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The great Latin poet, Virgil, holding a volume on which is written the Aeneid. On either side stand the two muses: "Clio" (history) and "Melpomene" (tragedy). The mosaic, which dates from the 3rd Century A.D., was discovered in Hadrumetum and is now on display in the Bardo Museum in Tunis.

Hadrume(n)tum (sometimes called Adrametum or Adrametus) was a Phoenician colony that pre-dated Carthage and stood on the site of modern-day Sousse, Tunisia.


Ancient history

In the 9th century BC, the Phoenicians, astute Levantine maritime traders who would later be supplanted in Northern Africa by their major colony Carthage, sensed the possibilities of a port city south of present-day Tunis and founded Hadrumetum on what is now the Gulf of Hammamet in the Mediterranean Sea.

Hadrumetum was one of the most important communities within the Roman territory in northern Africa because of its strategic location on the sea in the heart of the fertile Sahel region. The city allied itself with Rome during the Punic Wars, thereby escaping damage or ruin and entered a relatively peaceful 700-year stint under Pax Romana, although Hannibal made use of it as a military base in his campaign against Scipio Africanus at the close of the Second Punic War Many records have been found that say the Romans sent a garrison of 5000 soldiers to protect it. They were led by General Septus Loriinus. At some point during this period its name was slightly altered (by the addition of an N) to become Hadrumentum.

Under the Roman Empire it became very prosperous; Trajan gave it the rank of a colonia: "Colonia Concordia Ulpia Trajana Augusta Frugifera Hadrumetina". A breathtaking legacy of intricate Roman mosaics survives from this era, together with many early Christian objects from the catacombs. At the end of the 3rd century it even became the capital of the newly-made province of Byzacena (modern Sahel, Tunisia).

The city's strategic position meant that it changed hands (and names) many times in the following centuries. In the 5th century AD it was destroyed by the Vandals, who rebuilt it and renamed it Hunerikopolis after their king Hunerik. The following century it was taken over by Byzantium and renamed Justinianopolis (one of several homonyms is Kırşehir in modern-day Turkey).

Later history

By the mid-7th century it was under Eastern Roman control. During the next 200 years it became the main sea port of the Suleiman dynasty, being 60km east of their capital Kairouan ('al-qayrawān in Arabic) and had been renamed, this time as Sūsa. The 'ribat', which they began building in 821, as a fortress against the Christians of Sicily, still stands, and contains what is considered to be the oldest mosque in North Africa; nearby, the town's main mosque, also founded in the 9th century, has a similarly fortress-like appearance. In 827 the Aghlabids launched their invasion of Sicily from this port (the first move in a campaign which was to last until 902).

During the 12th century Sūsa was briefly occupied by the Normans (from their territory in Sicily, which they conquered between 1060–1090); in the 16th century it was conquered by Ottoman Turks. The city was bombarded by French and Venetian forces during the 18th century. Tunisia had become a French protectorate in 1881, and in the late 19th century, France added to the port's facilities, increasing the importance of Sousse, as it had become by then.

Susa under French rule had 250,000 inhabitants, of whom 100,100 French and 50,000 other Europeans, mainly Italians and Maltese. It was a government centre in the Province of Tunis. It has a few antiquities and some curious Christian catacombs. The native portion of the town has hardly altered. It has a museum, a fort, an important harbour and many oil wells in the neighbourhood.

Ecclesiastical history

It remains a Roman Catholic titular see in the former Roman province of Byzacena. Between 255 and 551 there were nine bishops of Hadrumetum who are still known, the last of whom was Primasius, whose works are to be found in P.L., LXVIII, 467.

Sources & external links

Coordinates: 35°49′28″N 10°38′20″E / 35.82444°N 10.63889°E / 35.82444; 10.63889


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HADRUMETUM, a town of ancient Africa on the southern extremity of the sinus Neapolitanus (mod. Gulf of Hammamet) on the east coast of Tunisia. The site is partly occupied by the modern town of Susa. The form of the name Hadrumetum varied much in antiquity; the Greeks called it ASpbµns, 'ASpbµnros, 'ASpa o rns, ASpaµn-ros: the Romans Adrumetum, Adrimetum, Hadrumetum, Hadrymetum, &c.; inscriptions and coins gave Hadrumetum. The town was originally a Phoenician colony founded by Tyrians long before Carthage (Sallust, Jug. 19). It became subject to Carthage, but lost none of its prosperity. Often mentioned during the Punic Wars, it was captured by Agathocles in 310, and was the refuge of Hannibal and the remnants of his army after the battle of Zama in 202. During the last Punic War it gave assistance to the Romans; after the fall of Carthage in 146 it received an accession of territory and the title of civitas libera (Appian, Punica, xciv.; C.I.L. i. p. 84). Caesar landed there in 46 B.C. on his way to the victory of Thapsus (De bello Afric. iii.; Suetonius, Div. Jul. lix.).

