Numidia | Africa, Map, History, & Facts (2024)

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Numidia, under the Roman Republic and Empire, a part of Africa north of the Sahara, the boundaries of which at times corresponded roughly to those of modern western Tunisia and eastern Algeria. Its earliest inhabitants were divided into tribes and clans. They were physically indistinguishable from the other indigenous inhabitants of early North Africa and, at the end of the Roman Empire, were often categorized as Berbers. From the 6th century bce points along the coast were occupied by the Carthaginians, who by the 3rd century bce had expanded into the interior as far as Theveste (Tébessa). Numidian cavalry was frequently found in the Carthaginian armies by that time.

The inhabitants remained seminomadic until the reign of Masinissa, the chief of the Massaesyli tribe, which lived near Cirta (Constantine). During the Second Punic War, he was initially an ally of Carthage, but he went over to the Roman side in 206 bce and was given further territory, extending as far as the Mulucha (Moulouya) River. The Romans under Scipio Africanus and Numidians under Masinissa burned the camp of the rival Numidian chief Syphax near Utica and then overwhelmed Syphax and his Carthaginian allies at the Battle of Bagrades in 203 bce. Syphax had been wooed by Rome, but his allegiance to Carthage was cemented when he married Sophonisba, the daughter of the Carthaginian commander Hasdrubal. Syphax was captured and exiled to Rome, where he died at Tibur (modern Tivoli). Masinissa wished to claim Sophonisba as a wife, but when Scipio demanded that she go to Rome as a captive, Masinissa gave her poison so that she might escape the fate of a prisoner. (That tragic event was often depicted in later Western paintings.)

Numidian horsemanship, animal breeding, and cavalry tactics eventually contributed to later developments in Roman cavalry. In his history of Rome, Polybius underscores how important those cavalry advantages were to the outcome of the Second Punic War. Numidian superiority was demonstrated by the cavalry leadership of Maharbal under Hannibal at Trasimene and Cannae and later by Masinissa at Zama under Scipio Africanus. For nearly 50 years Masinissa retained the support of Rome as he tried to turn the Numidian pastoralists into peasant farmers. He also seized much Carthaginian territory and probably hoped to rule all of North Africa.

On Masinissa’s death in 148 bce, the Romans prudently divided his kingdom among several chieftains, but the progress of civilization among the Numidians was not seriously interrupted, and, indeed, after 146 bce it received new impetus as thousands of Carthaginians fled to Numidia after the destruction of Carthage. In 118 Jugurtha, an illegitimate Numidian prince, usurped the throne and forcibly reunified Numidia until the Romans again took control in 105. Rome continued to dominate Numidia through client kings, though Numidian territory was considerably reduced. The third and final attempt by a Numidian to found a powerful state was that of Juba I, between 49 and 46 bce, ending with his defeat by Julius Caesar at Thapsus.

Caesar formed a new province, Africa Nova, from Numidian territory, and Augustus united Africa Nova (“New Africa”) with Africa Vetus (“Old Africa,” the province surrounding Carthage), but a separate province of Numidia was formally created by Septimius Severus. The Roman army’s Third Legion took up its permanent station at Lambaesis (Lambessa), and, as a result of the increased security, the Numidians’ population and prosperity increased substantially during the first two centuries ce. A few native communities achieved municipal status, but the majority of the population was little touched by Roman civilization.

Christianity spread rapidly in the 3rd century ce, but in the 4th century Numidia became the centre of the Donatist movement. That schismatic Christian group was particularly strong among the Numidian peasantry, to whom it appealed as a focus of protest against deteriorating social conditions. After the Vandal conquest (429 ce), Roman civilization declined rapidly in Numidia, and the native elements revived to outlive in some places even the Arab conquest in the 8th century and to persist until modern times.

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The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray.

Numidia | Africa, Map, History, & Facts (2024)


Numidia | Africa, Map, History, & Facts? ›


Numidia was the ancient kingdom of the Numidians in northwest Africa, initially comprising the territory that now makes up Algeria, but later expanding across what is today known as Tunisia and Libya. The polity was originally divided between the Massylii in the east and the Masaesyli in the west. › wiki › Numidia
, under the Roman Republic and Empire, a part of Africa north of the Sahara, the boundaries of which at times corresponded roughly to those of modern western Tunisia and eastern Algeria. Its earliest inhabitants were divided into tribes and clans.

