Constantine/قسنطينة/Qasentina : built on a mountaintop, with a ravine bisecting the city
Constantine (Arabic:Arabic: قسنطينة) is the capital of Constantine Province in north-eastern Algeria. Slightly inland, it is about 80 kilometers from the Mediterranean coast.
Regarded as the capital of eastern Algeria and the centre of its region, Constantine has a population of over 500,000 (750,000 with the agglomeration), making it the third largest city in the country after Algiers and Oran.
Constantine is situated on a plateau at 640 metres above sea level. The city is framed by a deep ravine and has a dramatic appearance. The city is very picturesque with a number of bridges and a viaduct crossing the ravine. The ravine is crossed by four bridges, including Pont Sidi M'Cid.
Constantine has one university, the University of Constantine, which was founded in 1969. There are museums and important historical sites around the city.
Constantine is the railhead of a prosperous and diverse agricultural area. It also a center of the grain trade and has flour mills, a tractor factory, and industries producing textiles, wool, linen, and leather goods. Algeria and Tunisia serve as its markets.
The city was originally settled by Numidian people, and was known as Sarim Batim. Later its name was Cirta, thought to be from the Phoenician word for "city", but originates in fact from "Thacirth" which is an Imazighen (Berber) word for a traditional wheat grinder made of stones (due to the stony look of the city). Constantine was capital city of the Numidia, a berber empire that emerged in the 3rd century BC. The city was founded in 203 BC by king Micipsa, with the help of Greek colonists. She distinguished for the splendour of the public buildings and its population overcame that of all other towns of northern Africa. It had an army of 10,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry. In 113 BC the town was conquered by Jugurtha. Later it served as base of the Roman generals Caecilius Metellus Numidicus and Caius Marius. In 107 BC the latter gained a victory over Jugurtha in the nearby of Cirta. With the suppression of king Juba I and the rest of the supporters of Pompey in Africa (46 BC), Julius Caesar gave special civil rights to a part of Cirta, under the name of Sittlanorum Colonia. It became the head of a confederation of four similar settlements in North Africa.
In 311, during the civil war between emperor Maxentius and usurper Domitius Alexander (former governor of Africa), the city was destroyed. Rebuilt in 313, it was subsequently named after emperor Constantine the Great, who had defeated Maxentius. Conquered by the Vandals in 432, Constantine returned to the Byzantine exarchate of North Africa from 534 to 697. It was conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century, receiving the name of Qusantina.
The city recovered and in 12th century was again a prosperous market, with connection to Pisa, Genoa and Venice. Since 1529 it was intermittently part of Ottoman Empire, ruled by a Turkish bey (governor) subordinate to the dey of Algiers. Salah Bey, who ruled the city in 1770-1792, greatly embellished it and built much of the Muslim architecture still visible today.
In 1826 ,the last Bey, Ahmed Bey ben Mohamed Chérif became the new head of state and led a fierce resistance against French occupation forces. By 13 October 1837 the territory was reconquered by France, and in 1848 it was incorporated into the colony of Algiers (Algeria).
In World War II, during campaign in North Africa (1942-43), Constantine and the nearby city of Sétif were used by the Allied forces as operational bases.