Hippo Regius information
The ruins of the ancient city of Hippo Regius , also known as Hippone, are among the most evocative in Algeria, stretched across a rolling site, full of flowers, rosemary, olive trees, birds and sheep, and overlooked by the imposing, colonial-era Basilica of St Augustine. You enter from what was the seafront, the water having receded several hundred metres over the millennia. There is a good plan of the site by the entrance. It is worth climbing the small hill to the museum , before seeing the ruins. The ground floor contains a good collection of sculpture in the Salle des Bustes, including the Emperor Vespasian found in the forum. The star piece of the museum, the unique 2.5m-high Trophy, is a bronze representation of a post on which is hung a cape and military armour. On the wall is a fine mosaic of four Nereids. There are more mosaics across the hall, the most impressive being a 3rd- century hunting scene, in which lion, leopards and antelope are chased into a trap. Another mosaic, of a fishing scene, includes a view of 3rd-century Hippo. The ruins are spread over a large area. The district near the entrance and ‘seafront’ was residential and the remains of several villas can be visited, their courtyards marked by columns, some of the walls and floors still visible. The so-called Villa of the Labyrinth and Villa of the Procurateur are the most impressive. Here too are the remains of the smaller southern baths. The path continues to the Christian quarter where the 42m-long outline of the grand basilica can still be traced, especially its central apse, which unusually faces north, while its floors are still covered with mosaics. This may well have been the basilica where St Augustine was bishop – the date is right, but there is no other evidence to prove the possibility. A path of massive paving slabs, laid over drains, leads to the market (a central dias reached by three steps and enclosed by four acanthus-capped columns) and then on to the forum. It stands 76m by 43m, with some of its 3.6m-high columns still intact. The forum was surrounded by a colonnade, several small shrines, a fountain at the north end and latrines to the south. In the middle stood the ancient capitol and several statues (of which nothing remains), and beyond is an inscription by one of the city’s benefactors, C Paccius Africanus, made proconsul in AD 78 by Emperor Vespasien. The great North Baths, beyond the forum, were closed at the time of research. The 1st-century theatre of Hippo , with the largest stage of any antique theatre in North Africa, lies at the foot of the hill leading up to the basilica. The gate separating it from the ruins can only be opened from the side of the antiquities, so if you want to visit both on foot, you will need to start at the ruins and walk up the winding path to the basilica.