What is the history of Numidia? ›

Numidia , Ancient country, North Africa, approximately coextensive with present-day Algeria. During the Second Punic War, the tribal chief Masinissa supported the Romans from 206 bc, and he was made king of Numidia after the Roman victory over the Carthaginians in 201 bc.

How old is Numidia? ›

The ancient Berber kingdom of Numidia existed between 202 BC and 46 BC in what is now Algeria and part of modern-day Tunisia in North Africa.

What race were the Numidians? ›

The Numidians were the Berber population of Numidia (present-day Algeria). The Numidians were originally a semi-nomadic people, they migrated frequently as nomads usually do but during certain seasons of the year, they would return to the same camp.

What is the history of the Numidian Cavalry? ›

History. Numidian cavalry is first mentioned by Polybius as part of the Carthaginian army during the First Punic War. The Numidian cavalry's horses, ancestors of the Berber horse, were small compared with other horses of the era, and were well adapted for faster movement over long distances.

What is the geography of Numidia? ›

The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later alternated between being a Roman province and a Roman client state. Numidia, at its largest extent, was bordered by Mauretania to the west, at the Moulouya River, Africa Proconsularis to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Sahara to the south.

What does the word Numidia mean? ›

Numidia in British English

(njuːˈmɪdɪə ) noun. an ancient country of N Africa, corresponding roughly to present-day Algeria: flourished until its invasion by Vandals in 429; chief towns were Cirta and Hippo Regius.

Who was the king of Numidia? ›

Jugurtha, king of the desert nation of Numidia, was a long-time antagonist of Republican Rome. Over more than a decade of war, he was a bold and cunning battlefield commander who used swiftness and determination to make fools of Roman consuls, even as the Romans were systematically conquering his country.

What language did Numidia speak? ›

Numidian was a language spoken in ancient Numidia.

Who won a war against Numidia? ›

The Numidians, led by their king Jugurtha, fought a Roman army commanded by the consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus. The battle was fought during the Jugurthine War, a war between King Jugurtha of Numidia and the Roman Republic. The battle was indecisive - it took the Romans four more years to defeat Jugurtha.

What skin color were Numidians? ›

Numidians were among one of the Amazigh (Berber) people who established a kingdom and a civilization in ancient North Africa. Their skin colour was mainly tanned just like the majority of the modern Berbers.

Who are the descendants of the Numidians? ›

The ancient Numidians are the ancestors of modern day Algerians. They were indigenous North Africans carrying the same Haplogroups as their modern Algerian descendants.

What did Numidians look like? ›

If what you're asking is “were the Numidian auxiliaries black?” then no, they weren't what most Americans would consider black. They probably looked a lot like modern Tunisians, Libyans, and Algerians - what most Americans would call “Middle Eastern” although they were not Middle Eastern but North African.

What were the Numidians known for? ›

Numidian horsemanship, animal breeding, and cavalry tactics eventually contributed to later developments in Roman cavalry. In his history of Rome, Polybius underscores how important those cavalry advantages were to the outcome of the Second Punic War.

What happened to the Numidians? ›

Numidia flourished under Masinissa's reign and that of his son Micipsa (c. 148-118 BCE) but after the Jugurthine War with Rome (112-105 BCE) lost its western regions to nearby Mauretania and in 46 BCE, following the Roman Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great, was divided between Mauretania and Rome.

What weapons did the Numidians use? ›

Their only weapons were javelins. These accounts are frustratingly brief, so we must look to other sources for evidence of the Numidians' clothing and appearance. A number of stone steles have been found in northern Algeria and Tunisia on which images of Numidian chieftains and other figures are carved.

What is the history of Numidia PA? ›

Numidia was historically named "Leestown". A hotel was built in Numidia in 1832. The town was laid out in 1835 by Elijah Prince, who renamed the community "New Media". A post office existed in Numidia from 1847 to 1855 and from 1864 to the present day.

What religion was Numidia? ›

By the third century Christianity spread very wildly, and Numidia became a center of a sect of the religion called Donatism. It was a religion which was fairly sizable. It's inception grew out of the emperor Diocletian who persecuted and killed Christians throughout his reign.

Was Numidia under Roman rule? ›

Numidia as the other African provinces became highly Romanized and was studded with numerous towns. The chief towns of Roman Numidia were: in the north, Cirta or modern Constantine, the capital, with its port Russicada (Modern Skikda); and Hippo Regius (near Bône), well known as the see of St. Augustine.


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