Hippo Regius

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Hippo Regius ruins

Hippo (Regius) (Hippone) is the ancient name of the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria. Very rich and fully Romanized, it was destroyed by Arabs, who rebuilt nearby.

Hippo Regius was a major city in Roman Africa, hosting several early Christian councils and home to the philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo.[1] In even earlier days, the city was a royal residence for Numidian kings.


File:Mileve Hippo Thagaste in Numidia.JPG
Hippo Regius on the map of Roman Numidia, Atlas Antiquus, H. Kiepert, 1869

Hippo Regius was a Tyrian colony on the west coast of the bay to which it gave its name: Hipponensis Sinus, first settled by the Phoenicians probably in the 12th century BC; the surname Regius 'of the King' was bestowed on it as one of the places where the Numidian kings resided. The name Hippo is from Punic ûbôn 'harbor.'[2]

A maritime city near the mouth of the river Ubus, it became a Roman colonia which prospered and became a major city in Roman Africa. It is perhaps most famous as the bishopric of Saint Augustine of Hippo in his later years. Advancing eastwards along the North African coast, the Vandals laid siege to the walled city of Hippo Regius in 430.[3] Inside, Saint Augustine and his priests prayed for relief from the invaders, knowing full well that the fall of the city would spell conversion (to Arianism) or death for many Roman Christians. On 28 August 430, three months into the siege, St. Augustine (who was 75 years old) died,[4] perhaps from starvation or stress, as the wheat fields outside the city lay dormant and unharvested. After 14 months, hunger and the inevitable diseases were ravaging both the city inhabitants and the Vandals outside the city walls. The city fell to the Vandals and King Geiseric made it the first capital of the Vandal kingdom until the capture of Carthage in 439.[5]

It was conquered by the Eastern Roman Empire in 534 AD and was kept under Byzantine rule until 698 AD, when it fell to the Muslims; the Arabs rebuilt the town in the eighth century. The city's later history is treated under its modern (Arabic and colonial) names.

About three kilometres distant in the eleventh century the Berber Zirids established the town of Beleb-el-Anab, which the Spaniards occupied for some years in the sixteenth century, as the French did later, in the reign of Louis XIV. France took this town again in 1832. It was renamed Bone or Bona, and became one of the government centres for the département of Constantine in Algeria. It had 37,000 inhabitants, of whom 10,800 were original inhabitants, consisting of 9,400 Muslims and 1400 naturalized Jews. 15,700 were French and 10,500 foreigners, comprising a great many Italians.

Ecclesiastical history

Hippo was an ancient bishopric in the former Roman province of Numidia, since French colonial rule a part of the residential see of Constantine. It contains some ancient ruins, a hospital built by the Little Sisters of the Poor and a fine basilica dedicated to St. Augustine. Under St. Augustine there were at least three monasteries in the diocese besides the episcopal monastery.

The diocese was established around 250 AD. We know seven bishops of Hippo:

  • Saints Theogenes (256? – martyr 259?)
  • Saint Leontius (? – 303?)
  • Fidentius (? – martyr ?304)
  • Valerius (388? – 396), who ordained St. Augustine
  • the great "Doctor of Grace", Augustine himself (354 – 28 August 430, coadjutor in 395, bishop in 396)
  • finally Heraclius (coadjutor in 426, bishop in 430).

It was suppressed around 450 AD.

Council of Hippo

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Three church councils were held at Hippo (393, 394, 426) and more synods - also in 397 (two sessions), June and September and 401, all under Aurelius.

The synods of the Ancient (North) African church were held, with but few exceptions (e.g. Hippo, 393; Milevum, 402) at Carthage. We know from the letters of St. Cyprian that, except in time of persecution, the African bishops met at least once a year, in the springtime, and sometimes again in the autumn. Six or seven synods, for instance, were held under St. Cyprian's presidency during the decade of his administration (249-258), and more than fifteen under Aurelius (391-429). The Synod of Hippo of 393 ordered a general meeting yearly, but this was found too onerous for the bishops, and in the Synod of Carthage (407) it was decided to hold a general synod only when necessary for the needs of all Africa, and it was to be held at a place most convenient for the purpose. Not all the bishops of the country were required to assist at the general synod. At the Synod of Hippo (393) it was ordered that "dignities" should be sent from each ecclesiastical province. Only one was required from Tripoli (in Libya), because of the poverty of the bishops of that province. At the Synod of Hippo (393), and again at the Synod of 397 at Carthage, a list of the books of Holy Scripture was drawn up, and these books (including some considered apocryphal by Protestants) are still regarded as the constituents of the Catholic canon.

Titular episcopal see

The Hippo bishopric was nominally revived in 1400 as Catholic Latin titular see of the (lowest) episcopal rank.

It ceased to exist on 23 September 1867, when the see was formally united with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Constantine.

See also


  1. "A Berber, born in 354 at Thagaste (now Souk-Ahras) in Africa, he died as Bishop of Hippo (later Bone, now Annaba) in 430, while the Vandals were besieging the town.", Fernand Braudel, A history of civilizations (1963), Penguin Books, 1995, p.335
  2. Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD (Princeton University Press, 2013; ISBN 1400844533), p. 326.
  3. Collins 2000, p. 124
  4. Newadvent.org
  5. Andrew Merrills and Richard Miles, The Vandals (Blackwell Publishing, 2007), p. 60.

Sources and references

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  • GigaCatholic, with residential episcopal incumbents biography links
  • Laffi, Umberto. Colonie e municipi nello Stato romano Ed. di Storia e Letteratura. Roma, 2007 ISBN 8884983509
  • Mommsen, Theodore. The Provinces of the Roman Empire Section: Roman Africa. (Leipzig 1865; London 1866; London: Macmillan 1909; reprint New York 1996) Barnes & Noble. New York, 1996
  • Smyth Vereker, Charles. Scenes in the Sunny South: Including the Atlas Mountains and the Oases of the Sahara in Algeria. Volume 2. Publisher Longmans, Green, and Company. University of Wisconsin. Madison,1871 ( Roman Hippo Regius )