The vast ruins of the ancient Roman 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 de Saint Augustine.
You enter from what was the seafront, the water having receded several hundred metres over the millennia. The district near the entrance and seafront was residential and the remains of several villas can be visited, their courtyards marked by columns and 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 Saint 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 here is where slaves where sold) 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 northern 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.
There are many other ruins here and beyond the fence and fun can be had exploring the meadows looking for ancients walls, patches of mosaics or perhaps the beaten-up theatre (close to the road leading up to the Basilica de Saint Augustine).
Guides to the site are often available from the Annaba museum but most don't speak any English.