Bizerte is known as the oldest and most European city in Tunisia. It was founded around 1100 BC by Semitic Phoenicians from Tyre. It is also known as the last town to remain under French control after the rest of the country won its independence from France.
The city has several very different names in ancient authors. Scylax of Caryanda, who first mentioned the names Hippo Acra and Hippo Polis, these names are derived from the Punic: 𐤄𐤉𐤁𐤅 𐤀𐤊𐤓𐤀 Hippo Acra during the period of the Carthaginians. The name of Hippo is certainly derived from a Phoenician word and not Ancient Greek, found in simple or compound state across North Africa to Spain, (as Hippo Regius in Numidia now Annaba in Algeria, not far from Bizerte). According to Polybius, the ancient Greeks added to Hippo, the nickname Diarrhytos, which means: “Divided by the water” (canal of Bizerte); Hippo Diarrhytos :(“Ἱππὼν διάρρυτος”). During the periods of the Romans, the Vandals and the Byzantine Empire ; the city kept its names Hippo Diarrhytus and Hippo Zarytus. Its current Arabic name: (Banzart/بنزرت), drift of a phonetic transformation of its antique name.
Antiquity : (1100 BC to 647 AD)
- Initially a small Phoenician harbor for maritime trading in the western Mediterranean. Located 30 km(18.5 mil)in the north of Utica and 50 km (31 mil) of Carthage, other cities founded by Phoenicians.
Around 950 BC the city came under the influence of Carthage under the leadership of Queen Dido/Elissa; In 309 BC, during the Greek–Punic Wars and after the defeat of Agathocles, the city and sicily returned to Carthaginian Republic, its port is used by several Carthaginian generals in the Punic Wars as Hamilcar Barca, Mago, Hasdrubal and Hannibal.
- In 149 BC, the first Roman raids, the city was then occupied by the Romans, under the name of Hippo Diarrhytus during the period of reign of Julius Caesar, but the new city has regained its prosperity and progress just since the reign of Augustus and it maintains maritime relations followed with Ostia and Rome, as shown by a mosaic decorating its commercial representation in the square of Forum of Corporations, and Christianity spread in the city in this period.
In 439 AD, Genseric, the king of the Vandals ( East Germanic tribes) and his tribes invaded the city and they used the port to accomplish their invasions of the rest of the Western Roman Empire, the city of Rome and the islands of Sardinia, Malta, Corsica and Sicily. The town is shown on the Peutinger Map from around this time.
From 534 AD to 642 AD, the city returned to eastern Romans under the Byzantine Empire, after a defeat of the vandals in 534, and they build the Fort of Bizerte (now the Fort of Kasba).