians of Carthage settled at Cherchell in the 4th century BC and named the it Iol or Jol. The town became a part of the kingdom of Numidia and later the Roman client kingdom of Mauretania. In the time of Augustus, the romanized monarchs Juba and Cleopatra renamed the city Caesarea or Caesarea of Mauretania, in honor of the emperor, and rebuilt the town in a rich mixture of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman architectural styles, a prominent building being the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania. In 44, after a four-year revolt, the capital was captured and Roman Emperor Claudius divided the Mauretanian kingdom into two Roman provinces. The province of which Caesarea became the capital was called Mauretania Caesariensis. The city itself was settled with Roman soldiers and was given the rank of a colonia, and so was also called Colonia Claudia Caesarea.

In later centuries, the Roman population expanded, as did the Berber population, resulting in a mixed Greco-Phoenician, Berber, and Roman population. During this heyday, the city had its own school of philosophy, academy, and library, and was the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Macrinus and Greek grammarian Priscian. A growing Christian population issued saint Marciana, and named bishops between about 314 and 484.

In the 5th century, the city remained an extremely loyalist power for the Roman Empire. It held considerable control of international trade, although the city had been in a state of stagnation for over a hundred years and had even lost population (like most cities in the Roman Empire). In the waning days of the Empire a Vandal army and fleet took hold of the city and fortified older buildings. A vibrant Romanized Germanic community saw an expansion the population, and the Vandal merchant fleet provided economic fortunes. The city was captured, with the rest of the Vandal Kingdom of Africa, by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. The Emperor kept the walls strong, but restored the Vandal citadels into Roman civil buildings and returned the city to a traditional post of Byzantine civilization, suppressing the Germanic aristocracy.

Without the military abilities of the Vandal nobility and classes of Vandal freeholder framers and urban dwellers, by the 8th century, the city and surrounding area lacked a competent defense. The Byzantine elite turned from this stratified system to an increaseduse of Berber workers. Berbers were allowed to settle in return for cheap labor. Over a period of fifteen years, successive waves of Arab armies into Byzantine North African territory. They lay siege to the city. Despite being resupplied by Byzantine fleets, the population accepted Islamic supremacy in return for protected status.

Post-Roman history[edit]

For two generations, what remained of the quasi-Roman population and Berbers launched several revolts often in conjunction with reinforcements from the Empire. Islamic forces duly crushed these revolts. After several revolts by Berbers and what remained of the Roman and tiny Vandal populations, Arab Moslems tore down much of the city's defenses and recycled its crumbling Roman buildings. The city, already little more than a relic of its former glory, was now surrounded by a camp of Moslem warriors and their retinue. Additionally, joined by growing numbers of Arab tribesmen, most of the town was converted forcibly or otherwise over the following two centuries. By the 10th century, the city's name had transformed in the local dialect from a Latin to a Berber and ultimately into the Arabicized name of for Caesarea, Sharshal.

Nonetheless, later Berbo-Islamic rule was more tolerant and respectful of its Greco-Roman Christian past and endeavored to rebuild aspects of the towns former civilization. For the following few centuries, the city remained a power center of Arabs and Berbers with a small but significant population of semi-Roman Christians. During this period, several attempts at reconquest were made by Europeans, who under various nationalities such as Spanish, French, or Norman managed to hold the city off and on for a few generations before being pushed out again by Moslems. Notable of these in providing material for historical review, especially of what remained of its Roman and Byzantine infrastructure and population was the Norman Kingdom of Africa.

Eventually, Ottoman Turks managed to successfully reconquer the city from Spanish occupation in the 16th century, using the city primarily as a fortified port. In 1520, Hayreddin Barbarossa captured the town and annexed the Algerian Pashalic. His elder brother Oruç Reis built a fort over the town. Under Turkish occupation, the city's importance as a port and fort led to it being inhabited by Moslems of many nationalities, some engaging in privateering and piracy on the Mediterranean.

