It is said that Utica was one
of the first Phoenician trading posts to have
been established on the soil of Africa, probably
around 1100 BC (Pliny even specifies 1101!).
Older than Carthage, Utica for a long time played
the role of capital before being overshadowed
by her neighbour founded at the end of the IXth
century BC but that expanded rapidly. Associated,
often despite itself, with the fate of its neighbour,
the city lived through periods of glory and of
darkness. The turning point came with the war
between Carthage and Rome when it sided with the
victor and thence, in 146 BC, gained the privilege
of again becoming the capital of Africa for 130
years. After that, it suffered the same fate as
most ancient cities of Tunisia: as from the VIIth
it fell into irrevocable decline.
The archaeological site of Utica, its surface
area of modest size, is now situated at 12 km
from the sea due to the filling in of the delta
of the Medjerda river mouth. It contains a few
buildings on the surface, in particular the superb
“House of the cascade”, but also other
houses, temples, a forum, baths, traces of theatres,
circuses, amphitheatre, etc.
Less spectacular but more important perhaps,
is the underground level that has been excavated
to reveal a Punic necropolis. Tombs dating back
to the VIIth century BC contained precious funerary
furnishings providing information on the beliefs
prevailing at the time as well as on the population’s
life style, its activities etc.