In another era, present-day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia formed a united entity of historic sites, which denotes a common political past that dates back to the Phoenicians (10th century BC – 5th century BC). century).
Historical writings on the distant past of North Africa show that populations of different origins, such as the Amazighs, have long settled in the region. These groups laid the foundations for a particular political, social and cultural construction, arousing until today the interest and curiosity of historians, researchers and specialists.
This genesis of political entities in North Africa was mainly marked by the Libyan Numidian kingdom, the Carthaginian empire and the Berber kingships. In addition, the region lived under the influence of the Greek and Roman Empire, among others, before experiencing the intervention of Arab armies. This is why several city names are today inspired by terms recalling those times.
In this sense, “The economy and society in ancient North Africa”, by Algerian researcher Akoun Mohamed Elaraby, emphasizes that “North African cities were the central points of the predominant civilization, which was often that of the colonization; therefore, the tribal considerations in these towns have merged into this civilization ”.
Appellations with Phoenician consonance
In the second volume of his book “History of ancient North Africa”, the French archaeologist and historian Stéphane Gsell gives several examples of these names of cities and sites in Morocco having various origins. In the second part of his book, he writes: “We notice a predominance of appellations of Phoenician origin on the North African coasts in the first centuries after Jesus Christ. These names were probably given to cities and commercial spaces founded by the Eastern Phoenicians and the Carthaginians. They were also able to keep the Libyan appointments from other sites that they controlled. Local Africans have also referred to these places in terms foreign to their mother tongue. Many of them were influenced by the Punic civilization. However, some cities did not know the official use of the Phoenician language until after the fall of Carthage. Indeed, the local coins alone are not proof of the long Phoenician past of these cities. ”
Thus, according to Gsell, the old name of Melilla is Rusaddir, a name of Phoenician origin meaning “the strong Cape” or “majestic”, due to the peninsular shape of this neighboring town to Nador. So we find this ancient name written in Punic letters on the coins produced there after the fall of the Carthaginian Empire.
The river known today as the Oued de Martil was named the Oued de Tamuda. A name inspired by the local term “Tamdat”, also found in Punic letters in the coins of the region. On the coasts of M’diq, from the plains of Ceuta to Cap Spartel, Mount Acho also extends to the peninsula. Called Apilux, it is designated as a natural stronghold of monkeys.
The entrance is from M’diq, it lets see in a semi-circle the citadel of Tangier. Formerly called Tingis, the old town was also named Titga and Tinga on Punic coins. That said, there is no evidence that Tingi experienced any real Phoenician occupation. Moreover, its name probably does not take its source from the Phoenician language, especially since certain accounts evoke its creation by the tribal king Antaeus.
An influence extended to the south
As for Cape Spartel, famous for its cave of Hercules, it was baptized Ampeloussia among the Greeks and Cotès in Africa. As for the population of Zili, currently known as Assila, they used coins bearing Punic inscriptions. Further on, on Oued Loukos, also called Lexus, is currently located Larach according to historians. The coins used there are also believed to have inscriptions in modern Punic letters, with the expressions Shemesh and Maqom Shemesh. Indeed, Lexus has been described as “the city of the sun”, probably for the strong beliefs of its local people Malqart, a sun god.
Several writers also indicate the presence of a golf peninsula on the Atlantic coast, called Cotès by the Pseudo-Scylax. It would extend to the heights of Hermès and south-east of the mouth of the Bouregreg. In this sense, an ancient Roman work evokes the town of Salé, whose name has a Phoenician consonance and where coins with modern Punic letters were struck. It would have been located in Chella, on the western heights of Rabat, where the boats anchored in a river which bore the name of the city: Sala or Salat.
331 km from Lexus, between the Salat River and the heights of Solis (Promunturium Solis), called Cap Cantin, is finally Mazagan (El Jadida), also known as Rospesis. Cap Cantin, on the other hand, was called Soloeis among the Phoenicians and is said to have housed a mausoleum honoring one of the gods of the sea. Further south, Essaouira stretches over an island formerly called Junon, or Astarti. Agadir, on the other hand, has retained its name of Punic origin to this day.
On the land side, between the Oued Tansift (Puth) and the Grand Atlas (Cap Gir) is a site called Oussadion Acron which corresponds to Cap Sim. These are a few examples of sites listed by Stéphane Gsell on the database kept since the time. This history testifies to the pre-Islamic civilizational influences, which are not illustrated only by the Punic names of these cities. The Phoenician influence in the region is not only felt in North Africa, but throughout the southern and eastern Mediterranean basin, in particular Spain which is still marked by it.