In reply, European navies and especially the French Navy and the Knights Hospitaller (self-proclaimed descendants of the Crusaders) laid siege to the city and occasionally captured it for limited periods of time. For a century in the 1600s and for a brief period in the 1700s the city either was under Spanish or Hospitallar control. During this period a number of palaces were built, but the overwhelming edifice of Hayreddin Barbarossa's citadel, was considered too militarily valuable to destroy and uncover the previous ancient buildings of old Caesarea.

In 1738, a terrible earthquake shook the town and left the town defenses damaged.

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars and Revolutions of the early 19th century, the French under both British, American, and other European powers were encouraged to attack and destroy the Barbary Pirates. From 1836 to 1840 various allied navies, but mostly French hunted down the Barbary pirates and conquered the Barbary ports while threatening the Ottoman Empire with war if it intervened. In 1840, the French after a significant siege captured and occupied the town. The French lynched the Barbary Pirates including the local pasha for Crimes against the laws of nations.{fact}

In turn, many ancient statues and buildings were either restored and left in Cherchell, or taken to museums in Algiers, Algeria or Paris, France for further study. However, not all building projects were successful in uncovering and restoring the ancient town. The Roman amphitheatre was considered mostly unsalvageable and unnecessary to rebuilt. Its dress stones were used to the build a new French fort and barracks. Materials from the Hippodrome were used to build a new church. The steps of the Hippodrome were partly destroyed by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie in a search for the tomb of Saint Marciana.

French occupation also brought new European settlement, to join the city's long-established communities of semi-Arabized Christians of local origin and old European merchant families, in addition to Berbers and Arab Muslims. Under French rule, European and Christians became a majority of the population again until World War II.

In the immediate years before World War Two, losses to the French national population from World War One, and a declining birthrate in general among Europeans kept further colonial settlement to a trickle. Arab and Berber populations started seeing an increase in growth. French-Algerian colonial officials and landowners encouraged larger numbers of surrounding Berber tribesmen to move into the surrounding region to work the farms and groves cheaply. In turn, more and more Berbers and Arabs moved into the city seeking employment. By 1930 the combined Berbo-Arab Algerian population represented nearly 40% of the city's population.

The changing demographics within the city were disguised by the large numbers of French military personnel based there and the numbers of European tourists visiting the what had become known as the Algerian Riviera. Additionally, during World War II, Cherchell, with its libraries, cafes, restaurants, and hotels served as a base for the United States Army and Allied War effort, hosting a summit conference between the US and UK in October 1942.

The end of the war with its departure of Allied forces and a reduction of French naval personnel due to rebasing saw an actual decline in Europeans living in the city. Additionally, the general austerity of the post-war years dried up the tourism industry and caused financial stagnation and losses to the local Franco-Algerian community. In 1952, a census recorded that the Frenco-Algerian population had declined to 50% of the popupation.

For the remaining 1950's Cherchell was only slightly caught up by the Algerian War of Independence. With its large proportion of Europeans, French control and influence was strong enough to discourage all but the most daring attacks by anti-French insurgents. By 1966, after independence from the French, Cherchell had lost nearly half of its population and all of its Franco-Algerian population.

Cherchell has continued to grow post-independence, recovering to peak colonial-era population by the 1980s. Cherchell currently has industries in marble, plaster quarries and iron mines. The town trades in oils, tobacco and earthenware. Additionally, the ancient cistern first developed by Juba and Cleopatra Selene II was restored and expanded under recent French rule and still supplies water to the town.

Although the Algerian Riveria ended with the war, Cherchell is still a popular tourist places in Algeria. Cherchell has various splendid temples and monuments from the Punic, Numidian and Roman periods, and the works of art found there, including statues of Neptune and Venus, are now in the Museum of Antiquities in Algiers. The former Roman port is no longer in commercial use and has been partly filled by alluvial deposits and has been affected by earthquakes. The former local mosque of the Hundred Columns contains 89 columns of diorite. This remarkable building now serves as a hospital. The local museum displays some of the finest ancient Greek and Roman antiquities found in Africa. Cherchell is the birthplace of writer and movie director Assia Djebar.

Historical population[edit]

Year Population[1]
1901 9,000
1926 11,900
1931 12,700
1936 12,700
1954 16,900
1966 11,700
1987 18,700
1998 24,400

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2014-08-27. 

External links[edit]