In the organization of the African provinces Hadrumetum became a capital of the province of Byzacena. Its harbour was extremely busy and the surrounding country unusually fertile. Trajan made it a Latin colony under the title of Colonia Concordia Ulpia Trajana Augusta Frugifera Hadrumetina; a dedication to the emperor Gordian the Good, found by M. Cagnat at Susa in 1883 gives these titles to the town, and at the same time identifies it with Susa. Quarrels arose between Hadrumetum and its neighbour Thysdrus in connexion with the temple of Minerva situated on the borders of their respective territories (Frontinus, Gromatici,ed.Lachmannus,p. 57);Vespasian when pro-consul of Africa had to repress a sedition among its inhabitants (Suetonius, Vesp. iv.; Tissot, Fastes de la prov. d'Afrique, p. 66); it was the birthplace of the emperor Albinus. At this period the metropolis of Byzacena was after Carthage the most important town in Roman Africa. It was the seat of a bishopric, and its bishops are mentioned at the councils of 258, 348,393 and even later. Destroyed by the Vandals in 434 it was rebuilt by Justinian and renamed Justinianopolis (Procop. De aedif. vi. 6). The Arabic invasion at the end of the 7th century destroyed the Byzantine towns, and the place became the haunt of pirates, protected by the Kasbah (citadel); it was built on the substructions of the Punic, Roman and Byzantine acropolis, and is used by the French for military purposes. The Arabic geographer Bakri gave a description of the chief Roman buildings which were standing in his time (Bakri, Descr. de l'Afrique, tr. by de Slane, p. 83 et seq.). The modern town of Susa, despite its commercial prosperity, occupies only a third of the old site.

In 1863 the French engineer, A. Daux, discovered the jetties and the moles of the commercial harbour, and the line of the military harbour (Cothon); both harbours, which were mainly artificial, are entirely silted up. There remains a fragment of the fortifications of the Punic town, which had a total length of 6410 metres, and remains of the substructions of the Byzantine acropolis, of the circus, the theatre, the water cisterns, and of other buildings, notably the interesting Byzantine basilica which is now used as an Arab cafe (Kahwat-el-Kubba). In the ruins there have been found numerous columns of Punic inscriptions, Roman inscriptions and mosaic, among which is one representing Virgil seated, holding the Aeneid in his hand; another represents the Cretan labyrinth with Theseus and the Minotaur (Heron de Villefosse, Revue de l'Afrique francaise, v., December 1887, pp. 384 and 394; Comptes rendus de l'Acad. des Inscr. et Belles-Lettres, 1892, p. 318; other mosaics, ibid., 1896, p. 578; Revue archeol., 1897). In 1904 Dr Carton and the abbe Leynaud discovered huge Christian catacombs with several miles of subterranean galleries to which access is obtained by a small vaulted chamber. In these catacombs we find numerous sarcophagi and inscriptions painted or engraved of the Roman and Byzantine periods (Comptes rendus de l'Acad. des Inscr. et Belles-Lettres, 1904-1907; Carton and Leynaud, Les Catacombes d'Hadrumete, Susa, 1905). We can recognize also the Punic and Pagan-Roman cemeteries (C. R. de l'Acad. des Inscr. et BellesLettres, 1887; Bull. archeol. du Comite, 1885, p. 149; 1903, p. 157). The town had no Punic coins, but under the Roman domination there were coins from the time of the Republic. These are of bronze and bear the name of the city in abbreviations, Hadr or HadrVM accompanying the head of Neptune or the Sun. We find also the names of local duumvirs. Under Augustus the coins have on the obverse the imperial effigy, and on the reverse the names and often the effigies of the pro-consuls who governed the province, P. Quintilius Varus, L. Volusius Saturninus and Q. Fabius Maximus Africanus. After Augustus the mint was finally closed.

Authorities.-A. Daux, Recherches sur l'origine et l'emplacement des emporia pheniciens dans le Zeugis et le Byzacium (Paris, 1869); Ch. Tissot, Geographic comparee de la province romaine d'Afrique, ii. p. 149; Cagnat, Explorations archeol. en Tunisie (2nd and 3rd fasc., 1885); Lud. Muller, Numismatique de l'Afrique ancienne, ii. p. 51; M. Palat, in the Bulletin arch. du Comite des travaux historiques (1885), pp. 121 and 150; Revue archeologique (1884 and 1897); Bulletin des antiquites africaines (1884 and 1885); Bulletin de la Societe archeologique de Sousse (first published in 1903); Atlas archeol. de Tunisie (4th fascicule, with the plan of Hadrumetum). (E. B.*)

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