Europe

6 curiosities of Neápolis: the lost city

History is built from related facts, which concur and are not isolated; therefore, to tell you about the curiosities of Neapolis, it is necessary to go back to Roman times. Learning a bit of history never hurts!

While the Roman Empire grew powerful from the Italian peninsula towards the European continent, Carthage, the civilization founded by the Phoenicians, dominated North Africa and part of the trade in the Mediterranean Sea.

Inevitably, both civilizations clashed in the so-called Punic Wars (246 BC-146 BC) to settle supremacy in the Mare Nostrum. After the third war, Carthage was defeated and Rome annexed the North African space that belonged to it, with which it transferred to the territory the advances of its culture, works, forms of production, etc.

The empire created the Roman province of Africa, and there was the ancient city of Neapolis, which would later become the main supplier of products derived from fish, such as salted fish and sauce garum.

The lost city of Neapolis

The actual Nabeul in Tunisia it was known by the Greek name of Neapolis and had the title of city since the 5th century BC. Discover its curiosities and learn more about its history!

Phoenician, Greek, Carthaginian, Roman

Although the city is said to have been founded by the Phoenicians, Its name is of Greek origin, since neo means ‘new’ and cops, ‘city’. The first historical record of this refers to the passage through the place of the Spartans, after the Peloponnesian War. Neapolis was later part of the powerful state of Carthage and eventually the Roman Empire.

the lost city part one

One of the most incredible curiosities of Neápolis is that it almost disappeared on 2 occasions. The story says that the city was razed by the Romans for being faithful to Carthage in the Punic Wars, which almost made her disappear for the first time. However, in the 1st century it was rebuilt by themselves:

 

«César undertook a vast urbanization program. Of the same, the creation of the Concordia Iulia Karthago colony stands out, where he settled 3000 colonists on his extensive territory (Pertica). In addition, he founded other colonies, all port colonies: Clupea (Qlbia), Curubis (Korba), Carpi (Mraisa) and Neápolis (Nabeul), and perhaps also in Hippo Diarrhytus (Bicerta)».
—Juan José Seguí Marco, University of Valencia—

The lost city: part two

On July 21, 365, an earthquake occurred with an epicenter in the Mediterranean Sea in an area between Crete and the Peloponnese. After the telluric movement, a tsunami occurred with waves that affected several cities on the African coastsuch as Alexandria and Neapolis.

On this occasion, Neapolis disappeared under the waters. There are records of this fatal natural event in the chronicles of the Roman historian Ammiano Marcelino.

7 years of excavations

Although the site was discovered in 1965, when earthworks were carried out on the coast, it was not until 2010 that the search began to reveal the secrets of the lost city. From then on, investigations and excavations were carried out on the Tunisian seabed that lasted 7 years.

Only in 2017 did the news break and the images of the discovery were released.. Houses, monuments, streets, a factory garumpots and vats for sauce are part of the archaeological finds in a 20-hectare plot at the bottom of the sea, all signs of a beautiful submerged Roman city.

underwater roman art

Another of the curiosities of Neapolis is that a house from the fourth century was foundwhich was called the House of the Ninfas or Nympharum Domus. It is a luxurious house with 20 rooms and 1,500 square meters with polychrome mosaics exquisitely decorated with figures from mythology, fish and dolphins.

Roman power in the Mediterranean: the importance of Neapolis

 

“Who controls the sea, controls all things.”
—Themistocles—

The discovery of the archaeological remains of the submerged city shows that this was of vital importance to the Roman Empire. Its degree of urban development and the existence of factories with their own productions that supplied the empire with fish derivatives show a prosperous city, which was part of the African coastal route of the empire, which joined Alexandria, in Egypt, and the Pillars of Hercules (Strait of Gibraltar).

If you plan a trip to Tunisia, keep in mind that the Romans left their mark there in places that you can visit on your tourist itinerary around the country. Some of the most famous sites are the archaeological remains of the Dougga temple, the city of Bulla Regia and the amphitheater of ancient Thysdrus, among others.

Although you will not be able to visit the sunken city, getting to know the curiosities of Neapolis is an entertaining exercise to understand more about the history of the Roman Empire, which is definitely one of the most important foundations of our Western culture.

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